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: September 16, 2002

September 16, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 37

Table of Contents:

General News

  • 5:45
  • On Turning 50
  • Another Mid-Life Teacher
  • My Life As A Teacher
  • Journalism Movie Update

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • What About Blogs

Web Site of the Week

  • Dern: How To Cook with Lava, Lab-Grown Organs


  • The Top 13 Rules of Cyber-Romance
  • Gunpowder


  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding


  • Subtle Firesign Reference?, Dark Waters, Stella Awards

General News


As I stood looking at myself in the mirror at 5:45 this morning, just before my shower, I thought of all the times I had been up early: getting reading to drive to San Jose for a news conference, to fly to Las Vegas for Comdex, to go to Seattle to interview Bill Gates (well, OK, only once in Seattle and once in Las Vegas, but still), and the countless times I was up that early just to sit down at my home office desk and be a journalist. And then, almost a year after my layoff changed my life, I realized that I wasn't going to do any of those things this day. Instead, I was going to do an observation.

Admittedly, following a teacher around for a day, taking notes, then writing up my observations was as close to journalism as anything I do now (except for this column), but the audience, the purpose, the context are so alien to the workaday life of my first 28 years out of college as to be breathtaking. The size of the change I an undergoing struck me like a thunderbolt. And the change, of course, isn't over yet. Next September, I'll be looking at a guy in that mirror who has no children left living at home.

Some say the change is never over, that life is about change, and that you either embrace it or it runs you over. Oh joy.

On Turning 50

This is why I miss Adair Lara so much. I turn 50 on Sept. 17. I don't wish to dwell on it, but I think these excerpts from this article are sufficient to express most of my feelings, even though my brother is not a twin and will not be turning 50 for another two years.

Mozart was dead when he was my age
Adair Lara
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, January 24, 2002

I'VE BEEN READING a pocketbook called "The Book of Ages," where you look up your age and see what other people have accomplished by then. It's the kind of book that makes you want to lie down with a warm towel over your face. ....

LET'S RETURN TO the depressing little tome in front of us. At 50, Ford had invented the assembly line, Darwin had written "The Origin of Species," Frank Sinatra had married Mia Farrow. So all three of those things are out for me. Roosevelt was elected president, John Updike got the Pulitzer Prize, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays. What a hostile, angry little book . . .

At 50 Pavlov was just a guy with too many dogs in his backyard, and Ronald Reagan an out-of-work actor. Samuel Morse had virtually given up on the invention he called the telegraph. It all lay ahead of them.

Where did they find the time?

Or, to make it more personal, the man who founded the company I worked for for 20 years, the one he and his sons sold for $1 billion--he was 49 in 1972 when he founded it. Where did he find the time?

Another Mid-Career Teacher

Daniel Dern forwarded this note from another computer-industry dropout. I sought his permission to reprint it; all he asked is that I remove his name and the name of the city in which he is teaching. Done and done.

To former colleagues, members of the press whom I have worked with for several years, friends and others who I dare not try to classify:

My apologies for this form email, but it is the surest way I can reach you all with the answer to those burning questions "why haven't I heard from D," and "what the hell is he doing now?"

After much soul-searching, I decided to pursue my dream of teaching. I have recently completed the first part of the Institute for New Teachers program, a state-run program to fast-track mid-career professionals into the classroom. On Tuesday, I start teaching eighth-grade science. By next Spring, I should have completed the requirements and will move from provisional to fully certified teacher.

Lest you think this is some altruistic venture, let me say this is purely selfish: I enjoy working with kids this age, I can do silly experiments and watch goofy science shows on TV because it's "work" and I can set things on fire in a classroom and get praised for it.

Yeah, the pay sucks (big-time), but life in layoff land really taught me that we don't need a gagillion dollars to be happy, so I might as well do what I've always wanted.

Wish me luck. And thanks for everything throughout the years, I've enjoyed working with you all and hope to see you in the future.

My Life As A Teacher

I am still getting a lot of work as a substitute. Regrettably, I had to turn down an interesting offer to be a computer specialist at an elementary school in a nearby town because of previous commitments. It might well have been fun and exciting. But I'll probably get enough fun and excitement when I finish my credential this April and, I hope, get my own classroom in the fall of 2003--just in time for Rae to go away to college!

Journalism Movie Update

Those of you who have been paying attention will realize that I also own and operate a web page devoted to journalism movies. I mention it here from time to time especially when I make major changes in the content. I have recently done so: I have added new commentary on the movies S1M0NE (actually a reprint of the review from my column), Ace in the Hole, Sweet Smell of Success and Citizen Kane. I also found some great new publicity stills and added those to the site as well. If you like journalism movies, you'll enjoy visiting that page. I mention it every week in the fine print at the bottom of the column. Speaking of which, I have also revised the fine print to include pointers to such timeless features as Larry King's Letters From Europe, Kevin Sullivan's discussion of teaching and my favorite movie, Groundhog Day, as well as a pointer to my fan-fiction Prairie Home Companion script.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

Hewlett-Packard boots Bruce Perens: hired two years ago as HP's strategist for open-source software, Perens was terminated last week for failing to tone down his pro-open-source, anti-Microsoft rhetoric after HP became the world's largest Microsoft reseller as a side effect of merging with Compaq.

Copyright/DRM/TCPA roundup: this Reuters article about TCPA and Microsoft's Palladium says "media companies complained they wouldn't release high-quality versions of their published content to personal computers because of piracy concerns." Maybe its just me, but I would much rather preserve my rights as a consumer than have the dubious ability to download a digital copy of The Adventures of Pluto Nash. See also's ISPs gird for copyright fights, Wired's Corporate Paws Grab for Desktop, and this ZDNet review of an MP3 player that asks why Toshiba bothered to provide a speedy USB 2.0 interface only to cripple its speed with DRM?

Mark Rasch, a former head of the U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime Unit, is concerned When Feds are the Crackers. This regards the case mentioned here last week of questionable "extra-territorial seizure" by the FBI of files from a computer in Russia. Rasch's sharply worded rebuke suggests the FBI's actions may be theft under US laws and trespass under Russian law.

The Google v Great Firewall of China story kept changing: first it was reported that state-run ISPs had blocked access to Google so it was down, then came word that Google was working on it, then it was back up, but now it seems that it is really only partly up.

Also, in New Scientist, On-off access for Google in China.

The three moons of Earth: from the departments of Weird Science and Everything You Know Is Wrong: we all know about Luna, but I'd never heard of Cruithne (moon number 2) until I read this BBC report about J002E3 a candidate for moon number 3. OK, these are technically companions of Earth, meaning they share Earth's orbit around the Sun. Luna and J002E3 orbit around the Earth, Cruithne does a truely wacky cosmic dance.

Dan Gillmor takes a thoughtful walk down memory lane, identifying 10 choices that were critical to the Net's success: "In our modern, corporate culture, the rise of the Internet is a happy accident. In its roots and growth...the Net never had a business model..."

Technobits: did Senator Boxer's allies create a fake website to support her bill? --- Microsoft wants to hire Xbox hacker --- Cringely is going to do a "open-source TV show" called NerdsTV --- following up on my Thinking Putty item from August 19, the WSJ had an article about adults and bulk putty --- wouldn't the pun have been better if they called this strip The Joy of TechS? --- quasi-official word that "emoticons" were invented on September 19, 1982 :-).

What About Blogs

I am helping out at the local high school newspaper. A student is working on a story about web logs, aka blogs. I asked Craig "Mr. Blog" Reynolds for a few useful links. I reproduce them here, in case you, too, wonder what all this Blog nonsense is about. Quite a bit, it seems.

Top: Computers: Internet: On the Web: Weblogs, Blogdex, Daypop Top 40, Living in the Blog-osphere
(recent Neswweek article by Steven Levy), Blogging tools and hosts (,, and BlogComp: Blog Tool Feature Comparison Table.

Web Site of the Week

Dern: How To Cook with Lava; Lab-Grown Organs

Attention Readers in Hawaii and Oregon (where there are volcanic vents on Mt. Hood). Daniel Dern offers yet another entry into the "too much time on their hands sweepstakes," which will never end on the Internet: How To Cook With Lava. Slashdot also led Mr. Dern to an interesting book excerpt on the subject of bad web page coding by an author with (surprise!) strong feelings on the subject.

Once again Bob Nilsson found a lulu:

You may get this one from your other sources, but I could not resist forwarding the news on "one of the most impressive attempts at organ engineering to date". The New Scientist describes growing penises in the lab. If it were closer to April 1, you might think this was a joke. On the other hand, because of the complexity of the organ, it represents quite a breakthrough. Naturally, the work was done with rabbits. I guess John Wayne Bobbit has long been fixed, but I hate to think of the new round of junk emails that will soon be headed our way.


The Top 13 Rules of Cyber-Romance

Either my luck or my skill is improving. See No. 12.

September 9, 2002


Seven years after advising women to play hard-to-get in order to catch and marry a man, the authors of "The Rules" are back with new tips for the world of online dating.

13> Ladies: Don't let him past your firewall until the third date.

12> A chat room occupant's desirability is inversely proportional to the coolness of his nom de chat.

11> Never tell him you love him until after he gives you his credit card number.

10> Your Date Desirability Quotient (DDQ) is inversely proportional to the number of cat pictures on your website.

9> Never :o on a first date.

8> Practice safe cybersex -- don't keep a chat log that your real-world S.O. might discover.

7> Never forget which gender you're pretending to be.

6> Save the scanned photos of your gonads for the *second* date, hotshot.

5> Always ask if "The Crying Game" was one of his favorite movies.

4> Faking your own death is an effective and fun way to end a relationship.

3> Remember: The uglier the man, the more money he makes as a computer programmer.

2> When pretending to be a hot 18-year-old girl, avoid reminiscing about Mickey Mantle and Johnny Unitas.

and's Number 1 Rule of Cyber-Romance...

1> is probably not your best bet for a late-night motel rendezvous.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 96 submissions from 38 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Allen Lindsey, Cincinnati, OH -- 1 (14th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 12


A tough old cowboy once counseled his grandson that if he wanted to live a long life, the secret was to sprinkle a little gunpowder on his oatmeal every morning.

The grandson did this religiously and he lived to the age of 93. When he died, he left 14 children, 28 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and a fifteen foot hole in the wall of the crematorium.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding

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

On the one hand, trite, clichéd and formulaic. That's not too surprising, since director Joel Zwick's previous experience was all in television, starting with Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. On the other hand, a laugh every few minutes, some of them laugh-out-loud belly laughs. And even a few of what I call I Love Lucy moments, where your embarrassment on behalf of the character on the screen is so great that you can't bear to look.

This is an amazing film, that opened in April on 108 screens, where it did a half million dollars worth of business. It went wide in August and is almost certain to hit $100 million. Not bad for a $5 million investment.

This movie looks like what it is; a low-budget but still-Hollywood film. John "Ian Miller" Corbett" will look familiar to you; he's the disc jockey from Northern Exposure who's been pitching Fords for the last few years. Michael "Gus Portokalos" Constantine was Principal Seymour Kaufman on Room 222 and has been in 57 movies (mostly made for TV, but also The Hustler) and appeared on 96 TV shows since his film debut in 1959. No wonder he looks familiar.

Here is the plot summary from IMDB (although I must note that the plot rarely gets in the way of the jokes, visual and verbal):

A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.

Vicki saw this right after seeing Monsoon Wedding and says that movie was better because this one was formulaic. Both statements are true, but I like this movie a lot. Just not as much as Monsoon. Rae called it formulaic, but when a film is this entertaining, who cares?

Rated Rated PG for sensuality and language, this film could readily be viewed by any reasonably mature 12-year-old, and will be a real kick for any adult. Run, don't walk, to see it.


Subtle Firesign Reference?, Dark Waters, Stella Awards

Harrison Klein wonders:

For the last two days I've been hearing AP Radio Network news reports that quote a Middle East name that sounds just like "Regnad Kasin". I have the radio on in the background so I can never quite make it out until it's over, but it always gives me a start!

The AP Radio web site is no help. Has anyone else heard this? Are we dealing with reality or just a mondegreen?

My former boss at UPI, Donald Davis, has co-authored a book ,with Lee Vyborny

Dark Waters: An Insider's Account of the NR-1, the Cold War's Undercover Nuclear Sub is a thrill-a-minute book of submarine adventure, imminent danger, personal bravery, technological wonder and historic discovery.... Operating alone and unarmed on the bottom of the sea, the U.S. Navy's smallest nuclear-powered submarine is one of its biggest weapons. Tied up at a pier, the boat with the bright orange sail looks absolutely minuscule, innocent and out of place beside its big brothers, the fleet's huge missile-carrying and attack submarines, but it can dive deeper, stay down for a month, and accomplish missions far beyond the capabilities of any of them. The ship has been cloaked in mystery. It wasn't commissioned or given a name, and even today it is hardly known beyond a select fraternity of sailors and scientists. They simply call it the NR-1.

I was going to run an item on the Stella awards--you've seen the email, a list of 10 stupid legal cases where the victims brought their problems on themselves--that was forwarded by a friend. I won't name him, because, as it turns out, unlike the Darwin awards (which are real and verifiable) the Stella awards are yet another of those popular hoaxes with which the Internet abounds.'s page, Only In America-crazy court awards-Fiction! lays out the case: has checked court records and news archives for the cities mentioned, and have not found any documentation for any of these stories.

Also, we don't find anything called "The Stella Awards."

The court case involving Stella Liebeck is true and is widely known because of it being the little old lady who got millions because of what seemed like a small incident.

She spilled hot coffee on herself after the drive-through at a McDonald's in Washington state. She was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson's car. The spill caused severe burns over 6 percent of her body. She spent a week in the hospital, underwent several skin drafts, and ended up with permanent scarring on 15 percent of her body. According to the Washington State Trial Lawyer's Association, Liebeck sued McDonalds only after the company refused to pay her medical expenses. The WSTLA says her bills added up to $11,000, but McDonalds offered to pay only $800. A mediator recommended a $250,000 settlement, which McDonald's turned down. One of the issues in the trial was that Liebeck's lawyers said there had been several hundred similar cases that McDonald's had ignored and that the company had refused to reduce the temperature of the coffee machines. A jury gave Stella Liebeck $160,000 but also fined McDonald's a punitive damage of $2.7 million. A judge later reduced that amount to $480,000 then McDonald's settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

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