PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 18

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

May 21, 2001

GSA Report Buried!

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:

    • GSA Report: Not Buried Here.
    • The Problem With Taking A Week Off
    • West Wing
    • Now That's Good Writing
    • Don't Overlook Ted Olsen
    • The Newspaper Industry Today

Computer Industry News:

    • Faster Than The Speed Of Light?
    • Translation of Microsoft Rhetoric

Web Site of the Week:

    • Corporate Anthems. Also, Russian Color Photos, SDMI


    • Kenny G


    • Shrek
    • A Knight's Tale


    • Not As Such

General News

Not Buried Here: The GSA Report

Remember all those reports at the time of the transition that Clinton and his people trashed the White House? Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., (an impeachment prosecutor, in case you've forgotten) asked the General Services Administration to check out the reports. The GSA conclusion: nothing to it. Barr's comment was the usual slop, disappointment in the GSA. The man is utterly shameless.

Tony Snow, a journalist who joined in the bashing, was a least sheepish. And, of course, in line with an old journalism rule, while the story of the trashing dominated the news for a week or two, the report afterwards which exonerates Clinton and his people was universally buried deep inside the nation's newspapers. It is my anger over such inequities that drove me to start this column in the first place.

The Problem With Taking A Week Off

The problem with taking a week off--and I'm not going to apologize for it, with Marlow in town, I had a lot to do--is that so much I want to comment on piles up. Perry Como died (too bad, but doesn't really affect me). Douglas Adams died (Douglas Adams, Author of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Dies at 49), and that affects me deeply on at least two levels. First, he died of a heart attack while working out in the gym and he was only a few months older than I am. Secondly, I loved and respected his work and I am sorry there won't be more of it. Thirdly, I was surprised by how many people--people I assumed were widely read and well educated--didn't recognize the name of the writer. His epic, of course, was The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, an hilarious BBC radio (and later TV) series turned into a trilogy of novels. I own the complete radio show, the LP record version of the radio show, the BBC television series, and the books.

But of course, in this celebrity-soaked culture, what happens to and with people we know through the media starts to seem more important than our own unmediated experience, and that's sad. The most important event of the last two weeks was Marlow's brief sojourn home before starting summer school at Columbia University in the City of New York, where she is a rising junior. She'll be living in the air-conditioned Broadway dormitory, which is still available as a naming opportunity.

As a family, we went to watch the NY Mets play the Giants, saw the Broadway-bound play Dirty Blonde (a three-character meditation on the life of Mae West) and spent time together. Then, for the last five days, got to know her new boyfriend Ian, who arrived from New York on Wednesday, on his first-ever trip out of the Eastern time zone. Needless to say, Ian got the full-scale Paul Schindler tour of San Francisco. Those of you who have experienced it know what an experience it is. Since I gave the same tour to a colleague who came to SF for the first time just two weeks ago, I was well-practiced. Fortunately, I had decided to take a week's vacation to spend time with Marlow while she was here.

We drove down to Santa Cruz so the kids could spend some time on the Boardwalk, then went to Monterey on Saturday so they could see the justifiably world famous Aquarium there. Marlow and Ian left for NYC at 5:30 this morning. The weather cooperated, and although I hate long car rides, it was still cool.

While Marlow and Ian went off Saturday night to see her friend Peter, Vicki, Rae and I watched an old black-and-white educational film on film editing that I found fascinating. It shows the raw footage for a scene from the old television show Gunsmoke and then shows how three different film editors would edit the scene. Way cool.

Marlow will be home briefly in August, but, in a pattern that was as surprising as it was expectable, she is gradually spending less and less time at home. This is very jarring, since I spent the first 18 years of her life knowing where she was and what she was doing, with whom, every minute of the day and night. It is never easy to go from being the main man to being a bit player in your child's life. It is both sad and heartening. Sad because she is a good person whose company I miss. Heartening, because we did a good job of raising her, so she is an intelligent and independent human being. And we are reinforced in our opinion of the quality of our parenting by the fact that she still enjoys our company.

A brief note: The spa at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa, Cannery Row, Monterey is excellent. And the coolest restaurant in North America is the bistro there, Schooners, which has outside seating that just out over the Monterey Bay. It is worth a special trip.

West Wing

President Jed Bartlett, in the season finale of West Wing (one of the best shows on television) berates God, in English, as a "feckless thug" for taking the life of his long-time personal assistant, Mrs. Landingham. Then he berates God in Latin.

Here's the translation included with "The West Wing" shooting script, according to an AP story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Am I really to believe that these are that acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God?" Bartlet exclaims. "To hell with your punishments. I was your servant here on Earth. And I spread your word and I did your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you."

The Latin passage, as cited in the script: "Haec credam a deo pio? A deo iusto, a deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem. Tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui. Officium perfeci. Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem."

Now That's Good Writing

In a review (New Yorker, May 21, 2001 p. 99) by Simon Schama of John Adams by David McCullough (aTruman biographer):

"the chewy difficulty of Adams's thought had been rendered smooth in the blender of McCullough's literary elegance."

In the next sentence, he says the McCullough book makes Adams more "uxorious," a term I had seen but forgotten. From the Latin "uxor" meaning "wife," the term means "Excessively submissive or devoted to one's wife."

Don't Overlook Ted Olsen

Robert Scheer is one of the few nationally syndicated columnists that looks at things from the left end of the spectrum. He wrote a right-on column about W's candidate for solicitor general.

May 15, 2001- Remember when Hillary Clinton dared suggest that a vast right-wing conspiracy was behind the campaign to destroy her husband's presidency? Well, the troubles besetting the nomination of Theodore B. Olson as U.S. solicitor general provide stunning evidence of what she had in mind.

A special prosecutor says Olsen probably lied to a previous congressional inquiry in 1983, and was, at the very least, disingenuous. Sen. Hatch halted the hearings into his confirmation before the Democrats could pin Olsen down about his role in the Arkansas project, the multi-million dollar right-wing effort to get Clinton by any means necessary, spearheaded by the American Spectator magazine.

I don't think he deserves to be solicitor general, and I'm not even counting his courtroom work on behalf of the loser in the last presidential election--G.W. Bush. If they could impeach Clinton for splitting hairs, isn't that enough to disqualify Olsen? I think so.

The Newspaper Industry Today

As a rule, I don't care much for Dave Barry. But apparently, in response to cost-cutting moves at the Miami Herald, along with all the other Knight-Ridder newspapers (apparently years of wild profit aren't enough to protect you from instant cuts in a downturn), he wrote this column, which would be funny if it weren't so true.

Sunday, May 20
The Miami Herald
Our cost-cutting innovation: `pre-owned' news
On behalf of the newspaper industry (new, cost-cutting motto: ``All the News That'') I wish to announce some changes we're making to serve you better.
When I say ``serve you better,'' I mean ``increase our profits.'' We newspapers are very big on profits these days. We're a business, just like any other business, except that we employ English majors.
. What Wall Street cares about is profits. Here at the newspaper, we get hourly phone calls from Wall Street.
``Send more profits!'' Wall Street shouts, then slams down the receiver. We must comply, because otherwise Wall Street would shut down the newspaper, and we would starve to death, because, as English majors, we have no useful skills.

The column is good and funny and you should read it if you care about journalism. The operative phrase is, "When I say ``serve you better,'' I mean ``increase our profits.'' I like it so much, I have added it to my journalism quotes page.

Computer Industry News

Faster Than The Speed Of Light?

Craig Reynolds spotted this in New Scientist.

Warp speed

If your dad told you how to go faster than light, would you build a machine to do it? Nick Appleyard and Bridget Appleby investigate
THE SPEED of light can't be exceeded. Everyone knows that. Yet Houshang Ardavan of Cambridge University claims that there are sources of radio waves out in space that move faster than light. A team of physicists at Oxford, including Ardavan's son, has built a "superluminal" source based on Ardavan's ideas. And any day now it could be switched on.
Many physicists think this idea is a complete waste of time.

Translation of Microsoft Rhetoric

Boy, I wish Eric Raymond would post all his writing on his own site so I could just excerpt and point. But as far as I can tell, if I don't print the whole thing, there's no place I can point you at. And this is too good not to share.

If you're like most people, you have neither the time nor the patience to plough through this quagmire of corporate rhetoric. Fortunately, what Microsoft is actually saying, beneath all the obfuscatory verbiage, is very simple. Here's an executive summary:
Software users and programmers of the world, have we got an offer for you!
1. First, we'll let you pay us for the privilege of seeing the source code to our software, bugs and all.
2. Then, we'll use your work to raise the price of our next release. Including anything you contributed. You won't get paid for your creative work, and you'll have no rights in it. If we're feeling nice, maybe we'll give you a discount on the next release. Then again, maybe not.
3. Oh, and by the way...if you try to use any of what you learned from helping us fix our bugs for your own purposes, we'll sue your ass off and smother you in lawyers.
Such a deal!
We here at Microsoft call this "protecting intellectual property rights in order to create a sustainable business model". Um, that would be our intellectual property and our business model. You surely weren't thinking we cared about your business or your rights, were you?
What's ours is ours. And if you cooperate on "shared source", what's yours will be ours too!
Have a nice day -- and remember (eyes misting, hand held to heart) we're doing it all to support "innovation"
-- Eric S. Raymond

In another alert sent out recently, Raymond laments a bug in Microsoft's Internet server software:

But there is something about this incident that deserves special attention. This most recent security hole was not a bug -- it was a deliberate back door inserted by Microsoft engineers.
When Microsoft spokespeople said that the back door was "absolutely against our policy," they were doubtless intending to be reassuring. But on second thought, that statement should strike fear into the heart of any MIS manager relying on Microsoft products. Because the inevitable next question is this: if backdoors can find their way into Microsoft's production releases against Microsoft's own policy, how many more undiscovered ones are there?

Web Site of the Week

Corporate Anthems

Richard Dalton says some of these corporate anthems are so bad they're good. Decide for yourself.

Also, Marlow found incredible turn-of-the-century color photographs from Russia.

Two great links from Craig Reynolds about the whole SDMI/DVD encoding scandal:

Copyright Thugs


Copyright Clash Shutters Speech


Kenny G

Dan Rosenbaum forwarded this:

The British guitarist Richard Thompson tells the following joke at many of his concerts: "Kenny G walks into an elevator, and says, 'Man, this place rocks!'"

I could have put this under "Man, That's Good Writing, but it was so good, I decided to put it under humor. It is destined to go down in history as one of the greats. Please note the Other Paper's either doesn't have a search engine, or hides it so carefully I can't find it, so I can't confirm this is authentic.

Review of a Kenny G. Concert from The Other Paper, Columbus, Ohio, by John Petric.
"Getting Down with the Milquetoast Maestro"
A whole lotta people paid a whole lotta money to witness a whole lotta meaningless breathing exercises done through a musical snorkel Saturday night at the Columbus Convention Center. Kenny G - the mayor of mayonnaise music, the milquetoast maestro, the woodwind weasel - played his saxophone to roughly 5000 people at $25 per head. That adds up to a $150,000 gross and boy, gross it was. G is the latest and most successful instrumentalist with a slight jazz pedigree to hit the big time. However, in G's case, it is with an authenticity so questionable he may as well document it with a fancy diploma from some phoney offshore jazz school in the middle of the Caribbean. Even Zamfir comes with better jazz credentials.



You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Dreamworks has shown once again that it can tweak Disney and produce a funny movie at the same time. This film straddles the classic kid/adult line that makes a film acceptable to and enjoyable by both demographics at the same time. I think it does so as well, or better, than any animated film I've seen in recent years. There are a few mildly gross moments, but for the most part it lives up to it's PG rating.

Mike Myers as Shrek, Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona and Eddie Murphy as the donkey all show promise as voice artists. Actually, Murphy, who had a similar role as the dragon sidekick in Mulan, may now be the go-to guy for comic relief in major animated films.

Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson directed this romp, and I think I detect a woman's hand in the intelligent treatment of the main female character--although William Steig may have written her that way in the original story, with which I am not familiar.

Watch for the Matrix homage in the middle of the film. In fact, keep your eyes open all the way through for the kind of sly references to other films that Warner Brothers used to scatter through their cartoons--a genre we know that Dreamworks co-founded Steven Spielberg is intimately familiar with (as executive producer of the modern Warner cartoons).

Highly recommended

A Knight's Tale

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Well, here I go again, two highly recommended films in one column. Marlow and I went to see this after finding out that one of my best friend's teenage daughter has seen it three times. I assume she wasn't going for the chance to see Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) naked, twice. Don't worry, its good clean dorsal nudity (as Monty Python used to say, to distinguish the occasional bare bum from frontal nudity).

Brian Helgeland wrote and directed this anachronism-filled era-bending romp, and while the violence is fairly vivid, the comic relief is frequent and funny. A medieval crowd singing we will rock you, a blacksmith whose sign is the swoosh… well, you get the idea.

I never read Chaucer's Knight's Tale, so I have no idea if this borrows from its namesake. I do know that it’s a funny piece of fluff and a lovely little distraction.



Not As Such

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