PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 13

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

April 1, 2002

Spring Break

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

  • We're A Little Early Folks
  • Don't Miss "Frank Capra"
  • Confusion Central
  • Quote Punching Reaction

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds Techobriefs
  • Internet Root Server

Web Site of the Week

  • None


  • Two Cows
  • Body Parts


  • Training Day
  • Oscar Coverage


  • Pournelle on Space, IBM and the Holocaust

General News

We're A Little Early Folks

We've had a trailer hitch added to the Mercedes SUV, and had a four-bike rack attached to that. All three bikes have been to the shop, where they've been tuned up, and, in the case of my bike (which I rode to LA on the AIDS ride), cleaned up. We're ready for a week's vacation in the Marin/Sonoma area, biking and hiking. Wish us good weather, flat empty roads and no flat tires.

Now don't misunderstand. Vicki and I like a relaxing holiday as much as the next person, but when we've got Rae along, as we will this week, she likes to get out and do things. Vicki and I aren't averse to it. In fact, she wants to walk the Cotswalds some day. I'd like to bicycle tour the French wine country. Maybe someday we'll find something along those lines we'd both like to do.

Anyway, we'll be at Pt. Reyes and in the Sonoma wine country, so if you see someone large and vaguely familiar along the Silverado trail, it may be me.

I'll try not to miss a week, but we're headed right back out of town next weekend for Rae's fencing tournament in Fresno. And my mom will be here to boot! Busy vacation.

Oh yeah, and since we're leaving early Saturday morning, I'm posting the column on Friday this week, which is dumb, in a way, because it means that, with my late notification last week, last week's column will have been "up" for only a few days. Of course, that's no worse than the Sunday Chronicle, which seems to arrive at 9am at least once a month.

Don't Miss Frank Capra

I went to LA this week, to attend the launch luncheon for the first publication of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project of the Norman Lear Center at the Anenberg School at USC. The book, "Frank Capra and the Image of the Journalist in American Film." If you've been paying attention, you may realize that I have plugged this book before. We'll, I'm here to plug IJPC and the book again. Joe Saltzman, the author, is a good person who has written a fascinating book that should be on the shelf of everyone, journalist or not, who is interested in (or concerned about) the image of journalists in this culture and how the image got that way. Of course my copy is autographed with a personal inscription, "From one newshawk to another," but it still makes good reading, even if it isn't signed. I need to note that it is $35, but it is a beautiful book, on slick stock, fabulously written and lavishly illustrated.

Check out the IJPC web site and order the book from the publications page, by clicking on the "not obvious it's a link" link, the words "USC bookstore." (In fairness, the words do get bigger when you roll over them) Apparently some designers now feel links don't need to be underlined. I've never understood the sense in that. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful site, very well done, but only an academic site would let design get in the way of commerce.

Buy the book. You'll be glad you did. Have I made myself clear on this point? Then go see Platinum Blonde, which is in the book, and Sweet Smell Of Success, which isn't, but is in the excerpt reel Joe prepared for the launch lunch.

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:

One of the senior, managerial-level editors here consistently spells ``a lot'' ``alot.'' He will argue vehemently and on the basis of absolutely no authority whatsoever that the phrase is one word.

But you touch upon a phenomenon that seems recent and leaves me truly puzzled. People no longer pay the slightest attention to actual knowledge. They seem not to regard learning--hard facts, ascertainable by reference to impeccable sources--as any more authoritative than wild-eyed opinion based on sheer nonsense. I don't know why.

By the way, when I played backgammon in an organized fashion, a favorite saying at tournaments was: ``Any four-year-old idiot could play this position. Quick, find a four-year-old idiot.'' I don't know why the idiot was specified as being four years old.

Quote Punching Reaction

Here's the question, first printed last week. It comes from a journalist buddy of mine:

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?''

Got a couple of answers. A Washington Reporter wrote:

Punching up a quote ... not at all uncommon, not at all unethical. Often, in the course of an interview, the person says the same thing in 3, 4, or 5 different ways. Sometimes the source even wants help putting things in just the right words.

You can't punch up a quote if it's something that's said spontaneously and the context and setting are crucial. Even if you could get His approval, you couldn't have Jesus on the cross crying out, "Father, forgive them, because they're ignorant sluts!"

But in an interview setting, if the source wants to approve a different set of words to convey the same meaning, that's fine.

Then there's negotiating the quote. Especially here in Washington, there's a scale of steps between "on the record" and "off the record" -- background, deep background, not for attribution. Frequently, with government officials, they'll want to talk "deep background with clearance" -- they can talk more freely because you won't attribute anything to them or their agency unless you first clear the quote. So you go back to the flack and say, "He said, 'The sky is blue' -- can we use that?" The flack goes to the official, and what you get back is, "Under the proper atmospheric conditions, and barring any unforeseen disasters, natural or man-made, the sky--as the term is generally understood--is a share of color that's very close to blue." Then you're into quote negotiation ...

The public has no idea, IMHO, how much unseen work goes into a journalistic product. They don't realize that you'll talk to someone for 45 minutes and just use one quote. Or that you'll talk to five people just to nail down one fact and have the reassurance that you're interpreting it correctly. Or that you'll review 40 documents and quote just one. Or that there's a lot of negotiation and give-and-take with sources.

Fun business to be in ...

I sure agree with him about that. I loved the business when I was in it. Now I just want to teach people to be better reporters. I also heard from a publisher I know, who had a simpler response:

In response to the query about punching up the quotes: I think that's out of bounds for a responsible journalist. If done as you proposed, it would make the subject seem more colorful and articulate than he or she really is. That's a deliberate distortion of reality. Sort of the textual equivalent of Photoshop.

I love that last line. A real phrasemaker, this guy. Too bad he isn't out on the streets writing stories any more.

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

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Sometimes, when I read submissions from Richard Dalton, or as follows, from Craig Reynolds, I wonder if they are using the same Internet I am. They seem to get so much more out of it. Anyway, here's what caught Craig's eye this week. And as always, he's right about everything.

The ongoing power grab by the media conglomerates lurches forward, hoping to destroy Fair Use rights of law-abiding consumers and control the design of all digital consumer hardware by government fiat--all for the nonsensical goal of preserving the content publishers outmoded business models.

Dan Gillmor makes an impassioned call to action in Bleak Future Looms If You Don't Take A Stand:..."I'm not a thief. I'm a customer. When you treat me like a thief, I won't be your customer..."

Michael Fraase presents a thorough and well-researched essay in When Elephants Dance which details the many heads of this anti-consumer, anti-author, anti-technology hydra: "...While the Constitution grants customers certain rights with regard to copyrighted material, the entertainment industry very much wants to separate us from those rights..."

Fraase points us to a PAC funded by technology industry leaders to opposed Draconian laws like CBDTPA. I am so disheartened that Senator Dianne Feinstein, who I supported in previous elections, is now a co-sponsor of CBDTPA. Now I am disappointed that I can't vote <b>against</b> her until 2006 (if in fact she runs again at age 73). At least I can let her know now that in courting the movie and music moguls she has turned her back on the technology industry that powers California's economy. I'm sure I'm not the only Californian who feels she is now part of the problem.

Wired, largely via its contributor Declan McCullagh, has been providing excellent coverage of this whole sleazy CBDTPA mess: What Hollings' Bill Would Do, Anti-Copy Bill Slams Coders, CBDTPA bans everything from two-line BASIC programs to PCs, Another Punch for Copy Protection, Howling Mad Over Hollings' Bill

An update on the slow roll-out and future plans for digital projection and distribution for feature films: 'Star Wars' to bow on low-tech film.

Anyone who understand the undesirable interaction between pet doors and cat's innate desire to bring their trophies home will enjoy this high tech solution: Flo Control.

Internet Root Server

This article from the Washington Post about the Internet's root server should help you sleep better at night.

Web Site of the Week



Two Cows

Katherine Gray sent me an update to the ever popular cow theories

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

You have two cows.
You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You break for lunch.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have two cows.
You farm them on the best dairy fields in the world, and you produce so much damn dairy products that you have to try and sell 80% of the total produce to other countries that don't want it. You set up a facist type company full of old retired farmers to manage all this excessive primary export, and they end up having a complete dictatorship of all the decisions over dairy in the country, making the price of one litre of milk more than a litre of petrol!

You have two cows.
One is actually a bull, but dresses up like a cow with funny glasses, and pink fur, and you farm them both in a paddock the size of Great Britain. One gets ravaged by a dingo, or so we are told, and the whole country gets whipped into an emotional broil that lasts for 15 years.

You have two cows.
One's indigenous, the other from India. The native cow doesn't like the Indian cow producing more milk than her and showing her up, so she trys to take control of the farm.

You have two cows.
One is white, the other is black. The white cow, by law and force, produces all the milk for 30 years, then times change, and the black cow wants to be in control, so the black cow takes over, and after awhile the white cow leaves SA for another country for fear of its life.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

So, there are these two Jewish cows, right?
They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

You have two cows.
That one on the left is kinda cute...

Body Parts

Most of you have read the scare-mail about the person whose kidneys were stolen while he was passed out. While that was an "urban legend," this one is NOT. This one is happening every day. I'm sending this "warning" only to a few of my closest friends. You too may have been a victim ... read on.

My thighs were stolen from me during the night of August 3rd a few years ago. It was just that quick. I went to sleep in my body and woke up with someone else's thighs. The new ones had the texture of cooked oatmeal. Who would have done such a cruel thing to legs that had >been wholly, if imperfectly, mine for years? Whose thighs were >these? What happened to mine?

I spent the entire summer looking for them. I searched, in vain, at pools and beaches, anywhere I might find female limbs exposed. I became obsessed. I had nightmares filled with cellulite and flesh that turns to bumps in the night. Finally, hurt and angry, I resigned myself to living out my life in jeans and Sheer Energy pantyhose.

Then, just when my guard was down, the thieves struck again. My rear end was next. I knew it was the same gang, because they took pains to match my new rear end (although badly attached at least three inches lower than the original) to the thighs they had stuck me with earlier. Now my rear complemented my legs, lump for lump. Frantic, I prayed that long skirts would stay in fashion.

Two years ago I realized my arms had been switched. One morning while fixing my hair, I watched, horrified but fascinated, as the flesh of my upper arms swung to and fro with the motion of the hairbrush. This was really getting scary. My body was being replaced, cleverly and fiendishly, one section at a time. In the end, in deepening despair, I gave up my T-shirts.

What could they do to me next? Age? Age had nothing to do with it. Age was supposed to creep up, unnoticed and intangible, something like maturity. NO, I was being attacked, repeatedly and without warning. That's why I've decided to share my story. I can't take on the medical profession by myself.

Women of America, wake up and smell the coffee! That isn't really "plastic" those surgeons are using. You know where they're getting those replacement parts, don't you? The next time you suspect someone has had a face "lifted," look again! Was it lifted from you?

Check out those tummy tucks and buttocks raisings. Look familiar? Are those your eyelids on that movie star? I think I finally may have found my thighs...and I hope that Cindy Crawford paid a really good price for them!


I'm sorry Milton Berle is gone, but he was never my taste. To egocentric, mean, bitter and nasty, even when he was on top. Dudley Moore, whose obits were buried by Berle's, was an underappreciated genius. And Billy Wilder--well, thank goodness he died a news cycle later. Forget the movies everyone else praised, he did a brilliant remake of The Front Page in 1974 with Lemmon and Matthau and a nasty, prescient and unfortunately not very successful but honest and brilliant newspaper movie, Ace In The Hole, which included what was quite possibly Kirk Douglas' best performance. Billy I will miss.

Training Day

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

The Academy just loves it when a good guy plays against type. Add in screaming and social relevance, and the fact that it's been 40 years since a black man won the best actor Oscar, and top it off with the fact that Denzel Washington, off-screen, is a nice guy, and you have a potent brew that paid off for this underappreciated actor.

Training Day came and went in a heaving rush, and I had to go to LA (OK, I was there anyway for the book luncheon mentioned in the second item), and drive all the way from the Palisades to the Beverly Center to see this film. Drugs, violence, bad language, scary black people--this film has it all. No piece of scenery was left unchewed by Washington. I understand it's already available on videotape, so rent it if you, like me, like to keep yourself apprised of what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences membership thinks is good acting. Frankly, although the good guys win in the end (believe me, the film twists so many times I haven't spoiled it for you), it's a real downer, which is probably why it didn't do so hot in the first place. But your eyes are riveted on Washington the whole time, and he really does give a heck of a performance. This performance clearly isn't Oscar-worthy, but his body of work is, and we all know Oscars are as much lifetime achievement awards as recognition of a specific performance.

I still need to see Monster's Ball before I can say I've seen all the performances.

Oscar Coverage

Anyone who reads this column regularly has already guessed the first thing I'm going to say. Four Hours And 17 Minutes! Give Me A Break! Way too long. Let's cut out the minor awards and cut the Academy Awards back to a reasonable two hours. Of course, Hollywood isn't listening, but I had to get that off my chest.

Has there ever been a nominee more surprised than Halle Berry? Breathless incoherence was probably more entertaining than Jennifer Connelly reading from a sheet of paper, but when she caught her breath, her lack of preparation resulted in a dud of a speech. I'm happy for her. Haven't seen her performance in Monster's Ball yet, but it is still showing around here, so I'm going to try. She's got a ways to go to beat Sissy Spacek. The best speech was Ron Howard's; "I'm not a good enough actor anymore to convince you I haven't been through this moment a thousand times," and "my late mother told me I'd win for Beautiful Mind. (pause of ahhs and applause). Of course, she said that about every film I've directed since 1983." Classy, and he went to the trouble of memorizing it. It was personal, but not a laundry list of everyone he's met since coming to Hollywood. Very classy. Also, Randy Newman, who finally took home a little gold guy after 16 nominations, thanking the Academy's music division for all the humiliation. Self-deprecation always sells on Oscar night.


Whoopi Goldberg was mildly amusing, but Nathan Lane, giving out the best animated feature award, and Woody Allen, introducing the New York film ("I thought they were going to ask for my Oscars back... then I thought they were going to give me the humanitarian award...") were both funnier in their few short minutes than Whoopi was all night. She scored some good points off Robert Redford and Lord of The Rings for their lack of pigment, but it wasn't her best performance.


Say what you want about the appearance of their careers being washed up, I liked Donald Sutherland and Glen Close announcing.


Broadbent for best supporting actor? Don't know; haven't seen Iris. The script for Gosford Park was brilliant. The script for Brilliant Mind was just OK. Shrek was better than Monster's Inc., but not by much (Jimmy Neutron snuck by me). Lord of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Rings was a tad bloated and pretentious, but if Lawrence Of Arabia deserved a lot of Oscars, or Titanic, then Lord Of The Rings did as well. So, once again this year, the Oscars, like life, were too long and not particularly fair in particular, but mostly fair in general.


Pournelle on Space, IBM and the Holocaust

My buddy Rich Pournelle sends this word:

XCOR Aerospace announced today that principals from the company will make presentations at the Space Access Society's annual conference, Space Access '02. The conference is being held at the Quality Inn South Mountain in Ahwatukee, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix, April 25 through 27. XCOR founders, including Dan DeLong, Chief Engineer, and Aleta Jackson, Sourcing and Administration, will make presentations on various aspects of XCOR's development, the EZ-Rocket, and future plans. More information on the conference can be found at Space Access Society web site, or by calling 602-431-9283.

Rich Levin sent this along. Shocking if true. The Jerusalem Post has a good, but not perfect track record in general, but they have broken Holocaust stories time and again that have held up. Expect to see this one in the American media sometime soon.

Direct IBM involvement in Holocaust revealed

By Edwin Black, Special To 'The Jerusalem Post' March, 27 2002

WASHINGTON (March 27) - Recently discovered Nazi documents and Polish eyewitness testimony make it clear IBM's alliance with the Third Reich went far beyond its German subsidiary.

During the rape of Poland and the Holocaust there, which killed millions and plundered a nation, IBM technology was a key factor. That custom-tailored technology was provided not through the German subsidiary, but directly through a new special Polish subsidiary reporting to IBM New York, mainly at its headquarters at 590 N. Madison Ave. in Manhattan.

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