PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 21

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

June 11, 2001

On Dying Too Young

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:

    • Beverly Schlimme: 1953-2001.
    • Plant/Marriage Metaphors.
    • Shameless Self-Promotion.
    • Less Power To Us

Computer Industry News:

    • Emailing Jokes.

Web Site of the Week:

    • Top Dollar For Loyal Employees.


  • The Top 16 Oprah Book Club Runners Up


  • The Circle


  • News From Craig Reynolds, Dan Rosenbaum, Mari Schindler

General News

Beverly Schlimme 1953-2001

Bev died earlier this month of a brain tumor. That she died too young goes, I hope, without saying. I went to her memorial service last week at the Shakespeare Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

I knew Bev best during her college years (which overlapped with mine; she was class of 1975). She was a student at Boston University, and was involved first with myMIT friend Craig Reynolds, then with my MIT friend Richard Parker.

Bev was a wonderful person. She always gave to others--more than I realized, as I discovered when I attended her memorial service. That's the thing about memorial services. I am learning, as I begin to attend more and more of them, that people have different strands in their lives, and that the people in these strands often have no idea of each others' existence. I heard from Bev's childhood friends, from her adult friends, from her son Matthew's friends, from the people who knew and her second husband Frank from Bank of America.

The modern American memorial service is a heck of a good idea. Don't mourn the dead, celebrate their life. That's what we did. That's what Bev would have wanted. The threads had a chance to mingle, and we all got a chance to let her parents and her siblings know what a beloved and beautiful person she was.

I neglected our friendship; after 1985, I saw her only a half-dozen times. We had annual phone calls and exchanged Christmas cards. No matter how much you like someone, there's only room for so many people in your life. Then you find out one of the good ones, one of the ones you really liked, is not longer around, and the sadness is deepened by that realization. I vowed to redouble my efforts not to let this happen to people I care about. That, and her selfless spirit of devotion to others, are the lessons I will take from her untimely passing. God Speed, Bev.

Plant/Marriage Metaphors

Next to the driveway at my parent's house is a bush. My knowledge of botany being what it is, I have no idea what kind of bush it is. My parents were given this bush when they got married, and they planted it at Prescott, moved it 88th, and brought it to Beech Street, where they have lived since 1957. The sucker is huge. It is gigantic. It leans over the driveway and would scratch my dad's truck as he put it in the garage if he didn't trim it. But he trims it very carefully, because mom has always said the marriage will last only as long as the bush, and the health of the marriage will mirror the health of the bush. My parents are coming up on their 50th next year, and the bush is in great shape.

I was put in mind of this by another letter-perfect Jon Carroll column that demonstrated that he, too, has a marriage plant. Do other people as well?

The cactus has yellow flowers

Jon Carroll
Thursday, May 31, 2001

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW on the back deck is a gray glass-topped table, and on the table is a large cactus. It was a birthday gift to me from my wife before she was my wife; we figure it's from 1980, which means it is almost old enough to drink.
... Our marriage too is hard to diagram, fractal in nature. It has grown organically, in response to pressures both external and internal, and viewed from the outside, it's hard to see its structure. (Viewed from the inside, it's even harder -- we ceased trying long ago.)
Its base is beginning to seem ancient as well, as we move further in time from the two people who fell rather violently in love with each other at about the time Jimmy Carter became president.

This is just a taste of the column: you should read the whole thing.

Shameless Self Promotion

My appearance on Win Ben Stein's Money is now available on line if you have the Real Player G2. It runs about 20 minutes.

Or, see all four of my shows (Wheel of Fortune, Jeopady and Scrabble, as well as Ben) in one big file that runs about an hour.

Less Power To Us

Craig Reynolds found this PBS Frontline documentary, which will be on in SF on June 12, and may still be repeated elsewhere:

Blackout 6.5.2001 at 10:00pm (60 min)
Power shortages. Rolling blackouts. Skyrocketing utility bills. California's power disaster has made "energy" a national front-burner issue. The state's power crunch has affected everyone from homeowners and small businesses to the big-business consumers of electricity who originally pushed for deregulation. Now, the state's largest utility, PG& E, has filed for bankruptcy.
But is California's energy crisis the result of flawed deregulation and the weather-or, as some charge, market manipulation by a new breed of power entrepreneurs? Or a bit of both? And could other states face similar energy shortages?

Craig also found this:

I followed a link from Dan Gillmor to this depressing article about FERC's unwillingness and/or inability to properly monitor, let alone regulate, wholesale electricity prices.

Computer Industry News

Emailing Jokes

A friend of mine sent me a story that explains why emailing jokes may be an act of love. It's also a touching story. I love stories that teach.

A man and his dog were walking along a road.
The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble.
At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.
He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.
When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"
"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.
"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked. "Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up." The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going. After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.
"Excuse me!" he called to the reader. "Do you have any water?"
"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there" The man pointed to a place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in."
"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to the dog. "There should be a bowl by the pump."
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them.
"What do you call this place?" the traveler asked. "This is Heaven," was the answer.
"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven, too."
"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's Hell."
"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"
"No. I can see how you might think so, but we're just happy that they screen out the folks who'll leave their best friends behind."
Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word, maybe this could explain: "When you are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do -- you forward jokes. When you have nothing to say, but want to still keep contact, you forward jokes. When you have something to say, but don't know what, and don't know how, you forward jokes."
And to let you know that: you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess what you get? A forwarded joke from me. So my friend, next time if you get a joke, don't think that I have sent you just a joke, but that I have thought of you today and wanted to send you a smile.

Web Site of the Week

Top Dollar For Loyal Employees

Some satire is so broad that it's stupid. Other satire has laser-like brilliance because of its subtlety. This is from category two.


The Top 16 Oprah Book Club Runners Up

I'm only No. 6, but I beat Pat Sajak!

June 6, 2001
16> Yugo Girl: Auto Repair for Empowered Women
15> Rosie O'Donnell Can Kiss My Great Big Rich Ass
14> How to Amuse Your Inner Child By Swallowing Hand Puppets
13> Men Are from Mars, Women Are from -- Ooh, Mashed Potatoes!
12> TV Personalities Who Baffle Men, and the Women Who Love Them
11> Girlfriend, You Are Like, *SO* Co-Dependent!
10> The Clever, Unappreciated Woman Who Never Marries and Dies Poor and Alone
9> You Go, Oprah!: One Author's Desperate Attempt to Make His Mortgage Payments
8> Bad Shrinks, Good Surgeons: Learning to Love the Fat Ugly Loser You'll Always Be
7> You're Not Nearly as Repulsive as You Think
6> I'm OK, You Won't Make as Much in Your Lifetime as I Make During Lunch
5> Harry Potter and the Stunningly Successful, Worldly-Wise, Mature Yet Hauntingly Alluring Talk Show Goddess
4> I'm OK, You're Skanky Roadkill
3> Bridget Jones's Diarrhea
2> Beloved 2: Electric Boogaloo
and's Number 1 Oprah Book Club Runner Up...
1> I Know Why the Trapped, Rabid Wolverine Bites Her Leg Off
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 139 submissions from 52 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Kathy Good, Phoenix, AZ -- 1 (4th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 6
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 7


The Circle

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Vicki and I wandered into this film out of convenience, as it was showing in Berkeley's venerable Elmwood Theater, a few doors down from the new French place Voulez Vous, on College Avenue. All in all, we kind of wish we'd gone to see the 7:45 show of Moulin Rouge instead. I mean, the film was well-shot and nicely subtitled, but it didn't really require the whole 90 minutes to convince us that the lot of women in Iran really sucks.

Intensely artsy, rough, dark and depressing. If you're into that, check out The Circle.



News From Craig Reynolds, Dan Rosenbaum, Mari Schindler

Craig Reynolds found this:

I enjoyed this discussion of the boundary between "hounding" the first twins and probing their father's fairness in applying his harsh view of crime and punishment:

Bush's double standard
By Joe Conason

Here's a clever lead paragraph about nuclear waste disposal, from the UPI alumni wire:

PEACH BOTTOM, Pa., June 1 - The nuclear plant here split its first atom in December 1973. Both halves are still here.

Dan Rosenbaum reports (and asks):

Homeless kid gets 1600 SATs. Plans to go to Bob Jones University. Is it possible to be smart and dumb at the same time?

My mom noticed that I reported an anxiety attack this week, and she passes along this advice she one received on the subject:

The most important thing to do was nothing, don't think about it, don't analyze it, don't anticipate any more - just think of it as a glitch and move along.

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