PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 47

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

December 10, 2001

Thanksgiving Report: Better Late Than Never

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:

    • Belated Thanksgiving Report
    • "Terrorists Have Won" Speech Is Getting Old
    • Back Issues Of The Tech
    • That Darn Ashcroft
    • A Few Words About Pat Sajak

Computer Industry News:

    • The Height of Absurdity
    • Blogdex
    • Microsoft's Self-Serving Settlement

Web Site of the Week:

    • Soft Earth


    • The Top 15 New Names for Other Large Corporations
    • The Top 15 Ways to Celebrate Walt Disney's 100th Birthday
    • Osama Shaggy Dog Story


    • Absence of Malice
    • Behind Enemy Lines
    • Digital Projection


    • Mari Schindler on Portland Vs. Seattle, Janal On Teaching, Grobstein on Fake Vs. Foto, Larry On The Math Joke, Schindlers' List, The Punk Band Schindler

General News

Full Text of Orrin Hatch's Letter To Charles A. James Re: Microsoft Antitrust Settlement, Nov. 29, 2001

This is a late item. I hope the search engines that spider this site catch it! I scoured the net and could not find the full text of Orrin Hatch's 19-question, 8-page letter to the Justice Department (Asst. Attorney General Charles James) about the DOJ's toothless, spineless Microsoft antitrust settlement. A Washington Source faxed me the letter, and I have scanned it and reprinted it in full.

Belated Thanksgiving Report

Whew! I almost forgot to tell you about my Thanksgiving break. Well, as they used to say at Computerworld, "If we haven't printed it yet, it's still news."

Rae and I had the whole week off, and we spent it in Oregon with my mother. That's where we saw Waking Life and The Man Who Wasn't There, reviewed in last week's column.

But mostly we relaxed, hung out, got to bed early and got up late, had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and father, saw some sights of Portland (a giant Paul Bunyan left over from the Centennial celebration, but not the famous new formal Chinese Garden, largely closed for repair of a leak in the big pond), had our hair streaked (OK, that was just Rae), and generally depressurized. Yes, I know, you don't think there's much pressure in being unemployed. You'd be wrong.

Vicki, on the other hand, flew to New York, where she spent time with Marlow at Columbia, saw some museums, did a lot of walking in Central Park, and had Thanksgiving dinner at ADP, the literary fraternity of which Marlow is a member (Ben Stein is a member too!), cooked by a generous alumnus who cooks a Thanksgiving dinner for stay-at-the-dorm types every year.

"Terrorists Have Won" Speech Is Getting Old

How can you resist a story with a pull quote like this?

I am beginning to think some of us are using this idea to justify just about any kind of behavior at all. If I'm too upset to eat this extra slice of chocolate cake, if I refuse to relax and enjoy myself by watching the Victoria's Secret fashion show, why then, the terrorists have won."

CNN commentator

This column is good--as good as a Jon Carroll column, and that's saying something.

November 27, 2001
A Phrase That Turns Routine Acts Into Acts of War
By Roy Rivenburg, Times Staff Writer

If you don't read every single word of this story, then the terrorists have won.

That might sound preposterous, but compared to some of the other "terrorists have won" pronouncements buzzing around, it's relatively sane.

For example, Martha Stewart recently asked her underlings to [do something]...

When employees balked, Stewart fired off a memo: "To me, the terrorists have certainly succeeded if so few of you participate in [that event]."

Note that the LA Times shuts off access after a while, so you may not be able to get to the entire original without paying.

Back Issues Of The Tech

A significant number of you worked on The Tech with me in college, so you might be interested to hear that the folks at the paper have scanned in every page of every issue and then run it through an OCR program. Here's a chance to find that great old editorial or feature you thought was lost forever.

Let me note, however, that the OCR program was... how shall I say this... about as good as most OCR programs. When I attended the annual banquet in Boston last spring, I was shown some excellent results. When I searched Volume 92 for some old work of mine, I found some less excellent results.

By the way, if any of you have any influence with the current board, ask them why they haven't reactivated the topical index from the 70s. Sure, it is mostly superceded by the PDF/OCR project, but it still has some value, and it is a shame to let it disappear. I've written a dozen emails and gotten zero responses.

On the other hand, if you never worked at The Tech, this has to be the single most boring item that has ever appeared in my column.

That Darn Ashcroft

Once again, as he has so many times before, Jon Carroll has given voice to my inarticulate rage over a major public policy issue; this time, President Bush's secret kangaroo courts and Atty. Gen. Ashcroft's plan to spy on more religions. Read the whole column!

Still some confusion over those tribunals
By Jon Carroll


One more Ashcroft quote: "If religion is hijacked and used as a cover for killing thousands of Americans, we're interested." For two decades now, religion has been hijacked and used as an excuse for bombing abortion centers and killing abortion providers. The original anthrax scares were at abortion clinics, not in the halls of Congress. Ashcroft was not interested then; apparently his fury depends on which religion is being hijacked.

Many of us warned that Ashcroft would be a total disaster, and such he has turned out to be. He is a menace to our nation, to the constitution, and to every American right that isn't the right to bear arms. The man should be impeached, the sooner the better. I mean, I checked, and when he was sworn in, he didn't promise to defend just the parts of the constitution he liked, he swore to defend the whole thing. He is in violation of that oath.

Two quotes from his Senate testimony say it all. He could not be more wrong in what he said, which now ranks him in a dead heat with Woodrow Wilson's Atty. Gen. Palmer as the worst AG in U.S. history:

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies."

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., could not be more right:

"We are not going to be intimidated by anyone into not asking questions about civil liberties, the structure of our system and the Bill of Rights. If the Judiciary Committee doesn't do it, who is going to?"

If the American press was only brave enough to write the real truth with real context, you might have read a story like this in your daily newspaper:

In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General John Ashcroft came very close to accusing George W. Bush of treason (which is an impeachable offense) and obstructing anti-terrorism efforts by the FBI. In particular, Mr Ashcroft accused Mr Bush of aiding terrorists, giving ammunition to America's enemies, and encouraging the 5,000 foreigners being invited for voluntary interviews to remain silent during questioning. In a city where observers could not recall the last time internal dissent rose even to the relatively low level of a resignation on principle by a Cabinet member, Mr Ashcroft's remarks were perhaps unprecedented.

The full text of this story is careful, well reasoned and fully supported by the observable facts. Expatriates might enjoy passing it around to support their beliefs on the nature of American democracy.

A Few Words About Pat Sajak

As regular readers of this column know, I was privileged to be a guest on Wheel of Fortune in its very early years. Since then, I have also been on Jeopardy (Alex Trebek), Scrabble (Chuck Wollery), and Win Ben Stein's Money (eponymous). Thus, I have had a chance to observe the hosts up close and personal, on and off camera.

I have a little fun with Pat, who is a regular contributor to the Top5 list, but the simple fact is this: he is the smartest (yes, smarter than Trebek), cleverest, wittiest, most entertaining and human of the game show hosts I have watched first hand, bar none. Quick on his feet, fun to watch, fun to talk to. I think the cancellation of his late-night talk show on CBS was a major error. Have you ever seen him guest host Larry King? I have, and he's twice the interviewer King is (doesn't take much, I admit). The biggest problem with Pat's CBS show was that he's more of a Tom Snyder than a David Letterman. When Craig Kilborn finally runs out of gas in the post-Dave slot, I say: Let's Give Pat Another Chance!

By the way, I enjoy the story of how Pat became a Top5 contributor. Every year, there is a "celebrity guest host" week, where people like Dilbert creator Scott Adams are asked to moderate a Top5 list. Sajak misunderstood his directions; instead of winnowing out a list from submissions by the regular contributors, he wrote the whole list himself. It was hysterical, he was offered a slot, and he took it. Much of the year, he's clearly too busy to chime in, but you can tell when he's on hiatus, because he makes the list almost every day. He is a funny guy, and much under-appreciated. I ain't about to start a fan site, but maybe I should look for one and offer you the URL.

Computer Industry News

The Height of Absurdity

Craig Reynolds checks in:

It you mention this:
Big Stink Over a Simple Link
in PSACOT, be sure to include a link to

For those of you too lazy to click over, KPMG, the international accounting firm, claims you need their written permission to link to their site.

Yeah, right. That will be the day. For a group of consultants who think they can tell you how to run your website, this cluelessness is particularly ironic. But then, isn't a consultant someone who borrows your watch and then bills you for telling you what time it is?

By the way, feel free to link to anywhere on my site, any time you want.


I think I have mentioned this before, but I am too lazy to look it up and too intrigued not to mention it again. The MIT Media Lab, in an effort to make the underbelly of the Internet more accessible, have created Blogdex, a search engine for web logs. Richard Dalton brought it to my attention. In the meantime, don't forget Daypop, the web log news search engine Craig Reynolds tipped me to.

Microsoft's Self-Serving Settlement

Craig Reynolds writes:

This is a pretty good article about the backlash to Microsoft's proposed settlement for the private anti-trust lawsuits, with critics saying: "Thanks for your cynical, self-serving, anti-competitive scheme to get money from impoverished school districts, but we'd rather just get some cash":
Apple: Microsoft should pay $1 billion--cash

Web Site of the Week

Soft Earth

Richard Dalton sez:

This is a most interesting lady who lives down the Falmouth bike path. This Web site shows some of her remarkable work and how it came about. We'll have to run down to Joan's studio next time you're out here.


The Top 15 New Names for Other Large Corporations

My position as No. 6 ranks me just ahead of famed game show host Pat Sajak...

December 4, 2001


After Phillip Morris announced plans to change its name to The Altria Group, we wondered whether other big companies might be planning something similar.

15> McDonald's -- The Cholestria Group

14> Nike -- The Intergalactic Coalition for the Elimination of Disposable Income

13> AOL Time Warner -- Stupid & I'm With Stupid, Inc.

12> J.C. Penney -- J.C. Crummy

11> --

10> Boeing -- Kerr-Splatt Industries

9> Calvin Klein -- Sexwithteens, Inc.

8> Microsoft -- The Monopolia Group

7> Firestone -- Rollovia

6> Ford Motor -- Lemonco

5> Hewlett Packard -- Screwit, Packard, Letscashout

4> Pfizer -- Dixie-Reckt, Inc.

3> Enron -- Invisicorp

2> -- Red, Inc.

and's Number 1 New Name for Other Large Corporations...

1> Johnson & Johnson -- Peter & Schlong

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 110 submissions from 40 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Beth Black, Misawa City, Japan -- 1 (3rd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 6
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 7

The Top 15 Ways to Celebrate Walt Disney's 100th Birthday

A thrilling third-place finish for our favorite contributor.

December 5, 2001


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney, founder of the Disney empire.

15> Stand in lines at Disneyland until *you* turn 100.

14> Annoy the Magic Mirror by asking "Do these pants make my butt look big?"

13> Divert a few of those cruise missiles from Afghanistan over to "It's a Small World."

12> Commemorative jump-from-cake/lap dance by Minnie Mouse.

11> Give your girlfriend a ride on the ol' Matterhorn... but be sure to make her wait in line for 45 minutes first.

10> Go to Times Square to watch Walt's frozen head drop at midnight.

9> Put "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" in the VCR, turn sound down, crank up Dark Side of the Moon.

8> Same as every day: Go to your favorite bar dressed as the eighth dwarf, "Horny."

7> Just for grins, add Walt's decomposed corpse to the Haunted Mansion ride.

6> Finally release forgotten masterpiece "101 Angry Rottweilers."

5> Find an innocent child whose youthful imagination is undimmed by adult concerns, turn him upside down and shake all the change out of his pockets.

4> Thrash those pasty-faced Pixar pantywaists in annual tequila slammer competition.

3> Have a "Donald Day" and wear a sailor shirt with no pants.

2> "Lovely party, and that ice sculpture looks EXACTLY like Walt -- OH, MY GOD!!!"

and's Number 1 Way to Celebrate Walt Disney's 100th Birthday...

1> Make your underpants the Happiest Place on Earth by dressing up the little Grand Marshall and having your own Pants Parade.


[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]

Selected from 137 submissions from 52 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Craig Stacey, Romeoville, IL -- 1 (12th #1)
Travis Ruetenik, Honolulu, HI -- 1 (6th #1)
Dawson Rambo, Santa Rosa, CA -- 3, 8
Doug Finney, Houston, TX -- 3
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 3

Osama Shaggy Dog Story

Bush and Osama decided to settle the war once and for all. They sat down and decided to settle the whole dispute with one dogfight. They would have five years to breed the best fighting dog in the world and whichever side's dog won would be entitled to dominate the world.

Osama found the biggest, meanest Doberman and Rottweiler female dogs in the world and bred them with the biggest, meanest Siberian wolves. They selected only the biggest and strongest puppy from each litter, removed his siblings, which gave him all the milk. After five years they came up with the biggest meanest dog the world had ever seen. Its cage needed steel bars that were five inches thick and nobody could get near it.

When the day came for the dogfight, Bush showed up with a strange looking animal. It was a nine foot long Dachshund. Everyone felt sorry for Bush because they knew there was no way that this dog could possibly last 10 seconds with the Afghanistani dog.

When the cages were opened up, the Dachshund came out of its cage and slowly waddled over towards Osama's dog. Osama's dog snarled and leaped out of its cage and charged the American Dachshund--but when it got close enough to bite the Dachshund's neck, the Dachshund opened its mouth and consumed Osama's dog in one bite. There was nothing left at all of his dog.

Osama came up to Bush shaking his head in disbelief. "We don't understand how this could have happened. We had our best people working for five years with the meanest Doberman and Rottweiler female dogs in the world and the biggest, meanest Siberian wolves."

"That's nothing", said Bush. "We had our best plastic surgeons working for five years to make that alligator look like a weenie dog."


Absence of Malice

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Why yes, this movie is 20 years old. But I recently realized I don't have it on my journalism movie page, an oversight I have remedied.

I can't summarize This film better than the excellent Detroit Free Press Journalism Movie Page:

Absence of Malice
This is a sentimental Free Press favorite, written by former Freep executive editor Kurt Luedtke. Forever fretful Miami reporter Sally Field ties an innocent Paul Newman to the disappearance and possible murder of a union leader. A suspenseful examination of newspaper ethics. 1982, 116 minutes.

The tagline, as noted at the Internet Movie Database, is an absolute classic:

Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true

The summary at IMDB is also great:

Paul Newman plays the son of a long dead Mafia boss who is a simple liquor warehouse owner. Frustrated in his attempt to solve a murder of a union head, a prosecutor leaks a false story that Newman is a target of the investigation, hoping that he will tell them something for protection. As his live begins to unravel, others are hurt by the story. Sally Field, the reporter, is in the clear under the Absence of Malice rule in slander and libel cases. Knowing nothing to trade to the prosecutors, Newman must regain control of his life on different ground.

There are three things that struck me about this film:

  • the utter implausibility of Wilford Brimley's Deus Ex Machina appearance at the end of the film,
  • the slight implausibility of Paul Newman's character being able to dig himself out of a hole so well (it was true in the 19th century, it is true in the 21st century: never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel), and
  • the total lack of implausibility of the Sally Fields character desperately trying to rationalize her way out of an ethical dilemma. Of all the behavior I saw in this film, hers rang the most true. It is a variation of that old journalistic saw, "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story." Sad, but true.

Behind Enemy Lines

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

A mildly entertaining outing with the talented Gene Hackman going underused and the much-less-talented Owen Wilson dominating the movie.

Rated PG-13 for war violence and some language.

But what a cookie cutter plot. Real paint-by-number stuff.


Just once, couldn't an American movie end with the rescue effort failing? I mean everything in this film, every plot twist, the false pickup attempt, all of it was so transparent and amateurish, it's as if the scenario were written by some piece of automated software.

Digital Projection

I want back to see Monsters Inc. at the AMC Theater on Van Ness in San Francisco for two reasons. First, they have added outtakes to the closing credits (you won't believe your eye!). Second, one of the two theaters showing the film was using digital projection, which I have long been anxious to see.

The outtakes are cute, similar to others done by Pixar. The joke, of course, is that there are no bloopers or outtakes in an animated film (well, maybe sometimes on the soundtrack--there is one outtake here that sounds like it might be an actual blooper). But for me, they were worth the price of admission to see a charming film a second time.

The outtakes alone would not have drawn me, however. But the newspaper advertising for the theater has subtly added "digital projection" to one set of show times. I could have sworn I had dealt with digital projection before, but apparently my August 27 column about digital "filming" is, in fact, the only time I have shared this obsession with you. Well, suffice it to say I have been waiting for some time for the considerable technical and aesthetic issues to be overcome.

They have been. The trade thinks so:

Gary Meyer, co-founder of Landmark Theaters, guesses it'll take less than six years for digital projectors to outnumber conventional 35mm projectors in commercial theaters.

I do too. I remember the early years, the badly registered color, the dim images, the lack of contrast and focus. Well, I didn't see an A/B test, but I did watch two films in the same Cineplex, including several of the same previews, and I can tell you this: digital projection is ready for primetime, at least in 200 seat theaters. The technology I saw is Texas Instruments' DLP.

Large fields of pure primary color seem over saturated--essentially too vivid. I saw several examples: the green background of "This preview rated G for all audience; the move is rated R", the saturated parts of the AMC "Welcome to the Theater animation," a large field of red that appeared in a Star Wars II preview. The difference is enough to be distracting. This element still needs some work.

Of course Monsters Inc. is the perfect film for this projection method, since it was 100% digital at birth. Maybe it's my imagination, but the details all seemed much clearer in the digital projection. The light level was fine.

But in the end, the easiest-to-fulfill promise is the one that digital has no trouble keeping. It's a perfect "print." We are all inured to the crap on an exhibition print of a movie: scratches, hairs, imperfections of all kinds. Even the burp of a splice going through the projector between previews.

Some say these problems have gotten worse with modern projection techniques. I don't even want to get into that argument.

But I will say this: after five or 10 minutes, you suddenly realize you're looking at the cleanest print you've ever seen. Perfect. Not a scratch on it. Well, of course not! It's just bits. But it makes a real difference in the movie viewing experience. It is a move towards perfecting that experience. If you've got a theater with digital projection in your town, go try it out.

I can tell you one thing: that's the way I want to see Star Wars II. Well, the second time at least.

Texas Instruments Digital Light Processing

Wired: Digital Projection: Coming Soon?


Mari Schindler on Portland Vs. Seattle, Janal On Teaching, Grobstein on Fake Vs. Foto, Larry On The Math Joke, Schindler's List, The Punk Band Schindler

The Seattle Times as reported here last week, thinks Seattle beat out Portland for the title of "Most Important City In The Pacific Northwest" because its founders were more entrepreneurial. I knew my mother disagreed with this, and she confirmed her feelings in writing:

You did miss the main reason Seattle outstripped Portland (and please emphasize that we here in Stumptown really believe newcomers would be much happier in Seattle). Anyway, the main reason for their dominance economically is the fact that they are right on the water, on the Sound -- the gateway to the Orient, Alaska and so forth. Also, they had excellent railroad service to the east very early on. In any case, we here are so glad for them!

But wait, Mom, when I was a kid, they told us that Portland was an ocean port (even though it was 50 miles inland) because the Columbia was so easy to navigate. Does that mean they were lying to us? J

In other matters, Dan Janal responded to Kevin Sullivan's essay from last week, especially the student who said, "This is so boring."

One of the great things that school does is that it prepares you for the real world, where work is boring, colleagues form cliques and bosses play favorites. High school is a metaphor for life.

(I don't endorse it. That's why I work by myself!)

Actually, I ended up telling both my daughters that high school was a combination of hazing and endurance test. Maybe it's just a rationalization, and school doesn't have to be like work, but that's the way it seems to be.

Dan Grobstein had some further thoughts on my further thoughts on Richard Dalton's response last week to "Fake or Foto" which ran several weeks ago.

Regarding that OJ Simpson Newsweek cover. I don't think that they darkened him to make him look blacker. I think that they were trying for a spotlight effect. (Putting him in the glare of accusation). If they hadn't darkened the edges the center of his face would have been washed out.

On the same subject, I have no problem with the newsweekly (Time or Newsweek -- I forget which) that fixed the teeth on that woman who had quintuplets or whatever. She wasn't a public figure, it was the only time she would get on the cover and it was the nice thing to do to make her look better.

The National Geographic cover didn't bother me either. It was a nice picture. They weren't trying to prove anything.

There's a great book called "The Commissar Vanishes" about photo retouching under Stalin. He would have new versions of photos made whenever somebody was purged. There are lots of examples showing the progression as various people were liquidated. I know that has it.

Larry left out his last name when he wrote:

1 difficult Math joke. e to the X is irrational.? [ed: could be...]

2 Descartes: Cogito ergo sum. remove one letter and we have the anthem of the sexual revolution: Coito ergo sum.

Keep smiling. There is so much material out there. Shakespeare was wrong. The world's not a stage; it's a sideshow!

Ari Schindler wrote:

Just letting you know that a link to your site has been added to my quite ridiculous list of fellow Schindlers at

I know there are a lot of people named Schindler, but while whizzing around the Internet to see who's pointing at my site, I found a punk band from England named Schindler (and also a classical organist named Peter Schindler):

Here's a review of their first album:

SCHINDLER "TRANSVERSE MERCATOR" GOLF - Oxford's Schindler have a chunky sound, a post-hardcore emotion with a solid Strangers/Police feel. Schindler evolved out of cult Albini favourites Mass and hardcore outfit Shutdown and this debut album really does lock on to a musical coarse that never lets go. It's about opposites, contradictions; that straight-to-the-point heavy drive counterbalancing those uplifting melodic lines that give them that distinctive sound. Some have talked of Screaming Trees, others of Therapy and a strong enocore identity: ultimately, there's no one quite like Schindler. It all works because this is obviously made by people who are totally into what they're doing - with no hint of a compromise for anyone, they're doing it totally for themselves, something to applaud.
James Holton


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