PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
August 20, 2001
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:
Marlow's home! A rising junior at Columbia, my older daughter took four courses at summer school, and is now home for two weeks. The whole family is leaving for Santa Catalina (The Island Of Romance) on Monday, for a week in the sun and the waves. The following week, I'll be going to NYC with her to help her move in and to see some old friends. So, it is quite possible there won't be a column for--GASP--two weeks. I have no intention of taking my computer to Catalina (a favorite childhood vacation spot of my wife because her family had a summer home there), although I'll probably take it to New York. Sometimes R&R has to come before my self-imposed column deadlines. I need to unwind. I'll share as much of my vacation experience as I can remember when we return.
Of course, I might whip a column out during the two days I'll be home after Catalina. You can never tell with me. Especially if either a) a lot happens or b) you send a lot of interesting contributions.
Now That's Good Writing
We have a saying in the journalism business, "Never Let The Facts Get In The Way Of A Good Story." I violated that rule two weeks ago when I checked out the essay on presidential intelligence and found out it was a fake. A lovely fake, one that supported my own innate and inchoate feelings about modern American presidents, but a fake nonetheless.
This incredibly well-written decision came to me from a trusted friend of a trusted friend, attributed to U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston, Texas.
If "trust but verify" is good enough for Ronald Reagan, it is good enough for me. So, I gave it to another colleague, who swears he checked the online databases, and that this is an actual, in the books, decision. It is a hoot! Plow through the legal jargon, and at least read the fourth paragraph, "Before proceeding further" and the footnotes at the bottom.
Honesty in Television
This came over the UPI alumni wire recently:
After Bush's address on stem cell research, Don Rather noted that this was such a complex matter television couldn't properly handle it on a spot basis and suggested listeners to read a good newspaper about it.
A new low for CBS.
Actually, I think he was absolutely right. if that's what he said, it's a breath of fresh air.
As an ex-print guy who's been trying to explain things in audio and video on the web for 5 years, I've had that driven home to me.
We've been speaking of Cronkite lately, it was during his era that someone took a transcript of the CBS evening news and noted it filled a column and a half of page one of the NY Times.
TV and Radio are very low density media, extremely poorly suited to explanation except in the case of 30-60 minute single-topic shows (such as Terry Gross' Fresh Air). Anything you could say in 90 seconds about stem cell research would be gross simplification of the most propagandistic and useless kind.
Despite the predilections of my lamentable generation, some things you just can't learn from TV unless its a special, and in this century, ain't no one going to do an instant documentary on a subject as deadly dull, and important and controversial, as stem cell research.
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales praises Rather's decision to send people to print in the last few paragraphs of this column.
Computer Industry News
Industry Standard Dies
The magazine that had the most ad pages last year suspended publication last week. Daniel Dern spotted it:
How bad is the Internet economy? Bad. Real Bad.
On the other hand, Gary Irvine sent me the URL for a page full of great technology quotes. Reading it will make you feel better.
Several Interesting Sites
After weeks of no Web Site of the Week, I have an embarrassment of riches this week, which I could easily have saved up and doled out over the next several weeks. But I know how these things go, I would have had a dozen good submissions, and then forgotten to tell you about these. And what the hell good is a web log without cool links?
Daniel Dern passed along Helen, Sweetheart Of The Internet with particular reference to this Sunday strip, which ran on August 12, 2001.
On a more serious note, Richard Dalton writes:
Having swum with and seen the precarious nesting areas these gentle creatures have in and around the US Virgin islands, I was delighted to stumble across this site. Don't just sit there--adopt a turtle!
Finally Dan Grobstein heard about this on NPR: an effort to paint the moon with normal pointer-type lasers. This scheme is so wacky it just might work! I expect to hear from my fellow MIT graduates as to the practicality of this at their earliest convenience.
Klick and Klack Jokes
Last week's "encore edition" of Car Talk included two reasonably funny and clean jokes.
How you get a giraffe into a refrigerator?
Open the door, insert the giraffe and shut the door. Don't make things so complicated.
How do you get an elephant into the refrigerator?
Remove the giraffe first, then place the elephant in the refrigerator, and close the door. Think through the consequences of your actions.
Now, on an entirely different note, the King of the Jungle calls a meeting, and all the animals come save one. Who's missing?
The elephant: he's in the refrigerator.
God heard things were bad here on Earth, so he sent an angel down to inspect. He reported back, "95% of the people there are bad, only 5% are good." God found it hard to believe, so he sent another angel. She came back and said, "I am afraid he's right. It's 95/5 down there."
God decided to encourage the good 5% by sending them an e-mail message. Do you know what it said?
No, I didn't get the message either.
Rush Hour: My Mother's View
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
Well, your father and I seldom see a movie in a theater, hate the multi messes and the prices of the popcorn, etc. - but when there is something that actually looks like entertainment showing somewhere, we do go -- and when a movie like Rush Hour 2 is released through the independent non-chain theaters and stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, well, we go -- and we were thoroughly entertained for the entire time. Have to wonder why anyone over 6 would go looking for intelligence, plot, character development, etc. to a Jackie Chan movie! We went to laugh, and laugh we did, all the way through, and anyone who ever laughed at Laurel and Hardy should appreciate this 21century version of their act - we still love laughing.
Apocalypse Now Redux
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
I have not seen the re-release, but a colleague saw it on the Imax screen at the San Francisco Metreon, and Joy Culbertson spotted this great article about the movie in the San Francisco Chronicle by a faculty member from UC Santa Cruz:
By Geoffrey Dunn
The Human Face Of Copyright
We've been discussing copyright infringement in this column for the last several weeks. Last week, I got an infringement notice over a humor item I posted about Minnesotan computer lingo. Turns out it was plagiarized word-for-word from a book about Vermont computer lingo. I, of course, did not know this, and removed the infringing material immediately upon notification. I sent a snippy note to the author's wife because she hadn't given me an exact URL. On reflection, I wrote back and apologized for my tone, and offered sympathy about Internet ripoffs, since I, myself, have been infringed right here on this very Internet. If you were to go back to that issue in the archives, you'd find the infringement notice and a URL pointing at the book. I am reprinting her followup letter here, with her permission, because I want to put a human face on this issue.
My husband is a hard working mechanic, who had this awesome idea back in 1995. He worked and worked, bartering for artist's services, and the like. After it was done, we worked hard for two years to market it and did well…until whoever copied it that first time onto the net. We have emails from literally all over the world with his work on it, for free. Thank you for your sincere thoughts.
I just wish business people would check where they get their submissions from. The original lawsuit was with Reader's Digest - they started a new column and copied our book 3/4, and gave credit to some free ad newspaper in the middle of the country.
These people, trying to make a living, were authors, no less, and knew of copyright infringement matters.
Imagine, someone got a free lunch for our work. Well, 6 years later, we are still finding our book for free all over the net. I appreciate your help in removing the copy and redirecting to purchase it.
J NilsenThe Backwoods Guide to Computer Lingo
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