PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 46

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

December 3, 2001

Great Contributors!

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:

    • On Becoming A Teacher
    • Portland Vs. Seattle
    • Perspective On The News
    • Douglas Adams Once More

Computer Industry News:

    • HP Again
    • Peggy Coquet On Losing Your @home Service
    • Antitrust News

Web Site of the Week:

    • The Reflex Tester


    • The Top 16 Airport Security Pick-Up Lines
    • The Top 16 Excuses Given for Corporate Layoffs


    • Harry Potter
    • The Man Who Wasn't There
    • Waking Life
    • Amelie


    • Snyder on Prop. 13, Dalton on Fake or Foto, Rosenbaum's Economist Find, Klein on the Math Joke, Peterman on the disclaimer

General News

Kevin Sullivan On Becoming A Teacher

How good is Kevin Sullivan's essay on becoming a teacher? So good that I considered devoting my entire column to it this week. But then I realized I had made it onto a Top 5 list, and had lots of other good stuff backed up. It's long, but I haven't the heart to cut it. Kevin asked me for editing advice, but you know I really don't have many changes to suggest. All I can hope is that some search engines pick it up and that somebody out there (besides me) who is thinking of becoming a teacher reads it, and learns from it, and has their resolve stiffened, just like I did.

I know it is a cliche, but I laughed, and I cried when I read it. It is both well-written and full of excellent content. I am going to offer you an extended sample:

My first set of 8th graders taught me a few things. 1. That a group in nature abhors a vacuum of leadership. If you provide none, the group will provide it for you. The status of alpha in the group is usually decided within the first few moments of joining together, and is continually tested and stretched. Innumerable scenes were played out, improvised actually, where a probing for weakness would result in a ton of salt being poured into any open wound. The actors involved were usually male with names like Stevie, and Ricky with voices not yet changed but imaginations full blown and the persistence and reasoning ability of a personal injury lawyer. Little did I know then that they would later be iconified in a boy named Bart.

2. It's all about entertainment and providing the audience with the most that they can stand. My favorite, and yes I had favorites, student was Keturah. She had no great quality, neither charm nor intellect nor youthful beauty about to spring forth. She was tall, lanky, with a coltish clumsiness, and a long face surrounded by straight locks...

At one point and driven by which demon, spark or spirit, I'll never know, Keturah stood up, closed her book, and said at the top of her lungs, "THIS IS BOOOOORRRRIIIINNNGG". The class thought this was a true hoot, and coming from an unexpected source was a moment of great hilarity. After the shock of her announcement wore off I covered the moment with disciplinary band-aids and a stern warning and shout to the class to "Quiet down and get your work done". ...

The epiphany was that she was right. She was more than right, she had spoken the truth in a loud, clear voice in a public setting. The environment of most educational settings was predicated on developing and molding workers who would participate as cogs in the great machinery of business, and that the lesson taught most clearly was to accept a life of boredom without complaint....

At that instant I didn't know exactly what to do with that epiphany, except to vow to myself and to any and all students that I might ever be given the honor of teaching that I would not waste their time, I would not lie or shade the truth, and I would not be boring. That night I became a teacher.

Go read Kevin's essay.

Portland Vs. Seattle

As a child, I always wondered why Portland lagged behind Seattle. The Seattle Times wrote a long story about the inter-city competition in a recent Sunday edition. Rich Buck recommended it to me during a recent visit to Seattle. My mother thinks it is codswollop. Bottom line: the gold rush and more entrepreneurial citizens explains Seattle's dominance of the Pacific Northwest.

Perspective On The News

You may have noticed that the war on terrorism has dominated the news of late. My friend Richard Dalton recently brought two items to my attention that help put it in perspective. The first is about AIDS:

This is staggering: 15,000 people a day? More than 1 million people since September 11? Kind of puts things in perspective:

AIDS: the crisis left behind

Then, a few days later,

This is one of the most heart-rending articles I've read. As we spend hundreds of millions bombing Afghanistan and funnel hundreds of millions to New York, do you think we could divert a miniscule trickle of that flow to these kids, also innocent victims of The War on Terror?

Orphans lack heat, water, but not hope
KABUL, Afghanistan - She fiddles with her brown scarf, knots a piece of red cloth on her dirt-blackened foot. Her large eyes well with tears, and her voice is barely a whisper as she explains how she came here, to this orphanage with no heat, no running water, hardly any food."

As it happens, Vicki and I saw the article too, and remarked to each other on how nice it would be to find a trustworthy charity working in Afghanistan. Dalton wrote back a few hours later about Mercycorps, which seems quite serious and legitimate. The Gates Foundation has given it a million dollars.

Douglas Adams Once More

Craig Reynolds, it would seem, agrees with me that Douglas Adams was a genius. He forwards this note:

Douglas Adams' Final 'Hitch Hiker's Guide' Found

LONDON (Reuters) - The final unfinished novel by cult British author Douglas Adams is to be published next year on the anniversary of his death, his agent says.

``A Salmon of a Doubt,'' the final and sixth part of his classic ``The ``Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy,'' has been edited from files found on Adams's computer after he died suddenly in May (at the age of 49).

Computer Industry News

HP Again

From an anonymous but knowledgeable correspondent:

The local paper reports that HP has named three U.S. cities for K-12 school upgrade gifts. One is East Menlo, a run-down area with 'way-high numbers of low-income minority students. Each of 420 kids gets a $2200 laptop, with another 45 for teachers and administrators. I believe the program was initiated by a chap who was sacked by la Fiorina and replaced by a woman many consider incompetent. Somebody must have kicked her butt.

There's no reason you should be aware of the uproar at HP, but you can bet many are watching, watching. The eldest sons of Mr. H. AND Mr. P., both board members, are campaigning against Fiorina's hell-bent determination to merge HP with Compaq. Then, to the great surprise of many, Dick Hackborn came out with a strong criticism of the two heirs, claiming they don't understand that, under the tenets of "The HP Way" their parents would be welcoming the change. Dick was the last chairman before Carly, the best possible top executive, profoundly well educated, technically, with demonstrated splendid ability to run things, inspire creativity, and make fine product decisions and good profits. He was instrumental in putting the company into the printer business. I'm puzzled. It's true he was a major influence in recruiting la belle, but no one ever found him defensive about correcting errors.

Peggy Coquet On Losing Your @home Service

Although it doesn't lend itself to a facile excerpt, as I did with Kevin Sullivan's essay, I received another long but interesting essay this week, from long-time reader, occasional contributor Peggy Coquet. She describes how she lost and regained her high-speed cable-modem Internet Access this weekend.

Antitrust News

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), sometimes known as the Senator from Novell, sent 29 questions about the antitrust settlement to Microsoft. Has anyone seen the questions? I can't find them.

Remember all the hoopla about Ginger, aka "IT?" Well, it seems to have been much ado about nothing, but who couldn't have predicted that? The big ones always sneak up on you.

Finally, I got this note about an attorney in Washington who is:

looking for is someone who can tell him the various ways they believe that Microsoft can (or will) circumvent the consent decree it signed. Some of them, of course, are obvious, but there are, no doubt, subtle ones as well. Like undocumented calls back in the DOS days.

He is considering intervening in the Tunney Act hearings on the settlement. Any of my readers able to be of some assistance?

Web Site of the Week

The Reflex Tester

Richard Dalton found The Reflex Tester, of which he says:

Not exactly Tetris but pretty clever


The Top 16 Airport Security Pick-Up Lines

Nov. 21, 2001. Number 5.

16> "I'm afraid you're setting off a heightened alert in my pants, Ma'am."

15> "The new FAA rules require me to remove your security breeches."

14> "Honey, this is a Bodacious Ta-Ta-sniffing dog, and two barks means you're guilty."

13> "Excuse me, Sir, is that a large organic cylinder I detect in your pants?"

12> "Ever been stripped-searched by a minimum-wage flunky?"

11> "And if I might be so bold, Ma'am, I don't think you'll be needing your seat cushion as a flotation device."

10> "I'm going to have to inspect your package for spores."

9> "Step over here, please. You've set off my babe detector and I'm afraid I'm going to have to scan you with my wand."

8> "I'm afraid you can't pass this point, 'cause you da bomb, Baby."

7> "Sir, can I turn on your laptop?"

6> "If you're finished checking my bag, there's one more pair of underwear to go through."

5> "You know, if we were to make love now, we could have a child before we get to the front of the line!"

4> "Good thing that's not a wood detector, 'cause you'd keep me here all night."

3> "Has anyone unknown to you handled those funbags?"

2> "What say we dump Gramma here out of the golf cart and go cruisin'?"

and's Number 1 Airport Security Pick-Up Line...

1> "So do you have any condoms that aren't full of heroin?"

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 124 submissions from 48 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Dan Johnson, Champlin, MN -- 1 (7th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 5

The Top 16 Excuses Given for Corporate Layoffs

Nov. 28: We're No. 1:

16> "And now, a reading from the book of Greenspan, Chapter 11..."

15> "Hell, we've spent the next 3 years' payroll defending ourselves against all those sexual harassment suits you gals filed."

14> "We finally found a way to force 12-year-old girls in Malaysian sweatshops to do our middle management for us."

13> "We're moving to Mexico -- and you're not."

12> "Though performance has exceeded expectations, the Web Surfing 'n' Donut Eating Department has been deemed dispensable."

11> "The company just isn't ready for that kind of commitment and needs some space. We still want to be friends, though."

10> "Turns out we're just another front for Al Qaeda."

9> "Replacing you with a monkey would mean more efficiency, *and* less poo on the carpet."

8> "Remember last year's annual report, in which our CEO reported a sizable outlay of capital in the Jalalabad Hilton project...?"

7> "Miss Cleo says you gotta leave, you gotta leave."

6> "Adverse marketplace conditions necessitated a strategic resource reallocation to enable renewed focus on core competencies within key client segments, resulting in headcount rightsizing to hit shareholder-mandated returns. Yeah, that's the ticket!"

5> "Look at it this way -- you can see 'Harry Potter' every day this week if you want to."

4> "Please excuse Johnny for firing all those people. He's a greedy, cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch. Signed, Johnny's Mom."

3> "It's all about providing our customers a quality product, Mr. Scapego-- er, Wilson."

2> "You'll notice your co-workers who haven't been wasting their time with Internet humor lists still have their jobs."

and's Number 1 Excuse Given for Corporate Layoffs...

1> "Look, it was either you or someone we like."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 104 submissions from 39 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 1 (9th #1)


Harry Potter

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Yes, I know, first I go weeks without a review, then I have four, in a column that is already too long. Well, I'll make up for it by giving reviews that are too short.

You watch Harry Potter, and you say, "Gosh, this film would be better if the music were better and used in the right way. Couldn't they get John Williams?" Then the credits go by and you discover it was John Williams. Is he slipping? Not a single memorable theme in the whole film, and Chris Columbus seems to have forgotten everything he ever knew about scoring a film.

On the other hand, the film is a faithful (some say too faithful, but I say you can't be too faithful) adaptation of J.K. Rowling's book. And the casting is letter perfect. All the cameo adult roles and brilliant, and Daniel Radcliffe is Harry James Potter. Rupert Grint is brilliant as Ronald 'Ron' Weasley and Emma Watson is a perfect Hermione Granger. I hope they keep the same cast as the series moves forward.

Five stars. Suitable for all ages. A riot of entertainment, and too damn long at 2.5 hours.

The Man Who Wasn't There

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Those wacky Coen brothers have done it again. This time Joel and Ethan have whipped up a black and white film noir homage featuring Billy Bob Thornton and their favorite actress, Frances McDormand, as Ed and Doris Crane. It is both ironic and droll, and quite entertaining, with occasional bad language, sex and adult situations. No kid in right mind would want to see this. Strictly adult, non-porno fare.

By the way, someone finally found a way to use Tony Shalhoub (best known for his comedy stint in Galaxyquest as the laconic engineer) well in a serious movie. He almost steals the show as Crane's attorney.

As Rae noted when the film ended, "what was the point of all that." Well, existentialism as entertainment, I suppose. Coming up next from the Coen brothers: two hours of watching paint dry. Well, at least their films aren't too long (this one is 116 minutes). Entertaining, not spectacular.


What is it with American movies and dead narrators? Sunset Boulevard, more recently American Beauty and now this film. Am I missing something?

Waking Life

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

A clever and beautiful film, in which Richard "Slackers" Linklater found a way to make a talky (even preachy) film about philosophy, life, death and all the big issues (such as consciousness), in which nothing happens, and make it somewhat entertaining. How? By filming live action, then handing it over to animators, in a variation of an ancient film-making technique known as Rotoscoping. Well, the pioneers never imagined it would look like this or be harnessed to these topics.

An adult film, not for sex or language (a little of both), but because it would bore anyone under the age of 15 into a terminal stupor. If you enjoy philosophical discussions, if you liked My Dinner With Andre, you'll like Waking Life. OK, not great.


You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

I have always felt bad about having brown eyes because I don't feel they are very expressive or interesting. Well, Audrey Tautou has the biggest, most soulful brown eyes I have ever seen. She is the eponymous star of this film, Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain in the original French. The IMDB summary of the film:

Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.

That's about right. The mystery of the man who has his picture taken at train station photo booths all over town is solved. The grocer gets his comeuppance. TheGlass Man takes a whole film to learn his lesson.

Cute and amusing. The sex is too graphic for younger persons. It is brief but rather explicit for my taste. Those darn French.

Entertaining, but short of content. But then, the French never do seem to feel anything actually needs to happen in their films.


Snyder on Prop. 13, Dalton on Fake or Foto, Rosenbaum's Economist Find, Klein on the Math Joke, Peterman on the disclaimer

I am pleased to say I finally got a reaction to my Proposition 13 remarks:

First, about Prop. 13. I opposed it at the time, favoring a more moderate alternate that was on the same ballot. Then, I felt strongly that we were being screwed by the County -- property taxes were mounting directly in proportion to increases in valuation. That time was somewhat like today -- ten, even twenty percent rises each year. Local politicians, at angry meetings hereabouts, declared it was their duty to lower rates as values increased, so expenditures would not freely follow the market up. But they didn't. The fanatics who marketed Prop. 13, and many a tax-buster later, found fertile ground and passed the thing easily. Well, SOMETHING had to be done. Not many foresaw what it would do to the schools. 13 was and is unjust, surely; My property taxes are about 8% of the amount my new neighbor down the street pays, based on the ungodly price he paid for a house somewhat less desirable than mine. But... I can't help treasuring the fact that I couldn't possibly have kept this place, nor live anywhere near, if 13 weren't favoring me unfairly, still.

With regard to my recent Fake or Foto item, Richard Dalton asks:

Do you recall the landmark photo tampering case in the early 1980s, where National Geographic "moved" the pyramids because it enhanced the composition of the cover age photo of their issue featuring Egypt?

Yes, I do recall that. It was one of the first such cases, echoed several years later by Newsweek's decision to darken a cover photo of O.J. Simpson.

Dan Rosenbaum found a wonderful election correction in The Economist.

Harrison Klein wrote to me about the math joke:

After exhausting my own limited mathematical capabilities, I went to the web and discovered the math joke page of Volker Runde, a math prof at the University of Alberta. I asked him whether he understood why the joke was funny. His response:

"I don't understand it either. Maybe you got the joke wrong."

If a math professor doesn't understand it, it's either a very subtle joke or Rae's pulling your leg. Did you ever ask her to explain the joke to you?

I asked Rae. She couldn't explain it, but she did modify it:

To make a short story shorter, party for all the equations, E to the X is in the corner, someone asks why it's sad and it says, "Why? It doesn't matter." I think it's a "y" joke, just not a very good one.

When I was laid off, I modified my disclaimer at the top of the column. Few noticed. One who did was Kent Peterman:

It occurs to me that possibly the only good thing about losing your job is not having to worry about offending the bosses or my great aunt Millie. Who would love your column were she still with us. I like the new claimer. Is that the opposite of a disclaimer? And I'm sure the people of Wisconsin are thrilled to finally be included.


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