PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 48

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

December 17, 2001

Hatch's Questions

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:

  • Full Text of Orrin Hatch's Letter To Charles A. James Re: Microsoft Antitrust Settlement, Nov. 29, 2001
  • The Internet, Quotes and Accuracy
  • Life Vs. Work
  • Anthrax: Connecting The Dots
Computer Industry News:
  • Google's Usenet Archives
  • How Bad Are Things At HP?
  • You Have A Lousy Hotel
Web Site of the Week:
  • Home Monorail
  • The Top 16 Strom Thurmond Pickup Lines
  • Merle Kessler
  • More On TI's Digital Projector
  • *
  • Vanilla Sky
  • Andy Stewart on Martin Lukes and Me

General News

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

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.

The Internet, Quotes and Accuracy

This Benjamin Franklin quote has been making its way around the echo chamber that is the Internet with unusual alacrity and tenacity in recent weeks:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

- Benjamin Franklin 1759

Many sites note that Thomas Jefferson added that "those who trade liberty for safety will eventually lose both." Or this variation, "A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose
both, and deserve neither."

Well, except for one little thing. Jefferson didn't say it. He also didn't say things frequently attributed to him about banks and gun control, according to an authoritative Thomas Jefferson Quote Site.

I love web sites devoted to knocking down false information floating around the net. I will probably start one of my own someday. The Internet is a terrific repository of interesting and factual information. It is, at the same time, a vast cesspool of misinformation and deliberate disinformation--although since ignorance always trumps malice, I assume most bad postings are dumb and not mean. Except maybe the Jefferson quotes about gun control (just kidding!).

Life Vs. Work

U.S. Appeals Judge Richard Posner quoted the Yeats poem The Choice in a recent issue of the New Yorker, on the subject of work versus life. I think Yeats was dead on:

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.

Anthrax: Connecting The Dots

Careful analysis of recent coverage of the Anthrax threat in the New York Times, Washington Post and Baltimore Sun makes interesting reading if you connect the dots.

Computer Industry News

Google's Usenet Archives

First, I hear from Joy Culbertson:

Google finally finished archiving all the old usenet posts and they posted a timeline that mentions Byte.

Then I hear from Craig Reynolds on the same subject:

Google announced availability of a 20 year usenet (newsgroup) archive.

The was a long gap between Google's acquisition last February of the archive from dejanews and today's launch but at least its back on the net. There is an announcement with links to interesting posts.

Of course I had to look for my posts and the oldest item I found was this 1981 usenet mirror of the "science fiction lovers" digest (the digest itself predates usenet by several years).

How Bad Are Things At HP?

This is how bad. A friend forwarded this to me; I print only excerpts. This isn't even the most inflammatory part of the letter!


Dear Carly,

...You have slashed over 14,000 employees in four separate purges this year alone, and in the process have ruined countless lives. These were the first layoffs at HP in 62 years. Those who remain ask, "Am I next?" So in Carly's HP, morale is at rock bottom in most organizations. Why else would you shut down the employee discussion forum. Low morale is a cancer.

In just over two short years of your leadership, you have squandered hundreds of millions in stockholder value in the form of cash, market value, employee morale and good will. And now you want to buy Compaq. You say that the Compaq merger will be a good thing for the company. Once again your nose is growing. How can it be good for 15,000 more dedicated employees that you will sack? I never remember the philosophy of the revered founders of HP having anything to do with employee expendability. And how can it be good for the stockholders, many of whom have already voted with their feet? Buying your competition has nothing to do with invention.

So I keep coming back to the same question, Carly. What part did you really play in the downfall of Lucent? We all have heard that when the ship begins to sink, the rats jump first. It's that time again, Carly. The sooner you leave the better it will be for all of us: stockholders, customers, employees and suppliers. And maybe those left can right this heavily listing ship.

Ms. Fiorina. Your colleagues have voted. You ARE the weakest link. Good bye!

You Have A Very Bad Hotel

Darned if this isn't the best use of PowerPoint I have ever seen or heard of, combined with the best revenge fantasy fulfillment I am likely to find in this lifetime. This is a top find at Daypop and Blogdex, and of course, by linking to it, I make it look even more popular. Great! Craig Reynolds (thank you Craig!) brought it to my attention:

Anyone who has been denied services despite a "guaranteed reservation" will probably enjoy this. It does go on at length, but that is part of its charm:

PowerPoint Presentation: You Have a Very Bad Hotel

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry is talking to the perky but unhelpful rental car agent saying something like "you know how to TAKE a reservation - you just don't know how to KEEP the reservation; which when you think about it, is the most important part of the reservation process."

Thanks to Daypop Top 40 for the link.

Web Site of the Week

Home Monorail

Marlow sent me the URL for a site with pictures of a home monorail and asked simply, "Why don't you have one of these?"


The Top 16 Strom Thurmond Pickup Lines

I'm No. 4, and a smut warning; some of these entries are smutty.

December 14, 2001


Senator Strom Thurmond celebrated his 99th birthday last week by telling his fellow senators, "I love all of you men, but you women even more! I appreciate every one of you, especially you ladies. You are good-looking."

16> "Is that a banana in my pocket, or am I just happy to see you? I'd really like to know. I can't feel below my neck."

15> "So, is it true that y'all can vote now?"

14> "Gals like you are the reason I invented foundation garments."

13> "You are fair of face and your manner is beguiling. Perhaps we could go a-courting, if your family will agree."

12> "So, Miss Smith, you were a topless dancer *and* a Playboy model?"

11> "Want a hit off this oxygen?"

10> "Am I in heaven? 'Cause you look like an angel. No, really -- am I dead yet?"

9> "If I said you had a nice body, would you give me one of your kidneys?"

8> "How about dinner tonight? Pick you up at, say, four-ish?"

7> "You make my heart skip a beat... and another... and another... uh-oh..."

6> "I've lived through two Johnson administrations already. Care to make it three?"

5> "Ever date anyone who's 693 in dog years?"

4> "Baby, these sheets ain't just for wearin'."

3> "Wanna play 'Angel of Mercy' and smother me with them pillows?"

2> "Who's your great-great-great-granddaddy? Say it!"

and's Number 1 Strom Thurmond Pickup Line...

1> "I promise I won't die in your mouth."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 148 submissions from 54 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Allen Lindsey, Cincinnati, OH -- 1 (7th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4

Merle Kessler

Merle Kessler is one of the funniest guys I know, and he has a new essay up at Salon:

Porn, For The Rest Of Us
Slash fiction features the oddest of celebrity sexual pairings. Now, with this handy new template, you can make it yourself!

Merle is, hands down, my favorite living American humorist.


More on TI's Digital Projector

Apropos of last week's item about Digital Equipment Corp.'s digital project, Richard Dalton wrote:

I'm not suggesting that I'm always a year ahead of Wired (or even that I want to be) but your digital projecting piece jogged my memory of the enclosed, which appeared in an April, 1999 issue of the newsletter Telespan.

TI's Boffo DLP Clouds Movie Moguls' Minds

DLP is a breakthrough video projection technology that has somehow managed to escape broad public notice, even though it received both an Oscar and an Emmy for technical achievement in 1998. It's a Rube Goldbergish mechanism that Texas Instruments has been working on since 1991. And it's one of the first commercial products to integrate microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

In this case, the MEMS are tiny mirrors directly connected to a memory array. By shifting each mirror 10 degrees, it can be made to reflect or not reflect light. About half a million of these little devils shift back and forth on command within a DLP array in less than 2 microseconds. That's pretty dazzling but it's not just a stupid chip trick. Because these mirrors are so tightly packed, you greatly reduce the "pixelation" common with LCD display systems. DLP projectors are also brighter and exhibit much less flicker than other display systems. Another LCD problem, viewing angle, is virtually eliminated-I stood at about a 15 degree angle to the screen and was able to read everything in view.

Vanilla Sky

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Cameron Crowe wrote and directed this remake of the 1997 film Open Your Eyes, also starring Penelope Cruz as Sofia. I don't know anything about the screenwriters of the original, Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil, except that they must be very odd people indeed.

Don't believe what you may have read elsewhere, Tom Cruise can act, and he proves it in this film. Why is it that handsome actors figure they have to be facially disfigured in a film in order to prove they are also serious actors?

So, what's with Benny the Dog? If you can figure out this recurring motif, feel free to drop me a line.

And who's Ellie? Actually, Vicki figured it out. Can you?

This film is a meditation on the nature of love and death, reality and dreams. Although it is nothing like Waking Dreams in terms of structure, plot or style, it still seems reminiscent of that film in a way. Are the Buddhists right? Is this whole life a dream? I'm not sure, and after you watch this movie, you may not be other.

What does the last, split-second scene mean? Your speculation is welcome.

Cruise is a billionaire's son who mistreats a woman (Carmen Diaz). She, in turn, stalks him. He goes home with, but does not sleep with, Sofia. Diaz picks him up the next morning, and drives off a road at 80 miles per hour, killing herself and disfiguring Cruise. Or does she? Is he in jail for murder? Is his face actually repaired completely?

There is a rule they teach in television writing that anyone coming into the middle of a show should be able to figure out what's going on within five minutes. Most movies are plotted that way too. To the extent that this film is plotted, it is one of those films where, if you weren't completely captivated and wondering what's next, you'd turn to the person next to you and say, "What was that all about?" It's like American Beauty, but with some actual philosophical underpinnings. It is also one of those films you might want to see a second time, once you learn what you think are one or two of the tricks, to see if the moviemaker played fair with you (like The Sixth Sense).


I won't tell you why, but take note of the morning Cruise wakes up on the sidewalk, and things that happen after that.

Four stars for weird. Too much sex for any teenager below about the junior or senior year of high school. Definitely not a popcorn film, but if you're looking for a little mental challenge, this is the film for you.


Andy Stewart on Martin Lukes and Me

What a cool place the Internet is. Did you know that in England, they write "mob" (for mobile) instead of "cell" (for cellular) in front of their cellphone numbers? Anyway, London resident Andy Stewart wrote:

I'm a big fan of the Martin Lukes column in the FT [Financial Times] and it was while searching on those lines that I hit your page. Very funny - keep it up!

I have plugged Lukes before, and that must be how he found my column. Lukes is good, so I am going to plug him again. Here are excerpts from a recent Martin Lukes column.

Over the weekend I went with my son to see Harry Potter. I was expecting a kids' film but found myself watching a highly insightful modern management parable. In 2 1/2 hours, I clocked no fewer than 38 key learnings that could help drive forward our culture change programme.

Very much in the vein of Robert Benchley.


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