PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
August 13, 2001
So Much Good Stuff!
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:
Groundhog Day and Buddhism
I happen to know that there are several new readers thisweek. I met them at a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Musem in Golden Gate Park (relocating in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the civic center).
I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that Rae, my younger daughter, convinced me to put it into a separate document, which I am calling Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me. Judging from a quick Google search of the Internet, the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, but it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during this presentation. Click over to the other page for my take on the movie and this event. You'll also find links and meta links which, if I do say so myself, are so brilliant in their scope that they will soon sweep all the other GHD links pages off the map. Please click over and look.
Tom Armstrong, who wrote two very well-received articles on this subject which are now no longer available on the Internet, was one of the attendees Friday, and assures me that he will get me copies of his review and his article "The Ned Ryerson Conundrum." I will post them as soon as possible. Stay tuned.
Rae on the Merry Oldsmobile Caper
Rae had promised to write me a letter about the Merry Oldsmobile caper I mentioned a few columns back. When the letter still hadn't come by last week, I mentioned I was expecting it. That preview prompted this missive from down the hall a few days ago:
Well, my father sure put the pressure on me to write a letter to his column when he overtly requested correspondence from Larry King and me. It feels incredibly stale to bring it up now, but I was surprised that no one reacted or noticed the story dad wrote in mid-July about us pushing an old lady's Oldsmobile into an alley. Not only could have the guy who asked us to push this little old lady's car, had a gun, but when strangers ask you to accompany him into an alley, it always seems to be a recipe for disaster.
It was surprising that dad would agree to pushing a heavy car when he is vehemently opposed to any physical labor. One of his favorite catch phrases that he didn't spend 1000 dollars on an MIT education to pump gas, but I guess in that statement, there is no clause about pushing cars. I was frightened and I told mom I thought it was fishy. She concurred, but even still we all ended up huffing and puffing and pushing that darn dilapidated car along with an old lady who was glad she quit smoking.
The man who asked for help said, "God bless you, and tell us if you ever need help." I was so angry at dad I could slap him upside the head. Like a parent I told him that he could have been hurt or killed, and lectured at him not to believe strangers. He said he thought to himself that just for this once, the guy with the car could have had a legitimate problem, this one time in a thousand. I'm glad this all worked out for the best, but my bottom line is still faith in fellow man shmaith in fellow man.
Bush On Vacation
I see in the papers that Bush has been on vacation for a fourth of his term so far, 54 days as of Labor Day, and that his summer vacation is the longest since Nixon went to San Clemente in 1969. You can quibble with the exact number--I, for one, will not charge the man for weekend days at Camp David; we all deserve weekends off--but he's been at the ranch for two months and that's a vacation. I only get 5 weeks after 20 years, he gets 8 weeks his first year on the job? And I don't think he's working as hard as me.
To which, in any case, I say: how can you tell whether he's on vacation or not?
Seriously, if his normal slacker pace is reduced when he's on vacation, that's probably good for the rest of us.
The San Francisco Chronicle poked the San Francisco bay area, and the world, in the eye on Tuesday with a story about Berkeley canceling a meeting with the boy scouts because of their anti-gay policies.
Then on Wednesday, it runs a story that could easily be headlined "Bay Area Shocked At Being Poked In Eye." This kind of thing, which newspapers do all the time, leaves me a little breathless. I can't quite think of the right word to describe it. Is it hubris?
This fine old newspaper tradition even left me breathless when I was doing it myself 25 years ago at the Oregon Journal. The great thing about this story technique is that if the area isn't shocked after being poked in the eye, you get even more mileage out of the story. If the world is insufficiently shocked you can run days of follow-up stories that could just as easily be headlined, "Bay Area Not Shocked By Poke In Eye."
Shame On the New York Times
The New York Times has not exactly covered itself with glory in the case of Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos nuclear scientist. He almost certainly isn't the biggest threat to U.S. Security since the end of the Second World War, but he was pilloried on thin evidence in the pages of the Gray Lady. A lengthy Editor's Note, amounting to a wan, back-handed apology, is as far as the Times has been willing to go to admit it was wrong.
The story was based almost entirely on leaks of secret government documents and information from an ongoing investigation. That's fine. Newspapers do that all the time. But it makes the Times look especially hypocritical when criticizing Lee for violating security regulations, as Robert Scheer points out in his syndicated column, The Persecution of Wen Ho Lee, Redux. The relevant parts:
In a front-page story Sunday, the New York Times, which led the media in using highly classified secret documents to paint Lee as a spy, now suggests that Lee may have broken the law regarding classified documents by merely writing his book.
Instead of being sympathetic to Lee's effort to tell his story, the Times account ended with this dismissive comment: "Some experts have suggested that the rush to publication and the security dispute is simply a way for Dr. Lee to thumb his nose at the government or for the publisher to win publicity. Others say it reflects simple bumbling or confusion."
What gibberish. Lee has every right to defend himself and there is no evidence that the book violates document classification rules, nor has the government claimed that to be the case.
The Times did the most of any media outlet to advance the unsubstantiated accusations against Lee, and it is highly likely that the paper will come in for criticism by Lee in his book. It is thus unseemly for the newspaper to suggest now that his effort to clear his name is itself a violation of national security.
Government prosecutors later conceded that there was no evidence that Lee passed secrets to any other country nor was there evidence connecting him with the purported theft of the advanced W-88 nuclear warhead that was the basis of the original New York Times story.
In short, shame on the New York Times. Shame on them for leading the pack that ruined Lee in the first place, and shame on them for not strongly supporting his right to do exactly what the Times did--use classified documents to tell an important story.
Shades of Niggardly
Speaking of the NY Times, a friend writes:
Was Sunday's New York Times crossword an elaborate and inappropriate joke, "outing" celebrities and laden with references to gay culture? Or was the title and topic, "Homonames," just a clever conceit of homonyms on proper names?
(Don't read this or follow the links if you're still planning to do The New York Times crossword puzzle from Sunday, August 5, 2001.)
The Paper of Record ran an unusual note on the subject inits corrections column on Sunday.
And you can check out the paranoid-PC view inEric Alterman's column at MSNBC.com.
I did the "Homonames" puzzle -- and the supposedly gay allusions and associations zoomed right over my head.
I had a gay roommate once. I worked in Dupont Circle. I know about "friends of Dorothy."I've even been to the show-tunes singalong at Marie's Crisis Cafe. Is it possible that after all that, I am still just a naive boy from deep in the Heartland? Or that I'm trying to write like Carrie Bradshaw?
Am I missing a gay allusion in 115 down, a three-letter "Place to get a screwdriver"? Or in 84 down, a three-letter "Sound of fright"? Gays sometimes say "eek"! (I said it once during drivers' ed and never heard the end of it.). Or in 112 across, an eight-letter "Washing machine part"? I think I read a story once in which someone sought sexual pleasure by sitting atop said appliance during the spin cycle.
It seems to me that these flaming critics (sorry) are being absurdly selective. Other punned-upon names in Sunday's puzzle included: Carrie Fisher, Gene Shalit (weird moustache, yes, but he's straight), Phil Spector, Kurt Russell, Doc Holliday (did he ever dress up as Billie?), Claude Raines, Niels Bohr (the 1922 Nobel Prize winner in physics) and Jules Feiffer.
Also mentioned in clues and/or answers, but not part of the "homoname"-themed answers were:
Maybe the anti-"homonames" 112 acrosses really are just a bunch of etymophobic 43 downs.
Too Much Good Stuff
Boy, for the dog days of summer, this has been a good week for contributions and original ideas. Tell you what, if you expected to see something of yours here this week, come back next week, I probably just held it over.
Computer Industry News
Craig Reynolds Vs. The AAP
This item is too long to include in the column, but it is an important and interesting exchange, and I hope you'll surf over and read the whole thing. Here is a summary:
An exchange between Craig Reynolds, a friend and college classmate of mine, and the American Association of Publishers (AAP), on the subject of the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov for writing software that could break e-book encryption.
Needless to say, Craig thinks the arrest was a bad idea, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was a bad idea, and the AAP's support for the arrest was a bad idea.
After several weeks, I finally got a lovely little site to recommend. "I Resign As An Adult."
The Top 11 Clever Ways to Avoid Being Laid Off
Finally, one of my Macarena submissions (I send one in almost every day) makes the list, albeit at No. 11.
August 8, 2001
11> Macarena all day, then claim you're in a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
10> Explain to your manager that for the last 20 years, you're the only one who has been able to control the evil Asphalt Spirit of the parking lot and keep it from ramming an ice pick into his $250 tires.
9> Put in whatever time is needed to establish, once and for all, that "I'm rubber, you're glue."
8> Lure boss to icy bathtub in hotel room, steal his kidney, hold it hostage until you decide to quit.
7> Relocate your cube to international waters, submerge your file cabinets and claim ownership of all of your company's confidential financial statements as salvage under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987. That'll show those pricks in Accounting!
6> Smear the door to your cube with lamb's blood and eat unleavened bread for lunch every day.
5> Thanks to Photoshop, blackmail pictures no longer have to be real to *look* real.
4> Burst into CEO's office; jump on desk; drop trou. Either you're fired on the spot, or you're somebody's new favorite employee.
3> Never underestimate the power of a concealed Webcam in the executive washroom.
2> "This is not the headcount you're looking for."
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Clever Way to Avoid Being Laid Off...
1> Find out where the boss hid the intern's body.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
This film falls into the familiar summertime U.S. movie category of "not as stupid as you might expect from the publicity." Reese Witherspoon heads an otherwise almost entirely anonymous cast. Victor Garber does a turn as a bad-guy law professor--is it my imagination, or is he patenting this kind of supporting role?
Witherspoon plays a ditz who goes to Harvard Law to follow her boyfriend. Her admission is a hoot. Turns out she's actually smart, although obviously not very observant.
What could have been a stupid farce is actually a rather touching paen to self-esteem with a handful of funny, slapsticky moments and one terrific scene, so good you wonder what it's doing in this movie with the rest of them (the scene we now call "slapping the dork" around my house).
Rated PG-13 for language and sexual references. I'd take any 13-year-old to see it. Just don't let them think Harvard Law School is that easy to get into.
Rush Hour 2
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Back again. It practically writes itself. In fact, that appears to be just how this movie happened. Maybe it also produced and directed itself; there is certainly no sign of human intelligence anywhere near the production. It just goes to show that entertainment can be fully automated without the audience noticing. Once the actors can be realistically replaced with computer models, we truly will have major summer motion pictures that are untouched by human hands. God Bless Hollywood!
On the other hand, it does have outtakes during the credits, always a redeeming feature. On the third hand, at 1:45, it is 15 minutes too long. Comedies run 90 minutes, people. How many times do I have to repeat this?
Copyright or Reading Right
An unimpeachable confidential source familiar with the copyright debate wrote to me after reading an item last week (I repeat the item after this response, for those of you who don't want to flip back to the previous column):
The issue is copyright, not readingright.
Alice and Bill have not violated the law or done anything unethical.
Assuming the copy Connie downloaded was not posted with the permission of the copyright owner, Connie acted in violation of the copyright with no apparent fair use defense.
Assuming Dave and his friend did not have the permission of the copyright owner, they also acted in violation of the copyright with no apparent fair use defense.
Further, while PSACOT's source suggests that copying without the permission of the copyright owner so long as only one copy is in use at any given time is allowed (which it is not), there is no indication that either Connie or Dave were certain that only one copy was in use at any one time.
Here's the original:
I think it is interesting and well written. It starts like this:
In the interest of deciding whether or not i should feel unethical when i download MP3s, i've asked myself and others to evaluate the ethics of certain situations, such as:
- Alice is about to buy a book, but then decides to read it at the library instead.
- Bill is about to buy a book, but then finds out that his friend already owns it. So he just borrows it from the friend instead.
- Connie is about to buy a book, but then finds a copy on the Internet and reads it instead. She immediately deletes it after reading it.
- Dave is about to buy a book, but then discovers that a friend on another continent already owns it. His friend scans it and sends the file to Dave over the Internet. Dave reads it and immediately deletes it afterwards.
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