PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

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

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS 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.

To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

P.S. A Column On Things: May 6, 2002

May 6, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 18

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Philosophy of Education
  • Beaumont 75th Reunion
  • Influential Books

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Jerry Pournelle In Rome


  • Sixty Fun Facts


  • Hollywood Ending
  • Spider-Man


  • Richard Dalton News Clips, Kevin Sullivan spots the phony colonel, Dan Rosenbaum spots one of the other Paul Schindlers

General News

Philosophy of Education

OK, OK, I know this may seem like a bit much, but my teaching credential course is taking up a lot of bandwidth, and I feel like sharing. This is a paper I had to write on my nascent teaching philosophy. It is subject to change. I'll be interested in your opinions.

My philosophy of education has several sources. First, of course, is my own experience in a public grade school, a public admission-only technical high school and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1958 until 1974. Secondly, I base it on the material presented in our textbook. Finally, I discussed educational philosophy with a number of my teacher friends. I formally interviewed Fran, a veteran middle school teacher and friend.

Fran strives to produce students who are responsible, responsive, interested learners. She does this in part by modeling; she is clear about assignments and respectful of the students. As a teacher, she strives to present information, model behavior, facilitate discussion, organize activities, and "sometimes just get out of the way when things are going well." She expects students to be an "active participant in the classroom." This is not a bad philosophy, but of course one must not simply appropriate a teaching philosophy, from the book or from a teacher.

Judging from the self-scoring test given in class, I lean strongly towards the essentialist philosophy. However, I believe the theoretical must be tempered with the practical. In particular, what I learned at MIT was that, while you must learn a certain core of basic facts, it is more important to learn to think, to reason, to research, to correlate and to write--the higher cognitive functions. In many courses at the Institute, we were flat-out told that the devices we studied and the theories we learned were likely to be overturned several times during our careers, but that the habit of mind of life-long learning would never go out of style nor become outdated.

Most of my teachers were the "sage on the stage," even the best ones. As one recent journal article put it, they seemed interested in teaching "an endless stream of disconnected facts." The "guide at the side" can give students the ability to find facts for themselves and teach them what to do with those facts. I intend to be both, as the situation demands, but lean towards guidance.

The purpose of education is to teach children how to think, not what to think. Certain basic skills are fundamental: reading, arithmetic and writing foremost among them. Certain facts must be memorized: a student must know the dates of the Civil War. However, there are fewer facts essential to life and competent citizenship than teachers think. I hope to remember that.

In my teaching philosophy, students are exposed to the accumulated knowledge of mankind and its many cultures. They learn about science and technology, about tolerance, health, sexuality and the responsibilities of citizenship. They know what came before, because ignorance of history's mistakes often results in their repetition.

More importantly, I want to give students the tools to be, and then instill in them the willingness to be, lifelong learners. I expect my students to give their best effort, to ask me for help when they need it, and to be as well prepared as possible, physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is my job to recognize that every student's preparation won't be the same.

Teachers must teach by example and be life-long learners themselves. Inertia would push me towards using one set of lesson plans for 20 years. I hope to do better. I want to stay current with the literature, welcome change and new ideas and give my students the benefits of the best research and knowledge there is on pedagogy.

I believe that the Bible was right: if you give people fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach them to fish, they can feed themselves for life. I want to teach students to fish in the sea of knowledge and to make a nutritional meal from their catch, one that satisfies them.

Beaumont 75th Reunion

Beaumont, my grade school, a two-story brick structure, was built in 1926 (on the site of a temporary school set up at the corner of 42nd and Fremont in 1914, when the area consisted of farms). Temporary wooden portable buildings were added in the 1950s. They're still there, showing the same kind of cockroach-like tenacity as the temporary WWII building MIT just tore down a year or two ago.

When I was growing up, Portland had K-8 neighborhood schools and 9-12 high schools, long after California and much of the rest of the nation had rushed into the middle school or junior high concept. Portland switched in the late 1970s, amid considerable protest. Instead of the 200-yard walk to school I enjoyed as a boy, had I been born two decades later I would have been bused a half-hour daily to Alameda for K-5, then walked to Beaumont for 6-8. But that's water under the bridge.

The administration organized a 75th birthday party and invited alumni to attend. My father was a 1947 graduate of Beaumont, I graduated in 1966, my brother in 1968. We felt we had some skin in the game. So we went. There was a 75-minute talent show, much of which was entertaining (especially the jazz band and fashion show segments), and some of which (the excerpts from school plays) was incomprehensible.

There were rooms set up for each decade. I hung out in the 1960s room, my dad hung out in the 1940s room, where he ran into a woman who had a picture of him standing in front of school!

There was a pretty good turnout from my class, but I won't name them because I don't have their permission. It was fun to see these people again, most of whom I had not laid eyes on since 1966 (I went to Benson instead of my neighborhood high school). I even saw the school bully, who looked a whole hell of a lot less intimidating 36 years later. Among other things, he used to seem to me to be about 6'8. Turns out he is 6 feet tall, or about three inches shorter than I am now. I couldn't think of what to say to him, so I didn't introduce myself.

Timmy Myers and Paul Olsen weren't there because they're both already deceased, Paul some years ago and Timmy, ironically, the week before the reunion, with his obituary appearing the morning of the reunion. And one of the best teachers from my era, Mr. Knopf, died too young as well. He's memorialized by an annual award the school gives, and his daughter came to the reunion. The rumor was that Miss Blood was there as well, but I didn't see her.

Some observations. I always though there were about 120 people in my class at Beaumont. It turns out there were nearly 150. Since there were only four home rooms, that meant we had more like 35 people per class than 30. The second thing is that, by looking at the class pictures, I could identify 80 percent of the 75 boys. I recognized a half-dozen of the 75 girls. Talk about pre-sexual! No wonder so many of my classmates figured I was gay.

Charles Nakvasil, an excellent teacher who went on to become an excellent principal, retired nine years ago, but came to the reunion and was swamped with adoring students. He's still as charming as ever, and offered to write a letter for me to clear up a transcript problem. My transcript problem is that the Portland Public Schools trashed all of Beaumont's permanent records sometime in the 1970s; just threw them away. That's the kind of behavior I like to see in my bureaucracies. No wonder my parents despised Blanchard, the superintendent at the time--the father of the middle schools.

Influential Books

Kevin Sullivan kicked things off:

Have you read Jared Diamond's book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel"? (or his other well-known book, "The Third Chimpanzee")

What books are on your "must read" for the thinking man?

I've got a top ten list of life changers, eye-openers. I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours. :-)

I haven't read the book he was recommending. I didn't really answer his question directly; instead of dealing with the thinking man, I just tried to think of books that have influenced me:

I responded:

I'm afraid my list is rather eclectic. I've been influenced by:

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- which tempered my unchecked youthful Kennedy liberalism (bred in part by reading Jack's Profiles in Courage) with a small dose of cynicism and selfishness.

Science fiction writing in general made me want to become either a scientist, an engineer or a writer. Specifically:

Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land --for a load of mushy left-wing philosophy that helped steer me back to the middle after reading Ayn Rand.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel -- in which the juvenile lead is rewarded at the end with admission to MIT.

Issac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy and robot stories (the three rules of robotics...) -- damn fine writing

Tolkein's Ring Trilogy--which I read after you forced me to read The Hobbit, right there in Second Front, while you watched me, in exchange for a few glasses of Irish Mist.

And, oddly enough, Superman comic books. Clark Kent was a reporter for the Daily Planet. That made newspaper work look pretty good to me. I honestly think this influenced my decision to become a reporter.

I expect a less muddled list from you...

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

More great stuff from Craig again this week:

Good old Fritz Hollings, the "Senator from Disney" wasn't content with his anti-consumer CBDTPA, now he is sponsoring an anti-privacy bill perversely named the "Online Personal Privacy Act". While designating certainly (medical, banking) personal information as off-limits, it basically declares open season on everything else.

Silence Greets Webcasting Fees RIAA lacky John Simpson wonders why "...we haven't seen the Webcasters launch a day of silence to protest bandwidth costs..." I don't know, perhaps its because bandwidth costs are reasonable and the RIAA's webcasting fees are outrageous.

Wired ran a retrospective look at
SDMI: Quintessential Vaporware

Yet another report confirming that downloading music from the Net prompts consumers to INCREASE their CD purchases:
"Peer to peer" users buy more music

The Dallas Morning News is
nonsensically upset about "deep links" to its web site. In this context, deep links are the normal kind, those which point directly at the page of interest. See also Jakob Nielsen's take on this in his Alertbox article Deep Linking is Good Linking

Alexa, the folks who brought us
The Internet Archive / Wayback Machine have released the beta version of Alexa Web Search whose slogan is "reviews, rankings and more, know before you go!" It is apparently Google search results plus "details" about each page including: archived versions, co-citation links, site statistics and so on.

Things my girlfriend and I have argued about is essentially a blog listing and commenting on topics of contention between the author and his Significant Other. Its very long. And frequently funny. It certainly doesn't remind me of anyone I know. My first impression was that he was rather harsh on her but the humor is often self-deprecating. For those of you with an interest in journalism and ethics, the story takes an interesting detour about 25% in when this site is ripped off by a tabloid. Follow the link ending ...Yes, these words, you fool, and see his friend's commentary

Speaking of interaction between the print and online worlds: to ensure timely dissemination, a book about iPhoto is being released initially as a download, with a revised hardcopy version available in the

Once was "all ads, all the time" but it went out of business, was sold, and if reopened will be a fee service. On the other hand there is now promising "all the ads, none of the shows". is free, but the quality of the streaming video, and length of archiving is based on support from the advertiser. (I'd been looking for a online version of this VW "DNA" spot for my NPR--non photo-realistic rendering--page.) For a complementary resource, see Music from TV Commercials.

Apple is offering a $1,000 eMac for students and teachers.

Web Site of the Week

Jerry Pournelle In Rome

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, science fiction writer, Byte columnist and a man I am proud to call a friend and colleague, has written a highly literate description of his trip to Rome and posted it at his site, Chaos Manor.

Rome, by the way, has never been one of my favorite places (I much prefer Venice), but Jerry, with his custom blend of history and up-to-the-minute observation, makes it sound almost interesting.


Sixty Fun Facts

Let's all participate in this fascinating experiment! My contribution, by the way, is the Elvis Presley item. I can't wait to see it show up on Jeopardy! or in a reference work...(Pat Sajak wrote the Amarillo fact)

May 3, 2002


Today, we're going to drop our normal list format because we're doing something out of the ordinary. Something we've never yet attempted. Something mischievous. A sociological experiment of sorts.

Here's how it works...

We've all gotten e-mail lists of fun "facts," such as: "A duck's quack doesn't echo, and nobody knows why." They're almost always false, but that doesn't stop people from forwarding them all over the place. So we've come up with our own such list, chock full of absolutely absurd "facts" -- and are asking you, our beloved readers, to forward this to your friends. Then we'll kick back and see how long before this is in wide circulation.

Be sure to delete this top section, as well as any unsubscribe information from the bottom of this message before forwarding it on.

If anyone receives a forwarded copy of this at any point in the next few months, sent by some clueless person who believes it to be factual, please let us know.

Ready? Here we go...


Sixty Amazing-but-True Facts!


* In the weightlessness of space a frozen pea will explode if it comes in contact with Pepsi.

* The increased electricity used by modern appliances is causing a shift in the Earth's magnetic field. By the year 2327, the North Pole will be located in mid-Kansas, while the South Pole will be just off the coast of East Africa.

* The idea for "tribbles" in "Star Trek" came from gerbils, since some gerbils are actually born pregnant.

* Male rhesus monkeys often hang from tree branches by their amazing prehensile penises.

* Johnny Plessey batted .331 for the Cleveland Spiders in 1891, even though he spent the entire season batting with a rolled-up, lacquered copy of the Toledo Post-Dispatch.

* Smearing a small amount of dog feces on an insect bite will relieve the itching and swelling.

* The Boeing 747 is capable of flying upside-down if it weren't for the fact that the wings would shear off when trying to roll it over.

* The trucking company Elvis Presley worked at as a young man was owned by Frank Sinatra.

* The only golf course on the island of Tonga has 15 holes, and there's no penalty if a monkey steals your golf ball.

* Legislation passed during WWI making it illegal to say "gesundheit" to a sneezer was never repealed.

* Manatees possess vocal chords which give them the ability to speak like humans, but they don't do so because they have no ears with which to hear the sound.

* SCUBA divers cannot pass gas at depths of 33 feet or below.

* Catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers.

* Replying more than 100 times to the same piece of spam e-mail will overwhelm the sender's system and interfere with their ability to send any more spam.

* Polar bears can eat as many as 86 penguins in a single sitting.

* The first McDonald's restaurant opened for business in 1952 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and featured the McHaggis sandwich.

* The Air Force's F-117 fighter uses aerodynamics discovered during research into how bumblebees fly.

* You can get blood from a stone, but only if contains at least 17 percent bauxite.

* Silly Putty was "discovered" as the residue left behind after the first latex condoms were produced. It's not widely publicized for obvious reasons.

* Approximately one-sixth of your life is spent on Wednesdays.

* The skin needed for elbow transplants must be taken from the scrotum of a cadaver.

* The sport of jai alai originated from a game played by Incan priests who held cats by their tails and swung at leather balls. The cats would instinctively grab at the ball with their claws, thus enabling players to catch them.

* A cat's purr has the same romance-enhancing frequency as the voice of singer Barry White.

* The typewriter was invented by Hungarian immigrant Qwert Yuiop, who left his "signature" on the keyboard.

* The volume of water that the Giant Sequoia tree consumes in a 24-hour period contains enough suspended minerals to pave 17.3 feet of a 4-lane concrete freeway.

* King Henry VIII slept with a gigantic axe.

* Because printed materials are being replaced by CD-ROM, microfiche and the Internet, libraries that previously sank into their foundations under the weight of their books are now in danger of collapsing in extremely high winds.

* In 1843, a Parisian street mime got stuck in his imaginary box and consequently died of starvation.

* Touch-tone telephone keypads were originally planned to have buttons for Police and Fire Departments, but they were replaced with * and # when the project was cancelled in favor of developing the 911 system.

* Human saliva has a boiling point three times that of regular water.

* Calvin, of the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip, was patterned after President Calvin Coolidge, who had a pet tiger as a boy.

* Watching an hour-long soap opera burns more calories than watching a three-hour baseball game.

* Until 1978, Camel cigarettes contained minute particles of real camels.

* You can actually sharpen the blades on a pencil sharpener by wrapping your pencils in aluminum foil before inserting them.

* To human taste buds, Zima is virtually indistinguishable from zebra urine.

* Seven out of every ten hockey-playing Canadians will lose a tooth during a game. For Canadians who don't play hockey, that figure drops to five out of ten.

* A dog's naked behind leaves absolutely no bacteria when pressed against carpet.

* A team of University of Virginia researchers released a study promoting the practice of picking one's nose, claiming that the health benefits of keeping nasal passages free from infectious blockages far outweigh the negative social connotations.

* Among items left behind at Osama bin Laden's headquarters in Afghanistan were 27 issues of Mad Magazine. Al Qaeda members have admitted that bin Laden is reportedly an avid reader.

* Urine from male cape water buffaloes is so flammable that some tribes use it for lantern fuel.

* At the first World Cup championship in Uruguay, 1930, the soccer balls were actually monkey skulls wrapped in paper and leather.

* Every Labrador retriever dreams about bananas.

* If you put a bee in a film canister for two hours, it will go blind and leave behind its weight in honey.

* Due to the angle at which the optic nerve enters the brain, staring at a blue surface during sex greatly increases the intensity of orgasms.

* Never hold your nose and cover your mouth when sneezing, as it can blow out your eyeballs.

* Centuries ago, purchasing real estate often required having one or more limbs amputated in order to prevent the purchaser from running away to avoid repayment of the loan. Hence an expensive purchase was said to cost "an arm and a leg."

* When Mahatma Gandhi died, an autopsy revealed five gold Krugerrands in his small intestine.

* Aardvarks are allergic to radishes, but only during the summer.

* Coca-Cola was the favored drink of Pharaoh Ramses. An inscription found in his tomb, when translated, was found to be almost identical to the recipe used today.

* If you part your hair on the right side, you were born to be carnivorous. If you part it on the left, your physical and psychological make-up is that of a vegetarian.

* When immersed in liquid, a dead sparrow will make a sound like a crying baby.

* In WWII the US military planned to airdrop over France propaganda in the form of Playboy magazine, with coded messages hidden in the models' turn-ons and turn-offs. The plan was scrapped because of a staple shortage due to rationing of metal.

* Although difficult, it's possible to start a fire by rapidly rubbing together two Cool Ranch Doritos.

* Napoleon's favorite type of wood was knotty chestnut.

* The world's smartest pig, owned by a mathematics teacher in Madison, WI, memorized the multiplication tables up to 12.

* Due to the natural "momentum" of the ocean, saltwater fish cannot swim backwards.

* In ancient Greece, children of wealthy families were dipped in olive oil at birth to keep them hairless throughout their lives.

* It is nearly three miles farther to fly from Amarillo, Texas to Louisville, Kentucky than it is to return from Louisville to Amarillo.

* The "nine lives" attributed to cats is probably due to their having nine primary whiskers.

* The original inspiration for Barbie dolls comes from dolls developed by German propagandists in the late 1930s to impress young girls with the ideal notions of Aryan features. The proportions for Barbie were actually based on those of Eva Braun.

* The Venezuelan brown bat can detect and dodge individual raindrops in mid-flight, arriving safely back at his cave completely dry.


Hollywood Ending

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

Woody Allen suddenly remembered to be funny again, and just in the nick of time. Actually, this film is hysterical, although at two hours, it is about a half-hour too long. Lots of jokes, lots of physical comedy, terrific performances by the actors lucky enough to be in the film. Mark Rydell, as the agent Al, is a pleasant surprise. He's acted before, but his major credits are as the director of On Golden Pond and The Rose. He may have been on the wrong side of the camera all these years. Or, more likely, like the Woodman himself, he deserves to be on both sides.

I swear, Téa Leoni was deliberately imitating Diane Keaton. Regardless of her intent, she ended up doing a good Keaton impression, which is exactly what Allen needs in order to be funny. I mean, how could you lose with this setup: a movie director gets hysterical blindness the day before shooting starts and directs the whole film blind. I'm rolling in the aisles already. And, of course, it does have a Hollywood Ending.

At 90 minutes, it would have been perfect. But it's two hours, and that's too long.

Rated PG-13 for some drug references and sexual material--probably Woody's obligatory masturbation joke (What I like best about masturbation is the cuddling time afterwards). I can't decide if that's better or worse than his early joke, which he used in two films, "Of course I'm good in bed. I practice a lot when I'm alone," or his classic line, "Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love."


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

This proves it. X-Men was not a fluke, it was a precursor. The best explanation I've heard is that the generation of directors now doing comic book movies actually grew up on comic books, as I did, and respects them as a serious medium, without requiring that their movie treatments be camped up (Superman) or rendered in mock-comic form (Batman). I don't think it is just computer-generated special effects. The previous screen adaptations could have played it straight, but Hollywood was afraid that wouldn't be commercial. The X-Men proved a realistic rendition can be commercial, so now that's what we'll see for a while.

True to the comic, the human story of Peter Parker, loser, dominates the film as it always did the comic book. The web-swinging always took a back seat to the soap opera, from day one (and I was 11 when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko started the whole thing; I owned Amazing Fantasy 15 and Spiderman 1 for years, before selling them to raise cash a decade or so ago). Tobey Maguire is an inspired choice for Peter Parker, every-schlub. His innocence shines through. Willem Dafoe is a brilliant Green Goblin. I mean, he's no Jack Nicholson, but the Goblin's no Joker either. Batman is villain driven, Spiderman (and what's with the dash? I refuse to play along) was always hero-driven.

And it's true what they say: the special effects are surprisingly unrealistic in places. Too bad.

Rated PG-13 for stylized violence and action.

Rated a little too long at just under two hours running time.


Richard Dalton News Clips, Kevin Sullivan spots the phony colonel, Dan Rosenbaum spots one of the other Paul Schindlers

Richard found this followup to a story reported here last week:

Auction revs campaign debate
Boston Globe

" SAUGUS - In a sharp staccato, an eager auctioneer barked prices at the crowd inside the Caruso's Diplomat ballroom on Route 1 yesterday, tempting bidders with 13 not-quite-new vehicles seized from the state Lottery Commission."

He's right in this other item; I have not had anything to say about pedophile priests because I was not sure I had anything to add to the debate and because it did not arouse in me the passion I find in seemingly larger issues. But he makes a good point here:

You have been silent about one of the most serious moral dilemmas in recent history. This latest nadir in Cardinal Bernard Law's egregious behavior deserves wider publication.

This is not an indictment of the Catholic church. It is on-going evidence of serial felonies and obstruction of justice, involving minors who we now are told were "negligent."

An alleged victim is called negligent
The Boston Globe
" In his first legal response to charges that the Rev. Paul R. Shanley began molesting a Newton boy when he was 6 years old, Cardinal Bernard F. Law has asserted that ''negligence'' by the boy and his parents contributed to the alleged abuse."

Richard Pournelle, who does marketing communications for the XCOR rocket company, checks in:

XCOR President Jeff Greason was interview for a short piece on space tourism. You can listen to the broadcast.

Kevin Sullivan wrote:

This one is RIGHT up your alley, of which we all know a long one has no ash cans.

He got that right. It's a case of fraud in which a fake colonel fooled the media. The New York Times was on the case : At Fox News, the Colonel Who Wasn't.

Dan Rosenbaum just found out something I've known for a few years (thanks to search engines): that there is a Paul Schindler who edits the Long Island Gay and Lesbian News. Dan also didn't know about the still-another Paul Schindler who is Madonna's attorney. He suggested a credit line for my next freelance piece (if I ever write one):

Paul Schindler is Madonna's attorney. He did not write this article. The Paul Schindler who did write this article is a teacher, lecturer, author, and musician.

Kind of like the Larry King who writes this column's Letter from London feature. No, he isn't that Larry King. No, he isn't that one either.

To obtain a reminder when I post my weekly electronic column,
or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism, email me. (pes-at-sign-schindler-dot-org)

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