PS... A Column
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.
March 17, 2003 Vol. 5, No.12
Table of Contents:
THIS JUST IN: Larry King, London-based ex-pat American journalist, makes the case FOR the war in Iraq..
Marlow's Home! Rae's Still Home!
You know, in real journalism, where I used to live and work, we are carefully trained not to consider most effects of our writing. We can long for a miscreant public official to be driven from office as a result of our articles; that's acceptable contemplation of the consequences. But if someone is, say, arrested and publicity about that arrest would ruin their life, in most towns with a population of over 100,000, the story goes in the newspaper anyway, and let the chips fall where they may.
This column is more like small-town journalism, or a high-school or middle-school newspaper (what's known as captive journalism), where "how will this affect the people around here" is the first, not the last question you ask when printing an article. Someone gives you a juicy quote, and you yourself asking, "This is hot stuff. If we print it, will the person who said it get in trouble?" And, 9 times out of 10, if the answer is yes, it doesn't matter if you have the quote on tape or in writing, you don't go with it.
A year or two ago, I got a whiff of the effect of this column in that regard when a good friend of mine who is also a good friend of Newt Gingrich dressed me down for an ad hominem attack on the former Speaker of the House.
Now we're getting close to the headline of this article. Marlow, who came home this last weekend for a week of Spring Break in Orinda, doesn't read my column. Rae, who is finishing her senior year, does read my column. I was about to write a "Hooray, Marlow's coming home" item, when I realized that it's not really fair to Rae, because such celebrations, if not balanced, might well make her feel like chopped liver. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also is true that you don't really appreciate what you've got until it's gone. I miss Marlow and celebrate her return. I realize Rae will soon be a college student; I'll just be a special guest star in the sitcom of her life, rolled out for "a very special Christmas episode" and occasional summer reruns. The part of her life I know intimately is at an end.
No regrets, no requests for do-overs. I have meticulously enjoyed every minute of our time together, and will move into the next phase of my life in absolute confidence that I did the best I could with the phase that came before.
My biggest challenges in the year to come will be to find meaningful activities to fill the now-freed-up family time. I also want to maintain some balance in my life as I launch a teaching career, which is to say I need to resist the temptation to spend every waking minute either teaching, getting ready to teach, or worrying about teaching. Of course, 50 or so movies and a dozen books a year, along with a few vacations, should help in that task. Not to mention my wife, to whom I intend to be married for many years to come.
Advice On Getting Students Interested
It is such a shame that really good teachers end up leaving the business for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Every time I get teaching advice (or consolation) from Kevin Sullivan, I feel for the generations of students he didn't teach.
You'll recall I have to teach Andy Jackson and his era for two weeks. Kevin's advice:
Forget that the kids are school kids. Why should anyone care about President Jackson? What did he struggle with? What was outrageously successful for him? What sort of scandals was he involved in? Which way did the USA turn because of him? What would have happened if he hadn't been elected? What about his wife? What about the movie made about him? Can you get sincerely passionate about Jackson? Can you communicate that passion?
My task is bigger than that; one student said this week, "Why should we care who is President? Does it make any difference?" Wow. I hardly know where to begin answering that question.
Mom's Idea For Commuters Redux
As I reported last week, my mother has an idea for reducing traffic congestion: charge everyone a tax based on how far they live from their job.
Kevin Sullivan said he'd heard of it in the 1970s.
Miriam Nadel wrote:
Your mother's idea for a commuter tax doesn't make sense to me for a number of reasons.
1) There are a lot of two-earner couples who don't work near each other. One of my colleagues, for example, used to commute from Baltimore to the Pentagon. His wife was finishing her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins and either they could both have lousy commutes or he could drive an unreasonable distance and give her study time. Similarly, I've known more than one couple in L.A. who worked a good 60 miles from each other and lived somewhere in between.
2) People lose their jobs and have to find new ones. Moving expenses are only deductible if you move more than 50 miles closer to the new job. I knew a couple of folks who commuted from Santa Barbara to L.A. when the place they worked at up there went under. They were close enough to retiring that it didn't make a lot of sense to relocate. (To be fair, they carpooled with each other most of the time.)
3) There may not be certain services available near work. For example, an Orthodox Jew might commute further in order to live within walking distance of a suitable synagogue.
4) The problem you hinted at of affordable housing near jobs is not going to go away overnight. There was just a piece in today's Washington Post about how the anti-sprawl measures in some areas here (e.g. Loudon County, Virginia, which limits new development in many areas to no more than one house every five acres) have just promoted sprawl by pushing developments further out. If you put in sensible development policies tomorrow, you'd still have a long ways to go before the blue collar workers buying houses in Charles Town, West Virginia could all move to Loudon County.
It seems to me that you have to approach this from the other end and give employers incentive to locate jobs in areas with housing. IBM used to have a policy (and may still) of locating their plants some ways from the edge of a city and letting the city grow to them. It's a way to have valuable real estate on the books as a company asset. It's also why houses in Niwot, Colorado sell for a million bucks now when the terms 15 years ago were Visa or Mastercard.
Not that any of this would affect me, as I have an ideal commute. When I moved to the D.C. area, I quickly realized that working in Rosslyn (Arlington, just across the river from D.C.) would be far more pleasant if I could depend on the metro, so I found a place a short walk from a metro station. Since my company participates in the metro check program, they get a tax writeoff and I get my metro tickets essentially free. (If I commuted every day, I'd end up spending about $5-10 a month. But I usually have a few days out of town each month, so i come out ahead. I do sometimes have to go out to Chantilly, which has poor transit options, but that's just about 12 miles each way and I only go there about once a month or so.)
The transit subsidy makes a big difference. Only one person in my office drives in regularly, and he lives just a few miles from work. Admittedly, the other three who use transit all drive to the transit (one to a park and ride for a bus line, the other two to the metro system), but it's still helpful.
And, by the way, proximity to metro makes a big difference in real estate prices here. A townhouse down the block from me (and just about a city block from the metro) is on the market for nearly $500K. If the same place were a few miles west, it would be at least 30-40% less.
My mother was very impressed with the time and thought Miriam put into this response. But with the simplicity that has insured her permanent non-attainment of public office, she concluded, "Nevertheless, those decisions about where to live and work are voluntary; I see nothing in this analysis that changes my mind." I think she's being a bit tough on the Orthodox Jewish community, but there you are.
Daughter to Work Day
Marjorie Wolfe wrote:
Love your columns.
Did you know that on April 24 we will celebrate "Take Your Daughters And Sons To Work Day." Yes, the Ms. Foundation for Women has finally realized that boys, too, need to visit their mom and dad's workplace. How do you feel about youngsters missing a day of school to learn more about their parents' place of employment? Our kids are pretty sophisticated nowadays... but they still don't know exactly what their parents do. Ask them and they'll say, "My dad works in an office." That's it! I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts on this topic.
I shared my thoughts with her and I will share them with you: I was a big advocate of Take Your Daughters To Work, as the father of two daughters. I took them each to work several times and always volunteered to do activities with all the daughters who came to my former employer, which also offered corporate support for the day's activities every year for years.
As a man, and a former boy, I don't think boys need it as much, frankly. But it's OK if they want to come too.
As for missing a day of school, I go with my mother's philosophy, expressed to me when I was a child: there is no day of school you can't afford to miss to spend a day doing something with your family. We didn't do it often--probably no more than once a year, judging from the near-perfect attendance records on my report cards--but when we felt the urge at my house, we substituted life for school with no second thoughts.
A quick story about the "what do your folks do" question. When she was six years old, we asked Marlow what Vicki and I did for a living. "Mommy writes and daddy types." For the second time in the same issue of the column, I hardly know where to begin with that.
Groundhog Day Redux!
Thank you Dan Rosenbaum for this item from the New York Post's Page Six gossip column:
Stephen Sondheim - considered Broadway's greatest living composer - will break a long drought of inactivity with a musical version of Bill Murray's classic comedy, "Groundhog Day," which he is trying to option for the stage . . .
True, Bill Murray starred in it, but loyal readers know that Groundhog Day is my favorite movie, and that Danny Rubin wrote it. Good luck Danny! Hope you make a buck or two--and that your two films in development make it to the screen as well.
Give Peace A Chance: Axis Of Evil Wannabes
This is making its way around the Internet. Most Internet humor is either stripped of its identifying information or the author is misidentified. For example, the item below sounds a bit like John Cleese in places and has been attributed to him. I Googled it several times trying to see if Cleese really wrote it, but, like a dope didn't Google the words without Cleese's name. Had I done so, I would have discovered the original at Satirewire, a clever but no-longer-updated humor site. Thank you, Wil "Star Trek" Wheaton for hosting the discussion that told me the truth. Who slaps these false bylines on this material? Well, John Cleese can now join Kurt Vonnegut (the non-existant "sunscreen" speech he never delivered to MIT graduates)
Axis of Evil Wannabes
Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil," which they said would be more evil than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of in his State of the Union address....
International reaction to Bush's Axis of Evil declaration was swift, as within minutes, France surrendered....
With the criteria suddenly expanded and all the desirable clubs filling up...Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Rwanda applied to be called the "Axis of Countries That Aren't the Worst But Certainly Won't Be Asked to Host the Olympics."...
Israel, meanwhile, insisted it didn't want to join any Axis, but privately, leaders said that's only because no one asked them.
Will the U.S. Taxpayer pay for both sides of an Iraqi conflict?
In the U.N. General Assembly, resolutions are adopted by a majority vote not subject to a veto. Thus, if Iraq is attacked without U.N. approval (for example, by the United States), Iraq could ask for the assistance of the U.N. General Assembly to repel the attack. Given the U.S. annual payments to the U.N. (even if late), if the U.N. General Assembly voted to assist Iraq, the U.S. taxpayer could pay part of the cost for both the attacking and defending forces.
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.
What IS it with these wacky Europeans? Not only are they cool to the idea of unprovoked war under Bush's (Wolfowitz's) doctrine of preemption, but it turns out they get upset by Microsoft'smonopolistic business practices that the US says are perfectly OK. See also EU Microsoft guilty ruling takes shape.
President Bush quietly signed into lawthe national "do-not-call" list. Of course the telemarketers are whining about their God-given right to annoy the hell out of everyone else, see this punchy response to that nonsense.
Two notes about sanctioned (non-Napsteroid) online music services:E-Music Sites Settle on Prices. It's a Start. and Apple online music service wins kudos
Executive Osprey:Reuters covered Bell/Agusta's announcement that they would soon be flight testing its BA 609 a tilt-rotor hybrid: part plane, part helicopter. It is closely related to the military's V-22 "Osprey" which is now grounded after a series of deadly crashes. Bell/Agusta says the problems are all fixed now, I sure hope so, but frankly I'd rather take the train.
Retro-techno: while scanningDPT40 I found Starting Fire with a Lens made from Ice (cache). Then one link lead to another and I started looking around the rest of the Primitive Ways ( cache) web site filled with fascinating lo-tech ideas. That lead in turn to The Society of Primitive Technology.
Not-SO-retro: I'm a packrat, so of course I still have every record album I every owned. I knew that someday digital technology would go "back to the future" to give new life to my old media. So I was pleased to seeDigital Needle - A Virtual Gramophone. While admittedly just a quick hack, it serves as a proof of concept. I suspect that someone will come up with a clever way of illuminating the phonograph disk (perhaps with two colors from different directions) to allow recovery of both stereo tracks.
USC neural engineers are about to test thefirst brain implant, a chip intended to replace the function of the hippocampus in a rat's brain. And this is important because if you are like me, you've always thought that the main problem with filthy sewer rats is their lack of a good digital interface...
Technobits:Mozilla 1.3 is released --- Dean Takahashi's artful speculation on PS3 --- amazingly, people who run "'sucks' sites" can get insurance to cover their legal expenses when they inevitably get sued --- EasyRGB: RGB and COLOR search engine --- recognizing cars as faces
AI Prize Soap Opera
Kevin Sullivan writes:
As an ex member of AI community, I think Salon shares a lot of insights into the fact that "the Emperor has no clothes". Loebner appears to be the court jester.
Salon's look at the soap opera behind the artificial intelligence Loebner Prize comes in two parts
Richard Dalton (disclosure: I once worked for his research firm) is one of the finest computer industry analysts I know, largely because he cuts through the cant, separates the wheat from the chaff, and, unlike most analysts, throws the chaff away. He sent a brief note about a recent Microsoft analyst briefing. I asked him specifically if Bill made an appearance.
Summary: Microsoft is taking over the world (Enterprise IT through home systems with wireless communications tacked on). May take 5 years (according to them). My guess is they may make it, but in more like 10-20 years. Very logical roadmap. Too bad the world's not logical. Gates was a kind of low-key Nerd King. Ballmer was bombastic but his heart didn't seem to be in it. Too much inference that Microsoft will be more industry-standard friendly.
Propaganda Remix Project
Bob Nilsson broke radio silence this week with a web site recommendation:
Micah Ian Wright has a web site called thePropaganda Remix Project full of his posters for a homeland security gone awry. It must have struck a chord because he's had 228,075 visitors, probably a bunch of whom also buy his book.
All I can say is: Wow! I wish I'd said most of this myself.
The Top 15 Pet Peeves of Newborns
Back on top with my 11th No. 1. OK, it's a tie, but it is still better than nothing. Substantially better. Plus, it was the start of a hat trick this week.
March 11, 2003
15> Everybody gets a stogie but you.
14> You suspect Mom has been breastfeeding Dad behind your back, but you can't prove it.
13> Bouncing, bouncing, always with the bouncing!
12> "Hey, *you're* the one eating the garlic salami, don't you dare complain about how *I* smell!"
11> Two boobs, but only one mouth.
10> No more "new womb" smell.
9> Milk, milk, milk, milk, milk! You can't throw one lousy ribeye in a blender?
8> Mohels with a bad case of the shakes.
7> Mommy's implants, while apparently essential to Daddy's happiness, are seriously impeding your breakfast.
6> Hanging out at hotels is scary. (Michael Jackson's newborns only)
5> My body, *MY* foreskin!
4> "The bough breaks and... they fall down? THEY ALL FALL DOWN?!? No wonder I can't sleep!"
3> You're still *months* from figuring out how to grab your private bits.
2> Losing that cool swept-back alien skull look after the first week.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Pet Peeve of Newborns...
1> Every time you finally get your diaper just the way you want it, some idiot comes along and changes it.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 130 submissions from 47 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Carolyn Rosser, Washington, DC -- 1, 4 (3rd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 1 (11th #1)
The Top 18 Rhymes in the Dubya/Saddam Debate Rap-Off
A hat trick in just one week; leg two was this appearance at No. 8.
March 13, 2003
NOTE FROM CHRIS:
Saddam Hussein recently challenged George W. Bush to a public debate. Here at TopFive, we thought it would be more fun if they had a rap-off instead.
In fact, it might sound something like this...
The Top 18 Rhymes in the Dubya/Saddam Debate Rap-Off
18> You epitomize evil, persecution and hate. But at least you've got a name I can pronounciate.
17> Sad-H is in the house, don'tcha mess with me, Or I'll aim my last missile at the D of C.
16> Fool, you crossed the line, you shouldn't have messed with us. Here's a new map to study. Look! It's Baghdad, Texas!
15> Yo, G.B., don't be gettin' rude, Or I'll diss your 'tude with an Al Samoud.
14> You didn't disarm, now it's time to fight, And I'll rock your ass like I rock the mic.
13> My armories and factories and cribs have all been checked, But there's a missile in my pants Barb and Jenna can inspect!
12> Gonna hip, gonna hop, gonna pull out all the stops, Gonna make Saddam feel like he's busted on "COPS."
11> You got a face like a monkey and you smell like a turd, And this big bad Iraqi gonna whack you like a Kurd!
10> My daddy shoulda sacked ya, shoulda whacked ya. Now you're chillin' like a villain in Iraq, ya. You'll be needin' penicillin for your illin' 'cause I'm willin' ta be killin' when I get all Marshal Dillon and attack ya.
9> You imperialist dog, I spit on you and your mama. The real villain here is that gangsta, Osama!
8> You're as good as dead, dude, You ain't got the sense to fall down. If you think the French will save you, Then you're a fool AND a clown.
7> I'm Saddam, got de chahm wit' all o' de ladies, So don't go bombin' like Vietnam in the Tigris and Euphrates.
6> I'm rappin' to you with my main man, Powell, And we won't stop the jam till you throw in the towel.
5> Yo, Bush 'n' Blix 'n' Powell be lyin' My weapons ain't mass destructifyin'!
4> Hussein, you're a rat and a wimp and a geezah, And you're gonna feel the wrath of my homey, Condoleezza!
3> Tha Baghdad Bomba gonna make you holla, Wit' my Samouds an' my anthrax an' my main man, Allah!
2> I'm gonna knock you out! HUH! Daddy said knock you out! HUH!
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Rhyme in the Dubya/Saddam Debate Rap-Off...
1> I'm givin' up my mizzles, Just ask the inspectizzles. But drop a bomb on my pazallace And you'll wish you'd stayed in Dazzallas.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 71 submissions from 27 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Fran Fruit, Winnetka, IL -- 1 (14th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 8
The Top 15 Metric System Conversion Hints for Americans
A hat trick! Made the list three times (this time at No. 10)
March 14, 2003
15> 1 nanosecond = the time between when you tell a child "no" and when he/she does it again
14> 1 Milli-second = time elapsed after the recorded audio track plays and before the singers move their lips at a "live" concert
13> 467 grams = what 2 grams of Haagen-Dazs will register on your bathroom scale
12> 1 centimeter = the distance Joan Rivers' eyebrows move up each year
11> 1 Molson = 2 Budweisers
10> 1.5 meters = the circumference around Anna Nicole's chest -- or her waist
9> 1 femtosecond = the time it takes a feminist to react to being called a "gal at the office"
8> 28 grams = start flushing if there's a loud knock on the door
7> 1 kilogram = the mass of the contents of your underpants the minute we go to terror threat condition red
6> 14 Renaults = 1 Chevy Silverado
5> 10,000 milligrams = the amount of sodium pentothal required to fell a rampaging Limbaugh
4> 1 tonne = 1 regular ton + 16 kilograms of European attitude
3> 1 liter = amount of gasoline purchased with a single unemployment check
2> 600 meters = the distance between any two Starbucks franchises
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Metric System Conversion Hint for Americans...
1> 1 hookernight = 1 kilodollar
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
Canadian Apology III
Thanks to Paul Mather, a member of the writing staff, I now have an official transcript of the Canadian Apology, meaning my version is more accurate than the one you've read elsewhere. And, in my opinion, funnier. If you read the column early last week, you missed it; here it is.
Tears of the Sun
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Antoine Fuqua, the director, has much to be proud of. Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo, the writers, have much to be ashamed of, as they have left no cliché unturned in their effort to produce a trite, Hollywoodesque war movie/romance. And yet, despite the clichés, they did it badly.
Fuqua, who is Black, has made a beautiful and visually interesting movie on subjects which commercial Hollywood normally wouldn't touch with the business end of a $70 million Bruce Willis vehicle: African politics and genocide. I heard him talking to Terry Gross. He has the potential to become another Spike Lee. He insisted, for example, on using African extras, even though he had to shoot the film in Hawaii because of post-9/11 security concerns. His efforts at realism are right up there on the screen and the best part of the film.
This is the draggiest action-adventure film you are ever going to see. I mean it is SLOW in places. And unrealistic, and it has continuity errors (where DID the face paint go?).
With revenue of just $17 million the opening weekend, this film doesn't appear likely to make back its costs. Is Willis past his prime, no longer able to "open" a film? That's a shame. He's a talented, multi-faceted actor. One robin does not make spring, nor does one turkey kill a career--except, maybe, sometimes in Hollywood.
Bottom line: Tears of the Sun is beautiful to look at (but with a little too much R-rated violence and gore for my taste), mildly entertaining in places, and way too unrealistic.
It does mark and interesting moment, perhaps even an interesting turn in Hollywood iconology, however. Starting with Stallone on the Rambo films, we had war as revenge fantasy. Now, the nature of the fantasy has changed; not, "let's go back and win the war we lost by refighting it," but rather "let's not walk away again and let another genocide happen." That's a very different dynamic. I can't wait to see a good film made of that story. Maybe Fuqua could find better writers and try the theme again.
Mildly entertaining, but don't lose any sleep over this one.
Fiddler on the Roof, Kaplan on Chapter 11, Reynolds on the Iraqi Drone and Perle lawsuit, Non-Carroll Cat Column, Dern on Journalism Setbacks, Grobstein on the Death of the NYC Subway Token
If you're in the Orinda area, go see Fiddler on the Roof. My daughter Rae is stage manager. I saw it last week. It is a first-class high school production, with great singing, great acting, and above all, crisp, professional production values. J
Tickets are now on sale for the Miramonte Musical: The Fiddler on the Roof. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on March 20, 21 & 22.
Honors for first e-mail response of the week go to Bob Kaplan, who commented on two items:
Sorry you're going into chapter 11...
Bob plays tenor sax with me in the Contra Costa Wind Symphony, so he should know. As for the Chapter 11 reference, I missed it, believe it or not.
Craig Reynolds writes, on a non-technical subject, about British coverage of the large, undeclared drone found in Iraq last week:
I hadn't heard about this, apparently it developed over the weekend. Presumably the US will claim it justifies an attack:
US highlights new weapons find
He also found a New York Sun article about Warhawk Richard Perle suing Seymour Hersh in Great Britain (where the libel laws are looser) over an article in the New Yorker which questioned Perle's ethics.
I believe Jon Carroll's cat columns are special and worthy of note whenever they appear, but I was enthralled this week by another author, Jane Ganahl, whose column on the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook section, A Friend Who Loved Dancing In The Dark deeply moved me. If you have ever lost an animal companion you loved, this column will move you as well.
It's not often I'm grateful my mailing list for this column is so small. But it happened this week. Long-time Byte columnist, a friend and former colleague, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, is apparently having to test his rather large email list for Chaos Manor. His test message included this passage:
If you get this, do nothing. You're subscribed, and you're on the list.
This from Daniel Dern, which I have added to my journalism quote page:
I call to your attention, and for your column, Nicholas Von Hoffman's In The Fray in the March 12 Wall Street Journal, p D10, with, among other things, great lines like:
... Don [Hewitt, 60 Minutes exec producer] told me, "You have set broadcast journalism back 20 years." Naturally, I was both proud and elated although too modest to say so, but broadcast journalism recovered with alacrity, my contract wasn't renewed, and the incident was forgotten.
Dan Grobstein forwards the New York Times obituary for The NYC Subway Token, dead at age 50, murdered by the Metro Card and the $2 subway fare.
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