PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 26

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

July 16, 2001

Let Other People Write It

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:

  • A Poem from Richard Dalton
  • Bush
  • LA Tries To Tax Satellites
  • The Best Bad Writing

Computer Industry News:

  • How Bad Is It At HP?

Web Site of the Week:

  • Beribboned


  • The Top 15 Least Useful Scientific Experiments
  • The Top 20 Euphemisms for Penis Enlargement Surgery
  • Car Talk Staff
  • The Top 14 Immutable Laws of the Sitcom Universe


  • None


  • None

General News

A Poem from Richard Dalton

Richard Dalton quoted me back to myself from last week's column: "I will judge myself a success, at the moment when the concept of "myself" ceases to exist."

He then writes:

Why assume that? Did "yourself" exist before you were born? Here's what I'm counting on:


If I am very good
I will die in a state of grace
that will entitle me
to live forever on a beach.

Where the sun is warm
but not hot
and the water cool
and gentle.

And I will be allowed
to throw sticks and tennis balls
for all the dogs living on
in this heavenly light.

And they will bring back to me
their joy.

...Richard Dalton
September, 1997


Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States:

"Well, it's an unimaginable honor to be the President during the 4th of July of this country. It means what these words say, for starters. The great inalienable rights of our country. We're blessed with such values in America. And I - it's - I'm a proud man to be the nation based upon such wonderful values. I can't tell you what it's like to be in Europe, for example, to be talking about the greatness of America. But the true greatness of America are the people. And it's another reason we're here, is to be able to say hello to some of our fellow Americans who are here to celebrate."

LA Tries To Tax Satellites

Los Angeles tries to tax satellites
July 11, 2001
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Los Angeles officials want to impose property taxes on space satellites, but the plan was brought back down to Earth Tuesday when a state board moved toward declaring satellites beyond the reach of even the tax collector.
But Los Angeles County Assessor Rick Auerbach said he was not yet ready to scrap the proposed tax and would consider a court challenge if he finds that the California State Board of Equalization has circumvented state or federal law.
It was Auerbach who determined that eight communications satellites owned by Hughes Electronics Corp. and currently in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,890 kms) over Earth's equator were taxable as movable property that was currently out of state, similar to construction equipment….

The Best Bad Writing

Frenzied lapdog inspires worst writing of the year
Canadian wins contest with painful prose
Kelly St. John
Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2001
… a 76-word sentence so deliciously ludicrous that it won San Jose State University's 20th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the worst beginning to an imaginary novel. She wrote:
"A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea."
The contest is named for the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began with the now-infamous cliche, "It was a dark and stormy night." Lytton is also responsible for the line, "the pen is mightier than the sword."
Read the winning entries

Computer Industry News

How Bad Is It At HP?

A lot of companies are losing their souls these days. In most cases, it is a small loss. In some cases it is a large, sad occasion. One such is HP. A friend thinks the problem is CEO Carleton (Carly) Fiorina and her mishandling of the culture, which is really the base culture of the entire Silicon Valley. He writes:

Morale, especially among middle-level managers throughout the whole organization, I've learned, was devastated, shattered, broken in bits by her dismissal of three thousand corporate staff people. The famous HP loyalties were damaged. Resumes began to circulate outside.
There was never a policy forbidding layoffs. When companies were acquired, HP almost always had an immediate house-cleaning of people it would not, itself, have hired in the first place. But it WAS basic policy that HP would not take on large contracts that would require hiring people who might not be needed after completion. Hence never bid on big defense contracts for government use only. A run of commercial models modified to meet severe environmental requirements, perhaps yes, but spread out in time. That happened in the early 60s for counters and oscilloscopes.
(You may remember during Packard's time as deputy Defense Secretary, he pushed hard for military purchasing of standard commercial goods, and for a policy of "fly before you buy." Asked for his greatest success in office, though, he said "well, I quit smoking.")
A VERY few division managers miscalculated the market for one or more new products, and failed to come up with adequate successors, leading to the necessity of laying off factory people. It was not stated policy, but one would clearly see that those managers had severely diminished promotion prospects. All division managers were wary. It WAS policy that design failures must be expected and tolerated, or many good ones would not come to life. Financial people were chided when their collection times got too SHORT, too -- that would mean good potential customers had been refused credit. Clearly to everyone, H&P meant managers to be responsible for hiring and keeping good people, and they would not tolerate disposing of them because of managerial failures. When markets went sour, as in 1970, every possible alternate to layoffs was employed. Hiring was frozen immediately. Remember "every other Friday off without pay?" Morale was never higher, great care to avoid waste was universally popular.
There is, I promise you, spreading belief that she does not understand the cultural tradition there, that is the basic source of the inventiveness she so ardently espouses. That tradition would never employ ruthless destruction of confidence among customers and employees (she scolds!) in efforts to affect stockbrokers. I even remember a security analysts' meeting where Hewlett began his talk with, "I don't know why I'm wasting my time talking to people who believe there are stocks worth fifty times earnings..." which HP was, at the time -- it did NOT decline, either!
I don't know the character of the board today. Once it was pretty docile, a rubber stamp even for Young and Platt. But there is Dick Hackborn, among the brightest, most competent of all HP managers, ever. He was instrumental in her selection and was non-executive chairman for a short time, then yielded the title to her, remaining on the board. If he should lose confidence in her -- and I have NO reason to think so -- he'd easily control the board and she'd be finished.

Web Site of the Week


Richard Dalton writes:

We all know how ribbons have become a simple way for people to support causes: red ribbons for AIDS awareness; pink ones for breast cancer, etc.
I recently started a discussion on a prostate cancer mail group about the Electronic Frontier Foundation's use of a blue ribbon to champion freedom of speech on the Internet. I contended that this symbol conflicted with the use of a blue ribbon for prostate cancer awareness.
My comment was naive. EFF has been using the blue ribbon for six years. And the proliferation of ribbonage was beyond my imagination. Finally someone suggested this URL:


The Top 15 Least Useful Scientific Experiments

July 11, 2001
15> Determining What Microwave Oven Setting Will Cause Dick Cheney's Implant to Perform the Drum Solo from "Wipeout"
14> If you hold up a 250 mile-tall drinking straw, will the vacuum of space suck out the atmosphere through the straw into space?
13> Discovering the Human Factor Behind Termination of Canine Incarceration: Who Let the Dogs Out?
12> Determining the Optimal Environment for Belly Button Lint Growth
11> Supersaturation: How Many Items Can Appear On A 5-Item List?
10> Jennifer Lopez's Ass: Particle or Wave?
9> Determining Genetic Combination of Radically Different Morphologies (aka Why Cameron Diaz Should Have Sex With Me)
8> Does Jay Leno's jaw get bigger as David Letterman's hair recedes?
7> Classification and Measurement of Arbo-Rectal Implants: How Far Up Tom DeLay's Ass Does That Stick Really Go?
6> Marmota Monax and Forest Product Propulsion: Just Exactly How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck?
5> Detecting the Chemical Composition of Mike Tyson Just Before His Next Fight
4> Measuring the Cheez Whiz Capacity of MC Hammer's Pants
3> The Avian Defecation/Automotive Cleanliness Nexis: A Study in the Guano Production as a Function of "Car Wash" Proximity
2> Monkeys, Jerry Springer Guests and Typewriters: Is "Hamlet" in Their Future?
and's Number 1 Least Useful Scientific Experiment...
1> T'n'A Sequencing
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 120 submissions from 44 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Kevin Freels, Walnut Creek, CA -- 1 (14th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 8

The Top 20 Euphemisms for Penis Enlargement Surgery

July 12, 2001
20> Genetalial Pinocchiotomy
19> Expanding Drilling Operations in Your Wildlife Preserve
18> Doubling the Interest Rate on Your Mutual Fun
17> Peter Padding
16> Plumping the Ball Park Frank
15> Expanding Your "Top 5" to a "Top 9"
14> Replacing Richard II with Richard III
13> Putting the Archbishop on the Rack
12> Puffin' the Magic Dragon
11> Supersizing Big Mac
10> Adding a Wing to the Sexual Addiction Unit
9> Putting the Munchkin on Stilts
8> Kicking the Cajun Sausage Up a Notch
7> Trading in the Escort for a Stretch Limo
6> Getting a Magic Johnson
5> Preparing to Boldly Go Where No Manhood has Gone Before
4> Feeding Mowgli to Kaa
3> Turning Crouching Tiger into Hidden Dragon
2> Upgrading Passenger Johnson to First Class
and's Number 1 Euphemism for Penis Enlargement Surgery...
1> Taking the Train from Vienna to Frankfurt
[ The Top 5 List ] [ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 206 submissions from 54 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Doug Finney, Houston, TX -- 1 (6th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13

Car Talk Staff

If you like Car Talk (hosted, may I add, by two MIT alumni), you'll enjoy the complete, official list of their staff.

The Top 14 Immutable Laws of the Sitcom Universe

It's a hat trick--all right, it took me three days to do it… Anyway, We're No. 9! We're No. 9!

July 13, 2001
14> The Universal Law of Gift Exchange: All presents must come in boxes with the lid wrapped separately from the rest of the package to allow for easy opening.
13> The Cousin Oliver Corollary: As soon as the young, cute child becomes gangly or awkward, he/she is relegated to the background and a new young, cute child will be introduced.
12> The Pet Theorem: Anytime there is a prominent family pet, odds are it will be smarter than at least one other character on the show.
11> Remini's Conjecture: Pudgy, average-looking men always marry hot women. Pudgy, average-looking women don't exist.
10> The cuter the child star, the longer the rap sheet.
9> Lucy already did it, and it was funnier in 1953 than it is now.
8> Carrot Top is not funny. Ever.
7> Chrissy's First Law of Teledynamics: The subject of a telephone conversation, when overheard from behind the door of an adjacent room, can be fully and accurately ascertained from as few as two words.
6> Statute of Prevarication: A zany scheme is always easier than simply telling the truth..
5> A cynical, funny, but nerdy guy will eventually have sex with all his attractive female friends -- not that I'm bitter, mind you.
4> The Will & Grace Paradox: Sitcoms can be funny. Gay people can be funny. But for some unknown reason, sitcoms about gay people are NOT funny.
3> The Kramer Conundrum: If no one watched The Michael Richards Show, did it make a sound when it was canceled?
2> Any problem taking more than 30 minutes to solve must be labeled "Very Special."
and's Number 1 Immutable Law of the Sitcom Universe...
1> Schwimmer's law: No matter how irritating a character may be, the other characters will never bludgeon him to death.
[ The Top 5 List ] [ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 150 submissions from 55 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Curt Cutting, Santa Monica, CA -- 1 (9th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9


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