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 19, 2002

August 19, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 33

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Paul and Stephanie Visit
  • Why Teachers Are Different
  • Rae Re-Ranked
  • Carroll Cat Column

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Cool HTML Trick

Web Site of the Week

  • Daniel Dern: Great 404 Message


  • The Top 15 Plots Rejected by Movie Studios
  • The Top 13 Signs Your Motivational Speaker Is Depressed (Part I)


  • Spy Kids II
  • A Question For You


  • Link-o-Rama: Dan Grobstein, Daniel Dern

General News

Paul and Stephanie Visit

My niece and nephew, Stephanie and Paul, swung into town for a brief visit this weekend from their respective homes. It was a pleasure and a delight to have them. Stephanie is about the same age as my older daughter Marlow; Paul, the only male in his generation of cousins, is two years younger than my younger daughter Rae.

Friday night, Rae and Paul went to a Guster concert in Berkeley; Stephanie arrived late by plane. Saturday, we all trolled Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, where they got their Birthday presents (they were born on the same day in September, five years apart). We ate lunch at the Cafe Intermezzo, the home of the salad too large to eat, accompanied by the bread to large to fit in your mouth. Marlow first discovered it. It is a fine establishment. We then went to the Marin Civic Center, for what we thought would be a dollhouse FURNITURE show. Turned out to be a DOLL SHOW with almost no furniture. Still, the Civic Center in San Rafael (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) is an impressive pile, so we at least got to see some cool architecture. Since we were in the neighborhood, we swung by Muir Woods.

You know when the exact peak of the tourist season is? Saturday, August 17 at 3pm. The closest parking space to Muir Woods was more than five miles away, and there are no shuttle buses. So we went to Pier 39, where all the Alcatraz tours were sold out until Monday. Fortunately, the sea lions sit around and bark and stink year round, so we could share that experience with our relatives. A sourdough bowl of clam chowder later we were off to Golden Gate Park, where we saw the Conservatory of Flowers, the buffalo, and a few other must-see sites. We had planned the whole day around Cha-Cha-Cha, a great Cuban place on Haight near Stanyan in San Francisco, only to find a 90-minute wait. The Middle Eastern place up the street looked cool: 60 minute wait. We wandered into a Mexican hole-in-the-wall, sat down and were pleasantly surprised with a great dinner. We went home by way of Blockbuster, where we rented a movie Stephanie raved about, The New Guy. We watched it. It was funny and clever, and not nearly as moronic as it looked the advertisements and the trailers.

Sunday, Stephanie had to leave early for her flight; Rae, Paul and I were joined by Rae's friend Jenny for an Oakland A's game at Network Associates Coliseum versus the Chicago White Sox. We had Club Plaza seats that were, thank goodness, in the shade. The A's won 7-3, which made it a fine afternoon of baseball. Dave Justice stole a homerun from Chicago's first batter in the first inning, and they never really showed any spark after that. We sent Paul on his way home and could look back with pleasure on a lovely weekend.

Why Teachers Are Different

This is a new running head in the column, and it will feature, from time to time, the little epiphanies I experience as I learn how teachers are different from other people. This week, I was signing up to be a substitute teacher at the Orinda Union School District. The head of personnel was being pessimistic about my chances of getting a job at the middle school here; she said there had been several first-year teachers last year and the experience had been bad. I said that I, of course, would be different. She told me she'd been in private business for 20 years and that in the time she's been in personnel at the school district, she's always been amazed at the fact that every teacher who walks in is completely confident, "I'm the one." I don't think you could teach if you weren't an optimist. To your core.

I was kidding with my friend Fran about forgetting things. She said it could be useful for teachers; "That way, if yesterday was awful, you'll forget it before you start teaching today." Sound advice, I suspect. Like a newspaper or magazine, every issue is a blank slate, a fresh start.

Rae Re-Ranked

Here's what Rae had to say about getting her fencing ranking renewed:

I got an envelope from the USFA (United States Fencing Academy) the other day, and I've re-earned my D. It doesn't really mean anything because I would have kept my D ranking even if i hadn't re-earned it for at least another 4 years. It makes me happy that I got the ranking again because it shows that maybe -just maybe- the fencing ranking system isn't totally arbitrary and that maybe I do deserve a national ranking in this at-least-not-totally-utterly-and-completely-arbitrary system. D'02, baby!

That 70's Show News

Fascinating news for people who, like Daniel Dern and me, love That 70s Show. This was forwarded by Daniel:

That '70s Show Adds White, Poston

LOS ANGELES ( - Betty White and Tom Poston were both on TV in the 1970s, and they will be again this fall.

The pair, who co-starred in the early-'90s series "Bob," have signed on to guest roles in several episodes of That '70s Show in the coming season. They'll play the parents of Kitty Forman (Debra Jo Rupp), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Carroll Cat Column

John Carroll (America's greatest living newspaper columnist). Cat column. Need I say more?

Could you please avert your eyes?
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle

...THE LAST TIME we were gone on an extended vacation, Archie the cat tried the old freeze-out trick when we got back. He would not come near us. He acted as though strangers had just entered his home.

"Excuse me, sir, I don't believe we've met," his attitude would suggest. "You take far too many liberties. I beg you to mind the location of your hands.

I was invited over here for dinner, not for a mauling...."

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

Preserving our rights in the Digital Age. Two articles came out a day apart, both from eloquent tech-savvy voices, coming to almost opposite conclusions about political strategy. Dan Gillmor argues passionately that consumers and technologists must band together to oppose the financial influence of corporate copyright abusers have on the Congress. He says we must act to prevent theft of our Fair Use rights and theft from the Public Domain. But Declan McCullagh argues convincingly that "hacktivists" barely make a ripple in the political maelstrom. He suggests technologists should focus their efforts on developing innovative paradigm-shifting technology to out-pace the corrupt law-making. McCullagh's piece set off quite a debate. One reply came from the folks who run the informative site Public Knowledge. Then Declan replied to the replies.

There has been a flood of discussion on corporate cluelessness and their theft of consumer's rights. Salon's The Media Titans Still Don't Get It reviews two related new books: Small Pieces Loosely Joined and Bamboozled at the Revolution. See also the peer-reviewed article Rip, Mix, Burn: The Politics of Peer to Peer and Copyright Law in First Monday. Tech Central Station's Hollywood Hacks Consumers is outraged by Berman's bill. There is yet another study finding no evidence of decreased CD purchases among music downloaders. Finally, Lawrence Lessig seems to be winding down his speaking on these issues, so all the more reason to savor his recent address <free culture>. There is also a transcript available.

Digital Software Security Act is proposed legislation that if passed would require the state of California to purchase only open-source software. A similar law is being debated in Peru and one has already passed in Norway.'s Dodging pop-ups with Mozilla describes why Mozilla's wonderful pop-up suppression feature (mentioned here back on June 10) will not be found in Netscape 7.0

Technobits: While the military has supposedly tightening its computer security, spammers still find and exploit open email relays in .mil. --- Should bug finders be paid? it may provide motivation, but raises the specter of extortion. --- Humanity loses $250 billion a year in wild habitat. --- Read an 800-year-old book over the web. --- If you haven't already, check out Thinking Putty at PuttyWorld. --- "...and it was like, beep beep beep beep beep beep beep..." - Ellen Feiss, Student.

Cool HTML Trick

I was reading one of Joe Brancatelli's columns when I noticed that the status line at the bottom read, "If you're reading down here, we must be boring you." I asked him how he did it. This line of HTML goes inbetween <HEAD> and </HEAD>. I am using it now myself, for a different message.

<SCRIPT>defaultStatus="If you're reading down here, we must be boring you..."</SCRIPT>

Web Site of the Week

Daniel Dern: Great 404 Message

A 404 message is that bland message you get when the web site you've entered can't find the page you've asked for. Daniel Dern found one such message that is both profane and amusing. Language alert. Rated R. Just as I was putting the column to bed, I found another cool 404 message myself.


The Top 15 Plots Rejected by Movie Studios

Number 5! Huzzah!

August 15, 2002

15> "Road to Perdition" -- Tom Hanks plays a hit man who vows to protect his best friend, Wilson, after he witnesses a hit at a volleyball game.

14> "Beach Blanket Bingo" -- Pamela spreads the beach blanket. Tommy drops his shorts. Bingo -- another Internet home movie hit!

13> "Spy Kids 2" -- More antics with Father O'Malley and his binoculars.

12> "The English Patient" -- A large-eared British prince resolutely waits 50 years to take over the throne.

11> "The Master of Disguise" -- Secret agent Traficant piles on the hair as he goes undercover to clear his besmirched name.

10> "Lord of the Rings" -- Michael Flatley riverdances his way to boxing's heavyweight title.

9> "Blood Work" -- Cletus makes the harrowing journey to New York to appear on the Jerry Springer show. Once there, he'll face Luanne and find out once and for all if the kids are really his.

8> "The Fast and the Furious" -- A typical audience leaves the theater 10 minutes into "Mr. Deeds."

7> "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" -- Orlando-based boy bands initiate a bloody killing spree in a shopping mall in Edina, Minnesota.

6> "Minority Report" -- Hard-boiled detective Michael Jackson is out to stop a cadre of racist record companies.

5> "Home Alone" -- Dick Cheney takes off for an undisclosed location, leaving George W. Bush at home by himself -- and then the fun begins!

4> "Men in Black II" -- Invading aliens get their asses kicked by Johnny Cash and Richard Lewis.

3> "Windtalkers" -- Coming-of-age story about a group of teenage boys who learn to burp the alphabet.

2> "Murder By Numbers" -- Terrorists try to bring down Corporate America, only to discover that regular accountants beat them to it.

and's Number 1 Plot Rejected by a Movie Studio...

1> "Goldmember" -- Two full hours of George Hamilton's penis on a specially made tanning bed.


[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 85 submissions from 33 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Peter Bauer, Rochester, NY -- 1 (21st #1 / Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 5


The Top 13 Signs Your Motivational Speaker Is Depressed (Part I)

And a No. 12. Who's hot baby?

August 13, 2002

13> He uses visualization techniques, but asks everyone to visualize his funeral.

12> Tony Robbins: Ballroom at the Hilton Your speaker: Men's room at the mall

11> His three-step motivational program consists of Valium, Prozac and Zoloft.

10> His signature affirmation? "Ah, screw it."

9> "Everyone has the ability to make as much money as they want, but first you have to get rid of that bitch of an ex-wife who claims to need child support even though she now lives with a power-stock broker in a house the size of Mount Rushmore."

8> Previous seminar topic: "10 Steps to a Better You" Current seminar topic: "Who Gives a Rat's Ass?"

7> "Dammit, bartender, this glass is half empty again!"

6> During the break, she downs a dozen tequila shots and three boxes of bon bons.

5> Spends half the seminar griping about how the zipper teeth on his fanny pack have separated and his Fruit Roll-ups keep falling out.

4> "These? These are tears of joy... and... and this is a gun of happiness!"

3> Makes a noose out of the microphone cord while looking upward for an exposed beam.

2> Invites participants to join him in licking hot coals.

and's Number 1 Sign Your Motivational Speaker Is Depressed...

1> "Okay, for our first exercise, you all will come up to the podium and just KILL ME NOW!"


[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 107 submissions from 41 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Joseph Moore, Concord, CA -- 1, 6 (14th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 12


Spy Kids II

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

In television, the writer is king. He is granted the title of producer, or executive producer, and he gets a "created by" credit that insures he gets paid every time any episode of the show is aired, anywhere, forever. In movies, on the other hand, the writer is treated like Kleenex--cheap and disposable. They may not seem cheap. You can make $70,000 and up for writing a motion picture screenplay, and most of them are never produced. I have met people who have written 20 unproduced but paid for screenplays. But writers are cheap in terms of respect. Platoons of them are used on most films, and credits seldom reflect the contributions. Nor does the movie that appears on screen always bear much resemblance to the script. Well, movies are a collaborative form of art, they say.

But what happens when the contributions of writers are perennially ignored or undervalued? Eventually, they give up and produce scripts that are gibberish. Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed this big, colorful, entertaining dog's breakfast of a film, and that is an argument for the value of having a screenwriter who isn't also the director--Wood Allen being the only consistent exception I can think of off-hand.

What am I trying to say? The film makes no sense. The script has holes in it you could drive a Mack Truck through. It is a series of almost completely disconnected mildly entertaining anecdotes, many of which feature recurring characters who behave in a somewhat consistent manner. Edited more tightly, it might have been a reasonable film, but then it would only have been an hour long.

Great special effects, a reasonable job of acting by the kids (you scarcely see the parents, the grandparents are an afterthought), and an uplifting message. You won't feel soiled after seeing it (it is rated PG), but as the cliche about Chinese food has it, an hour later you may be hungry for a plot, a story arc--any of that stuff.

Rae found a site with an incisive review.

A Question For You

I admit, some of my movie reviews are a little cursory, and they are almost all weird, but here's the question anyway: I've had one request to create an index of recent movie reviews. If there is widespread interest in this, I'll do it. If it's just one of you, I'll consider it a compliment and move on.


Link-o-Rama: Dan Grobstein, Daniel Dern

Only one link from Dan Grobstein this week; he found this New York Times column

India, Pakistan and G.E.
August 11, 2002

in which Friedman posits that corporate pressure had as much to do with the peaceful resolution of the India-Pakistan conflict as U.S. diplomacy, and maybe MORE.

Several from Daniel Dern, who noticed the story reporting that Dell Computer is making Windows optional for some of its business desktops. He also found this story of Pooh Business in Lala land in LA Magazine:

An 80-year-old grandmother's lawsuit has threatened to yank Winnie-the-Pooh out of Disney's Magic Kingdom. It's a Doozy of a case, full of Bluster and Hullabaloo-the kind that comes of liking money so much.

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