PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 2

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

January 14, 2002

Two Weeks And I'm Already Behind

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

  • Rae's Fencing
  • New Year's Wish
  • Vicki's Disconcerting Experience
  • Duel In The Desert
  • Getting Started In Journalism Redux: Peggy Coquet
  • Belated Gag Me Nominees

Computer Industry News

  • Comment Now! Microsoft Antitrust
  • Craig's Digital Events of 2002
  • RIP Internet Week

Web Site of the Week

  • Collective Nouns, Geek Org Chart, Imac Rev, Lego Site, ThinkGeek


  • Dave Barry on Windows
  • Two Engineer Jokes


  • A Beautiful Mind


  • Reynolds Links On Terrorism, Enron; Dern On Lion/Lamb

General News

Rae's Fencing

A brief word about Rae's recent fencing results (a longer item on Las Vegas follows later in this column). At the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas, she placed 84th of 148 in open épée and 19th of 48 in women's épée, after the round robin. Final results have not yet been posted. Also in the news: she is one of the 10 top-rated junior épée women in the USFA Pacific Division.

New Year's Wish

I love my mother's New Year's Wish:

We are hoping that this year will be great for all of us - if we are as good as we might be, we wish we get what we deserve, if not, then hoping for mercy

Vicki's Disconcerting Experience

My wife had a very disconcerting experience recently, and wrote about it as a way to sort out her feelings:

This was a startling experience. I was driving to work and internally concentrating on my mantra to the divine mother and, therefore, the well-being of all creatures. I was early and in no hurry to see my evening clients. I noticed a police officer at the Lafayette Reservoir and checked my speed again. I was doing fine - under the speed limit. Then within a quarter mile, a car in the on-coming lane hit a deer. The deer careened off the car and was suddenly in front of me. I braked but hit the deer and it was under my car; I heard it struggling. I was shocked and fearful of leaving my car because of the four lanes of traffic around me, and because I did not know what to expect of the wounded deer. I sat and waited a minute or two. A car pulled up next to me and an angry woman told me to back up, that I was on the deer. Until then I thought I was over the deer and might do more damage by moving at all. I backed up. The deer bolted, dragging its wounded hind legs. Then the woman accused me of driving too fast. I answered that I was driving the speed limit, raised my window and drove on.

I think I did everything right but nonetheless feel a lot of grief and guilt about the beautiful creature I damaged. How could he/she survive this? Why did that woman yell at me? Why was I the one to damage it further when of all things I was focused at that moment on creation? It obviously creates doubts, but also makes me evaluate my own life circumstances. Synchronistically, I am reading Barbara Kingsolveršs Prodigal Summer about balance in nature. One theme is that predators are killed, leaving their prey to reproduce out of control. That is probably true of the deer population. Maybe I am just the "hundredth monkey" to tell this story.

Duel In The Desert

A fencing tournament at the Tropicana Hotel in my least favorite city in the world, Las Vegas. Well, at least this time I spent four days in that little piece of hell without gambling a single dime. Not even a quarter in a slot machine. I did drop $10 on a video game, but I don't think that's the same thing, do you?

Marlow's boyfriend Ian flew out from New York City to meet her Thursday morning; Rae and I flew in Thursday night, and boy were our arms tired. Not from the old joke, but because of the mind-boggling lines at the Oakland Airport. As unpleasant as flying has become, multiply that displeasure by about 20 if you have to check baggage (Rae's fencing equipment has to be checked). You wait a minimum of 45 minutes in line to check your bags, then another 20-30 minutes in the line at security. It is all so unnecessary. They could just hire more screeners and buy more gear. But the airlines don't give a damn about you, your comfort or your convenience. First, they'll pay the price, by going bankrupt, then you'll pay the price, when air travel becomes even more inconvenient than it is now.

Anyway, we did finally arrive. We ate several nice meals at a steakhouse, a hibachi restaurant, and an adequate meal at Kaluhaville which has branches in Syracuse and Las Vegas.

We saw the Blue Man Group and the Cirque de Soleil. The kids took the Gondola ride at the Venetian (haven't done it), did the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton (done it) and wandered through New York, New York (no interest in doing it).

Oh yes, and Rae fenced well, as well as learning a lot of new things by fencing people from far away she had never fenced before.

Just when you thought the experience couldn't get any worse: our checked baggage was selected for X-Ray at Las Vegas (an extra 30 minutes); then we were selected for an extra search upon boarding. I think it was our one-way tickets. Would any terrorist travel on a one-way ticket any more, now that this factor is so clearly being used to screen people? I mean DUH. Well, at least they didn't give me a John Dingell (after the congressman with a metal hip who had to strip to his underwear before being passed at Washington National).

Getting Started In Journalism Redux: Peggy Coquet

The item here last week from Ian Mayes of The Guardian on Getting Started In Journalism, evoked this anecdote from Peggy Coquet. If it evokes an anecdote of yours, fire away.

For part of my stint as managing editor for Portland Family Calendar, a now-defunct (but resurrected under a new name) parenting pub in Portland, it was owned by Pry Publishing. The co-owner, Tom Pry, was a long-time newspaperman - he'd worked for the Oregon Journal - and was the source of some wonderful stories and dry humor.

Once I was asked to speak to a class of 5th graders about careers in journalism. I went to Tom for advice; what on earth should I say to these children? He thought for a moment, then replied, "Tell 'em, 'Don't give up your day job'."

Marcia and Tom taught me some wonderful stuff, and I miss Marcia badly.

Your story about your brush with fame - seeing Steve Gutenberg - reminded me of another Tom Pry brush-with-fame story. For a while Lisa Groening, the sister of Matt Groening of Simpsons fame, worked at Pry Publishing. She was responsible for typesetting a story for Page One of a news weekly, and kept putting it off. Finally, in desperation, Tom had the pressmen print a fake paper with a big white hole on Page One. It contained the handwritten words, "Lisa, where the hell is that story??!?!" She got it done in record time ... at least, that's the way Tom told it.

Another Pry employee was a daughter of Ed Asner. She was dating a jazzman, and we went to hear him play. Ed bought my vodka collins, although we never exchanged a word. Thanks, Ed!

Belated Gag Me Nominees

Politics is ever with us. I have a pair of nominees for the Gag award that arrived Jan. 5, but couldn't get published until now:

Gag (as in gag me) of the week award to Peggy Noonan for taking three columns to say goodness is good and boy is that boy Bush good just as I predicted (and just as she predicted and confirmed after the fact about every Republican beginning with the unindicted co-conspirator who left our Washington residence in 1974). The Wall Street Journal "2001: The Bush Odyssey" Friday, January 4, 2002.

Same result by a different means award to Ralph Peters in The Wall Street Journal, op-ed page Friday, January 4, 2002. Ralph thinks the U.S. should get tough with the Saudis for supporting terrorists but that's going to be difficult because this is a Big Oil administration. The solution? Take over the Saudi oil fields and (catch this) administer them in the public good. Wonder who will do the administering? Maybe well-connected ex-oilman ex-Enron chairman Ken Lay (looking for something to do after he created and crashed Enron (which contributed more money to Bush than any other company).


Don't Miss My Travel Tech 101 column.

Computer Industry News

Comment Now! Microsoft Antitrust Case

Pay attention. This is important. Tell the government you don't like the Microsoft Antitrust settlement.

There are only 15 shopping days left to exercise the absolute statutory right of every American to submit written comments on the Revised Proposed Final Judgment ("PFJ") in the Microsoft antitrust case .

Microsoft has been found liable for serious violations of antitrust law by 8 federal judges (1 Republican trial judge and 7 appellate judges of whom 4 were nominated by Republican Presidents). By law, the PFJ must restore competition, stop the violations, prevent their recurrence, and deny to the violator the fruits of its unlawful conduct. The PFJ does not do any of these things.

If this concerns you, what can you do?

You can comment. Any written comments must be published in the Federal Register and filed with the district court. By court order, the United States must also file its response to all comments with the district court within 30 days after the end of the 60 day comment period.

The law also confers says you can participate in the public interest determination if you can convince the judge to allow you to participate.

Every American is free to represent just herself personally before the court. If you're a corporation, partnership or other non-human entity you must have a lawyer. However, it is strongly recommended that you only try this with adult supervision or the assistance of a lawyer. To the extent needed, profuse and abject apologies are hereby tendered to all adults if anyone should draw the wholly unintended inference and/or implication that lawyers might in some way be deemed to have anything remotely approaching the knowledge, sensitivity, understanding, intelligence, or skill of an adult.

There are five ways to deliver written comments.

1. e-mail to Renata Hesse, Trial Attorney, Suite 1200, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, 601 D Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530 at

2. facsimile to Renata Hesse (as above) at 202-616-9937 or 202-307-1545

3. mail to Renate Hesse (as above)

4. commercial delivery service to Renata Hesse (as above)

5. hand delivery to Renate Hesse (as above) - call ahead to make sure you will be able to deliver your comments

The statute does not impose any limit on the length or content of written comments.

Craig's Digital Events Of 2002

By publishing a timeless column last week, I got behind in my reprinting of Craig Reynolds' computer industry news. Here, I catch up:

I'm glad to hear that the Tampa experiment with indiscriminate face recognition is a bust. Maybe that will inhibit wider use of this ill-considered technology:

Face Recognition Needs a Lift

Drawing a Blank: The failure of facial recognition technology in Tampa, Florida

I don't know much about U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, but usually when I hear his name mentioned it is in support of policies and ideas with which I agree:

Lawmaker: Is CD copy-protection illegal?

While I'm always pleased to see Microsoft embarrassed by its slimy marketing practices, this item is probably says more about the unreliability of self-selected polling data. From Slashdot via NewsSeer:

Net vote rigging illustrates importance of Web services

Craig whipped this item around to a group of his friends and generated a fascinating discussion. Alas, this column is already running long, and I'm not sure I have permission to quote his friends. So, I'll just tell you it was a lively, skeptical discussion.

ZeoSync: Data Discovery Can Shake Up Tech Sector

Suggests they may have found a technique for 100:1 lossless compression:

"Either this research is the next 'Cold Fusion' scam that dies away or it's the foundation for a Nobel Prize. I don't have an answer to which one it is yet,'' said David Hill, a data storage analyst with Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

And this:

Dan Gillmor mentioned that Google is offering a new service called Overview of Today's Headlines updated every hour.

RIP: Internet Week

'Internet Week' disconnects

Web Site of the Week

Collective Nouns, Geek Org Chart, Imac Rev, Lego Site, ThinkGeek

Many people think that there are no new collective nouns, that innovation in this arena halted centuries ago with a parliament of owls or a flock of geese. Not True. It isn't that people have stopped developing collective nouns, it's just that none of them are being adopted as universally as the ones coined in medieval times, when English was more, shall we say, fluid.

Kevin Sullivan passed on this collective noun site, and notes, "To which Wendy wants to add her submission, "a death wish of snowboarders"

Here is a discussion of the subject Kevin found at

"… Some are witty comments on daily life, such as "drunkship of cobblers" and "eloquence of lawyers". A few are apparently self-mocking, like "superfluity of nuns" (though the saying probably pre-dates any link with the semi-mythical Dame Juliana). This gently humorous approach has continued down the years, and updated examples frequently emerge from the fruitful imaginations of jokesters even today, such as "intrigue of politicians", "tedium of golfers", "addition of mathematicians", "expense of consultants", or "clutch of car mechanics". Type "collective nouns" into any Web search engine: you'll find dozens of sites featuring them, though the level of wit is sadly variable."

That last remark is true of the entire Internet, alas.

Robert Malchman found a Geek Org Chart.

Scott Fulton forwards a graphical representation of Rev R2D2 of the Imac.

Another one of the too many lego sites cluttering up the Internet.

Dan Grobstein's son found ThinkGeek (stuff for smart masses); should be of especial interest to you MIT alumni.


Dave Barry on Windows

Over at Slashdot, Daniel Dern tells me, retrosteve writes:

"Well, it's finally happened. Someone (Dave Barry) in the popular press has finally, explicitly and with a sense of humor, pointed out that Microsoft Windows doesn't get any more reliable or usable, no matter how many versions you buy.

Here's an excerpt from Barry's column:

At least once per day, without fail, my computer, like every computer I have ever owned, has some kind of emotional breakdown. It simply stops working -- often when I'm not touching it -- and it puts a message on the screen informing me that an error has occurred. It does not say what the error is, nor where it occurred. For all I know, it occurred in New Zealand, and my computer found out about it via the Internet, and became so upset that it could not go on.

Two Engineering Jokes

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes, and said, "Take what you want."

"The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."


To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.


A Beautiful Mind

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

I have to stop reading New Yorker reviews before I render my own opinion on movies. Although they are much shorter than they were back in Pauline Kael's day (but then everything in the New Yorker is shorter than it used to be), they are still well-reasoned, succinct, and persuasive. I mean, would I have noticed that Russell Crowe's performance, while technically brilliant, was ultimately hollow? Who knows?

This is a biopic, about a Nobel-prize winning mathematician named John Nash. If you, like me, wonder how much of it is true, there's lots of commentary all over the web (the Wheeler Labs, by the way, were MIT's Draper Labs). Nash did win the Nobel Prize, did fight schizophrenia mostly without drugs, and is still alive. It being a movie, much is glossed over, simplified and dumbed down. I have to credit my friend Neal with the observation that the movie doesn't really Go anywhere, a common problem in biopics, since most people's lives aren't divided into three acts with a story arc and don't, in the end, in fact, go very much of anywhere.

Go see it, if, like me, you have an overwhelming need to see all the Oscar-nominated films and performances, because the naked gold-plated guy will be making several visits to Beautiful Mind. Uplifting in a Ron Howard sort of way (he directed), and entertaining, but moving only in the "oh wow I'm being manipulated" kind of way.

Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence. Plus, you'd be insane to take anyone under 13 to this film anyway.


Reynolds Links On Terrorism, Enron; Dern On Lion/Lamb

Several non-computer item spotted by Craig Reynolds:

This is all unsubstantiated, but shocking if true: FBI investigation of al Qaeda slowed to further a pipeline deal?

Explosive New Book Published in France Alleges that U.S. Was in Negotiations to Do a Deal with Taliban

After seeing the transcript of the Zahn interview with Richard Butler about the book, I was looking for more on this topic. I found this op-ed piece by Ted Rall, and the article Pipeline Politics: Oil, the Taliban and the Political Balance of Central Asia, as well as the 1997 article Taliban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline, which provides some historical perspective.

And this

I found this Saint Petersburg Times editorial via Blogdex: Trumped up terrorism numbers, which is commenting on this Miami Herald report: U.S. has overstated terrorist arrests for years.

Also from Craig:

Your Comprehensive Cartoon Guide to the Enron Collapse

Daniel Dern forwarded this link:

Lioness adopts oryx calf

Sad ending though; another lion ate the calf.

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