PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 42

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

November 5, 2001

DOJ Rollover

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 Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material

Family photos 1, 2, 3

Table of Contents:

General News:

    • Our Trip To New York
    • Terry Pratchett on Journalism
    • Jon Carroll Cat Column
    • Commentary of Note

Computer Industry News:

    • DOJ Rolls Over For Microsoft Monopoly
    • Dern's Swan Song
    • Craig Reynolds on: Browser Wars Redux, New Router Software, DVD Code

Web Site of the Week:


    • The Top 17 Country Western Rap Songs
    • The Top 16 Rejected Fast Food Menu Ideas


    • Monsters Inc.


    • The Real Deal On Bioterrorism


General News

Our Trip To New York

I went to New York the weekend of Oct. 26-28 with my mother and my daughter Rae. Vicki did not join us because she does not care for the pace of these long-weekend trips. See what you think: we left Thursday night on the 11:30pm flight from Oakland, arriving at JFK at 7:30 am and getting into Manhattan at 9am. We saw a show Friday night, another Saturday at 2 and a third Saturday night, before leaving on a 7:30 pm plane on Sunday. In the old days, I would have tried to squeeze in a Sunday matinee as well, but now that you have to be at the airport so early, I didn't think it was worth the risk.

Well, first, my apologies to my New York friends I didn't see on this trip. Once again, it was a whirlwind. The only person I saw outside my immediate family was Laton McCartney, who was kind enough to meet me for a late breakfast Friday morning on the upper West Side. Laton was the editor of InformationWeek when I was rehired in December 1989 after my stint at PC Week. Laton is a top-notch boss and a top-notch human being. I'd tell you about the book he's working on, but authors are paranoid about their ideas being stolen, so I'll just say you should be on the lookout for it. He's got a brief role in an upcoming indie motion picture, The Sister. One of his sons is up for a spot in the cast of a major television program. Life, in short, is good for Laton, who spends six months of each year in Wyoming.

The next major event on the calendar was dinner at Charley O's in Shubert Alley. I could swear I have been eating there since college, but the maitre' d says it has only been there 20 years. Decent atmosphere, decent food, decent (for New York) prices.

Disney's Aida was something of a disappointment, since two of the three main roles were played by understudies the night we were there, including Aida herself. I have recently seen the SF Opera version, so I can vouch for Tim Rice when he said he didn't go back and look at Aida the opera before writing Aida the Disney musical. I was entertained, Marlow, Rae and my mother were disappointed.

Saturday we rose late and dined at the Palm Court at the Plaza (hint: don't come for breakfast at 11; all the protein is gone from the buffet and they won't serve you off the menu). SF's downtown Sheraton was clearly a Plaza originally, and looks like an almost direct knockoff, down to the Garden Court.

Then we went across the street to hire a carriage for a ride around Central Park; a delightful half-hour for $34. It was cold (the temperature was in the 50s, but there was a bone-chilling 20 mile an hour wind), but still delightful. What a lovely way to see the park.

Then off to the Great White Way for The Producers, which is every bit as good as people say it is (but wow do scalpers charge a lot for tickets). We were in the next to the last row of the top balcony. Clearly you were still in the same theater, but the steps were quite a climb, and it was also quite obvious there were better seats in the house. Still, Nathan Lane was spectacular and Matthew Broderick was very adequate. Mel Brooks, who wrote the movie and the stage musical, is an absolute, hands down, no kidding genius. As I prepared this column, my mother informed me that Lane has had to leave the show with a polyp on his vocal chord. It is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role, and the anger that people will experience after paying scalper prices for their tickets is unimaginable. It really is his show. The place was packed, and tickets are still impossible to get. The rest of Broadway may be dying (as may The Producers without Lane), but this show is doing fine.

Then to dinner at Sardi's--yes, that one, from all the old movies and musicals. A theater-district eatery filled with caricatures of the famous and obscure from the entertainment business. Packed to the gills--don't ever try and eat there without reservations--and serving solid, middle-American food in quite ample quantities for eye-popping prices. Good service and good food the night we ate there with Marlow and her boyfriend Ian.

Off, then, to Disney's Lion King, still a packed house and a hot ticket. Everything you've heard about this show is true. The book is no more substantial than the plot of the movie, the music is good but not great, but as usual on Broadway, the performances will blow you away, and is not so usual, the nearly top-billed co-star of this show was the sets and the costumes. It is hard to describe, but if you've seen the costumes described as "life size puppets," that about does it. There was more creativity in the costuming of this show than any other I've seen in 30 years of Broadway show going. Well, there was that silver lamé suit with the Orange fright wig in Tommy Tune's Two For The See-Saw back in 1973, but it was spectacular in a different way. Very entertaining, and no understudies here. The Simbas, young and old, were terrific actors, and the villain stole the show (don't they always?).

Sunday morning we dined at the Amsterdam Cafe, 119th and Amsterdam (known as AmCaf to aficionados with one of the young women my mother did childcare for, who is now a college student in Manhattan.

We visited the Museum of Television and Radio over at 25 W. 52nd, and ran into a huge street fair on Sixth Avenue and the side street. After passing through that, we sat down in the auditorium and watched several episodes of Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners (which Rae had never seen) from the Dumont network's Cavalcade of Stars in the fall of 1951. Sort of proto-Honeymooners, with a really thin Jackie Gleason and a nearly unbelievably young Art Carney.

Got to JFK airport about 2:30 or so for our 7:30 Jet Blue flight back to Oakland, and whiled away a pleasant afternoon reading. The flight was uneventful, and we landed about 10:30 pm Pacific time at Oakland airport, where the weather was a lot better than in the East.

It was a joy to see Marlow and to spend quality time her as well as with my mother and my daughter Rae. We all had a really terrific time. Visiting Marlow in New York is really special.

The trip stems from my having taken Marlow to NYC every fall while she was in high school. I promised Rae the same treatment, and this is the third time I have met that commitment. One more trip and I will be a man of my word.

Jon Carroll Cat Column

Regular readers of this column will recall that I am an absolute sucker for Jon Carroll in general, and his cat columns in particular. He wrote another this week. Here are excerpts:

The little bug that wasn't there
Jon Carroll
I might have been alarmed, but I am a cat veteran. I have had other cats that chased ghosts, and they lived long lives and were otherwise sane, or what passes for sanity among cats. Cats are not exemplars of mental health. Passive- aggressive, schizophrenic, paranoid -- that's normative feline behavior.
That may be why witches chose cats as familiars: their apparent familiarity with the spirit world. If witches can see what cats see, well, good luck to them. Don't eat any talking grasshoppers.
"Archie!" Cats really hate loud noises. They do not respond to reason, but they respond to volume. He withdrew from the newspaper, tossed me a withering glance and ran from the room.

Terry Pratchett on Journalism

These are new quotes from my Journalism Quotes page. They all come from The Truth, a new book by Terry Pratchett, the British author who is the only person writing today that can lay a glove on the late Douglas Adams when it comes to funny, creative fantasy writing. There are more where this came from, so if you like it, buy the book or at least go read the page.

The press waited. It looked now like a great big beast. Soon, he'd throw a lot of words into it. And in a few hours, it would be hungry again, as if those words had never happened. You could feed it, but you could never fill it up.
"So, what would I be selling, exactly?"
Just space? Nothing? Oh, I can do that. I can sell nothing like anything. It's only when I try to sell something that everything goes wrong.
William just wasn't used to the idea of evaluating words purely in terms of their length, whereas she'd picked up the habit in two days. He'd already had to stop her calling Lord Vetinari CITY BOSS. It was technically correct that if you spent some time with a thesaurus you could arrive at that description, and it did fit in a single column, but the sight of the words made William feel extremely exposed.
[Police captain]We're on the same side here!
[William] No. We're just on two different sides that happen to be side by side.
William reckoned that no matter how big [the new office] was, it would never be neat. Newspaper people thought the floor was a big flat filing cabinet.
[Lord Vetinari] It amazes me how the news you have so neatly fits the space available. No little gaps anywhere. And every day something happens that is important enough to be at the top of the first page, too. How strange...
This is a newspaper isn't it? It just has to be true until tomorrow.

Commentary of Note

Three articles of note appeared on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times for Sunday, October 28, 2001.

Paul Krugman (in "Taking Care of Business") opined that "Cynics tell us that money has completely corrupted our politics, that in the last election big corporations basically bought themselves a government that will serve their interests. Several related events last week suggest that the cynics have a point." Check the item for the details about upwards of $25 billion of retroactive tax breaks hidden away under the guise of economic stimulus. He also opined that: "Lately our government has not exactly inspired confidence; its response to terrorism is starting to look a bit scatterbrained. But on some subjects our leaders are quite clearheaded: whatever else may be going on, they make sure that they are taking care of business."
Maureen Dowd (in "Can Bush Bushkazi" [bushkazi is, per Dowd, polo as played in Afghanistan (violent, no rules, the ball is replaced by a headless goat carcass)] opined that "the media savvy troglodytes in a cave were still outspinning Ari Fleischer at a podium," noted the Pentagon press release ("Pentagon Seeks Ideas on Combating Terrorism, and observed that "Six weeks into the war on terrorism, and they're putting out a suggestion box."
Jeffrey Toobin (in "Can Democrats Still Play The Game") opined that "The Democrats' watchword has been bipartisanship, which has largely meant, in real terms, acquiescence to the Republican agenda." After limning contrasting styles of recent Democrats (Clinton was confrontational on politics and compromised on policy; Gore exercised "unreciprocated bipartisanship" during the recent unlawful (see 28 USC 455) judicial coup d'etat), he further opined that "... it seems prudent to remember how the voting public rewarded the leading practitioners of these contrasting Democratic styles. One went to the White House for eight years. The other is serving four years to life on the lecture circuit."

Another interesting article:

Many Blacks Have Doubts. Here's Why
On Oct. 16, more than 200 people packed the moot court at Howard University's School of Law for a "black community national dialogue" on war, terrorism and peace. The participants had plenty to say about the military campaign in Afghanistan -- its antecedents and posthumous ramifications -- and much of it was critical.

Computer Industry News

DOJ Rolls Over For Microsoft Monopoly

As every sentient, non bought-off being on the planet expected, the Bush Administration Department of Justice rolled over in front of the Microsoft Monopoly last week. It will do its damndest to take the 18 state attorneys general with it.

The federal appeals court found that Microsoft is a monopolist, but of course that carried no weight with the ideologues now in charge of the nation's antitrust policy. Bush's lapdogs took office determined to make this case go away, and now they have--just like Reagan's people did the AT&T and IBM cases.

Gates, of course, being the arrogant person he is, didn't make it easy for them [he wouldn't settle on any reasonable terms that smacked of Microsoft wrongdoing) and won't make it easy for them in the future. He honestly believes, in his heart of hearts, that he has done nothing wrong. Like Sara Jane Olsen, he pleaded guilty in the courtroom, then walked outside and declared his innocence (the main difference being that, because of his better legal counsel, his remarks are, alas, almost certainly not actionable). He is not repentant, and will not repent, because he feels he has done nothing wrong.

[Yes, I know this is a civil case and guilty and innocent are not the correct terms. Thank you for not writing.]

I am currently listening to Umberto Eco's "The Name Of The Rose" as a book on tape. He describes one Pope as "always hewing strictly to the letter of his promises, and never to the substance." I confidently predict that is exactly what we will see with Gates and Microsoft, despite the fact that they are faced with a gutless, toothless, nearly meaningless consent decree.

What a waste of time and money this whole effort has been.

Dern's Swan Song

Daniel Dern has been laid off as editor of He was my successor in that post, and I realize now that I should have published this a week or two when I first got it. It is the talk of our little circle, and now it can be the talk of yours:

Dear current and former contributors,
(To the tune of "I Am the Captain of the Pinafore"
from, of course, Gilbert & Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore")
(Dern) I was the editor of Byte dot com,
(ALL) And a darned good editor too!
(Dern) I was there a year or two,
and let me tell to you
I herded a chaotic crew.
(ALL) He was there a year or two,
and we agree, it's true,
We were a chaotic crew.
(Dern) I never was vexed
by PR calls about Comdex,
And I never argued with Jerry
(ALL) What, never?
(Dern) No, never!
(MOST) What, _never_?
(Dern) Well, often...
(ALL) He often argued with Jerry...
So... left-click twice and one more time
for the former editor of Byte online.
Left-click twice and one last time
For the former editor of Byte online.

Craig Reynolds On: Browser Wars Redux, New Router Software, DVD Code

Craig Reynolds notes:

You probably that Microsoft briefly tried excluding non-MS browsers from its MSN site. Here is Gillmor's interview with Berners-Lee:
Tim Berners-Lee on Microsoft's Latest Browser Tricks
And this "pot calling the kettle black" response from the Opera folks:
Opera: Microsoft sees our browser as a 'threat'

Craig also checks in with this:

This sounds cool:
Cisco Offers New Version of Software for Routers
I like the idea of satellites being on the net.

And this

This brightened my day:
Victory for DVD Code Cracking
A California State Appeals Court ruled on Thursday that computer code used to "descramble" DVDs is "pure speech," and citing the First Amendment, the court reversed a trial court's order to block the code from appearing on the Web...

Web Site of the Week



The Top 17 Country Western Rap Songs

I'm 10, Pat Sajak (yet, that Pat Sajak) is 8. I'm in good company.

October 26, 2001
17> The Devil Went Down to Compton
16> Illin', Chillin', 'n' Mesquite Grillin'
15> My Wife is Phatt and My Kidz are Stoopid!
14> All my Exes Drive Gold Lexuses
13> Muthaz, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Crackheads
12> Gettin' Jiggy with My Piggy
11> Take This Glock and Load it
10> I Got Tears in My Ears From When You Bitch Slapped Me
9> Mullet to the Head
8> A Boy Named Sue-Pac
7> Baby Got Pabst
6> Crop Killa
5> All My Ho's Live in Los Alamos
4> 2 Twangy 4 The Benjamins
3> She Put a Cap in My Transmission and Now I'm Shiftless
2> Mama Said Knock You Up
and's Number 1 Country Western Rap Song...
1> My Bitch is a Country Without the O, R, Y
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 137 submissions from 50 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Beth Kohl, Chicago, IL -- 1 (12th #1)
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 8
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10

The Top 16 Rejected Fast Food Menu Ideas

Tied for 10th...

October 29, 2001
16> White Castle Ugly, Poor 'n' Depressed Meal
15> McRibbed (for Her Pleasure) Sandwich
14> Sourdough Jackal
13> Al Goredita
12> McHaggis
11> Peregrine Falconburger
10> Eggs McAnthrax
9> French Guys
8> McDonald's Happy Eel
7> Bacon Double Chinburger
6> KFC Bucket o' Chum
5> The McSenior EasyChew Burger
4> Clams 'n' Lutefisk on a Stick
3> The Prove-You-Ain't-Muslim Pork 'n' Bacon Gordita
2> Piggie Thighs
and's Number 1 Rejected Fast Food Menu Idea...
1> Wendy's "Tender Breast of Dave" Sandwich
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 125 submissions from 45 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
J. Hutter, San Francisco, CA -- 1, 2 (4th #1)
Glenn Marcus, Washington, DC -- 10
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10


Monsters Inc.

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

The people at Pixar have come as close to the Holy Grail as it is possible to come in Hollywood. They have figured out how to turn out hit after hit with no duds. Monsters Inc. is a triumph of both technology and character. Certain directors of large science-fiction franchises would do well to sit down with all the Pixar features (Toy Story, Bug's Life, etc.) and see how to harness incredible technology in the service of a fascinating story.

Frankly, I was worried, because this is the first Pixar film that John Lasseter didn't direct; he executive produced it instead. Apparently, in addition to discovering the Holy Grail, Pixar has also discovered how to hand down, from one person to another, the secret formula for directing a popular animated feature, with heart, warmth and action, respecting family values and throwing in just enough schmaltz to wring a tear from the viewer's eye.

By the way, what we have here is another example of misleading trailers. From the trailer, you'd think this was a Billy Crystal (the one-eyed guy) film, with John Goodman (the big furry guy) barely speaking. The film itself is the exact opposite, and once again John Goodman demonstrates his incredible range. I just hope he gets a handle on his health so he doesn't follow Chris Farley and John Candy into the fat comedian premature death syndrome.

I have noticed that I frequently fail to say much about the plot, a laxity I now intend to remedy. The movie posits the existence of a monster world, connected to ours via closet doors, in which the nightmare screams of children provide electrical power. Monsters arrive each day at a factory, where they pass through closet doors into children's bedrooms, make them scream and collect the scream energy. The monsters are shown to be just regular guys doing their job. One of them hatches a scheme to more efficiently harvest screams, regardless of the trauma to children, a plot which Sully (Goodman) foils. James Coburn does a nice turn as the boss monster. Perfect voice for the role.

You may have seen some reviews that worry aloud about the hazardous materials teams that search for the little girl who crosses over into monster land.

It won't make you think, but it will make you laugh for sure, and if, like me, you're easily manipulated, it will even make you cry a little.


The Real Deal On Bioterrorism

I really hope SFC Red Thomas (ret) is who he says he is. Dan Grobstein sent me his article, The "Real" Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chem. Attacks, which appears in several places on the net. This person I don't know, never heard of and can't vouch for says Red is real. In any case, what he writes makes a lot of sense, so I'm passing on the URL.

Here's how it starts:

Since the media has decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.
Lesson number one: In the mid 1990's there were a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died.


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