PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 8

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

February 25, 2002

Jon's Back, And He's Writing About Cats

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

  • Losing Control in Class
  • We're No. 57!
  • Confusion Central
  • Jon Carroll Cat Column
  • Adair Lara on Writing A Personal Column
  • Sad News About America

Computer Industry News

  • Good Guys Winning
  • Do Men Think Of Sex Every Eight Seconds?
  • Craig Reynolds Grab Bag

Web Site of the Week

  • Urban Legends, Clock Follows Mouse


  • Americans Would Be Outraged If They Understood Enron Collapse


  • None This Week


  • Larry King: Grace, Courage, Whatever. Two from Dern, Obits from Dan Grobstein.

A quick apology: several of you were expecting to see your contributions in this week's column. It got too long and... gasp... I had to make some edits! Fear not, your work is "on the hook" and will "appear soon."

General News

Losing Control In Class

Soon, the days will blur together, and I won't be able to tell you whether I taught three days and three nights in my sixth week or six days and six nights in my third week. In fact, I spared you some of the details of my fourth and fifth day as a substitute teacher, despite the eccentricity of my day in auto shop at LL High School (no teaching went on, I assure you), or my day teaching science at Middle Middle school.

But I am now substituting for the second time for the same teacher, and my reputation precedes me, so I have to reach deeper into my bag of tricks to keep the attention of the class.

In fact, the kids seem quite happy to see me, but as my friend (and fellow teacher) Fran points out, this could mean one of several things: they really are happy to see me (because I'm good? Because I'm easy?), they're pulling my chain, or they think they can get something out of me. Worst yet, these are not mutually exclusive, so it could be a mixture of all three. Rae reminded me of the depths of sarcasm that can be reached by middle-schoolers.

I choose to believe they genuinely like me, and that it is because I am good, but then that's the kind of person I am.

I was compelled to write about today because I lost control of two of my first three classes, and I think I know why. An overdose of democracy. In the case of first period English, I asked the kids if they wanted to watch a video. I should have just shown it to them after we finished the vocabulary review. In fourth period drama (the rambunctious Drama II crowd), we were playing the theater game "Dr. Know It All" when things got out of hand. Again, because I let the kids influence me on my judging. (I need to learn at least one more theater game). My last three classes are study halls--I'll use them to study myself, as I have a test on the U.S. Constitution today. I think it is a good thing that the state of California requires all teachers to demonstrate a working knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.

Anyway, classroom management is something that both my ex-teacher mother and my ex-teacher wife had their doubts about. I need to dispel their doubts, and my own. I think I can impose my will on a room full of people half my age. If only I could arch my eyebrow like my mother can.

We're No. 57

Rae ranked 57th out of 120 women's epée fencers at the Junior Olympics in Columbus, and, at one time, held a lead of 8-7 over the No. 2 ranked fencer in the tournament.

Confusion Cental

My good friend Larry King crafted tales from the insides of a large publishing company which he emailed to me years ago under the rubric, Tales from Confusion Central. I am going to run one a week for a few weeks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

If you think of yourself as endlessly shoveling coal down a chute--i.e., copy onto the desk--I am the chute endlessly transporting coal. You assume the chute needs coal; I assume the coal must go somewhere. Beyond that, we cannot say what purpose we serve, where the cycle begins or ends. Where does the coal come from? Where does it go? Is it used for anything? Is it perhaps the same coal, sliding down the chute and back onto the pile from which you shovel, so that I merely serve as the means by which you can continue to enable me to serve as the means by which you continue?

Jon Carroll Cat Column

Back from the hiatus he took as the result of a death in the family, Jon Carroll has quickly hit his stride with a new cat column.

Escalation of domestic hostilities

Jon Carroll
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

This is a column about the eternal verities of life itself, but some might think it's a cat column. More fools they.

THE PRIMARY NATURAL enemy of the domestic house cat is the baby. Cats that will, with grace and abandon, gambol about in moving traffic quail at the sight of an advancing infant. Some eventually achieve peace with the child, because the baby seems to be attached in a significant way to the food- dispensing entity, but the cat is never happy about it.

Do not write me letters about how little Fluffy loves little Dylan. Little Fluffy does not love little Dylan. Little Fluffy does not even love you.

As I said once before: Cats do not believe in all things bright and beautiful. Cats believe in sporadic succor, temporary alliances, dark prospects. Cats keep their options open...

Adair Lara on Writing A Personal Column

I tell you this as a friend

Adair Lara
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, February 21, 2002

MY FRIEND PETER Sussman wrote: "The theme of writers ransacking their private lives for column fodder is one of the great, largely unexplored issues of writing a personal-experience column. So many of the columnists I have known are unable to truly experience their lives because the muse floating over their shoulder is forever whispering in their ear, 'Is this a column?' You're having an Intense Family Experience with a spouse, parent or child, and all you can think about is whether it can be developed for the entertainment and edification of others, thereby getting you off the hook for another day or two."

Sad News About America

Richard Dalton found an ABC News Poll and wrote me about it:

This is some of the most discouraging news about the American people that I've seen lately. Wonder where Atilla the Hun would rank if he were included?

The top presidents, according to the American people?

In order, they are: Lincoln, Kennedy, G. W. Bush, and a tie between Clinton, Reagan and FDR. As they used to say on Sesame Street--which two of these don't belong? Heck, which three of these don't belong?

A similar sad note: Fran Strykowski says her 8th grade history class can ID Reagan, both Bushes and Clinton as well as JFK, but does not know Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson (for the most part), Eisenhower, Truman or FDR when they see them on videotape. That is pathetic beyond comment.

Mark Your Calendars: Paul In Concert

Mark your calendars and don't miss these event. If you don't live around here, fly in for it. The music will be great and the narrator and second tenor saxophone will be... well, modesty forbids.

Gala 20th Anniversary Concert
Saturday, April 27th, 2002 8 p.m.

Hofmann Theatre
Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts
Walnut Creek, California.

Tickets are now available. Call the Regional Center Box Office at
(925) 943-SHOW

Computer Industry News

The Good Guys Winning?

Late important news from Craig Reynolds:

Recall that in in a previous column under the head "More Napster News" you cited this: Napster Case: Is Judge Turning Tables On Labels?

In a stunning turnaround, [Judge: If You Own Music, Prove It] a district court judge ruled Friday that the five major record labels must prove they own thousands of music copyrights. And prove those copyrights weren't used to monopolize and stifle the distribution of digital music... [Judge Marilyn Hall Patel] called both sides "dirty," said that Napster's misguided attempts to build a business using illegally obtained music paled in comparison to what could be massive misuse and heavy-handed tactics by the recording industry.

Do Men Think Of Sex Every Eight Seconds?

Fellow MIT and The Tech alum Bob Nilsson checks in with this important science question (all science coverage appears in the Computer Industry News section):

This question --Do men think about sex every eight seconds?--in the New Scientist reminded me of a quote attributed to Robert Solow while we were at MIT. It went something like, "During any given lecture, 50% of the students are thinking about sex". In retrospect, it was probably apocryphal. Maybe it was an extrapolation from his 1966 quote regarding Milton Friedman, "Everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper." At any rate, it did not come up when Solow won his Nobel prize in 1987.

By the way, the web site also answers the important questions, "Is the six degrees of separation rule really true", "How do we acquire taste", "Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze", and "Do hiccups serve any useful purpose".

Craig Reynolds Grab Bag

Craig Reynolds Grab Bag:

In "surprisingly candid interviews" Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin talk about how Microsoft's .Net initiative has no rational business plan and vanishingly few corporate customers.

The Blur Building is a media pavilion for Swiss Expo 2002 now under construction at the base of Lake Neuchatel in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.

How much damage is done to the career of corporate officers or Directors who run their corporation into the ground? Basically none. Two recent articles about the lack of accountability and the push to create some:

Board Stiffs: The myth of the disgraced CEO

Errant Directors May Face SEC Ban

Web Site of the Week

Urban Legends, Clock Follows Mouse

If you squirrel away reference sites, like I do, and you like to debunk urban legends, as I do, be sure to bookmark The Urban Legends Reference Pages. For example, you've probably seen the Cakes and Ale story from Cambridge; the site offers a history of the legend and suggests it probably isn't true.

A really masterful piece of HTML programming came to me from an unlikely source: my old boss at UPI, Don Davis. This clock that follows your mouse is pretty cool.

Special note. This is a late revision, added to the column after posting on Sunday. Tom Hunt asked Linda Johnson to write to me with the name of the author of this HTML, Kurt Grigg of Kurt's Free Original DHTML. Talk about a site full of cool stuff! If I was still writing HTML, I'd live here.


Americans Would Be Outraged If They Understood Enron Collapse

From The Onion
20 February 2002

HOUSTON—According to an independent report released Monday, Americans would be outraged if they had a basic grasp of the details of the Enron collapse, in which company executives concealed massive debt while claiming profitability and then declared bankruptcy, bilking investors and employees out of millions as they made off with a fortune.

"I've followed it a little, but I'm still not quite sure what exactly the deal is," said Portland, OR, graphic designer Gina Kader, one of 3,500 Americans polled about the Enron scandal by the D.C.-based Center For Public Integrity. "I know they laid a bunch of people off, which made a lot of people mad. Then again, lots of companies are laying off workers these days. So who knows?"

Though many Bush Administration appointees are former Enron executives or business associates, Congress is not being flooded with letters from outraged Americans demanding an investigation into what the White House knew about the energy giant's illegal and illicit activities.


None This Week

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


Larry King: Grace, Courage, Whatever. Two from Dern, Obits from Dan Grobstein

I love it when corrections restate the error, saving me the trouble of doing that. In this case, the corrector is Larry King:

In the latest column you say class consists of grace under pressure. According to Hemingway, courage is grace under pressure. Although actually Hemingway didn't say that; Dorothy Parker did, in a review of one of his early books, to describe the Hemingway ethos."

I stand corrected.

My friend and colleague Daniel Dern, also a fellow alum, checks in with two finds: from Slashdot, Desk exercises for us geeks - and step on it! and from the Washington Post, Good news for the sleep deprived?

Also from the Washington Post, an obit and a note from Dan Grobstein:

Two great losses this week: John Gardner and Howard K. Smith. Common Cause was on the right side of most issues. Howard K. Smith was the last of a breed -- radio/tv correspondents who knew the world and could write their own copy. And he was out front on civil rights. Have you read his book "Events Leading Up to My Death"?

I have the Smith book, haven't read it yet. Howard K. Was one of the good guys; he'll be missed.

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