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: December 16, 2002

December 16, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 49

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Therapy By Email
  • Teaching Notes
  • Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
  • I Wonder Who's Kissinger Now?

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • About Bill Gates
  • Farewell, Computer Chronicles

Web Site of the Week

  • Moving Political Commentary


  • The Top 14 Favorite Movies of Supermodels


  • Nemsis
  • Tully


  • Carter on Iraq, Trent's True Colors, Hu's On First, Why Black Kids Lag, Fighting Graffiti

General News

Therapy By Email

When you record your innermost thoughts and feelings in public, as I do in the web log, it's like offering everyone you know, or have ever known, as well as a fair number of strangers, the chance to analyze you and offer advice. Since I do not now, and never have, considered myself the fount of all wisdom, I view this as a good thing. You'll recall last week I expressed my concern about the continuation of the column in the face of my current workload. I offer, without comment, a response sincerely offered me in humor and love:

Stop complaining. If your are complaining, and judging, you cannot be learning." It is a truth that has led to the enlightenment of many masters over the ages, and it can help your students. If you can get them to promise to not complain for the hour, you will have taught them a lesson that will serve them all the rest of the day and all the rest of their lives. Of course, Friend, this Truth and Way, "Stop complaining" applies to teachers, too.

Kevin Sullivan checked in:

Don't sweat the small stuff regarding the student teacher training prep. You can't possibly be prepared enough. Think of it as an exercise somewhere between psychological surfing, being a step ahead of a parade, and lion taming. It's most important to feel the flow and direct it, so that actual engagement and education happen.

As did Peggy Coquet (I loved her clever word choice):

Teachers seem to be taking a caning everywhere; I hope your ardor for your new profession is strong enough to overcome the ordure you'll have to wade through.

At the Christmas sing-a-long, whenever anyone asked how the teaching was coming, I said, "it is much harder than I expected." How banal. How wrong. Everyone I talked to at that party will walk away with the wrong impression. Because how hard it is is not the point. The point is, I am finally doing something I love, something I feel is really important. Of course it is hard. I am, today, at the point in my teaching career where I was in my journalism career in 1972, when I was 20. Now, as then, I am surrounded by people who are better at it, not necessarily because they are better than me (although they may well be), but because they have been at it much longer than I have. When someone asks you how something is going, tell them the most important thing about it first, not the least important.

Teaching Notes

In order to close a huge budget gap, Gov. Gray Davis is planning to halt state funding of class size reductions. That means larger classes, fewer teaching jobs and more trouble for me getting employed. Oh, how exciting. More important, it seems we've decided to balance the budget on the backs of the children!

Everyone advises new teachers to "be sure to continue to lead your normal life" despite the enormous time demands of the job. Yeah right. I am down to a movie a month, and I feel guilty watching that. Well, on the up side, the job has really cut into my TV watching. That has to be a good thing.

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

From Kevin Sullivan:

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2" in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "Yes," The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and proceeded to pour their entire contents into the jar-effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, and your children - things that if everything else were lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter - like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

I Wonder Who's Kissinger Now?

Various items of note regarding the new commission to investigate 9/11 set up despite the objections and obstruction of Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

A former public servant by the name of Henry Kissinger was named by Mr. Bush (a key target of any independent investigation) to head the commission.

On December 5, 2002, Mary McGrory's column titled "Kissinger for Christmas" appeared in The Washington Post, p. A35. Ms. McGrory recounted part of the history of what she termed a "bizarre" personnel pick leading to "the Grand Canyon-size discrepancy between man and job." On top of Vietnam, Chile, Central America, and various other activities, Kissinger, according to Ms. McGrory apparently also is unable to control his temper and cracks under the slightest pressure as shown by the following excerpt: "In 1974, when a rookie reporter at a State Department briefing had the temerity to ask Kissinger whether he would get a lawyer to represent him in legal difficulties arising from his indiscriminate White House wiretapping, Kissinger threw a fit and had to be calmed down by passage of a Senate resolution declaring him to be wonderful."

In the neutral bipartisan even-handed spirit of independent journalism of which PSACOT is one of the last exemplars, PSACOT notes that on December 9, 2002, The Washington Post published an article by Renar Merle ("A Smooth Operator Unveiled, C. Gregory Earls Has Friends In High Places. His Ties To One May Be His Undoing"), pages E1 and 11, about C. Gregory Earls, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Technologies, Inc. ("USTI"), of whose board of directors and audit committee William H. Webster (former mis-director or mal-director of the FBI and CIA) was a member. USTI had financial troubles. When SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt tried to install Webster as chairman of a new national accounting oversight board without appropriate disclosure of Webster's actions (or inactions) as an USTI Board member to the other four (4) SEC members, Pitt and Webster resigned. Buried deep in the article was the previously reported news that another USTI board member was former U.S. Senator George Mitchell (D- Maine) who as of December 9 had accepted an appointment as vice-chair of the commission to investigate 9/11. Two days later (December 11, 2002), Mitchell resigned as vice chair with the explanation (or cover story) that he couldn't afford to leave his law firm.

If in a nation of 285 million people, Mr. Bush was unable or unwilling following a diligent search to find a commission chair less problematic than Henry Kissinger, one can understand why he has not found either Osama Bin Laden or the anthrax killer(s).

On December 13, 2002, (possibly faced with the advance text of PSACOT dated December 15, 2002) (or just possibly because of a series of editorials in the nation's number 2 (right behind PSACOT) regular news organization (The New York Times), Henry Kissinger resigned from the commission. Or maybe Henry realized that he had made a bundle of promises he couldn't keep the day before when he met with survivors of those murdered on 9/11. Or maybe Henry realized that while his flattery may have allowed him to avoid serious regular press coverage before, the survivors could not be bought off with a few inside scoops they could convert into cash from higher salaries, articles, television appearances, and books.

The story so far (that his consulting firm had confidentiality agreements and he couldn't liquidate Kissinger and Associates fast enough to remove the conflicts) will not withstand scrutiny. First, it is unlikely any corporation would care if its competitors knew they spoke with Henry because they still would not know what Henry was advising.

Second, if there were confidentiality agreements at the customer's insistence, liquidating the firm would not end the obligation of confidentiality.

Third, the possibility exists that Henry (not the customer) insisted on the confidentiality clause precisely so he could accept a government position and try to bar inquiry into his potential conflicts by insisting his customers didn't want their ties to him known.

Fourth, the story that Henry bars the customers from telling foreign governments he is an advisor is ludicrous and accomplishes nothing except making it seem (erroneously) as if Henry is not peddling influence and contacts. There is no mention of a ban on the customer telling the best golfing buddy of the dictator du jour that Henry advises the company (so let us solve your problems with the United States; or, don't worry, Henry will slip this one past (or get it approved by) the U.S. regulators or officials).

Fifth, the suggestion that Henry would reveal his customer list to an "independent" third party (not the public) is straight out of the playbook of the administration of which Henry was a member beginning in 1969. Historical research reveals that in 1973 when a Special Prosecutor's subpoena was outstanding for certain audiotapes made in the Oval Office in the period from 1969 to 1973, the administration proposed that rather than complying with the subpoena the Special Prosecutor should accept a summary of the scratchy, low-quality audiotapes to be made by the almost totally deaf Senator John Stennis (D-Miss.). The proposal was rejected. This being the Internet Age, things move faster. Last time, the resignation (by someone other than Henry) took about ten (10) months. This time, it took a day for Henry to resign.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

Liberty, privacy and consumer rights: these concepts are in flux in a world revolutionized by the web and high-tech while rocked by terrorism and counter-terrorism. Librarians Receive Advice on Law and Reader Privacy: under the USA Patriot Act, librarians can be compelled to surrender user's (previously confidential) usage records to law enforcement. In response librarians are changing their policy to keep fewer records and to retain them for less time. Salon's Replay it again, Sam describes Craig Newmark's lawsuit against Big Media, seeking to reaffirm that traditional Fair Use rights apply to personal use of devices such as "personal video recorders". Next February, Oxford will host a conference on The Politics of Code.

Clueless and corrupt: the music industry continues to degrade consumer's Fair Use rights and hobble the technology sector with DRM issues. I wonder where they find the time, since they are so busy enriching themselves with illegal accounting practices: Paris Police Raid Vivendi Office and Home of Former Chief. This is the industry that regularly describes its customers as "pirates" which prompted publisher Tim O'Reilly to write Piracy is Progressive Taxation... listing seven lessons like: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.

Anti-Spam, anti-virus: three novel strategies to fight these twin nose-bleeds of the Information Age. In bonded email the sender pays to certify its mail is not spam, whereas (AI pioneer, CMU and IBM researcher) Scott Fahlman's plan makes strangers pay for access to your email or phone. HP researcher Matthew Williamson finds Virus Throttle a Hopeful Defense: clamping the rate at which a computer can connect to other computers slows the rate of virus propagation, but has negligible effect on normal usage.

ElcomSoft DMCA trial: this week the defense rested. Cindy Cohn, legal director of EFF says: "It's very difficult to understand what was wrong with what ElcomSoft did. The law is unclear in its meaning. It seems to criminalize something that's usually legal."

A gaggle of gifts from Google: 2002 Year-End Google Zeitgeist examines "search patterns, trends, and surprises" and includes a year in review timeline. New from the Labs: Google Webquotes, which lists descriptions of a web page from pages that link to it (e.g.), and Google Viewer which presents search results as a "slide show". Also this week they launched a "product search" service called Froogle (read all about it).

Technobits: The New Yorker on TIA: Too Much Information --- So Many Nodes, So Little Security wide-open WI-FI (like, oops, mine) --- NewsFactor Network praises the innovative Mozilla browser (now at version 1.2.1) --- Popdex another entry in the "Daypop Top 40 / Blogdex space"

About Bill Gates

Robin Russell of Perth Australia wrote this and shared it with me:

ABOUT BILL GATES.................

"Bill Gates?", he asked, "Bill Gates? We've never heard of him out here,
and I'm bloody sure I'd know, from all me mates who have a beer,
down at the 'local' by the 'yards, where they once sold stock each week,
but they closed them with the banks, who still have the bloody cheek,
to say they care about 'the bush' and all the 'people on the land',
who worked to make Australia great from what was largely sand..."
"Bill Gates?' he asked again, in a voice that left me in little doubt,
that tho' good news travels fast, Bill Gates had not been seen about.
"So tell me what he does?" he asked, "and did he come by ute or car?
As if he did the dust would tell, which way and just how far....."
"Well", I replied as thoughtfully, as I ever could to such a man,
as he was a dinkum out-back "Aussie" with that crinkled skin and tan,
that told me he had been about, long before I saw first light,
and warned me he was bush-smart, and that I'd better get it right.
"Well, Bill doesn't have to work. In fact, he's now very, very, wealthy,
and he's made a thousand million - it seems selling bytes is healthy,
for your wallet and your lifestyle, as if you have spare bytes to sell,
you'll can always find a buyer; and now there's the Internet as well,
where you can buy and sell 'online', trading stocks and buying books,
and there's other stuff on 'the net' - like pretty girls with looks...." .
There was a long and pregnant silence as my words were sinking in,
and then I saw my bush-smart mate, slowly start to give a grin.
"So this Bill is selling bites" he said, "and he's created all this wealth,
from selling something I don't need for a long life and good health?
Well good luck to him and all his mates, but the only 'bites' I need,
are a good old Aussie pie with sauce, when I'm hungerin' for a feed.
And as for that buying 'on the line', and that selling 'on the net'
wouldn't do us much good here - have you been here in the 'the wet'
when all the roads are all washed out, and when all the trucks are bogged?
- I'll take a bet that that Internet would be well and truly sogged!
"Look here" he said " I'll tell you now, the only 'gates' we'll ever need,
are the one's you open up for stock when you let 'em out for feed.
And as for those 'girly' pictures you say are free up on 'the net',
they'd never match the beauty - and on this I'll place a bet -
of the blonde behind this bar, who's been here for fifty years,
and can make a man feel like a man, by the way she pours his beers.
Yes, she's the sort of girl that I bet Bill Gates has never seen,
Just imagine how his Internet would grow, with her up on the screen?
"You've got me there" I quick replied, as she came in my direction,
"Excuse me mate, I've gotta go, to make an Internet connection..."

Farewell, Computer Chronicles

Those of you who know me really well know that I was the weekly software reviewer for the PBS program The Computer Chronicles (1986-1992), as well as a commentator (1987-88) and a regular on what was the Christmas show and became the Annual Buyers Guide show (1985-1999). Ironically, during much of that time, my job was to cover mainframes and minicomputers; appearing on a PC television program was my only real connection to microcomputing. I loved it, I loved the show, and I loved the people involved, a movable feast of delightful characters that remained virtually unchanged from start to finish. Alas, all good things must come to an end. The show is yet another victim of the dramatic nosedive in advertising/underwriting money available in the computer business. In case you haven't heard:

San Mateo, CA. December 12, 2002 - Computer Chronicles, the original national television series on personal computing, is going off the air after twenty years of broadcasting. The series was created and hosted by Stewart Cheifet, who has been called the "dean of television computer journalists" and the "original TV techie". Cheifet said, "The sagging tech economy, changes in the high-tech industry, and new developments in medical technology and broadband distribution make it a good time to shift gears and pursue other content areas and other delivery mechanisms. We've spent twenty years educating people about the complexities of personal technology, now we hope to do the same in the areas of medical technology and health care."

Computer Chronicles first went on the air in 1982 as a local televised user's group meeting in the San Francisco area. The show quickly grew in popularity and spread across the country. It eventually was carried in nearly 300 cities in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world. The series was dubbed into several foreign languages including Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese.

Computer Chronicles attracted a weekly worldwide audience of more than two million viewers and was considered "the television show of record" for the computer industry. Hundreds of new high-tech products were unveiled on the show including the original IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh. Guests on the show included industry leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Scott McNealy, and Andy Grove. The final episode in the series is due to air the last week in December 2002.

Computer Chronicles was broadcast in the United States on PBS stations and videotapes of the series were used in many college computer courses and corporate training programs. The series, which has been on the air every week for the past twenty years, has accumulated a videotape library of over a thousand programs. Its video archives are being digitized and made available on-line through a joint venture with

Cheifet announced that a companion series, Net Café, which has been broadcast nationally on Public Television for the past six years, is also going off the air. Net Café was shot on location at various cyber cafes in the San Francisco Area and covered the culture, lifestyle and business changes brought on by the Internet. Cheifet said he is considering launching a new technology series that would combine the content of Computer Chronicles and Net Café.

Computer Chronicles and Net Café have received more than twenty broadcast journalism awards including two awards from the Computer Press Association for the best individual technology television program of the year. The shows were based in the Silicon Valley but production crews traveled around the world to cover the personal computer revolution shooting programs in such locations as India, France, Germany, Israel, Scotland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Austria, Hungary, and Italy.

Computer Chronicles was recognized earlier this year by AdWeek's Marketing Computers magazine as one of the five most influential broadcast programs in the country in the field of computer technology and Cheifet was listed among the top five broadcast journalists in the field. In addition to hosting and producing Computer Chronicles and Net Café, Cheifet has also been a frequent speaker and writer on technology issues and has appeared at major technology conferences around the world.

You can offer condolences at the Chronicles website.

Web Site of the Week

Moving Political Commentary

It is amazing what you can do with Macromedia flash. This moving political commentary is simple yet effective.


The Top 14 Favorite Movies of Supermodels

Back in the saddle again, after a long absence from these precincts, as No. 12:

December 9, 2002

14> The Fellowship of the Thongs

13> Diet Another Day

12> Divine Secrets of the Binge-Purge Sisterhood

11> Tummy Tuck Everlasting

10> Women on the Purge of a Nervosa Breakdown

9> The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Husband (Paulina Porizkova only)

8> Eat, Purge, Man, Woman

7> The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kate Moss

6> 8 Crazy Pounds

5> Guess Who's Throwing Up Dinner?

4> Purgy Woman

3> Raging Bulimia

2> Das Botox

and's Number 1 Favorite Movie of Supermodels...

1> Throaty Got Fingered

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 142 submissions from 48 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brad Simanek, Cedar Rapids, IA -- 1 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 12


Star Trek: Nemesis

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

First, let's put it on the table. I am a Star Trek fan, and I like all the versions (except the current one, which I haven't seen yet). I've seen all the originals, and a handful of Next Generation and Voyager. I've seen every Star Trek movie within a month of it's release, and most of them several times. I even like William Shatner/James T. Kirk, although not as much as Patrick Stewart/Jean-Luc Picard.

This movie begins with the aspect of Star Trek I like best, the combination of the serious and the amusing (like Spock on the 20th century bus in San Francisco). It then switches gears into the other aspect I like best, the use of silly adventure stories to tell serious fables about the human condition. In my lifetime, only Rod Serling and Twilight Zone did a better job of propagating such good, apparently liberal, ideas as peace, harmony and diversity through entertaining and commercial story telling.

You've probably seen the mixed reviews. Once again, I say unto you, if you know nothing of Star Trek and don't care, then don't bother. If you do know the series, or are just curious, give it a try.

Five stars. A worthy goodbye from the Next Generation crew, if that is really the way things work out. See it if you can.


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

Also known as The Truth About Tully, this delightful little art-house film lives up to its billing on the Internet Movie Database as combining "nuanced, profound emotion and rare movie-making." To me, what separates a good movie from a great movie is a majority of scenes in which I cannot accurately predict the next line of dialog. This movie wins that test by a landslide. Its gritty realism, its elegiac camera work, clever writing and outstanding performances led it to prominence at the Toronto film festival and nearly guaranteed obscurity in its U.S. release. It barely made it into theaters. It doesn't even have a tag line! Tully is at the Park in Lafayette, Calif. for one week, and, no doubt, is playing somewhere in LA. As the San Francisco Chronicle reviewer put it (and I am paraphrasing here), if you like your dramas clever and subtle, this is the movie for you. You'll probably have to wait for it to come out on video, however, where it should become a classic that people will keep in circulation for years. Five stars. Go see it.


Carter on Iraq, Trent's True Colors, Hu's On First, Why Black Kids Lag, Fighting Graffiti

Peggy Coquet sends this along:

From President Jimmy Carter's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, as quoted in the New York Times online edition today:

"War may sometimes be a necessary evil," he later added. "But no matter how necessary, it is always evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children."

Peggy also was the first to note to me that Trent Lott showed his true colors while toasting Strom Thurmond and that they are "white, white, white." To be fair, Lott issued a semi-apology Monday. To be honest, the apology didn't actually apologize for lionizing an arch-segregationist and toasting his bitter, last-ditch effort to prevent desegregation in 1948. So he tried again Tuesday and Wednesday.

This controversy rapidly heated up Thursday. I still think "President" Bush is a nasty, unelected brute, but he did, finally, put principle before expediency. Karl Rove, I assume, was on vacation. Bush actually risked undermining the secret GOP message to all segregationist Southern White Males--now the backbone of the GOP. That secret message, of course, is, "we can't say it out loud, but in our hearts, we know you were right about Jim Crow all those years."

For the first and only time so far, I was proud of the president when he spoke the truth: "Recent comments by Sen. Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country," Bush said to loud applause. "He has apologized and rightly so. Every day that our nation was segregated was a day our nation was unfaithful to our founding ideals."

On the other hand, William Bennett, a noted conservative author and education secretary during the Reagan administration, is going to fall over forward when his nose gets so long (from lying) that it outweighs his body. He said, "On their face, the recent comments of Sen. Trent Lott are offensive, repugnant and inimical to what the Republican Party stands for." Balderdash. What Lott said is exactly what the GOP has stood for since 1966, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, and they have the voting record to prove it.

In lighter matters, after a dozen submissions, it is time for me to acknowledge "Hu's On First," a funny update of the old Abbott and Costello "who's on first" routine, as Bush advisors attempt to explain to him that a man named Hu now runs China.

Dan Grobstein passes along a William Raspberry column, Why Black Kids Lag that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. He also noted the invention of an automated graffiti-fighting camera system in the New York Times technology section.

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