PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 3

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

January 21, 2002

Filed Early For My Convenience

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

  • Filed Early For My Convenience
  • Marlow's 21st
  • Rae Fences A Bay Cup
  • Crappy Airline Service
  • Search Engine Challenge
  • Ashcroft Claptrap
  • Mark Your Calendars

Computer Industry News

  • Microsoft Software Dangerous?
  • 100:1 Lossless Compression

Web Site of the Week

  • Small World Project


  • None


  • Mulholland Drive


  • 100 Monkeys, Beautiful Mind, Star Guitar

General News

Filed Early For My Convenience

I left for a fencing tournament in South Bend, Indiana with Rae late on Thursday night, so I wrote this column before I left, then posted it late Monday when I got back. Cool, huh?

Marlow's 21st

Marlow, my older daughter, celebrated her 21st birthday last week We were lucky enough to have her celebrating it here, at our house (Columbia has a long winter break).

At about 1:10 a.m. on her actual birthday, she went out and bought her first bottle of Vodka. She also bought Kaluha and milk, and came home and made a White Russian. Ironically, that was almost exactly the time of day she was born, via emergency caesarian section.

We planned the celebration for Saturday night, a dinner party for ten. Guests were Marlow's younger sister Rae and her friend, and Marlow's friends Carl, Tara, Lori and Megan and assorted escorts. Pictures are available, but you'll have to email me to get the URL, since I don't want just anyone gazing at me decanting a bottle of wine.

We served them on the formal table in the formal dining room (we had to put both leaves in), with the gold chargers (the big plate you don't serve food on), the heirloom silverware, the crystal, the candles.

In 1982, I gave Clark, my winemaker friend, money to buy a case of 1981 vintage "birth wine" for Marlow. After a few years of storing it at home, I realized it was going to go bad in our closet. Fortunately, my friend Ross has a temperature-controlled wine cellar. He has stored Marlow's birth wine (and Rae's, 1984 wine purchased in 1985) since 1988. He drove the wine over, generously adding a bottle from his own cellar, during the week last week. We went over decanting instructions--which worked like a charm, I might add, although the girls were so fascinated by the dregs that they drank those too.

The menu included vichyssoise, flank steak, broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted red pepper garnish, and a pear/walnut salad, as well as a triple mocha birthday cake with raspberries (we thought ice cream would be overkill). Sue, the girl's godmother and one of Vicki's oldest friends, helped serve. We had taken up every seat in the house.

Dessert also included a bottle of 1981 Y'Chem Sauterne. I forget whether it was Clark or Ross who said it was like drinking gold, but it surely was. I've had a lot of Y'Chem in my day, including some Norm brought to a black tie dinner in the 1980s, but I don't think I've ever had 21-year-old Y'Chem. MMM-mmmm. Let me tell you, it's quite an experience. The 21-year-old Cabernet and Merlot were beyond my words to describe: smooth, mellow, complex and delicious only begins to tell the tale.

It was much less raucous than my mother's 21st birthday party (which I vaguely recall; I was 5 at the time, my brother 3), but as mom pointed out to me recently, Marlow had fewer children.

Rae Fences A Bay Cup

Ray had a fencing tournament on Jan. 13, too late for last week's column. She wrote it up for her grandmother, and I am sharing it with you because I am fascinated by the psychological and technical aspects (a broken wire) as well as the athletic aspects of fencing. It is more complex than you might think.

I am very proud of my 3rd place in fencing today. Some may say it's pathetic 3rd out of 7, but I'm dam proud! This was a "Bay Cup."

We under twenty-one chicks fenced épée at the Sonoma Fencing Academy. I don't know if you know Petaluma, there are a bazillion antique shops in that area. It's funky and cool to look at, and I poked around in a store right next to the studio, and played some blues and the song Geoff wrote for me (Make your Day) on an antique guitar before I fenced.

There were 6 pool bouts (4 minute 5 touch bouts). I won 5 and lost one. The one that I lost was because it was my first bout and I was not focusing. The girl was much younger, inexperienced, and short. She had a French grip (which means she her sword has a little more reach) and she was good at counterattacking. Fortunately I only lost this first bout by 1 point. I have never beaten Brown or Hausman in pool bouts. I cleaned both of their clocks (5-3 and 5-2)!

So, I kicked ass in my pool rounds, and I got an indicator of +11! Your indicator is the number of points you scored minus the ones scored against you. I had the highest indicator, so I didn't have to fence in the first D.E. (direct elimination 15 touch bouts. They're three 3-minute periods of fencing with two 2-minute breaks) bout, this is called getting a bye.

My next bout was against Brown, and I was ripping off her style. She puts the minimal effort it takes to win. She is very low energy, advancing and retreating slowly, and then she'll break tempo and strike.

At the second period, I was ahead 13-11. She ties it up. I get another point. It's 14-14, and then the 2nd period ends. I'm panting I'm excited. If I win this bout I would fence in the first place bout! I was forcing her to pull out the big guns. She had to flèche at me for the last 3 points she got on me! I knew she would flèche again, and I could win first place, and beat Jessica Brown the first time in a direct elimination bout!

Unfortunately when the 3rd period started up, I wasn't patient enough, I had 3 minutes to work with and I was going nuts doing complex attacks in épée! How many disengages did I do? I could have waited till she flèched and hit her with the riposte!

She won, but I knew I could have won that bout very easily, so I'm not bitter about my 3rd place medal. I fought hard, and I could have easily gotten 1st! Next Bay Cup maybe I will! When I fenced Brown on October 13th, 2001, it was my first Bay Cup and she beat me in the first place bout 15-7. My weapon was not working half the time, because a wire got disconnected! I would have gotten more points in that bout had my weapon been working the whole time. I fixed that weapon and named it "Goldy" because it failed me in the gold medal bout.

I fenced Brown with Goldy today, and we were so much closer! I remember thinking she was unbeatable, but I can see myself beating her now. I'm so proud of my 3rd place! This tournament was fun. It was a good practice for my national tournament next weekend in South Bend, Indiana.

I fenced well even after only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before.

Crappy Airline Service

The post-11 experience of flying is, remarkably, substantially worse than it was before. I commented on this to a friend. I wonder (Joe, are you listening?) why the airlines can't see that they must either throw resources at the situation to improve it, or run the risk of never getting the customers back. Or, as a friend recently put it, are we such docile sheep that we'll continue to fly in large numbers despite having to arrive three hours early? Your comments welcome. Here are mine:

I am going to South Bend this week for another fencing tournament, and expect to have another bad experience--and it is too far to drive. The sad thing is, the airlines could fix all of this by opening more security gates and hiring more people, but they think we won't fly if they raise fares. Will we really keep flying under these circumstances? I don't think I'd drive to Las Vegas [from San Francisco, where I live], I just wouldn't go to Las Vegas. Especially not if I had to check luggage.

If there was a high-speed train to LA, I'd take it in a minute, and if lived in Boston or New York, the shuttle would have seen the last of me (as it has of many of my friends); I'd be on the train. Alas, 14 hours to LA is not really an option.

Search Engine Challenge

As I note below, I think the David Lynch film Mullholland Drive was shot in 24 frame progressive digital video. I can't find an explicit statement of this fact. If someone out there can find a reliable site that documents this fact I will


in the next column.

Ashcroft Claptrap

Republicans seem either to be covered with a surface that repels irony, or they are forced to undergo ironyectomies before being allowed to appear in public. As Atty. Gen. Ashcroft was announcing the indictment of John Walker last week, he launched into a long discussion of the things Walker turned his back on, like a country that allowed dissent and honored women. I had a near-physical reaction to the level of sanctimonious hypocrisy from an AG who has made clear by his actions his preference for a theocracy in this country, and his distaste for dissent "at this time," which, it seems, means any time.

Apropos of my feelings about Ashcroft, Richard Dalton forwarded this note from his friend and colleague Elliot M. Gold.

I'm really upset about the way Attorney General Ashcroft has been riding roughshod over our traditional Constitutional and civil rights in his effort to look tough on terrorists. Please join me in speaking up about it, at:

Did you know that in the past two months this administration has:

  • Announced that it would permit monitoring of conversations between attorneys and their clients if suspected of terrorism;
  • Abolished civilian jury trials for non-citizen residents accused of terrorism;
  • Permitted the secret detention of suspects accused of terrorism;
  • Asked to use secret evidence to prosecute deportation hearings without providing that evidence to the defense.

This blatant disregard of our legal processes doesn't just upset lawyers and judges. True conservatives (with a small 'c') are equally upset. William Safire, the conservative columnist, has called the Administration's moves "a dismaying departure from due process" and an assumption of "dictatorial power." Not since the internment during World War II of thousands of patriotic Americans of German or Japanese descent has there been such a willful disregard of the protections accorded us all by the Constitution.

Will you join me in asking that our Representatives and Senators show a little more backbone in dealing with the Administration? Go to:

Sinclair Lewis wrote a book in 1935 called It Can't Happen Here. Well, it can happen here if you and I and others who care sit on our hands. The freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights didn't come to us easily - we fought a revolution for them. We won't keep them easily either. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

We all felt under attack when Al Qaeda terrorists attacked us in New York and Washington. The last thing we need is an attack on our fundamental rights by members of this administration. So let's get back to basics. Let's ask our representatives in Congress to uphold their oath of office, to "support and defend the Constitution," at:

Let's do this together. Thank you.

Mark Your Calendars

The Contra Costa Wind Symphony (Paul E. Schindler Jr., second tenor saxophone and announcer) will be playing its spring concert at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, 2002 at the Walnut Creek Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California. This is the 20th anniversary of the CCWS, and the concert will feature a newly commissioned work by Steven Reineke, the principal composer and arranger of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, paying tribute to Mt. Diablo, the distinguishing geographical feature of Contra Costa County.

Mark the date on your calendar. Please attend. You'll be glad you did.


Don't Miss My Travel Tech 101 column.

Computer Industry News

Microsoft Software Dangerous?

From Craig Reynolds:

I thought this was a good article about the risks and hidden costs of using Microsoft products: (via Slashdot)

January 14, 2002

Security Flaws May Be Pitfall for Microsoft Software:
As the company shifts toward interactive services, its latest vulnerabilities do little to bolster customer confidence.


Competitors and federal regulators have failed to stop Microsoft Corp.'s march toward dominance of new areas of the computing world, but there is an increasing chance that one of the software giant's own strategies could hinder its advance.

Microsoft's decade-long focus on cramming new features into its products has come at the expense of protecting computers against viruses and hacking attacks, which are costing customers billions of dollars a year and becoming a top concern of companies and government officials.

100:1 Lossless Compression

I think it's cold fusion. Craig Reynolds found an update:

Quick update: they continue to stand by their credulity-stretching claims ("everything you know is wrong!" --Firesign Theatre) and say that more details (and perhaps a working demo?) will be available "soon":

Firm Touts 'Perfect Compression

Web Site of the Week

Small World Project

You know that whole "six degrees of separation" theory, that everyone is no more than six acquaintances away from everyone else? Some sociology professors at Columbia have developed a really quite elaborate internet-based research project to try to find out if it is true. Richard Dalton forwarded it to me, and I did my best to move the message one step closer to the target. This seems like it should be a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see the results. I gave a fair amount of personal information, so if it turns out to be a scam designed to test our willingness to give out personal information, I'm going to be really peeved.




Mulholland Drive

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

Huh? What a waste of film. Or, more likely, videotape.

There was something about this film's cinematography that was just a little off. I think it was shot in 24-frame Progressive Video. Excellent quality--I can hardly wait to see Star Wars II. It appears a lot of the usual tricks to make the digital video look like film (how long will we have to do this?). I could not find an explicit statement of how the movie was shot, but its presence in the newsbriefs on (a site devoted to digital video) indicates I was correct in my suspicion.

David Lynch must be the weirdest person ever to leave Missoula, Montana for Hollywood. I admire his previous works, including Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Straight Story, and even Lost Highway, which was a bit weird. The first two-thirds of this film (originally a pilot for an ABC television series) are somewhat strange. The last third runs right off the tracks. If you liked the identity switch in Lost Highway, you'll love this film.

I believe the difference between art and commerce in popular entertainment is ambiguity. If everything is wrapped up with a bow, it is commerce. If you are left with questions, it is art. That's a simple rule, but it has always worked for me.

However, the question must be one other than "huh?" or "what the hell was that."

Lynch diddles us with this film. There's no other way to put it.

Rated R for a great deal of lesbian sex and some violence. If you leave at the 105 minute mark, it would be rated PG13 (in fact, leaving then is a good idea; the last 40 minutes of the film don't really advance the story. As soon as you see breasts, take off.).

Mulholland Drive should be rated I for incoherent.

If you love Lynch, or surrealism, or you're really tired of movies that make sense, this is the film for you. Or, if I'm right, and it was shot digital, you need to see it for technical reasons. Otherwise, run, don't walk, the other way.


100 Monkeys, Beautiful Mind, Star Guitar

A friend wrote to tell me that the science of the 100 Monkeys story is bogus. I promised not to print his remarks, but I feel free to print my reply:

It's too bad about the 100th monkey being bad science, but it is good philosophy, I think, and tends indirectly to support the thesis of the recent book "the tipping point," which, I think was based on good science. Of course, the tipping point requires the monkeys (or people) all to be able to see and interact with each other.

A friend of mine wrote, apropos of my review of Beautiful Mind last week:

Not to mention that A Beautiful Mind doesn't even mention that its subject was gay. Sheesh!

A colleague of Craig Reynolds brought this to his attention:

It's a video for the song "Star Guitar" by Chemical Brothers. It shows the view out the window of a train, synthesized out of bits of real scenery, each of which corresponds to a musical element in the song. As the musical elements repeat, the scenery element is composited into the passing scenery. It's very cool.

Craig would love to find this in a different format (like, say, DVD) because the synchronization is muddy as a result of the streaming media format.

He's right. It is cool.

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