PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 5

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

February 4, 2002

An Internet Appliance--Really!

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

  • Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism
  • DIY Family Pictures
  • My Second Day Substituting
  • Dick Cheney: Jerk or Idiot?
  • The 480

Computer Industry News

  • Internet Refrigerator
  • HP-Compaq: Inside Scoop
  • Dalton's Microsoft Warning
  • Craig's Briefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Ashcroft and Boobs, Ashcroft and Registration, Jello


  • The World's Funniest Joke
  • The Top 15 Signs You're in Desperate Need of Adult Supervision
  • Marketing Defined


  • Gosford Park


  • Chattanooga Choo-Choo Still Missing, Two from Dan Grobstein

General News

Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism

Welcome to another perennial item. I am going to run this one every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day, since the Bill Murray movie of the same name is my favorite movie of all times.

I went to a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Musem in Golden Gate Park (relocating in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the civic center).

I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that Rae, my younger daughter, convinced me to put it into a separate document, which I am calling Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me. Judging from a quick Google search of the Internet, the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, but it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during this presentation. Click over to the other page for my take on the movie and this event. You'll also find links and meta links which, if I do say so myself, are so brilliant in their scope that they will soon sweep all the other GHD links pages off the map. Please click over and look.

Tom Armstrong, who wrote two very well-received articles on this subject which are now no longer available on the Internet assures me that he will get me copies of his review and his article "The Ned Ryerson Conundrum." I will post them as soon as possible. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, no further news on the two new pictures by GHD writer Danny Rubin:

Variety July 11, 2001: Revolution Studios has picked up a pitch called "The Hanging Tale" from scribe Danny Rubin ("Groundhog Day") for low six figures to be produced with Jim Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment.

Variety, July 19, 2001: Propaganda Films has optioned the romantic comedy spec "Martian Time" from "Groundhog Day" scribe Danny Rubin.

Go Danny!

DIY Family Pictures

So, instead of going to a photo studio this year, we hired a newspaper photographer who shot us digitally for about one-third of the cost. Vicki just got a new color printer that does great prints on photographic paper.

Alas, what I forgot to allow for was the fact that I'd have to select, crop, color-correct and print the pictures. All in all, it took me about 40 hours to do that. And while the photographer gave me good advice about unsharpening and color correcting the pictures (you don't wait portraits to be TOO sharp), it took a long time to find the right settings for Adobe Photoshop and the printer. DIY, by the way, is a common acronym in Britain, less so here, I think: Do It Yourself.

Good thing I'm unemployed, huh?

My Second Day Substituting

Last week, Mrs. R of Middle Middle school slipped on ice in her driveway and was knocked unconscious. She awoke and drover herself to work but was dizzy and woozy. The office called me at 10 and asked me to come in. I had a doctor's appointment. Vicki convinced me to reschedule it and take the job.

I am glad I took her advice on several levels. First of all, the people at Middle Middle were very grateful. That's a good thing. Secondly, after co-teaching 7th grade English with Mrs. R for two periods (one class), she decided she could leave her class to me. That was a confidence builder. Thirdly, I got to do actual teaching.

I taught the final two period class all by myself. Not babysat, taught. Mrs. R asked me to work with her students on presentation of their poems. Before she left, she asked me to come back and work with her first class, the one before 10 that I'd missed, also on presentation. I did. It was quite an experience.

The saga continues; Monday, Mrs. S has already asked me to substitute for her in Drama and Yearbook. I'll let you know how it goes.

One more thing: one of the students used the word lambent in a poem about blue water. Best of all, he used it correctly. I checked at and found this definition:

1.. Flickering lightly over or on a surface: lambent moonlight.
2.. Effortlessly light or brilliant: lambent wit.
3.. Having a gentle glow; luminous.

Dick Cheney: Jerk or Idiot?

Dick Cheney said, at one point last week, that Congressional requests for the attendee list of his energy policy group were unprecedented. I can't decided if he is jerk, and is lying deliberately, or an idiot who slept through the entire Clinton administration, when such requests were made weekly if not daily--and, I might add, met without resort to legal suits.

The 480

Those of you on my email notification list were not, I hope, too irritated by the query I sent out this week. I will endeavor not to bother you very often, but it seemed important to me at the time. I was trying to find the name of a book I wanted to recommend to Rich Pournelle, a former congressional aide and the son of the smartest man I know, Jerry Pournelle.

I spent 90 minutes on the Internet searching. No luck. Most professors do not include it on their lists of political novels of the 1960s. I tried calling my mother, and she had forgotten the book, which I am fairly sure she gave to me when I was 14. Anyway, here was my query:

There was a political novel in the 1960s, a thinly disguised version of the 1960 Kennedy campaign, the title of which was something like "The 450," and it was about how you could use a computer and a demographic profile to predict the way people would vote! Shocking (at the time).

Anyone know the name of this novel or its author? Thanks!

First to reply, but not the first reply I received, for some reason, was Doug Bartholomew, who worked with me at InformationWeek a million years ago.

It was called The 480. The author, or co-author, was Eugene Burdick. I know, because I read the book. I think he also wrote Armageddon, another popular 1960s novel.

In quick order, two fellow MIT grads checked in. First, the man who was chairman of The Tech when I was editor, David Tenenbaum:

I think it was The 480, by Eugene Burdick, the guy who wrote "Failsafe" and "The Ugly American". It was a great book!

A few minutes later, Barry Surman, who worked at edited The Tech a few years after me, also identified the book and author.

Ironically, considering who I was doing the search for, the last to check in before I called off the search was Jerry Pournelle:

The 480 of course. Burdick I believe. Computer model of campaigns. Techniques used routinely now with Excel.

As opposed to the IBM mainframes used in the 1960s. With the exception of Doug, the people who remembered it are voluminous readers with heavy technology backgrounds. I guess we're the people it made an impression on. I mean, it made an impression on me, I just couldn't remember it.

Now for the commentary. Jim Forbes notes:

Why am I surprised that onetime Richmond, CA high school teacher. Eugene Burdick (who wasn't a fan of technology) wrote this book?

Jim actually saw Burdick speak on one occasion.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I found a copy on Alibris and ordered it. In the meantime, once I knew the title, I was able to find some commentary about the book in various places on the Internet. Rather like trying to look up the spelling of a word; once you know how to spell it, finding it is easy.

I have gathered some commentary on the book, but it is too long for the main column. Check out Commentary on The 480.

Computer Industry News

Internet Refrigerator

The only way I can figure that Bob Nilson beat Craig Reynolds to the punch on this one is that he's a fellow graduate of both MIT and The Tech.

If you like interesting gadgets, take a look at LG Electronic's Internet Fridge (price £8,000). I don't believe it is yet available in the US, but it could probably be imported. Apparently, LG also offers an Internet-enabled washing machine, microwave and air conditioner. Toshiba is rumored to be ready to launch their own version of the Internet Fridge this April.

HP-Compaq: Inside Scoop

You'll read it only here: an insider's view of the HP-Compaq merger fight.

There's a long piece about it in the current BUSINESS WEEK. Lot I didn't know about Walter Hewlett. Extraordinary guy, degrees in physics and business and a doctorate, also an athlete. He's certainly not a mere (mere?!) scholar and musician. David W. Packard has a doctorate in classical languages, of all things, but others in more pertinent subjects. Both bright as hell. (But so is Carly Fiorina!)

The word seems to be if the merger passes, Hewlett resigns and sells his stock; if it fails, she and Hackborn resign and who-knows-who succeeds. Their clear threats are nauseating. She comes on as truly a hellion. She's either not getting competent PR counsel, or she's not accepting it. In my view, the only thing she should be saying about WH is, "I want his support and will do anything in my power to get it. We need him." Nothing more.

What I think is of no consequence, but I think it's now 50-50 with Hewlett gaining. My thought is, personal attacks on WH are backfiring strongly with the large body of employees, former employees and long-term customers who love the company and own a lot of the stock. What counts most now is how the big investment banks and mutual funds vote. If the Wall Street pundits have it right, they'll say no. Together the banks and funds own a strong plurality of the stock; add the familes' and you have control.

Dalton's Microsoft Warning

Richard Dalton warns:

Microsoft Portrait is part of the Great Microsoft Conspiracy to Take Over the Telecommunications Industry.

Craig's Briefs

Craig Reynolds noticed:

MSNBC originally used the headline "Nobel Prize winners back Microsoft" and then later in the day changed it to "Nobel Prize winners back arguments by Microsoft rivals against settlement" which is in line with the body of the article.

I assume it was just a simple screw-up, but it's easy to read political agenda into the original "typo".

On the other hand, a sense of humor is still possible within the belly of the beast, Craig found:

I thought this was worth passing along if for no other reason than the entertainment value of the "about the speaker" paragraph.

Craig also found this:

It would be ironic if the copyright infringement case brought against Napster by the RIAA and major labels prompts Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to delve into copyright misuse by the plaintiffs. This might both weaken the infringement case and strengthen the DOJ's antitrust investigation of the recording industry.

Web Site of the Week

Ashcroft and Boobs, Ashcroft and Registration, Jello

This story from ABC news, about Atty. Gen. Ashcroft and his relationship to the naked statuary in the Department of Justice Great Hall, as well as this parody photograph are too rich not to share. Thank you Daniel Dern.

ABC did a followup. Until Feb. 9, you can find the followup here; after Feb. 9, you'll be able to view the archive version.

Katherine Sanderson Gray forwarded this:

This was forwarded to our office today. It's a hoax, but it had us fooled for a minute or two.

The URL could have fooled anyone. It is a funny parody., of course is a porn site. You gotta love this country.

Moving from the sublime to the, well, you fill in the blank, is this submission from Richard Dalton:

Travel to this Jello history site and you'll find out fascinating stuff like the fact that more than 1,100,000 boxes are sold EACH DAY and that Jello is used regularly in 72% of U.S. homes.

I really hate being in the out-of-it 28% all the time.

He's just kidding. Richard is never out of it, even if he doesn't have Jello brand gelatin dessert in the house (we have several boxes. I think they are older than my children).


The World's Funniest Joke

The AP had this several weeks ago; the NY Times Week in Review had it Jan. 27. British researchers took an Internet poll and found what they think is the world's funniest joke:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."

Watson says, "I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Holmes replies: "Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"

To me, this is reminiscent of the famous Literary Digest poll that found that Landon was going to beat Roosevelt in 1936. It was a telephone poll, and at that time only rich people (Landon's constituency) had telephones. This joke (and the others at the researchers' site, which was swamped into non-operation early this week by heavy traffic) may well be the funniest jokes in the world--if you're the kind of person with an Internet connection and a willingness to take a poll about your sense of humor. But things are in a sad state if it represents the general public. Frankly, since there are no bodily functions involved, I'm not at all sure the guys I went to high school would find this joke all that funny.

The Top 15 Signs You're in Desperate Need of Adult Supervision

January 29, 2002


15> Last weekend, you and your buddies TP'd a house. The White House.

14> Your pile of dirty laundry is higher than your tower of beer cans.

13> In a fit of gourmet creativity, you come up with a recipe that combines pink and blue margarine, green and purple ketchup, and Cap'n Crunch.

12> You foolishly trade your cube-mate two Charmanders for three Jigglypuffs.

11> You're a single male, aged 25-40, making between $35K and $50K annually, with 75% of your 401(k) in low-yield short-term bonds and the rest in tax-exempt municipals. And your pants are on fire.

10> Uncontrollable shouts of "Wheeeeeeeeeeee!!!!" every time you take the elevator down two floors to the cafeteria.

9> When you move, you lose your entire security deposit because the landlord had to paint over your crayoned mural of Sesame Street characters "doing it."

8> They leave you alone for just 5 minutes, and you start shredding Enron documents.

7> You decide to spend 3 months waiting in line for the next "Star Wars" episode after your mom agrees to keep you supplied with Mountain Dew and Mentos.

6> Despite the Ivy League law degree, you were once impeached by the House.

5> A full 30 years after your kindergarten teacher told you to, you still refuse to share the Flintstones Fone with the other kids.

4> Dunking cookies in the corporate cafeteria is okay, but the "Help! I'm drowning!!" sound effects?

3> First he catches you using your boogers as paste, then he walks in while you're playing "Godzilla eats bin Laden" with your sock puppets -- can't Cheney bug someone else for a while?!?

2> Your three square meals a day? Nothin' but Pop-Tarts, Baby!

and's Number 1 Sign You're in Desperate Need of Adult Supervision...

1> The producers of "Jackass" are too freaked out to look at any more of your audition tapes.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 101 submissions from 40 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Sandra Hull, Arlington, VA -- 1 (17th #1 / Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 6

Marketing Defined

I've seen several iterations of this, but Art Garcia finally broke down my resistance to putting it in the column. That, and the fact that I only made the Top 5 list once this week:

Finally, a definition of Marketing that makes sense....

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. "You go up to her and say, I'm fantastic in bed." That's Direct Marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, "He's fantastic in bed." That's Advertising.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed." That's Telemarketing.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. You get up and straighten your tie, you walk up to her and pour her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed." That's Public Relations.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. She walks up to you and says, "I hear you're fantastic in bed." That's Brand Recognition.


Gosford Park

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

Vicki and I loved it. Rae asked "how many more years is this going to go on." Robert Altman proves he is a genius again.

From IMDB, the tagline is "Tea at four. Dinner at eight. Murder at midnight." The plot outline: Multiple storylined drama set in 1930, showing the lives of upstairs guest and downstairs servants at a party in a country house in England."

Michael Gambon was brilliant as the thoroughly cartoonish and nasty head of the household. Maggie Smith, as his sister, stole the show, despite the eye candy provided by Kristin Scott Thomas as the old man's wife. The plot reminds one of Agatha Christie, but the characterizations are what keep you planted in your chair, your eyes on the screen and not on your watch. If you're old enough, that is.

Rated R for some language and brief sexuality, but don't take anyone younger than 30 as they're likely to be bored. May Robert "Nashville" Altman live forever!

Cartoon Physics

Craig Reynolds began with this note:

There is a good survey of the use of simulated physics in computer animation and games in the Science News cover story:

Calculating Cartoons

I responded: Simulated physics. I love it! The bastard offspring of Wile E. "You Don't Fall Until You Look Down" Coyote. Somewhere, there is an essay on cartoon physics. Craig found a cartoon physics site, and a similar cartoon physics site.


Chattanooga Choo-Choo Still Missing, Two from Dan Grobstein

Miriam Nadel thinks I confused New York Magazine with The New York Times Sunday Magazine. I don't think so, but I still liked her note:

I am fairly sure the jokes you're thinking of were not in the New York Times Magazine but were, instead, a competition in New York Magazine. I vaguely recall one involving Bob Dylan with the punchline "Pardon me, Bob, is that the guru that you eschew."

I know several of the competitions have been published in book form. In fact, I own copies of "Thanks For the Giant Sea Tortoise" and "Son of Giant Sea Tortoise." Perhaps searching for Mary Ann Madden (the competition editor) might turn something up.

By the way, my all time favorite of their competitions required poems that ended with the phrase "the bloated cadaver of poor Mrs. Hayes." The winner very cleverly turned that into an epic about a fat man named Averoff who preyed on a widow and ended with "the bloated cad, Averoff - poor Mrs. Hayes!"

Miriam Nadel

My old colleague Ronen Yaari dropped me a line this week:

I just launched a new Web site for my marketing and Web development business called OpenMoves. Please take a look and let me know what you think. I'm sure you'll love the graphics!

He was right. I did love the graphics. Also the motto: "not just another bunch of stuffed suits." If I were going to stay in the Internet business, I'd want to be in something like this. But me, I'm going to be a teacher.

Dan Grobstein's finds this week:

Sounds like a more interesting exhibit than elephant dung thrown at a painting.

Down the Hatch
January 30, 2002

AT the New Museum of Contemporary Art in SoHo last Thursday... [he] began cutting the food into little bites and feeding it to a room-size machine named Cloaca, from the Latin word for sewer... In a matter of five minutes, the meal was over and Cloaca settled down to do what it does best: digest.

The other article is from a genre so common as to be trite: the "view with alarm the state of education" piece that finds that most Americans think we're in the Southern Hemisphere.

I did pretty good on the test.

Beware the Yikes of March
January 29, 2002

In an informal history quiz taken 10 N.Y.U. undergraduates, Adam Smith was identified as an American president and Florence Nightingale was knighted.

I missed the date of Waterloo. I'm not so hot on European history; at least I know where Waterloo is, and I know that the Duke of Wellington is reputed to have said the battle was won "on the playing fields of Eton." [turns out he never actually said it, but that's another story.] I did get it within five years. I missed women's suffrage by a year (I put it in 1919 instead of 1920); if I give myself credit for that, I missed only one question.

At least The Times printed the full test. Many papers leave out the questions and simply view, with alarm, the lack of answers.

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