PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 11

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

March 18, 2002

More Mush From The Wimps

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
To Pay For This Column

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Another Weekend, More Fencing
  • More Mush From The Wimps
  • Voluntary Payment Redux
  • Confusion Central
  • Yuri's Night

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds TechnoBriefs
  • Microsatellites
  • Hewlett-Packard Merger

Web Site of the Week

  • Robo Journalist


  • The Top 15 Pick-Up Lines Used by God (Part II)
  • What A Difference 30 Years Makes


  • Monsoon Wedding


  • Blogs and Google, Ashcroft, More on the Klein Bottle, St. Patrick's Day Toast

General News

More Fencing!

First, the facts. Rae and I flew to Reno on March 7, for the North American Cup Divisions II and II competition there. She fenced in both divisions. In Division III Women's Épée, she ranked 19th out of 60. In the much more difficult Division II Women's Épée she ranked 44th of 65.

The weather was cold but clear. A severe storm dropped a couple of feet on snow on the Sierra Nevada Thursday night and threatened to close the Reno airport, but didn't; instead, Reno was dusted with a few inches and otherwise let off the hook. Rae brought her swimsuit, but the pool was outdoors! An outdoors pool in Reno! What were they thinking...

I don't know whether I've ever mentioned how hard it is for me to watch my daughters compete. I thought four years of watching Marlow play high school basketball would be the death of me. It wasn't, but that doesn't mean it was easy to watch. Fencing is more intimate, and so, even harder.

Especially when, as was the case in both of Rae's eliminations during the Direct Elimination round, her loss was by a mere touch or two (15-14 and 15-13). As in any close athletic contest, any number of tiny changes could have made all the difference in the world--the difference between winning and losing. Rae is taking her fencing very seriously, and I believe she will continue to fence as a college student. That's her present plan. In the meantime, there are a lot more tournaments to go between now and then.

Of course, I swell with pride when I watch her fence as well. It is so inspiring to see her working hard at an athletic event which combines a certain amount of innate skill with concentration, training and practice. Frankly, it is the most cerebral of sports. The strategy involved in women's epée reminds me of chess, in terms of its complexity, difficulty and sublime nature.

More Mush From The Wimps

I've always liked the dummy head, "More Mush From The Wimp" above an editorial about Jimmy Carter on the Boston Globe editorial page. A dummy head fills space until someone writes the real head; back in the Carter Administration, someone failed to replace the headline one night before the newspaper was printed.

There was an element of truth that could not be spoken in the fake head. The same goes with most of my comments about the President at a time of overwhelming approval ratings. But the fact is, he's far to the right of the American public and making move after move which, I hope, will result in him, like John Q. Adams and John Adams, forming the second half of the second pair of father/son one-term presidents in American history.

Two items of Bushy news this week. The defeat of Judge Pickering in the Senate Judiciary Committee was an applause-worthy deed on two levels. First of all, Pickering's vigorous efforts to lessen the sentence of a cross burner, combined with his decision to seal the record to cover his tracks, would, alone, disqualify him. They tend to confirm my suspicions about this whole generation of Southern, White, Republican politicians who are now running the party in the House and Senate--all of them have more Ross Barnett and George Wallace inside of them than they care to admit. On top of that, the Republicans stuck it to hundreds of Clinton nominees, including the one who should be sitting in the seat that loathsome Trent Lott put Pickering up for. Sauce for the goose, gentlemen. You can stick it to Bill, but remember; someday we'll stick it to George. The feel-good move of the week.

On a more frightening front, I was told a story today of a real estate deal that was all-but-signed, and depended only on the financial documents being in order. One of the participants was a labor union with an audited financial statement (not by Anderson). The deal fell through because the bank chose not to believe the financial documents. Whew! My real estate friends and my venture capital friends tell me this is happening with alarming and increasing frequency. The Enron stain is spreading, and with it doubts are cast on the transparency and reliability of publicly reported financial figures. If this keeps up or worsens, the effect along could bring the economy to its knees.

Which brings us to the most evil man in government, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, whose shameless criminal indictment of Anderson (you don't indict the whole firm for the actions of a few partners) will destroy the livelihood of 18,000 professionals in an transparent effort to shift the blame from those on whom it belongs: Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay's best political friend, George Bush and Dick "Unvarnished Advice" Cheney. Mark my words, this whole deal stinks like last week's diapers. In the marvelous spirit of tit-for-tat that has overtaken our nation's capital, I expect calls for impeachment of Bush as soon as the smoking gun is found. Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision that you can sue a sitting President and force him to give depositions, we could be looking at more gander sauce. I, for one, can hardly wait. If the system has been debased, let it be debased for all.

Voluntary Payment Redux

If You Enjoy This Programming…

A bit disappointing really. One signup. You know who you are, and thanks. I had rather hoped for an average of $1 a reader... but 1 cent?

I'm going to remind you again, and then not for a while, that this column is free, but that you could choose to pay for it, if you wished. I have arranged with Paypal to accept payment, as well as the Amazon Honor System. And, because you asked for it, I'll even take a check.

Paul's Payment Page

I've decided to be just like public broadcasting--well, almost. They hit you up four times a year. Besides this re-introductory note, I'll hit you up twice a year. I'm asking for $12 a year. I'll take more. And of course, I'll take nothing, if that's your preference.

Just a chance for you to support content you enjoy, and a chance for me to reap some minor tax benefits. And of course, for you to keep original content and well-filtered links alive on the web.

Confusion Central

Another in a series of historic e-mails I received years ago from financial journalist Larry King when he worked at the headquarters of a trade publishing firm:

I keep forgetting you have never worked in the Headquarters office, or Confusion Central as its inmates call it. No, there is no OED in the library. There is nothing in the library that might prove useful to a journalist preparing a story, a writer writing a story, or an editor searching desperately for a stray fact with which to leaven the fanciful prose of reporters whose idea of research is calling the same industry analyst they have consulted for the past three or four hundred stories.

There is, instead, a shelf of hardcover books of truly stupendous irrelevance not only to our work but to our personal interests. There is a dictionary of impressive size and slapdash definitions, published by a company whose usual line of work is surgical-implement catalogs. There is an apparently random collection of back issues of PubCo publications, containing whatever issues you are not attempting to find. There is a Xerox machine for copying pages from any of the above; it works about as often as a Soviet Ministry of Agriculture bureaucrat and about as well.

Also in the library are a few attendants perpetually occupied by obscure clerical chores that seem unrelated to any of the published materials. Their collective literacy level nudges close to that of a first-grade class in an elementary school in the South Bronx. Requests to them for specific materials are met with dull glowers that indicate not only ignorance of but hostility toward the concept of the printed page.

Personally, I regard correspondence such as this as part of the ongoing effort to sharpen my prose, which in an all-encompassing sort of way is exactly what PubCo is paying me to do.

Yuri's Night

I don't know if I'll make it, but there is no reason you shouldn't:

Forty-one years ago, one man did something that people thought possible: he flew into space. That moment was an achievement for all of humanity.

On Friday April 12, 2002, the entire planet will celebrate cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's adventure.

NEKID and MoonFront present:

ORBIT: Yuri's Night 2002 SF The World Space Party

Cities Include, but are not limited to: San Francisco, L.A., Brooklyn, Seattle, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, London, Moscow, Lisbon, Tokyo, Dublin, Paris, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne

Now let me say I don't remember anyone saying it wasn't possible for man to fly in space, just difficult and expensive. Nevertheless, I tend not to think of Yuri, being an ethno-centric American, I think of Alan Shepherd or John Glen as the first man in space. But fair is fair, the Russians beat us into space and it is their accomplishment we can and should celebrate

Mark Your Calendars: Paul In Concert

Mark your calendars and don't miss this event. If you don't live around here, fly in for it. The music will be great and the second tenor saxophone will be... well, modesty forbids. I won't be announcing; there won't be an announcer.

Contra Costa Wind Symphony
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

Craig Reynolds TechnoBriefs

Spotted at Daypop Top 40, about Disney's use of campaign contributions to curry favor in congress to extend their copyrights indefinitely:

The Mouse That Ate The Public Domain:
Disney, The Copyright Term Extension Act, and Eldred V. Ashcroft.


Transitioning from "rumor" to statements from "unnamed sources" is AOL's decision to switch the default browser in AOL 8.0 from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Mozilla.

Lots of nice visualizations of the Internet and other large information spaces, available on the web and in a hardcopy book. I don't think this is by the same people, but here is a poster along the same lines.

From the New York Times, a summary of the brewing battle between the entertainment industry and the technology industry: Piracy, or Innovation? It's Hollywood vs. High Tech

The techies think they should develop the products consumers want. The movie/TV/music people think it should be the responsibility of everyone else to protect their outmoded revenue model. The previously mentioned SSSCA is one skirmish in this war. This blog article pokes holes in the entertainment industry position. For background, MSNBC provides a timeline called From Betamax to Napster: The Evolution of the "right to copy"

Kevin Kelly has a thoughtful article in NYT's Magazine (Where Music Will Be Coming From) about how technology has changed, and will continue to change, both music and the economics of the industry that has grown up around it. Proponents of consumer's Fair Use rights and opponents of the music/movie/TV industries often say that the industry's business models are outmoded (if not unfair, unethical or illegal) and must change. This article explores what those changes and new business models might be like.


Rich Pournelle is working for a Xcor, a private rocket company whose vehicle (Xerus) is capable of launch small microsatellites and nanosatellites at a fraction of current launch costs. He sent along a link to this report from the Teal Group, an Aerospace Consulting Firm.

April 2001

Really small will grow too It is worth noting that, while the big commercial satellites are indeed getting bigger, there is an opposite trend at the lower end of the market. With the miniaturization of electronics, satellites are also getting smaller-much smaller. So much so that "small satellites"-those weighing 100-500 kg-are no longer at the cutting edge of this technology.

What increased in 2000 was the number of microsatellites (under 100 kg) and nanosatellites (under 20 kg). In 1999, 14 micro/nanosatellites were launched. In 2000, there were 21. Of those 21, 62% were nanosatellites. There were no nanosatellites launched in 1999.

We believe that microsatellites, and especially nanosatellites, will become increasingly prominent in the market. It is this segment of the satellite market that will provide the most creative opportunities for launch companies to stay active and make money. It is this segment that will be the next major driver of multiple-satellite missions.

Hewlett-Packard Merger

Yes, two technology items in one column that are not from Craig Reynolds. This one from an old friend who is closely following the progress of the proposed HP-Compaq Merger. His quotes from Packard remind me of why I always loved that company, and its spiritual children, like Tandem.

Real horse race for stockholder approval of their merger. Wall Street Journal, financial pages of NY Times and Business Week all now declare it too close to call. My worthless twocents says the merger seems to have been better thought through than most and might be a good thing, but CEO Fiorina, in my view, lacks the technical moxie, the necessary understanding of the unique HP tradition and the humane touch she must have, to run that outfit. She mostly considers herself TOUGH, and that's only a third of what's required there. Mr. Packard's words were "a soft heart and a hard head." To which he added, innovation capable of earning the profit to make it all possible: "The inventor is worthy of his hire. Price should be based on worth, not cost."


Web Site of the Week

Robo Journalist

Well, it's not as robust as I'd like for a Web Site of the Week, but Bob Nilsson shared it with me, so now I'm sharing it with you. From Wired News.

Granted this first step is rather crude, but leave it to MIT to create a robo-journalist. The intent is to take a reporter's eyes and ears to remote and dangerous places, starting with Afghanistan. Presumably, putting the equivalent of a journalist's brain inside the robot will take a little longer.

I'm trying to imagine what the equivalent of a journalist's brain would be. A dried out sponge?


The Top 15 Pick-Up Lines Used by God (Part II)

March 14, 2002


Warning: If you are among those who believe that God has no sense of humor, you might want to stop reading here. Just delete this e-mail, and have a nice day. Seriously. Don't read it, then get all bent out of shape, okay? Because I warned you! Don't forget: Thou Shalt Not Flame.

Okay, if you're still with us, you think that the deity of your choice invented beans and banana peels for a reason. Either that, or you just like the idea of burning in hell. This one is destined to ruffle some angel feathers...

15> "So, what sign did I give you?"

14> "Wanna feel the earth move? Not a problem."

13> "I already made you in my own image, now let me make you in my own bedroom."

12> "Actually, no. I said I was OMNIpotent."

11> "...and on the seventh day, we can rest, too."

10> "Sure, you can go home with anyone you want -- but remember that I *invented* the multiple orgasm."

9> "Who's your father? C'mon, whoooooo's your father??"

8> "Heaven must be missing an angel... no, wait, it's not, I just checked. That means Hell is missing a hottie -- and babe, you're it!"

7> "If I gave you a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"

6> "Looks like I'm not the only one with a burning bush."

5> "Did I mention I can introduce you to Bono? Hell, I can introduce you to *Sonny* Bono!"

4> "My place or yours? Oh, wait -- they're ALL my places."

3> "Smite me if I'm wrong, but didn't I see your picture in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?"

2> "And on the eighth day, I said, 'Let there be booty!' And it was all good."

and's Number 1 Pick-Up Line Used by God...

1> "Hey, remember your kitty who died when you were 5? He's back at my apartment -- want to see him?"

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 144 submissions from 54 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brian Jones, Atlanta, GA -- 1, 8 (7th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4

What A Difference 30 Years Makes

1970 The perfect high
2000 The perfect high yield mutual fund

1970 KEG
2000 EKG

1970 Acid rock
2000 Acid reflux

1970 Growing pot
2000 Growing pot belly

1970 Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor
2000 Trying not to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor

1970 Seeds and stems
2000 Roughage

1970 Popping pills, smoking joints
2000 Popping joints

1970 Killer weed
2000 Weed killer

1970 Hoping for a BMW
2000 Hoping for a BM

1970 The Grateful Dead
2000 Dr. Kevorkian

1970 Going to a new, hip joint
2000 Receiving a new hip joint

1970 Rolling Stones
2000 Kidney stones

1970 Being called into the principals office
2000 Calling the principal's office

1970 Screw the system
2000 Upgrade the system

1970 Disco
2000 Costco

1970 Parents begging you to get your hair cut
2000 Children begging you to get their heads shaved

1970 Taking acid
2000 Taking antacid

1970 Passing the drivers test
2000 Passing the vision test

1970 Whatever
2000 Depends


Monsoon Wedding

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

My wife Vicki saw this movie and passionately loved it, so Rae and I went Saturday night.

It was cute, endearing, clever, a little confusing, loud and hard to follow. Now and then, in recognition of the Indian accents, there were subtitles for the lines spoken in "English." It's one of those films that, I suppose, were it done about an American marriage, would seem trite and silly. But since it is set in New Delhi, it seems unusual and refreshing. Almost reminiscent of Robert Altman in a way. A lovely little art film that is worth the price of the ticket (admittedly, I think most art films are worth their ticket price, certainly more than most Hollywood productions). There is one strong adult theme in the film, so don't take your preteens, but as with so many foreign films, the Hayes Office would have loved this. The husband and wife even sleep in twin beds!

There's a scene with the father delivering a speech over the sleeping form of his soon to be married daughter. Rae looked over at me during each line, and I nodded my head as the father went through the usual litany (tomorrow she'll be gone, how did she get so old, how did we get so old) of things that go through parental minds--not just at weddings, but on the day they go away to college as well.


Blogs and Google, Ashcroft, Klein Bottle Followup

Phil Albinus started it with this note:

This is an interesting article about how blogs become superhot and can reach 30K hits.

I forwarded Phil's tip to Craig Reynolds, who added,

See also the article it cites, by the same author:
Google Y Blogs
I'd seen one or the other go by on Daypop, it sounded interesting but got distracted before I followed the link, thanks for reminding me.

While we are on the topic of Google commentary, see:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Panopticon

Joy Culbert was the first of several people to point this one out:

Ashcroft Sings, Nation Cringes
More proof positive that the United States Attorney General is quite possibly insane

I can't get it to load on my PC, but that's probably just me.

Daniel Dern followed up on the item here last week about the Klein Bottle:

In case you weren't already aware (a lookup on the owner of would have told you, also, likewise a quick googling), Acme Klein Bottle is one of Cliff Stoll's enterprises.

I visited him, including his kleinbottlefactoryworks. I picked up two factory rejects -- cheaper, and hold just as much as the non-defective ones. (I still have to put the calibration strips on.) The ski hats are another matter altogether.

He's also got a fascinating collection of mechanical calculators.

St. Patrick's Day isn't much of an event on my calendar; in fact, until John Hanzel reminded me, I hadn't even realized it was Sunday. I wasn't going to mention it in the column, but then I got this from Kevin Sullivan:

I'm not much of one for St. Patrick's Day celebrations but I just heard an Irish toast that warmed the cockles of my heart and made me feel glad to be of Irish descent.

To those who wish us love, let us thank the Lord and love them back
To those who wish us ill, let us pray the Lord will turn their hearts
To those whose hearts won't turn, let us pray to the Lord that he turn their ankles,
so we'll know them by their limping!

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