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: February 17, 2003

February 17, 2003 Vol. 5, No.7

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Give Peace A Chance
  • Political Thoughts
  • A JRC Cat Column

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs (Takes a week off)

Web Site of the Week

  • GartGames reintroduces Oscar Pool 2003


  • Conversions


  • The Pianist
  • Shanghai Knights


  • Nucular, Grobstein, Reynolds, Dern, Langa, Nilsson, Coquet

General News

Give Peace A Chance

As I write this on Friday, people from all over the country are converging on SF and NYC for peace demonstration, including my friend Richard Dalton, who forwarded an email suggesting that you send a baggie of rice to President Bush and ask for peace. This protest is based on one used with President Eisenhower in the 1950s. Although doubt has been cast on the success of the original campaign, a more detailed analysis makes the results seem ambiguous at worst. In any case, make sure to send the rice in a padded envelope, unless your goal is to paralyze the US Postal Service. Details at Rice for Peace.

Political Thoughts

Some political thoughts that have drifted in:

Wall Street and Washington are celebrating the drop in the unemployment rate in January. They say it's a sign that the economy is stabilizing and that businesses are beginning to regroup. That couldn't be further from the truth.

They're not looking at the report in detail. They're just taking it at face value.

Big mistake!

First, even though payrolls increased by 143,000 in January, it was due almost entirely to seasonal adjustments. In other words, not a real increase.

Second, other "seasonal adjustments" made to the January report stem from data that was culled from as far back as 1998. Sounds like manipulation.

Third, reality paints a different picture ...

* Over 60,000 jobs have been cut since the first of the year, a torrid pace of job losses.

* The number of ads placed by companies looking to hire has just plunged to a 40-year low. In other words, no one's hiring.

* The number of unemployed throwing in the towel and giving up looking for a job is skyrocketing, a very bad sign of discouragement.

Bottom line: The employment situation in the U.S. is getting worse, not better.

Other recent developments in the economy ...

* Productivity is down! Worker productivity fell at an annual rate of 0.2% in the fourth quarter 2002. It was the first drop since the second quarter of 2001, when the economy was mired in recession.

* Companies plan more layoffs. According to the latest Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey, businesses plan to lay off 132,222 workers in January. That's a 42% increase over December. Clearly, businesses aren't ready to stem job cuts or begin the hiring process -- they KNOW an economic recovery is still a long way off.

Also this:

Over the years, a lot of American blood and treasure has been spent convincing the Germans that they should not engage in wars. Why are George and Dick so insistent on wasting that enormous sacrifice? Or was Don Rumsfeld speaking for them when he desecrated the memory of our fellow citizens who gave their lives in Vietnam by saying citizen draftees really did not contribute to the fight in Vietnam (even those who died or were wounded). The only veterans of the last century to whom George and Dick and Don have not shown monumental disrespect lately are those from Korea (which is easy to understand because Korea either does not exist or can be ignored as far as they're concerned).

A JRC Cat Column

Ring the Bells! A Jon Carroll cat column:

Craven begging will get you somewhere
Jon Carroll
San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, February 14, 2003

Archie is interested in food. It is his wife, his mistress, his hobby and his profession. When he is finished with a meal, he sets to work plotting his next meal.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you. Except this week, when he's up at Lake Tahoe. But he'll be back!

Web Site of the Week

GartGames reintroduces Oscar Pool 2003

My old friend Tim Gartner is running an Oscar Pool. Here's the skinny. I attest to the fact that's he's on the up and up. As they say in the California State Lottery, you can't win if you don't play.

Want to keep from falling asleep on Oscar night? Need a scoresheet for that party you're going to attend?

GartGames, Inc. will offer its Oscar Pool for the first time since 1999. Now that the nominations are out, GartGames has attached the 2003 ballot.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold its 75th annual wingding Sunday, March 23, in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theater. The show begins at 5:30 p.m. on ABC.

You may obtain a ballot via e-mail.

It doesn't matter whether you've seen all the flicks. After all, the Academy members haven't either. And, of course, who can guess which way they'll vote?

Rules in a nutshell: The entry fee is $10. You will mark an X in each of the six categories on the OP ballot spreadsheet. The first tiebreaker is Best Picture. If there is a need for the second tiebreaker, the entrant closest to the number of Oscars won by Best Picture wins.

This year there will be three winners with the entire pool being paid out: 60% will go to the winner, 30% to the runner-up and 10% to third place.

Deadline: Ballots and entry fees must be received by 5 p.m. (Pacific time) on Wednesday, March 21. Checks should be mailed to Tim Gartner, 13081 Parkhurst Drive, Oakland, CA 94619-3511.

Results, stories and complete rules will be posted on the GartGames Web site,



For those who thought the hardest part of Physics 101 was the constant conversion from feet and inches to the metric system, here are some other useful conversions:

Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter:
Eskimo Pi

2000 pounds of Chinese soup:
Won ton

1 millionth of a mouthwash:
1 microscope

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement:
1 bananosecond

Weight an evangelist carries with God:
1 billigram

Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour:

365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling:
1 lite year

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone:
1 Rod Serling

Half of a large intestine:
1 semicolon

1000 pains
1 kiloahurtz

Basic unit of laryngitis:
1 hoarsepower

Shortest distance between two jokes:
A straight line

454 graham crackers:
1 pound cake

1 million microphones:
1 megaphone

1 million bicycles:
2 megacycles

2000 mockingbirds:
two kilomockingbirds

10 cards:
1 decacards

1 kilogram of falling figs:
1 Fig Newton

1000 milliliters of wet socks:
1 literhosen

1 millionth of a fish:
1 microfiche

1 trillion pins:
1 terrapin

10 rations:
1 decoration

100 rations:
1 C-ration

2 monograms:
1 diagram

8 nickels:
2 paradigms

2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital:
1 I.V. League

100 Senators:
Not 1 decision



The Pianist

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

About here is where I usually complain about length; this film is 2 1/2hours long. But sometimes, in a good, well-acted, well-written, well-directed drama, excessive length is acceptable. This is one of those times. Ronald Harwood's adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman's book lives up to both its tagline, "Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece," and its plot summary, "A man survives the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II." Roman Polanski, the exiled director, has created a masterpiece, and Adrien Brody, as Szpilman, gives the performance of a career. Failure to win an Oscar for this role will be a prosecutable crime.

This is a scary, depressing, dark, sad film. This is not a feel-good movie. Do not go if you do not wish a harsh dose of reality, Hollywood-movie style. It is more depressing than Schindler's List because there is less uplifting behavior. It is rated R for violence and brief strong language. It should be rated R for being an adult movie, made by adults and for adults, and I don't mean that in its corrupted, pornographic sense. These are serious themes, treated seriously by serious moviemakers: the Holocaust, man's inhumanity to man, where to draw the line, the meaning of life, the point of life, survivor guilt. Issues we may have to deal with in this country as we ravage Iraq. One on-line reviewer called it "the best Holocaust Movie ever made." I won't go that far, but it is a grand piece of work you should see if you're in the mood for something like what I've described here. Or, if you're just the kind of person, like me, who likes to see all the Oscar-nominated films.

Shanghai Knights

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

This is what I wrote about Shanghai Noon, back in May 1999:

This film is EXACTLY what you expect from the trailers. A Jackie Chan romp, set in the Old West, but with a satisfying number of explosions. Lots of martial arts scenes. A dumb love story. Not too much plot getting in the way of the action, as Joe Bob Briggs used to say. Owen Wilson, the Chan buddy, wrote Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, two really good indie films, and appeared in several other roles you never noticed. He and Lucy "Ally McBeal" Liu are the only two people in the film who bother acting. This could be a breakthrough film for Wilson, who could be a real light comedy talent.

To get Shanghai Knights, change "Old West" to "Victorian England," subtract Lucy Liu, add a few more actor roles (but not much more respect) to Owen Wilson's resume (he was great in Royal Tenenbaums). I mean, it's a Jackie Chan film. It is commerce, entertainment, pure and simple. Nothing epochal happens, just a bunch of slapstick and anachronism gags. If you like that sort of thing (and I do), you'll while away a pleasant 90 minutes. Talk about a contrast with The Pianist. Watch these two back to back and you see the whole Hollywood continuum, from art to commerce. If anyone so much as buys a single "for your consideration" advertisement for this film, I'll be shocked speechless.

Coming Soon: Christopher Guest is coming back. First Waiting For Gufffman," then "Best In Show" and now, A Mighty Wind is opening April 16. Bound for glory, that's what I say.


Nucular, Grobstein, Reynolds, Dern, Langa, Nilsson, Coquet

Nucular redux: apropos of the item here last week about Bush mispronouncing nuclear as nucular, on reader wrote:

This observer thinks he does it because he's careless and those surrounding him know his aversion to correction.

Sounds right to me.

The ever vigilant Dan Grobstein submitted a New York Times article tracing the ancestry of the ubiquitous Jesus Fish/Darwin Fish and their progeny. In the Los Angeles Times he found this story: A Tech Mogul's Castle Is His Home -- Unless There's No Cell Signal: Apple Computer Inc. co-founder and wireless entrepreneur Steve Wozniak is moving out of his famed, castle-style mansion in Silicon Valley. Because he can't get a cellphone signal there. Believe me, the same idea has occurred to me. The only place I can't use my cellphone is my own home. From the same paper and contributor, a nice commentary on the whole Dame Edna/Vanity Fair dustup.

Craig Reynolds found another masterful Krugman column: The Wimps of War, which explains exactly why Europe doesn't trust Bush: his track record.

Turns out, according to an article in New Scientist brought to my attention by Daniel Dern, that we hiccup as a result of a leftover reflex from when we were amphibians. Daniel's S.O. Bobbi also found Holy Flaming Marshmellow Balrogs, Gandalf! And here's a good site Daniel suggests you add to your favorites list:, dedicated to separating the wheat from the chaff in your email box.

It's not just about computers: I won't know that Homer Simpson's D'Oh (annoyed grunt) had made the Oxford English Dictionary if not for the Langalist. Subscribe! I suggest the premium version. By the way, D'Oh first appeared in the 1952 British children's book Jennings and Darbishire; the Homer catchprhase is a speeded up version of character actor James Finalyson's "dooooo..." in the Laurel and Hardy movies.

Bob Nilsson checks in with this:

Onion's last issue reported what Red Sox fans have long feared. Specifically, that George Steinbrenner would abandon his risky practice of picking up stars one at a time and go for the whole enchilada. Their story is called "Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant By Signing Every Player in Baseball."

Priceless correction box humor from Peggy Coquet and the New York Times:

Because of an editing error, a front-page article yesterday about diplomatic developments in the Iraq crisis misidentified the Bush administration official who said about the weapons inspectors in Iraq, "At some point it will become obvious that it's time for them to go." It was an administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, not Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser. ."

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