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: January 27, 2003

January 27, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 4

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Finals/ I Said The Darndest Things

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Lord of the Peeps, Ultracoool GE Site


  • Marriage Humor
  • Shaggy Dog Story


  • The Hours
  • Harry Potter II
  • Movie Notes


  • Only Howard Dean, Nepotism, Copyright, Religions of Peace

General News

Finals/I Said The Darndest Things

I administered final exams to the two classes I was student teaching; 30 points of vocabulary and 70 points of in-class essay, for 14% of the term grade. It was uneventful. My parting thought to the students was: I can't teach you anything: no teacher can. All I can do is make it possible for you to learn.

Turns out several students in second period had been making note of a few things I said in class:

I got on the metaphor train but missed the exit. [I do get lost in extended metaphors sometimes]

The snow fell, uh, just like little snowflakes

Pull the other one, it's got bells on it.

Yep, he takes it off the train tracks.

Do you need Huxley to come up and hit you on the side of the head?

Well, he was somewhat of a dweeb.

I want another noun besides "boob."

800 words have fallen into the next country.

I'm tickled pink.

For those of you who are eager beavers...

Dime store psychology just isn't what it used to be.

They don't give a fig what people think.

The older I got, demeanor I got

EVIL (in Hyde voice)

Oh my god, what a repulsive little dwarf! (about Hyde)

She's a dandy ribbon cutter. (Queen Elizabeth)

What a cluck.

A lot of good ideas that jumped onto a horse and rode off into the sun [actually, usually, I say, "in all directions."]

I hate to be a nitpicker.

My voice is a limited resource. Don't make me waste it.

Oops. Can't say that.

And the one they missed:

"This must be some interesting new definition of fun with which I wasn't previously familiar. (quoted from Douglas Adams).

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you. Good every week. Extra good this week.

Anti-TIA: in a stunning bi-partisan victory for civil liberties and privacy rights, the US Senate voted to bar the Total Information Awareness program proposed by Poindexter's IAO, see coverage by NY Times, Wired and Even my typically rather staid professional organization, the ACM, jumped in to denounce TIA for its "serious security, privacy, economic, and personal risks" and dubious benefit.

RIAA uses DMCA to force Verizon to violate its ISP customer's privacy in an alleged copyright violation, despite derision by online rights activists. But maybe its OK, Hilary Rosen is tired of running RIAA and some are predicting the imminent implosion of the music industry: The Year The Music Dies. I'd been trying to figure out how I felt about refunds offered in the settlement of the CD price-fixing case, here is a good idea: claim your refund then Please help reign in the DMCA, support the Boucher/Doolittle DMCRA (Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, H.R. 107), consider writing to your U.S. Representative. Read about Sony's dilemma and the Economist's take on rethinking copyright laws.

Tech vs. Hollywood: "Yet another organization has formed to fight government-imposed technology mandates..." the Alliance for Digital Progress is covered by NYT, PC World, Wired and Being anti-MPAA, anti-Hollings and anti-CBDTPA is great, but lets hope ADP manages to avoid being anti-fair-use and anti-consumer.

I don't know if this is a really a case of "astroturfing" or just a web-based automated send-a-form-letter-to-your-local-newspaper campaign but I like the coinage (astroturfing is "...trying to artificially create the appearance of a grassroots movement supporting their policies.")

Science corner: Researchers Discover Insect Breathing Mechanism using x-ray video it is now "...possible to see movement, breathing insects..." While in evolution news: birds apparently descended from flying-squirrel-like four-winged dinosaurs and humans descended from aardvarks. Yeah, and cows might fly out of my alps.

IDC published a list of Tech Predictions for the Decade which immediately reminded me of these really bad technological predictions: (Un)Inspired Prognostications and Great Quotes from Great Skeptics.

I don't normally do architecture news, but this extremely cool-looking 1908 Gaudi design for a rocket-like skyscraper has been proposed for the WTC site redevelopment. See also this and that.

Technobits: the City of Houston decided to stop using Microsoft apps --- DMCA: Ma Bell Would Be Proud --- Planet Replay closes down amid show-sharing jitters --- Wikipedia the "open content" encyclopedia reached its 100,000th article --- the new Googlert service reminds me of Spyonit (now defunct) --- security risk: door locks --- Linux is great but some ease-of-use issues remain --- Dilbert on taxation by an evil shadow government.

Web Site of the Week

Lord of the Peeps, Ultracoool GE Site

Daniel Dern nominates Lord of the Peeps as proof that some people have WAY too much time on their hands.

On the other hand, I think I've plugged this (or something like it before), but it still leaves me in awe and wonder. This came by way of Michael Wenger of the San Francisco Zen Center and Peter Coyote from Lynn Brown:

The image is a panoramic view of the world from the new space station. It is a night photo with the lights clearly indicating the populated areas. You can scroll East-West and North-South. Note that Canada's population is almost exclusively along the U.S. border. Moving east to Europe, there is a high population concentration along the Mediterranean Coast. It's easy to spot London, Paris, Stockholm and Vienna. Check out the development of Israel compared to the rest of the Arab countries.

Note the Nile River and the rest of the "Dark Continent." After the Nile, the lights don't come on again until Johannesburg. Look at the Australian Outback and the Trans-Siberian Rail Route. Moving east, the most striking observation is the difference between North and South Korea. Note the density of Japan. What a piece of photography. It is an absolutely awesome picture of the Earth taken from the Boeing built Space Station last November on a perfect night with no obscuring atmospheric conditions.

He also found a review of Turkish Star Trek. I can't tell if this is a put-on or not.

Dan Grobstein found this ultracool GE site. I don't want to tell you what it is. Just go. I promise you'll find it cute, cool and fun.


Marriage Humor

I seldom run these kind of jokes, but Kent Peterman forwarded this one and it is too good to miss.

A mild-mannered man was tired of being bossed around by his wife; so he went to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said he needed to build his self-esteem, and gave him a book on assertiveness, which he read on the way home. He had finished the book by the time he reached his house. The man stormed into the house and walked up to his wife. Pointing a finger in her face, he said, "From now on, I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after ! dinner, you're going to draw me my bath so I can relax. And when I'm finished with my bath, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?" "The funeral director," said his wife.

Shaggy Dog Story

This guy sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog for Sale."

He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes into the backyard and sees a black mutt just sitting there.

"You talk?" he asks.

"Yep," the mutt replies.

"So, what's your story?"

The mutt looks up and says, "Well, I discovered this gift pretty young and I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies eight years running. The jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger and I wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings there and was awarded a batch of medals. Had a wife, a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

The owner says, "Ten dollars."

The guy says, "This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

The owner replies, "He's such a liar. He didn't do any of that stuff."


The Hours

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

Everything about this film is stunning. I haven't read Michael Cunningham's novel, but David Hare's screenplay adaptation is brilliant. According to what I've read, the central conceit (the three intertwined stories of Virginia Wolff writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923, a woman reading her book in 1952 Los Angeles and a woman living the book in 2001 New York) is Cunningham's, the execution Hare's. The San Francisco Chronicle claims this is one of the rare cases when the movie, because of its cinematic abilities, is actually an improvement on the novel.

That's as may be. Meryl Streep (54) is allowed to look 54, and is brilliant, as ever. Can't Hollywood please keep this woman working? Julianne Moore (43) plays both younger and older in the film, and pulls it off with aplomb. And Nicole Kidman (36) is the whippersnapper of the bunch, portraying Virginia Woolf with a makeup job so remarkable that I can easily believe that preview audiences did not recognize her. Heck, my daughter Rae didn't recognize her.

A quick word about Ed Harris, a remarkable actor with 62 film and television credits to his name since his career took off in 1977.

A brilliantly plotted, cleverly-written, totally engaging film, dealing with adult and mature themes in an intelligent matter. Rated PG-13, but don't take anyone under 18 because they won't give much of a damn about the performances or the issues, and they won't recognize most of the actors.

Harry Potter II: The Chamber of Secrets

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

My review of the first Harry Potter film, (The Socerer's Stone) back in December 2001, included this:

On the other hand, the film is a faithful (some say too faithful, but I say you can't be too faithful) adaptation of J.K. Rowling's book. And the casting is letter perfect. All the cameo adult roles and brilliant, and Daniel Radcliffe is Harry James Potter. Rupert Grint is brilliant as Ronald 'Ron' Weasley and Emma Watson is a perfect Hermione Granger. I hope they keep the same cast as the series moves forward.

Five stars. Suitable for all ages. A riot of entertainment, and too damn long at 2.5 hours.

It's all still true. And there really isn't much more to say. The special effects are a little better, but one expects that, doesn't one?

This time I waited much longer to see the film after its release--almost too long. It has dwindled down to a precious few theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of them only showing it once a day.

There are going to be big casting problems with this series of films, now that Richard Harris has died. And with Daniel Radcliffe's parents insisting on a normal life, and Christopher Columbus dropping out, even the leads may have to be recast if they're going to remain age appropriate. There's trouble a brewin' down at the old mill, and we don't need Lassie to bark at us to know it.

Take the kids, if you haven't seen it and can still find it, or buy the DVD when it comes out.

By the way, my older daughter, Marlow, is boycotting the whole Harry Potter franchise. Won't watch the movies. Won't read the books. Won't tell me why. That's why it took me so long to get around to seeing the film.

Movie Notes

If you read the column early last week, you only saw one line of the About Schmidt review. The whole thing is now posted. Chicago, which I loved, came in sixth at the box office last weekend, and has taken in $27 million. Good business, but not great. It's a long ways from there to $100 million and reviving the movie musical, even with two Golden Globe awards.

I don't know if any of you remember David Lynch's movie Mulholland Drive, but I sure do. I am a pretty smart guy and it confused me more than any other film I've seen in recent years. Bob Nilsson checks in with this word:

I don't know if you ever go back to reconsider films of the past, but David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which you reviewed a year ago is now regularly appearing on cable. Having been rather bewildered by the last 1/3 of it, as you were, I found this explanation (beginning half-way down the page, starting at "What the f_ is going on in this movie?"). It actually brings everything together rather clearly. There is another thread at the site consisting of reader letters that adds more.

The concept of the all-powerful cowboy pulling the strings has even been interpreted as George W.


Only Howard Dean, Nepotism, Copyright, Religions of Peace

Got a response to last week's item about John LeCarré's theory that America has gone mad:

In re Le Carre, the answer appears to be Howard Dean (everyone else
voted to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities and condone
various war crimes by various nations), but he's either not getting a
lot of press (when he finally does get some press it will be interesting
to see if they lie about him the same way they lied about John Anderson
in 1980) or not speaking forcefully enough.

Dan Grobstein found LA Times stories on the prevalence of nepotism in Washington, and on the importance of the national archives. In the New York Times he found an AP story: Hatfields, McCoys Appear Before Judge.

He also found this in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Copyright protection helps corporations, hurts creativity

Robert Louis Stevenson died in Samoa in 1894. The copyrights on his published works have run out long ago. So the Disney Corporation executives did not need to worry about paying royalties or obtaining rights to his novel Treasure Island before they took his thrilling tale of pirates and ships and gold and mangled it into their box-office bomb, "Treasure Planet.'' They just took it.

Jon Carroll apparently isn't the only top-notch Carroll writing for an American newspaper; this from Richard Dalton:

Carroll is the most spiritually-centered columnist I know. Here's a good example.

The following story appeared in The Globe Online:
Religions of peace
By James Carroll
JERUSALEM--THE DOGS OF WAR are baying across the hills. The United States and Israel conduct joint ''military exercises'' as the region braces for America's attack on Iraq. The Israeli Defense Forces maintain the clamp on occupied territories, and the runup to Israel's decisive national elections invites a Palestinian act of terror."

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