PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
October 15, 2001
Continuous News Service Since 1998
I no longer have a day job, so every word of this is my opinion, and if you don't like it, lump it. This offer is NOT void in Wisconsin.
Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Arial (Sans Serif) type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material
Family photos1, 2, 3
Table of Contents:
It's a long column this week, what with all the stuff left over from devoting last week to my layoff, plus new stuff coming in, so I have two long sidebars you should really read.
Continuous News Service Since 1998
Those of you who are fellow MIT or The Tech alumni will recognize this headline homage to the motto of the MIT student newspaper I edited during Volume 93 in 1973-74. The actual slogan is more impressive, since that paper was founded in 1881. This column is not likely to last 120 years.
In any case, the best newspaper columnists I know rerun items and columns on an annual basis. Why should I be any exception? This column turns three years old on Oct. 16, 2001—heavens, it doesn’t seem that long. Here, for those of you who haven’t seen it before, as well as those of you who have, is my anniversary item, amended as necessary so it makes sense. Plus I have corrected some of the typos.
It was three years ago this month that PSACOT was reborn in its present form. Since last year, I have written 49 columns (up from 45 in 1998-99 and 48 in 1999-2000), which means I am creeping up on perfection (52). On the average day, 46 of you look at this column. When it started, that's how many of you looked at it a week.
Not bad for an outlet for which, as Vicki likes to remind me, I receive nothing but personal satisfaction.
Actually, it has been very satisfying. I don't know how many of you can remember back 36 months, but the genesis of this column is still clear in my mind, even it isn't in yours. It was the forced march to impeachment, rammed down America's throat by the rabid Republicans. Thus, I have something in common with Ted Koppel; my outlet was born in crisis, but outlasted the crisis and found a voice of its own over time.
I started PSACOT (by the way, many of you try to pronounce that acronym. Don't bother. It has no proper pronunciation) because I was afraid I was going insane, shouting back at the TV and the newspaper every night, composing little speeches in my head I’d give to Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich if I ever had the chance. Also, my job had mutated, and almost without me noticing it, I wasn't really a professional writer any more, but more of an editor and an administrator. I love to write. Always have. Not once in a 25-year career can I remember a moment of writer's block. Of course now, my job has mutated into non-existence, but that's another story, and one which I promise not to mention more than once an item this week.
So, I dusted off the name I used on my favorite college column, and started to write for you, my 300-some odd (some really odd) readers. It's the ultimate in vanity publishing, a column about me, my family and my opinions on public affairs--a blog or weblog. But it simultaneously keeps me from yelling at the television and alleviates any desire I might have to write a Christmas letter, and isn't that a fine combination?
I like doing this, even if it does rob me of most potential conversational topics with most of you. I mean, when we meet, many of you say, "I knew that already. I read it in your column."
I hope you're enjoying reading this as much as I'm enjoying writing it. Thank you for being there.
My Birthday Surprise
Vicki picked out my birthday present last summer. Both my daughters approved, and made clucking sounds on the order of, "Wow, what a great idea, Dad, you'll really love it." That's all anyone said. I knew it was happening Sunday evening, Sept. 31. Of course, I didn't know I'd be laid off two days later, although I had an inkling.
Vicki asked me several times if I wanted to know what it was, and I said I wanted to be surprised. I knew it was close, since we were leaving at 7:15 for an 8 o'clock event. I knew it was an event. Vicki told me I didn't have to get dressed up. Rae finished up her homework, so we took her with us.
We drove to Lake Merritt in Oakland. The only sign I saw was for the boathouse. "So, we are going to rent a crew shell for some night sculling on the lake," I asked. Then I saw the sign: "Genuine Venetian Gondolas."
Some wily entrepreneur has imported several gondolas from Venice, and trained American gondoliers to push the boats, sing and play guitar. The moon was full (Vicki picked the night with that in mind, two weeks after my actual birthday), the temperature at 8pm was 75 (the high earlier that day broke records all over the Northern California coast), and there was no wind. Lake Merritt is now surrounded by fairy lights on strings, which makes what could be a hole in the ground filled with water in the middle of Oakland into an enchanting venue. Our gondolier was talented along both vectors, moving the boat swiftly and silently, as well as singing beautifully in Italian. We were supplied grapes and chocolate and brought our own champagne. It was unimaginably romantic, and I was pleased to share the evening with Rae. It can't hurt her to see her parents being affectionate now and then.
Vicki got the idea from her friend Holly, to which I can only say, "Thanks Holly!" If you've never done it, you should try it. I've been to Venice three times, haven't done the gondola thing, but now I plan to enjoy it in its homeport, after my romantic moonlit night in Oakland.
Speaking of Layoffs
Wow! I received an enormous amount of very touching mail this week. Michael Leeds, who is two weeks younger than I am, noted for the record that his father, Gerry Leeds, founded CMP Media when he was 49 (the same age as Michael and me). For those of you not familiar with the company, Gerry ran it until he was 65, then turned it over to Michael, who sold it 11 years later for $920 million. Not bad, eh? I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. It was Gerry's first media company, by the way.
Some of the mail was very personal, and some of it came with requests that I not share the contents. Thank you for baring your souls. You know who you are. One young friend noted that among her friends, "more are out of work than employed." Another friend who is just a year or two older than me noted of his layoff, "my life and career have improved in the aftermath."
This is a common theme in a lot of your emails. Although a layoff means change on someone else's schedule, that can be good if it gets you to try new things that you might find even more rewarding and satisfying than what you've been doing. At the same time, one correspondent advised me not to dismiss journalism out of hand. Vicki's formulation: "Don't close any doors." I won't, but it would have to be a very interesting offer indeed to keep me in journalism or trade journalism at this point.
Larry King on 9/11/2001
Note: If you read this after the mid-week special notification, then you've already read it and it hasn't changed.
After a spate of contributions this spring, PSACOT underwent a long dry spell without word from Larry King, an American expatriate working in London, whose dry wit never fails to raise the tone of this column. I was expecting him to supply me with a wisecracking summary of the Conservative Party leadership race, among other summer follies, and I am sure I might have received such a "letter from Europe," if not for the events of Sept. 11. Instead, I received a touching and insightful letter you should read. Here's how it ends:
Given the situation, it's foolish to talk about fighting terrorism as if it's some impersonal force of nature, like flooding or mudslides, which can be contained and countered with proper engineering and a few sensible precautions. We have to come to grips with the fact that an entire culture is opposed to our culture.
What we do after that . . . damned if I know
I don't know either, Larry. I just don't know.
By the way, am I the only person this has happened to? I called a craftsman I use occasionally in late September and didn't hear back from him for two weeks. Suddenly, I found myself wondering, "Was he in New York?" Turns out he was just too busy to call back, but I wonder if I am going to leap to that conclusion as a result of every semi-missing person in my life for… how long?
Anyway, you can read a compendium of all the war news and views I have received and found. I sent out a notice about this earlier in the week, so some of you may have already read it. I have added late links at the top. Not that there is now a critique of Steve Kirsch's brain fingerprinting proposal.
Leeds School of Business
I am proud to be a friend and former colleague and employee of the incredibly philanthropic Leeds family. CU's Leeds School of Business will focus on principles that are seldom at the center of advanced management education--but should be. In case you missed the story:
$35 Million Commitment Endows Leeds School of Business to Advance Social Responsibility and Diversity
The University of Colorado at Boulder College of Business has received a $35 million commitment from the Leeds family of New York to endow the CU-Boulder business school. The endowment will support academic excellence, social responsibility and diversity.
Michael and Richard Leeds are graduates of CU-Boulder. The CU Board of Regents will consider a resolution next week to rename the college the "Leeds School of Business."
The gift will support the study and teaching of social responsibility and diversity, advance academic programs and make it possible to compete for more top faculty.
Too Good To Be True
Sometimes in journalism, we get stories that are too good to be true. In such cases, it is a serious temptation not to do the research, for fear that the story will turn out to be false, and then you can't run it. You think I'm kidding, but I've seen this actual dynamic in actual newsrooms. In the real world of course, you heave a deep sigh, make the call, and if it turns out to be false, you don't run it.
But here in the wonderful world of the Internet, as long as you're careful with your sourcing, and it isn't libelous or incendiary or racist, you can run it anyway!
In the movie Serendipity, reviewed below, Jeremy Piven's character, an obituary writer for the New York Times says, "The ancient Greeks didn't write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: `Did he have passion?'"
That's really swell. I tried to research it on the Internet, but the words Greek/Greece, passion and obituary turn up too many… well… obituaries, and no essays on the nature of ancient Greek obituary writing, or the lack thereof.
As some of you know, I maintain an unhealthy interest in the nature and play of my obituary (I want to make some of the good newspapers and would like to have it be more than an inch or two--in short, I'd like to be remembered). Would but that this story is a) true and b) true. For it if it is, I have nothing to sweat, for passion is my middle name, and as a long as I draw breath, I will experience and exhibit passion.
Or perhaps the Jewish faith is right: no heaven or hell, we live on in the memories of those who have known us and in our good works. I think I have a chance there as well.
Computer Industry News
Search Engines and Breaking News
Craig Reynolds sent me a copy of this note which he addressed to Richard Wiggins:
Hello, I've just begun to read your interesting article (which I found via blogdex.media.mit.edu):
You mention "...the inability of the search engines to effectively deliver instantaneous access to breaking news..." and while this is undeniably true in the short range (several hours) there is a new site which address this problem on a slightly longer time scale (24 hours). Daypop, which launched just a week or two before the September 11 attack, is a "current events search engine" which does daily indexing of news sites and weblogs.
I have heard that Google has begun indexing certain (news/commentary) sites at a higher frequency, perhaps once a day. You can see this by searching on yesterday's headlines.
The Teflon Monopoly
You know, most weeks Craig Reynolds basically writes this section of my column. Case in point…
When I readMS Beefs Up Server Security, I was struck by this passage:
In a second phase, the company said it will deliver the next version of IIS in the "lock-down" position by default, meaning it will have its settings in the most secure configurations when shipped.
This is like a handgun manufacturer announcing that they would finally discontinue their practice of shipping guns fully loaded with the "safety" turned off. One of my pet peeves is the way Microsoft is rarely identified as the source of so many computer security problems. Last August I wrote to a Chronicle reporter about this issue:
Regarding:High-speed Net users sitting ducks for hackers and the corresponding article in the Sunday print edition.
If 95% of the cars on the road were Fords, and people were regularly being injured because of a Ford design defect, I think the press coverage would make clear Ford's culpability in the injuries.
Yet when 95% of the computers in the world run an OS from Microsoft, and people are regularly being injured (losing files, privacy and productivity) because of a Microsoft design defect, the press coverage often seems blind to Microsoft's culpability in the damage.
The vulnerability you describe in the article is not a problem with "computers" in general, nor with "the Internet" in general. It is a problem with Microsoft's Windows family of operating systems. It was noted in a sidebar to the print article (page A18) that Macs and non-Windows OS such as Linux do not have this problem. Its all a matter of how the designers choose to set the default setting for network security. Microsoft turns security off by default. Everyone else in the computer field understands that the only safe default setting is the most secure.
I'm surprised the lead of your story was not along the lines of "lots of people are losing their files and privacy because of a basic design flaw in Microsoft's Windows operating systems."
Steve Kirsch On Hijacking, Exploding Dog, Jedi, The Filbert Newsletter, The Earth At Night, Dancing Bush
Time for another potpourri!
Steve Kirsch has more good political ideas on one web page than I heard in the entire last presidential election.
If you love Dilbert like I love Dilbert, you should join Dogbert's New Ruling Class and subscribe to the Dilbert Newsletter by entering your e-mail address.
Marlow likes Explodingdog.com, although I can't figure out why. Can you?
The British people selected "Jedi" often enough that the census people are counting it as a religion, according to the BBC.
Richard Dalton has this suggestion:
It's anight photo, taken by NASA of the world. Then back up a jump or two and find that it's part of a prostate cancer support site. The idea is to provide ways to de-stress if treatment decisions or the disease itself leave you frazzled.
Something else jumped out when I looked at. It's easy to find the economic concentrations: just look for light concentrations.
The Top 16 Bizarre Nostradamus Predictions
A tie for 14th, the day before I was laid off.
October 1, 2001
NOTE FROM CHRIS:
By now, most of you have received a forward from one of your "friends" which includes a verse written by famed French seer Nostradamus, predicting the recent attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
The problem is that it's a hoax -- not only was it not written by Nostradamus in the 16th century, it was written by some bonehead within the last couple of weeks.
In order to set things straight, TopFive presents you with some interesting predictions, all of which were ACTUALLY MADE BY NOSTRADAMUS!!! Scout's honor!
16> A great evil follows nigh upon another As a vast throng assembles to witness this thing. Jostling, dumbstruck, they ask themselves: My God, who let that Mariah chick sing?
15> After many years, there will be a return To the wars among the stars, And millions will cry out in agony Upon seeing the beast of two Jars.
14> At the dawn of the millennium, in the new land of Columbus, The village idiot will take the crown from the wooden one. Oh, hell -- Bush's wayward kid will win the American presidency in 2000. Is that clear enough for you morons?!?
13> A coming together in distant lands Preceeds a test not all shall pass. One by one souls are discarded, Until the flabby naked guy wins a cool million.
12> On the third day of the Ascension Of Gemini into his third house, Work will be kind of boring. Verily, what is new?
11> For the human race, an ill wind blows under a barren sky. Unable to resolve their differences, the end is nigh. Who would have thought? *WE* were the weakest link. Goodbye.
10> For score upon score of years, and more, The people of the land of Amerigo Sit transfixed -- dumbfounded, yet unmoving. 200 channels, yet nothing good on the tube!
9> From the South shall come Great mountains of falsehood, And though she denies, many a man Will make pledge to lay down Spears.
8> A mighty captain shall steer a ship That sails through neither oceans nor seas. Then retired, he shall discount travel fares And fool no one with a bad hairpiece.
7> Out of thin air, shall spring music, Emanating from a box, for all to hear, When the Bega's Mambo numbered 5 shall sound, No ear will be spared its enduring torment.
6> A man-child shall anoint himself King. Though he suffers no earthly malady or troubles, His face shall become gaunt and pale. His companion? A chimp named Bubbles.
5> From Nantucket shall come a great man, With sword so long he can touch it to his own lips, His chin bedewed, he shall Say with a great smile, "I long for my ear to be the lotus blossom of a woman!"
4> With bated breath the people of the D and C, Wait upon their leader's word. Will they crush their foes or lie down again like lambs? All eyes turn for an answer, to Jordan from the land of Nike.
3> From the land of the maple leaf shall come a great wailing, With an emaciated siren singing of an unsinkable boat. Thus two tragedies are produced from one. (Three if you count Kate Winslet naked.)
2> One by one the plagues arrive, Marching swiftly across our consciousness; Beware the ones with demonic names: Adam, Pauly and Carrot Top.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Bizarre Nostradamus Prediction...
1> And in days long hence, When these visions come to pass, I shall finally rid myself of the nickname, "Nostra-dumbass."
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 97 submissions from 38 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Greg Pettit, Houston, TX -- 1, 15 (13th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 14
Dan Johnson, Champlin, MN --14
The Top 17 Suggestions from Different Groups on How to Deal with Terrorists
Then, No. 11 on the very day I got laid off!
October 2, 2001
17> The Firestone Company: Free tires for the terrorists and their families!
16> American Proctologist's Association: Time for another enema, Osama.
15> Kathie Lee Gifford: Can they work a sewing machine?
14> The British: Their usual one-two punch of bad food and withering sarcasm. Then maybe right good rap on the bottom!
13> Girl Scouts: Send in the 322nd Tactical Assault and Cookie Sales Team.
12> The NRA: Duh.
11> The Taliban: Make them eat ice cream so fast they get one of those cold headaches.
10> Wal-Mart: "Now remember, Osama, each time you fail to greet a shopper with a hearty and warm "Hello," you'll be subjected to a 20,000 volt shock through those electrodes attached to your testicles."
9> Professional Golfers Association: Make a hole in one. Aw hell, make holes in all of 'em.
8> France: Surrender to Bolivia.
7> PETA: No animals were harmed in the testing of these cruise missiles.
6> Fraternity Brothers: Deny them release from the car trunk until they finish that Seagram's.
5> Barbra Streisand: Get me a cup of tea. No, that wasn't the kind I was thinking of -- the other one. No, for Christ's sake, not that one either! Dammit! DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!? YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT AND DO IT AND *DO* IT UNTIL *I* SAY YOU'RE DONE!!!
4> Lee Greenwood: "Sixty-one million, sixty-two million, sixty-three mil-- I'm sorry, what was the question?"
3> The Supreme Court: 5-4 vote declaring that Bush has already won the war against terrorism, and ordering all on-going actions halted.
2> Telemarketers: "Hello. Are you the decision-maker in your terrorist cell?"
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Suggestion on How to Deal with Terrorists...
1> The Tobacco Industry: What threat from terrorism? There's no threat from terrorism.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 123 submissions from 45 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Slick Sharkey, Miami, FL -- 1, 3 (29th #1 / Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 11
The Top 15 Innovative Ways to Delay Orgasm
Hey, I've been laid off for almost a week, and yet I keep getting higher and higher on the list; here tied for No. 9!
October 8, 2001
15> Rubber bands and duct tape, baby!
14> Ask for an instant replay review on all holding calls.
13> Only have sex with people who aren't very good at it.
12> Imagine your mother doing exactly what you're doing, only better.
11> Think about baseball (not for use by George Will).
10> Alt+Tab back to Excel. Repeat until download completes.
9> Get into Dungeons & Dragons while you're still in high school -- that'll delay 30 years or so.
8> Barbara Bush bed sheets.
7> Expose your organ to a sensation-deadening substance -- like your Significant Other, for example.
6> "Linda Tripp on a cold day... Linda Tripp on a cold day..."
5> Mentally alphabetize your entire pantyhose collection by color; then start on hers.
4> Relax and remind yourself that she's not charging you by the minute.
3> Imagine how much trouble you'll be in if Hillary catches you.
2> Don't touch the sides, a la "Operation."
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Innovative Way to Delay Orgasm...
1> Have her dress like Captain Janeway instead of Lieutenant Uhura.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 116 submissions from 41 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Andy Ihnatko, Boston, MA -- 1, 4 (7th #1)
Jason Anderson, Birmingham, AL -- 9
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
It isn't often you get such slavish devotion to the tenets of a movie genre. In the romantic film sub-genre of the "cute meet," there is no sturdier plot outline than the couple trying to meet, despite obstacles, for the entire length of the film. Like Sleepless in Seattle, this film features two charming leads, John Cusack (I am a huge fan. Ever see Gross Pointe Blank or Being John Malkovich?) and Kate Beckinsale, who meet cute, are separated and spend the whole rest of the film getting back together. We know what's going to happen, and screenwriter Marc Klein makes us love it.
This is a charming little film. Four stars because it's good but not great. The perfect length, just 90 minutes. Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon are very entertaining in solid supporting roles. Eugene Levy entertains us with another first-class cameo (is it too early to declare him King of the Cameo). Bucky Henry has an uncredited cameo (I'll leave it up to you to spot him).
Rated PG-13 for a brief sex scene (you can't see anything really) and a little language.
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database
I consider the paper the best newspaper movie of all times. Here are some quotes, courtesy of the Internet Movie Database. Please note there is some bad language in here. Thanks to Dan Rosenbaum for pointing these quotes out to me. Now that I'm unemployed, I think I'll watch it again.
McDougal: Henry, why do you have me doing all this grunt work? I'm a columnist!
Phil: Oh, Bernie, cut it out with the smoke. You know the doctor found nicotine in my urine again?
Did You Notice?
How many references to my layoff are there this week?
To obtain a weekly reminder when new columns are posted or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism write to me:email@example.com
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