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
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P.S. A Column On Things: July 8, 2002

July 8, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 27

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Just Between Us
  • Heat--A Followup
  • Janis Ian

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • None


  • None


  • Men In Black II


  • Steve Schindler Speaks (and his PC listens), Rich Levin's Philly Warning, Marlow Finds Frankenspeech, Daniel Dern Spots Cartoon, Dan Grobstein's Hot Dog Roundup, Craig Reynolds on Bush "Borrowing."

General News

Just Between Us

First of all, Rae hasn't yet written up her experiences fencing in Greenville, S.C. at the USFA Summer Nationals, so I don't have anything new to share with you on that front.

Secondly, we all had a glorious Fourth. I played in my tenor sax in two bands. One which styles itself "America's Only Pick-Up Marching Band," a group of musicians who practice for an hour, march and play in the Orinda Fourth of July Parade and then disband until the next Fourth of July. The other is the Contra Costa Wind Symphony which played a traditional two-hour Forth of July Concert on the Moraga Commons at 1pm on Thursday. The temperature at that time in Moraga, on the Fourth, can vary between 50 and 100. This year we lucked out. It was 70.

Anyway, coming back from Greenville late on Monday night, having class on Tuesday and Wednesday, having the Fourth on Thursday, and tutoring a student for the first time on Friday (more on that next week), has left me exhausted and bereft of too many ideas on the column. I still haven't cleared stuff off my desk that's left over from last weekend, and I'm getting away for this weekend.

And thus, a short column, posted early. Don't worry. As you long-time regulars know, I'll make this up to you.

Heat--A Followup

My wife read my item last week and noted:

You forgot to mention something very important in your "Heat" item. You had just seen the avatar or "saint" Ammachi, and that you have seen her annually for years. She is followed by millions around the world and has even spoken at the United Nations as a world spiritual leader. You even volunteer regularly at her soup kitchen in Oakland.

One for her stated purposes is "to awaken the inner guru." This is the eastern Buddhist or Hindu path. Metaphorically, the "serpent fire" coiled around the spine three and one half times is activated, thus producing heat as it rises up the spine. This is the female spiritual force known as the Goddess Kundalini or Shakti. She has an unrelenting drive to be united with Shiva, her masculine counterpart who resides at the crown chakra or top of the head. Along the way she pierces through and transforms 6 major chakras, wheels or energy vortexes which represent our emotional needs and past life issues in ascending order (the higher, the more evolved and refined). The heart chakra is the transitional point to the upper or spiritual chakras, which are the third eye and finally the crown chakra. If she completes her journey to the crown chakra, enlightenment and bliss are achieved. There is no need to return to the cycle of birth and death. When it is incomplete, the person reincarnates at the level they achieved in their previous lifetime.

There are many stories of seekers spending years in the presence of masters to achieve this boon - sweeping the floors, cleaning the toilets.

You're fortunate!

Just thought you'd want know.

She's right on both counts. I am fortunate (that I didn't have to clean toilets to get this far) and I did want to know.

Regular reader Peggy Coquet also chimed in on this subject, along with my note that it feels weird to be working so hard towards a whole new career, when, previously, all my new jobs just dropped in my lap:

I moved out of Florida at 21. At that age, I didn't know why I didn't like it there; but I sure didn't. It wasn't until my (also) hyper-analytical sister came up to visit, and expressed her reason for disliking Florida that I caught a glimmer of my own truth.

If it's always summer, there is no fallow season.

I think humans, like the earth, need fallow times. The mistake is thinking that the fallow times are "dead" times. They're not! They're often times of increased self-understanding, introspection and preparation for great growth or outreach. Do you know how you tell when an infant will have a growth spurt? They sleep - and sleep - and sleep. They may not even eat very much.

Now, I don't have any way of knowing that this is what's going on with you. I too have had a lifetime of gifts from the rafters, and jobs from nowhere and whole careers by accident. When that stops, it does feel scary. (But it was worse to realize I had gotten too old to ever land another job on the basis of my great legs)

Trust life. All will be well. I think you will find that whatever unfolds will have richness that is as precious as it is unexpected.

Janis Ian

Craig also highlights this article, but it's so good I have to mention it twice. Dan Rosenbaum blogged it like this:

Blogspace has been passing around this article by Janis Ian (the songwriter and singer of "Society's Child" and "At Seventeen") -- a particularly clear exegesis of the recording industry from the viewpoint of an independent musician:

I don't pretend to be an expert on intellectual property law, but I do know one thing. If a music industry executive claims I should agree with their agenda because it will make me more money, I put my hand on my wallet.and check it after they leave, just to make sure nothing's missing.... Every time we make a few songs available on my website, sales of all the CDs go up. A lot.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig checks in:

BBC, Politech and Wired are reporting that US Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) is about to have an abruptly scheduled committee hearing on a law aimed at "peer to peer piracy". It endorses "technological self-help measures" such as a provision to decriminalize vigilante cyberattacks by copyright holders.

Janis Ian's cogent article The Internet Debacle - An Alternative View argues persuasively that " Internet downloads are good for the music industry and its artists."

Ross Anderson of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory presented a paper last month called
Security in Open versus Closed Systems -- The Dance of Boltzmann, Coase and Moore (PDF, 0.1MB). It criticized as anti-competitive Intel's TCPA, which underlies Microsoft's Palladium. He has since posted a TCPA / Palladium Frequently Asked Questions.

Not to bite the hand that publishes me, but I do not like web pages that insist on opening links in new windows. So I was pleased to see that
Not opening new windows was Day 16 of 30 days to a more accessible weblog on the website known as "dive into mark."

TouchGraph apparently provides a cool graph-based visualization system with sample browsers for Google, Wiki and web links. (Its all just a rumor to me since I'm on my laptop now and TouchGraph requires Java JRE 1.3+ which is not supported on Mac OS. Gee, thanks Sun.)

I have a soft spot for Lego
hijinks, so these caught my eye this week: Andrew Lipson's Mathematical Lego Sculpture and Lego Studios Screening Room.


I love this insanely clever plan to
use railroad locomotives as mobile biodiesel "peaker plants" to provide emergency electricity whenever and wherever required by the California power grid. posted a list of law blogs. Those Apple "switch" ads have only just started running on TV and already an homage/parody is out, featuring Gates.

To Open A New Window Or Not?

Just a brief response to an item in Craig's column:

Not to bite the hand that publishes me, but I do not like web pages that insist on opening links in new windows.

What's he taking about? Well, I think it is pretty clear, but for the technically unsophisticated, the owner or a web site (in this case me) has two ways he can handle links to other web pages: the traditional, default method is to move your browser to the page when you click on the link; if you want to continue reading the page you came from, you have to use the "back" key on your browser.

Meaning no disrespect to most of you, some of the readers of this column are low-frequency Internet users who have trouble with links and browsers and have difficulty locating the back button. They get lost and confused when links don't open in a new window, and they write and ask me where my column went. So, opening a new window for each link allows them to keep reading the column after they read the link. Is this "new window" trope helpful or bad nettiquette? Frankly, it takes me a lot of extra time to insert that "open a new window" code by hand each week. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Web Site of the Week





Men In Black II

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

Sometimes, when I watch Tommy Lee Jones in one of these commercial movies, I find myself wondering if he ever asks himself, "Four years at Harvard for this?" Of course, his roommate Al Gore might be asking the same thing at this point, minus the huge paycheck. I'm sure Jones is laughing all the way to the bank.

Anyway, he's a better actor than the material deserves. Hell, Will Smith is a better actor than the material deserves. But Men In Black II is that rarest of sequels (only Godfather II leaps immediately to mind) that is a clear improvement over the original. As the reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle put it, they added more of the good stuff and removed most of the bad stuff. This is one funny film, with excellent special effects. Don't bother trying to understand the plot--clearly the screenwriters didn't bother trying to understand it when they wrote it. Like a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby road movie, the whole film is a set up for the boys to be funny and the girls (Rosario Dawson as Smith's love interest, Lara Flynn Boyle as the only villain in all of movie history to utter the line, "With the right mammaries, I could rule this planet.") to be beautiful. And best of all, they had the good sense to make it just 89 minutes long.

I'm in heaven. You will be too. PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some provocative humor. No teenager who has ever seen television could be shocked or offended by this film. Go. Laugh your ass off.


Steve Schindler Speaks (and his PC listens), Rich Levin's Philly Warning, Marlow Finds Frankenspeech, Daniel Dern Spots Cartoon, Dan Grobstein's Hot Dog Roundup, Craig Reynolds on Bush "Borrowing."

My brother got Dragon Speak, a program that allows him to dictate to his computer. This is the start of his first message:

Oman this is my first message in Dragon speak Oman in Dragon speak I guess I'm trying to say hello mother while this is: doing all this without touching the keyboard punches speaking into the microphone and its type

Well, it's a start.

Rich Levin sends this along:

Penn professor Stephen Gale has frightening scenarios of al-Qaeda bringing this nation to its knees. People listen, but he's not sure they're hearing.

Speaking of Harvard, as we were a moment ago, my daughter Marlow found Al Franken's Class-Day Speech to the class of 2002. Al Franken is one of America's great unsung comedic heroes; he'll rank with Benchley some day (another Harvard man), mark my word. Unlike Al Gore, Franken is funny on purpose.

Daniel Dern spotted a Frank and Ernest cartoon full of newspaper headline jokes. Can't say I usually care much for the strip, but this edition is mildly amusing. Even a blind pig finds truffles; this time Bob Thaves was accidentally funny. Someday it could happen to Mort Walker!

Dan Grobstein found a New York Times article on the nation's great hot dog stands.

This from Craig Reynolds:

I recall that when Clinton was in office, Tony Blair's speeches often contained passages lifted directly from the President's speeches. Now it looks like Bush is getting his material from Al Gore and Israel's right wing Natan Sharansky:

A Sound Bite So Good, the President Wishes He Had Said It

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