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: August 5, 2002

August 5, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 31

July 29, 2002 column here

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Early Column
  • Airport Security Redux
  • Mari Schindler Of Teaching Redux
  • Richard Dalton on Sept. 11: An Alternate View

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Bob Nilsson's Picks: Google Mirror Site, Six-Pack Rings


  • The Top 15 Signs Your Company Has Accounting Problems


  • None


  • Dan Rosenbaum Alert

General News

Early Column

Thursday night is as early as I have filed the column in some time; so early, in fact, that I have put a link to last week's column at the top, in case you're just now getting around to showing up and looking. The family is headed off early Friday for a four-day weekend in Yosemite. Faced with the prospect of being three days early or a day late, I opted for early. If you have opinions on the subject (other than, "This is the Internet, you can file any time you want), feel free to share them.

Marlow is home from Columbia; what a joy it is to see her and to have her going with us to a very special vacation destination we have enjoyed as a family so often in the past.

Airport Security Redux

A friend of mine wrote:

I enjoyed your comments on airport security. It occurred to me this weekend, while enduring same, that a laudable motive is translating itself into typical bureaucratic dysfunction. It's as logical as it is inevitable. Here we've launched a major bureaucracy whose foremost mission is, of course, to prove its perpetual necessity. It can't do that by catching or even deterring terrorists, for precisely the reasons you outline. So it struts and preens, demonstrating its valor by maximizing the hassle for the clearly unthreatening. Notice its intransigent resistance to the idea of a "trusted traveler" card. That would thwart its ability to prove its worth by shaking down the likes of Al Gore and John Dingel. And if a real terrorist should slip by while agents are strip-searching a member of Congress? It would only prove the need for a larger budget.

Regular reader and contributor Miriam Nadel also checked in:

I'm convinced those long security lines are largely a myth. I fly a lot - damn near every week. I've been on about 50 flights since September 11th and I've had exactly one wait that was over 45 minutes. Most of the time, it takes me less than 15 minutes from entering the terminal to get to the gate. Admittedly, I know a few tricks at the airports I'm at most often and that helps me avoid choke points. (That one bad delay was at Terminal 1 at LAX, which is Southwest's terminal and I attribute that largely bad architectural design that limits the number of security lanes to an inadequate number to handle that busy a terminal. It also doesn't help that Southwest is more or less the Greyhound bus of the skies and attracts a similarly clueless clientele.)

Most of the delays I see are due to people being dumb. They have only themselves to blame if they're not going to take their laptops out of their cases, if they're going to take things out of their pockets one at a time, etc.. One idiot I saw at Dulles the other week insisted that her vitamins not go through the x-ray machine. Fortunately, she was in the line next to mine, not in front of me.

Bottom line is that people who travel will continue to travel. I've just changed jobs so I won't be traveling quite as much (except all the relocation related cross-country commuting I've endured the past month) but business travelers are not going to find any real alternatives. VTCs can help, but there's no real substitute for face time.

I do have times when I think, "this is the 21st century. Surely we were supposed to have teleportation by now?" But that has more to do with the tedium of long flights. I am definitely not looking forward to that aspect of my upcoming vacation (Dulles to LAX, then on to Brisbane via Auckland, with a few days to recover before heading on to Port Moresby.) But that's the price I have to pay for wanting to see the world.

The long lines are not an illusion, Miriam. I'll tell you where you're guaranteed to find them: Friday afternoons and Sunday afternoons at almost any terminal, and mornings or evenings at any Southwest Airlines terminal. I still contend that hiring more screeners and opening more screening lines would solve the problem. I'd pay for that.

Mari Schindler on Teaching Redux

My mom, the former English teacher, added a few more thoughts on the subject of education I wanted to share:

I would like to add that I believe that a good teacher must love three things - learning, learners and teaching. If they lack a deep love for any of these three, they are in the wrong profession and would do the learners a big favor by finding a new niche! One of my primary objections to 'education' courses in college is that they often fail to look for the kind of commitment that comes from the love of these things. During my teaching years, I found a profound lack of love of the learners in the teaching profession. I once said, in a faculty meeting of about 60 teachers and administrators, that I believed there weren't 10 people in the room that didn't, in fact, dislike students in general. The only comment made in response was from one person who asked where I figured there were 10! One other observation - the schools have people for 12 years and consistantly these people graduate and vote consistantly against school bonds! Interesting!

To which I can but say, "Amen."

Richard Dalton on Sept. 11: An Alternate View

I have a number of thoughtful friends. Among the most thoughtful is Richard Dalton, one of my best friends for the last two decades. He recently composed his thoughts on our relatively recent national tragedy, and attempts to place it in some much-needed perspective. It is right that me mourn and grieve, individually and as a nation. But in this, as in so many other things, Americans seem to be bipolar--and I don't mean that in a positive way.

I generally agree with your comments about airport security. To me, this poorly-focused effort is a part of our national obsession with the events of September 11, 2001. If we look at that day less emotionally, we have to see the painful reality that 2823 people (latest count I have seen) died and two dramatic symbols of American capitalism were destroyed. That's a tragic event.

I don't know if you have seen it, but I strongly suggest the excellent series "Endgame in Ireland," a joint production of WGBH and the BBC. It recounts the last 10 years of the conflict between the British and the Irish Republicans. That 4-hour series really got me thinking about the 9/11 attacks and our reaction to these events. The main reason for my reassessment was the shocking (to me) news that 3,500 people were killed--mostly innocent civilians--in terrorists attacks and this took place over a period of 25 years, during which, no one could feel entirely safe or comfortable in either country.

So I started looking around a bit on the Internet and realized that I had neglected to remember that almost 8 million Russian civilians died in World War II, that 6 million innocent Jews, Gypsies, and other "undesireables" were killed at the same time, that 2 million children have been killed in wars and political upheavals in the last decade (according to UNICEF), that Allied firebombing of Dresden in WWII killed 300,000, mostly civilians. Then there's the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When we obsess about this singular tragedy in our history, when we use it as an excuse to attack other countries, deny civil liberties, and overlook the clear evidence of suffering throughout the world, we are the U.S. at its worst, nowhere near its best. We need a view of this event that puts it in perspective with history and others' pain and grief.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

Destructive fallout from the DMCA accelerates as corporate lawyers add it to their bag of tricks. CNET's Declan McCullagh reports on the ACLU's suit on behalf of Ben Edelman seeking to prevent a suit against him by a software maker whose product he reviewed unfavorably. (See also this interview with Edelman.) HP has filed a DMCA suit to suppress a bug report when someone had the effrontery to find a security bug in HP's Tru64 Unix. The Chronicle of Higher Education carried Siva Vaidhyanathan's analysis of the chilling effect of the DMCA on academic publication Copyright as Cudgel.

The Berman and Biden show: the bad news from Congress this week is brought to you by US Rep Howard Berman (D-Ca), whose bill to legalize hacking (if you happen to be a copyright holder) was formally introduced, and from Senator Joseph Biden (D-De) whose so-called "anti-counterfeiting" bill has morphed into a draconian anti-consumer Digital Rights Management measure. Dan Gillmor responds to Berman in Hacking, hijacking our rights, StreamCast's CEO decries Berman's support for vigilante hackers.

U.S. Ambassador shills for Microsoft: why the hell is John Hamilton, the U.S. Ambassador to Peru, pressuring them not to prefer free, open-source software over the products of the convicted Microsoft monopoly? Peru is on the verge of following Norway's lead and requiring government use of cheaper, more competitive, open-source software, as has been discussed here before (on May 13 and July 22). Ambassador Hamilton writes that the US does not oppose open-source software but "prefers to support a free market where the quality of the product can determine the issue." This is of course exactly why it is so important to demand the use of software from non-monopolistic sources.

Amid the technology and art at last week's SIGGRAPH conference, the juicy business scandal gossip swirled around a settlement in the Pixar v. Exluna lawsuit and the simultaneous(/related?) acquisition of Exluna by nVIDIA. See CNet's coverage. After a brief absence, the Exluna site is back on the air, acknowledging this state of affairs. They also say that Exluna's Entropy product and co-founder Larry Gritz's pre-Exluna student project "Blue Moon Rendering Tools" (BMRT) are no longer available. Interestingly, while the Internet Archive has snapshots of the site (e.g. Dec 4, 2000) the archived download page has been blocked.

Here at Technobriefs, we try to attend to all of your fringe and pseudo-science needs. A couple of weeks back it was time travel, now we bring you the latest anti-gravity news from Jane's and BBC. Notably this story includes a lone Russian scientist (either a visionary or a crackpot, depending on who you ask) whose results with a "rapidly spinning superconducting apparatus" have not yet been independently verified.

Technobits: The New York Times has made its entire archive available on the web, from 1851 to the present. --- Ars Technica has an in-depth review of Mozilla 1.0 on the PC --- It looks like the excellent cross-platform productivity suiteStarOffice will not be ported to Mac OS X whereas OpenOffice, its open source alter-ego IS on track toward an OS X release. --- An Australian court say its OK for consumers to "chip" (mod) their PlayStation2 consoles, Sony is apoplectic. --- A new form of matter?! Apparently HP decided against its illconsidered attempt to use the DMCA cannon against a fly.

Web Site of the Week

Bob Nilsson's Picks: Google Mirror Site, Six-Pack Rings

Bob Nilsson offers two neat sites:

Here is a new Google "mirror" site.

The group that did this has also "proven" that it is unnecessary to cut up 6-pack rings in the name of preserving wild life. They could not get any fish nor birds stuck in them during their extensive testing.


The Top 15 Signs Your Company Has Accounting Problems

The list restarts after hiatus, and already I'm a winner at No. 5

August 1, 2002


Alrighty, then. Now where were we? Oh, yeah... comedy!

15> In lieu of a paycheck, you receive a stack of twenties with identical serial numbers.

14> "Your attention, please: All employees who own homes with really big fireplaces are asked to report to the accounting department ASAP."

13> The IRS calls in a SWAT team to assist in the yearly audit.

12> Annual report shows everyone has, in fact, given 110 percent.

11> Financial reports are delayed due to shortage of magenta printer cartridges.

10> Accounting department owns 28 microwaves, 5 industrial ovens and a walk-in kiln.

9> Your company tries to stay out of the black between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

8> Your company's NYSE Symbol: SIKE

7> You haven't seen this much shredded crap since you worked at Taco Bell.

6> Your receptionist now answers the company phone only on the advice of her attorney.

5> Your shrewd businessman of a leader managed to turn a huge surplus into a huge deficit in a single fiscal year. (Federal government only)

4> Latest shareholder report brags of 300% growth in the new "Emperor Clothing" division.

3> Playboy is setting up in the lobby for their "Women of Hufnagel's Bakery" photo shoot.

2> Old slogan: "The customer is always right." New Slogan: "We wish to assert our Fifth Amendment Rights."

and's Number 1 Sign Your Company Has Accounting Problems...

1> Chief Financial Officer MC Hammer assures you that "it's all good."


[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 111 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Tom Stoudt, Fort Washington, PA -- 1, 9 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 5



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


Dan Rosenbaum Alert

Catch up with Dan Rosenbaum's web log. Recent topics include Boeing Investigates AntiGrav, Plans for Lower Manhattan, Endless Evidence of Congressional Mendacity, New Schools Chancellor: No Guns, No Drugs, No Windows? and Playboy Radio?

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