PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
July 30, 2001
20 Years And What Do You Get?
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:
Profound or Banal, You Be The Judge
I was sitting in the car with Vicki, marveling at the repetitive repetition of daily life, when it occurred to me:
Life is a marathon. The problem is, we don't know how long the race is, so we don't know how to pace ourselves. Is it time for the sprint yet?
20 Years And What Do You Get
"Oh my God, you need a life," kidded one of my friends when I sent a note around celebrating my 20th anniversary at CMP.
My first day at CMP was April 23, 1979, but in the more than 22 years since, I spent 9 months working as a consultant with Richard Dalton in 1983, and 18 months, first on leave, then working for Ziff Davis' PC Week, in 1988. So, my "adjusted hire date," according to HR, was July 23, 1981, making last Monday my adjusted 20th anniversary.
It required two separate acts of charity for my twice-interrupted service to be strung together into credit for 20 years. The first time I left I returned within the same calendar year which was, at the time, the rule for re-accruing seniority. Thus, when I restarted in January 1990, it was with zero seniority, since I had been gone for 18 months. For some reason, a decision was made (as the saying goes "above my grade"--I always suspected the change came about in order to keep some in-and-outer more important than me happy) to re-instate seniority for people with service gaps longer than a year. In an instant, I went from someone with no seniority and two weeks vacation to a 10-year veteran with four weeks vacation and the right to a second sabbatical. A sabbatical at CMP, by the way, consists of an extra two weeks of vacation every 7 years.
The funny thing is, this was supposed to be a temporary job. I had four jobs in my first five years out of school: AP, UPI, Bank of America and the Oregon Journal. CMP was my fifth. When my application landed on Al Perlman's desk, he showed it to the founder and then-owner of CMP, Gerry Leeds, who said, "Look at this! He skips around all the time. He won't stay."
Gerry was very perceptive. My plan was to use the CMP job, as West Coast Editor of Computer Systems News, to move to San Francisco, where I would soon be hired by Dave Dietz to work for the San Francisco Examiner Business News department. That fell through, and when I mentioned two years later at Comdex that I had been at CMP longer than I had ever been at any job, Gerry bought me a bottle of champagne--for breakfast!
I never expected to put 20 years in at any one company. Even in 1974, when I graduated from MIT, people were saying that lifetime employment was a thing of the past, especially for knowledge workers. And at the start of my career, it looked liked I'd be just another itinerant journalist with a resume as long as my arm.
Somehow, though, CMP became home. Under the Leeds family (first Gerry and his wife Lilo, then their son Michael), it was a paternalistic place to work for, which treated its experienced workers well. And of course, since November 1979 they have let me work at home. It is tough to beat a zero commute. ZD let me work at home too, although I think the policy has changed there since I left.
Much has changed at CMP since the Leeds family sold it to United News and Media back in 1999; I am not even sure we celebrate anniversaries anymore. Virtually every colleague with whom I have worked over the years has left the company. And here I am, still here. I'd go and get a life, but I already have one.
I've had 15 wonderful years at CMP, which is not bad out of 20. My crystal ball is a bit hazy at the moment, and no one has ever gone more than 29 years at the company (employee No. 1 was just laid off). Still, like rearing a child, I believe you should enjoy each stage of a job for what it is, trying not to live in either the future or the past.
One thing's for sure: I won't be here for another 20. I have no intention of working that long.
A Cat Update
It's been a while since I've had anything to say about Champagne and Jagermeister, the two orange tabby cats whom, next to my wife, my daughters and my family, are the light of my life.
They're still great-big love balls, who fall over on their sides at the drop of a hat and sleep each night with (usually on top of) Vicki and I.
They have developed a hankering for some lap sitting at mealtime, and Jager really dug his claws into Rae the other night at dinner; she sits closer to the table now to discourage him. They'll hop up into your chair if you leave it, even for a minute. They're cute and funny and Marlow accuses us of taking too many pictures of them. I don't see how that would be possible.
And skittish? Whoever dreamed up "nervous as a cat" clearly owned one. These two jump out of their skins at the slightest movement by the people in the house. You'd think we beat them regularly (we don't).
My PHC Skit
I have, literally, been dreaming about writing this skit for about three years. Did I mention that I periodically have dreams that I am, or once was, a writer for Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion (back in the early days, when the crowds were sparse and the show more informal)? I also dream sometimes that I once did West Coast cut-ins on Saturday Night Live. When you're a former radio and television technician, your dreams along this line are apt to be quite specific.
Anyway, the skit is entitled "How We Pick Our Writers," and the elements that come from the dream are the Kafka homage and the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. The rest of it came to me during a long walk on Santa Monica beach last week.
Anyway, Harrison Klein has had a shot at the script. I made most of the changes he suggested, and I'm about to mail it in, but before I do, I guess I should get some further opinions.
Yes, I realize my chances of anyone in the PHC organization even looking at the script are almost nil, since it was unsolicited and I don't have an agent. Have a look. Let me know what you think.
Computer Industry News
Apple As Monopolist
Ross Snyder forwarded these thoughts to me. I'm printing them because I think they're cogent. They were written by David Breneman, who notes they represent his opinion, not that of his employer, who I am not naming.
Apple is the company the brought us the "look and feel" lawsuit, remember? Basically, their argument was that if the computer had a mouse, your were in violation of their look and feel. Never mind that Xerox PARC had produced 100s of PCs in the 70s that used a mouse. That's a level of arrogance that even Microsoft never attained - in fact, Microsoft was one of the good guys in that lawsuit. Lots of developers were turned off to Apple as a result of their actions, and 3rd-party software for the platform pretty well dried up. Imagine if Apple had won, and in essence had patent rights to graphical computer interfaces, WYSIWYG word processors, dot-addressable printers, etc.
Apple has also gone Microsoft one step better by wanting to control not only the software, but the *hardware* as well. Remember in the mid 90s, they finally relented and allowed a few clone makers to enter the market. The first thing Jobs did when he got back in control was revoke their licenses, starving them out and returning Apple to the sole source of Apple hardware. Think you'd be able to waltz into any PeeCees-R-Us stores today and plunk down $1,000 and walk out with a working computer if a monopolist controlled both the OS *and* the hardware? It's the commodity nature of the PC hardware, not Microsoft's operating system, that has made home computers affordable to the Great Unwashed Masses. Apple would have been happy selling to corporations and universities, who they always gave great discounts to. The individual buyer always paid full markup.
As far as the Internet goes, it's a tossup. Both Jobs and Gates had to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the network. Once Novell got people accustomed to networked PCs, what did Microsoft respond with? NetBEUI, an unroutable abortion of a protocol that found its highest use in Windows for Workgroups, and dialup with The Microsoft Network (remember that - Microsoft was going to kill the Internet!). Appletalk was little better, but at the same time that came out, Apple's guiding genius, Steve Jobs, had departed to work on the NEXT, which featured his amazing, futuristic concept of "taking your computing environment anywhere!" with... A removable hard drive. Neither one of these visionary Bozos understood the importance of the network in computing, so it's hard to say if the internet would have faired worse under Jobs than it has under Gates, but I have a hunch Jobs, had he been at the helm of an Apple that was the dominant desktop vendor, would probably stuck to a "not invented here" attitude towards the internet and PCs would be off in their own little world, apart from the Real Computers.
Hey wait - that's not such a bad idea! :-)
The Top 15 Famous Quotes as Spoken in Bushonics
Mine's number 5.
July 24, 2001
15> "Do not go, Gentile, into that good night."
14> "Ich bin ein Berliminable."
13> "All's well that's an oil well."
12> "It's time this country looked to higher ideals, like those of Aristotle and Playdoh."
11> "Four snorts and seven beers ago..."
10> "Study hard and someday you can work for a C student."
9> "It's moronic in America."
8> "I think, therefore I are."
7> "A man is known by the companies he is kept by."
6> "America needs to take the conserve out of conservation."
5> "Actions speak louder than those other things that aren't actions."
4> "Give me liberty or give me depth!"
3> "The suck starts here."
2> "Mr. Garba... Mr. Gorcha... Damn you, pinko, take this wall down!"
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Famous Quote as Spoken in Bushonics...
1> "The only thing we have to fear is here himself."
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 114 submissions from 44 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 5
Dave Wesley, Pleasant Hill, CA -- 1, 9 (18th #1 / Hall of Famer)
Brooklyn Edition of Windows
Dan Grobstein passed this on. It is too long for the column, but you can read it here. It isn't exactly the same version Dan sent me, but it saves me the trouble of hosting a new one, and anyway, you get the idea…
It has come ta our attention dat a coupola copies of the WINDOWS BROOKLYN EDITION may have accidentally bin shipped outsida Broooklyn.
The Financial Times of London had some fun with the problems of layoffs. Here's a taste of the story
By MARTIN LUKES
Kiss of the Dragon
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
Tchéky Karyo, born in Turkey, grew up in Paris. He has a bunch of film credits; the only one I can tell for sure was a villain was The Patriot, where he apparently plays a British officer.
But I can tell you this: in Kiss of the Dragon he plays one of the most unredeemable nasty villains I have ever seen in this or any other film. Which makes his ornate and unpleasant end particularly enjoyable.
That seen you may have seen in the trailer, the one where Jet Li kicks a ball out of a pool table and into a bad guy's forehead? It is as good in the film as it was in the trailer. And while it is the best scene in the film, it is not the only good scene.
Sex, lots of bad language, unbelievable quantities of violence. Adult entertainment at its finest! If you want your pulse quickened while leaving your brain untouched, see Kiss of the Dragon.
Kent Peterman on Goodbyes, Human Nature
After I wrote last week of my sadness at the departure of several colleagues, Kent Peterman chimed in:
How are you doing? I enjoy so much your column each week and don't often enough tell you.
I was touched by your goodbye to your colleagues. I had a friend once who was moving away. I expressed sorrow. She said that she was sad too, but that was what life was all about. You meet people and learn from them and then move on so you can share what you've learned with others.
Don't let the fear of goodbyes keep you from forming friendships. In the words of the one and only Peal Bailey (Remember her?): "Life is full of roses, it seems it's always the thorns we meet. The thorns may hurt like hell...but ain't the roses sweet."
Perhaps this thought has occurred to you:
Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to see a company announce it is cutting the salaries and expenses of senior management, reducing the size and budget of its legal staff and concentrating funds on retaining the best possible staff to produce the best possible product (even a news report) for its customers?
Here's the response from a member of the UPI Alumni newsgroup:
Did that once, several recessions back, when I was playing publisher at one of Ralph Ingersoll's papers. Cut my own salary 25 percent to set example, other execs 15 percent, rank-and-file 10 percent, lowest wagers nothing. Nobody fired. Profits recovered sufficiently pay was restored before end of year. Never do that again. Fired people aren't around to poison the atmosphere, but people sulking over pay cuts, including execs, sure sank morale lower than a bottom line. Firing a few far the best way. Those still around are then grateful it wasn't their necks. Human nature can be noble, but it can also stink.
The spokesman for a major newspaper chain clearly has a very low opinion of journalists, according to this Washington Post article, based on a leaked memo. Sheesh. If you worked in a building full of journalists and ex-journalists, I'd think you'd realize the odds of your memo being leaked, but I guess not.
Sadly, much of what he says is true, but it still isn't nice to put it in writing.
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