PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
March 25, 2002
Clearing Up My Credentials Mess
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 photos1, 2, 3
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Table of Contents:
I'm back at Joe Brancatelli's travel site; here's the blurb and URL:
TRAVEL TECH: IX-NAY ON XP
Teaching In The Middle
Here's a little stream of consciousness.
I'm teaching in the middle, between middle school and an upper-class suburban high school. So far, I haven't been called to substitute at MM High School, the high end of the market around here.
Substituted at LL High again. I mentioned briefly my day, substituting in auto shop there. The school draws on a lower-middle class neighborhood. I don't know if the surly attitudes and control problems I am experiencing are based on economic class, or on the classes I have drawn so far (auto shop and introductory algebra, so far), or on the nature of high-school age students. It makes me wonder if I want to teach kids this age. Will I end up fleeing to middle school? Do I not have what it takes to teach in a school where they really need teachers? Maybe not.
In any case, since I do little teaching, I get a lot of writing done. Tom Robbins wrote most of his first novel while working on the copy desk of the Seattle Times. I'm not working on a novel--yet. Do teacher novels still sell?
Then I taught a half-day at Middle Middle school again, and because I was actually teaching, I didn't even have time to plug my portable in. Of course, as a parent, I should be offended by how much of the time in how many classes can be taken up with babysitting. But that's another story for another time.
First of all, let me mention a couple of points in my favor. I graduated from MIT, with a B.S. in 1974. This fact is not being contested, nor should it be; Mary Callahan, the MIT registrar would gladly (for a fee and with my permission) send you a sealed transcript attesting to that fact.
Secondly, I recently took the Millers Analogy Test, a form of the SAT for adults. I got a raw score of 80, which translates into the 96th percentile of people applying to teaching credential programs. This fact is also not in dispute.
Finally, by regulation, the State of California prohibits certain credential programs--including the one I wish to enter for reasons of geographical and scheduling convenience--from admitting students who did not have a 2.5 GPA in their junior and senior year. This is where the dispute began, and it lasted for a week.
In passing, let me note that I feel I am a victim of the law of unintended consequences, which John Taylor suggested to me is "another name for life."
I was a member of the Undergraduate Studies Program in the Sloan School of Management under Leo Moore during my junior and senior years. An option in that program allowed me to have all my grades rendered as "pass/fail." It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wasn't interested in graduate school, I was interested in improving the management structures of the school newspaper, which I think I did. I graduated and spent 28 years as a journalist. In all that time, not only was I never asked for a transcript, I was never even asked to "prove" that I had graduated from MIT.
Teaching at the middle school and high school level in California (and most everywhere else, I imagine) requires a credential from the state. Government bureaucracies are not the most flexible organizations, and they are nearly impermeable to logic and facts. Thus, my graduation from MIT and my three decades of professional success meant nothing. My application for the teaching credential program was rejected because my pass/fail grades could not be translated into letter grades. The best the registrar's office could offer was that they were 'a, b, c or d" grades. This was not (not surprisingly) considered sufficient.
Then--deus ex machina. I flailed about looking for help. Bill Hecht of the Alumni Association suggested I contact Bill Pounds, the man who was dean of the Sloan School when I was a student, who suggested I contact Jay Forrester, the founder of the USP program. I didn't hold out much hope, frankly. Dr. Forrester is an eminent scholar, and didn't know me personally. But, a Dean Pounds predicted Dr. Forrester was passionate about USP and its graduates. Despite his emeritus status, he clearly reads his email regularly. I dropped a message late Thurday night, he replied early Friday morning, faxing a glowing letter to the credential program, translating my pass grades into letter grades. I won't reproduce the letter here, but frankly it's an honor for me to have someone of Dr. Forrester's accomplishments talk about me in those tones. By the close of business Friday, I was granted permission to register for classes (starting April 8), in anticipation of being admitted.
Among Dr. Forrester's accomplishments is development of system dynamics (he's been working on it since 1956), a methodology to evaluate how alternative policies affect growth, stability, fluctuation, and changing behavior in corporations, cities, and countries. He would like to see it applied to education. As of Friday, so would I. I'll be reading his papers on the subject this weekend to get started.
Once again, persistence has triumphed over petty minded bureaucracy. I think the state of California will be a better place for having me as a teacher.
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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:
On other things: The New Magazine lurches towards liftoff with all the effortless grace we have grown accustomed to in startups where PubCo's whimsical disregard for foresight and planning prevails. That is to say, it makes a gut-shot pterodactyl fighting bad crosswinds look like the Concorde ascending from Heathrow. As things now stand, we will get a final design, a working page grid, a style for art and graphics, and some idea of how many stories are on hand, all about the same day.
Matters are complicated by the usual tendency of all management to conceal whatever planning may have been done from each other and any subordinate who might be involved. It is entirely possible that all of the above decisions will have been made by publication day, and no one will have been told what they were, unless he has no reason to know. I think an aphorism is hiding here, something akin to Parkinson's Law or the Peter Principle: Knowledge of the details of any project increases in direct ratio to a person's lack of day-to-day involvement in that project.
Management's goal often seems to a sublime state in which the only people who know everything about a given thing are those who have nothing to do with anything. And conversely, one in which the only people who know nothing about anything are those who are responsible for everything. While you fight your way through my thicket of pronouns, I am going to a meeting on the subject of The New Magazine, where we will distribute our ignorance equally.
Asking For Quote Punching
This from a journalist buddy:
Could I prevail on you to use your column to do me a favor? I'd like to ask the journalists among your readers -- and you still qualify, if you want to take part -- a question:
Do you see any problem with calling a guy to get a few quotes, looking at a story to see how the quotes might work, then calling him back and saying, ``Would you mind if we quoted you saying these words instead of what you actually said? Not really changing your meaning, just kinda punching it up a bit?''
I see no problem wit this, but lately I've discovered a curious phenomenon. People inside and outside the journalism business seem to have very different view of the ethics of the business. I was asking around about another quote question--won't get into it here, too complex--and found civilians and journalists 180 degrees apart. So, while journalists are esp. welcome to comment (anonymously if they wish), I'd also like to hear from just folks on this as well.
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
Tickets are now available. Call the Regional Center Box Office at
Craig Reynolds TechnoBriefs
I feel obliged to note that Craig sent me actual HTML this week. I don't encourage all of my contributors to do that, but it was kind of sweet, I'd have to say. You'll note how difficult it is to tell how Craig feels about an issue.
Hollings: SSSCA to be called CBDTPA
Fritz Hollings, the "senator from Disney" has introduced his bill that would force every manufacturer of electronic equipment to add otherwise useless hardware to their products to help prop up the failed business models of the movie/music/TV industries. Previously called the SSSCA, the bill is now called the CBDTPA -- apparently Fritz wanted to encrypt the name. (As Gil Scott-Heron might have said "the revolution will not be encrypted".)
Crazy talk about PS3
My boss' boss, Shin'ichi Okamoto, gave a keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference last Thursday describing the planned PlayStation3 architecture based on the Cell processor being developed jointly by Sony, Toshiba, and IBM. Okamoto-san also showed three demos from our SCEA R&D group including one I worked on. He referred several times to "crazy ideas" and "crazy research" -- I like working for a company with a Department of Crazy Research. He noted that the demands for increasing power in game consoles will eventually outstrip the capabilities of silicon devices and joked that "Maybe the PlayStation 6 or 7 will be based on biotechnology." Of course that was the most quoted line from his speech.
Ross Snyder on XP vs Windows 98
My friend Ross Snyder heard I was trashing XP over at Joe Brancatelli's site, and wrote to agree with me:
Relieved, relieved to hear your words about XP. I looked for months to find a new and fast machine that would stick with W98. Dell wouldn't make one. Gateway wouldn't, either. But, buried in an ad in BUSINESS WEEK was an HP Vectra at $899 running W 98 on a Pentium IV processor. I ordered one, got it, and had the good people at Super Tech in Santa Clara move my stuff from the old Gateway. Worked fine, including the DOS program, askSam, a database that substitutes for my organic memory much of the time.
Not sure it was worth the change. Didn't I already report to you that it boots no faster than the Pentium 166 Gateway? Only when it has absorbed programs to be used into 256Mbyte RAM does the speed show up, and I suspect the 166 would have looked good with the same RAM. Do you think what we really need is superfast RAM? And maybe faster, not bigger hard discs?
I have known for some time that processor ratings were a fraud, and that memory size and disk speed were much more reliable predictors of performance.
Dalton: Bridgestone's New Display Technology
And, yet again, two non-Craig technology items in one column. This from Richard Dalton:
I've always wondered why a Japanese company would pick "Bridgestone" for its product name.
A Japanese colleague solved the mystery recently:
"Anyway, you know why "Bridgestone" is called "Bridgestone"? It is because the founder of the company is called, Mr. Ishibashi meaning
Ishi = stone bashi =bridge, he came up first with "Stonebridge", but he thought that it does not sound good, so instead he decided to call his company, "Bridgestone". The story is written in his own autobiography."
This was in partial response to a technology development by Bridgestone. If theirLCD substitute reaches the market, it could change the equation for mobile devices.
Nilsson: Darwin Awards, Urban Legends and AIR
Bob Nilsson recommends these sites, and I agree. In fact, I whiled away several hours at the Darwin site. The woman who runs it is quite a writer/web site developer. Check out her theory in the FAQ on why most winners are men...
For those who enjoy very dry humor about off-beat funded research projects there is theAnnals of Improbable Research (HOT A.I.R.) The site skewers those unfortunate researchers who are unable to convey the true value of their research to society. I believe the publishers were located at MIT until the mid-90s when they relocated to Harvard. Their editorial board boasts eight Nobel Prize-winners and one convicted felon. The site includes a special section on the Science of G. Bush. Since you are a teacher, you might need their teaching materials.
The Top 17 Celebrity Boxing Matches We'd Love to See
March 21, 2002
17> Liza "The Menace" Minnelli vs. Elizabeth "Repeat Offender" Taylor
16> Slobodan "I'm Not a Butcher" Milosevic vs. Jeffrey "I'm Not an Accountant" Skilling
15> Strom "The Thurminator" Thurmond vs. Bob "Bob Dole" Dole
14> Rex "The Snatcher" Reed vs. Winona "Fast Fingers" Ryder
13> Kenneth "The Shredder" Lay vs. Richard "The Shrieker" Simmons
12> John "Hide 'Em!" Ashcroft vs. Madonna "Flaunt 'Em!" Ciccone
11> Gilbert "The Annoyance" Gottfried vs. Bobcat "The Bigger Annoyance" Goldthwait vs. Carrot "Can Anyone Possibly Be MORE Annoying?!?" Top
10> Homer Heche "Psycho Mom" Laffoon vs. Maddox "Psycho Mom AND Dad" Thornton
9> Mariah "The Basket Case" Carey vs. Jack "The Angel of Mercy" Kevorkian
8> Mike "Where Are My Meds?" Tyson vs. Rene "I Think, Therefore I-- OW! OWWWWW!!!!" Descartes
7> Hugh "Wrong Turn" Grant vs. Eddie "The Good Samaritan" Murphy
6> Rosie "Outta the Closet" O'Donnell vs. Martha "Redecorating the Closet" Stewart
5> Pat "Sl_dg_h_mm_r" Sajak vs. Alex "What Is 'Canvas'?" Trebek
4> Andrea "Rub-a-Dub-Dub" Yates vs. Susan "Buckle Up For Safety" Smith
3> Boy "Girly Man" George vs. RuPaul "Manly Girl" Charles
2> Cindy "I Want TopFive Contributor Peter Bauer" Crawford vs. Shania "No, *I* Want TopFive Contributor Peter Bauer" Twain
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Celebrity Boxing Match We'd Love to See...
1> Woody "Who's Your Daddy?" Allen vs. Michael "Don't Tell Your Daddy!" Jackson
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Rae and I saw this together at a 7 o'clock week night suburban show, and of course most of the people in the theater with us were middle schoolers with their parents. But it is true what the San Francisco reviewers have been saying about this film: it is as close to the old Warner Brothers cartoons as any animated effort in recent years. It comes from 20th Century Fox which, alas, has decided to shut down its ambitious computer-generated animation unit after the unmitigated failure or its feature Titan AE.
[By the way, if you want to see a truly eccentric filmography, check out Bill Pullman, from Spaceballs to Independence Day to Lost Highway, with nary a big film in recent years.]
The main things that made Warner Bros. animation great were operating at two levels and cartoon physics. There were jokes for the kids and there were jokes for the parents the kids didn't get. These abound in Ice Age. I believe a cartoon should do things live action can't. You certainly get that here.
And it's only 90 minutes long!
Four stars. Take anyone to see it and enjoy yourself. Special Kudos to three of the voice talents: Ray Romano for being himself, John Leguizamo for being the best comic relief in several years, and Dennis Leary for proving he doesn't always have to be a total pervert.
Oscar Coverage TK
TK is one of those great industry terms in the journalism business, which stands, illogically enough, for TK. At the newsmagazines, Time and Newsweek, the writers, in order not to interrupt their creative flow, would write things like, "The TK-foot tall bulk of the Washington Monument loomed over tk-year-old John Smith as his tk eyes focused narrowly on the scene before him." Researchers or field correspondents were left to fill in. The Oscars are late Sunday night. I have a busy day Monday. So, you'll have to wait until next week for the details TK, including, of course, my opinions of the winners and losers in the major categories.
Dalton on Fencing
Richard Dalton, apropos of my comments about watching Rae fence, wrote this:
You might also include strength and stamina in the requirements of fencing.. I did six weeks of it in college, assuming I could dance around like Douglas Fairbanks after a couple of weeks.
Fencing was physically more difficult than anything I had attempted before--football, baseball, or running the mile in track. After trying to get up to speed with the real fencers, I quit after six weeks feeling very humble, indeed.
One other line from Richard:
Great line attributed to good ol' Texas gal Ann Richards about Bush the Lesser: "He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."
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