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: May 19, 2003

May 19, 2003 Vol. 5, No.21

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Thoughts on Marlow's Graduation
  • Job Interview Part I
  • Foodie Madness
  • Lunar Eclipse
  • Political Thoughts

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • RIAA Looks Stupid, Again

Web Site of the Week

  • Floppy The Robot, The Truth?


  • Media
  • The Top 15 Signs You May Be a Bad Driver
  • The Top 16 Programs on Spike TV


  • X2 Redux
  • The Matrix Reloaded


  • More on Jayson Blair, Lewinski Joke, Grobstein, Dern

General News

Thoughts on Marlow's Graduation

For those of you who don't follow the television program The West Wing, the plot line at the center of this year's cliffhanger is the kidnapping of the President's youngest daughter--a development designed to send a chill up the spine of any parent. It certainly sent a chill up mine. One of the subplots involves the birth of twins to the director of communications. At one point, the president notes that babies have location finders--"baby lojacs" on their ankles in big city hospitals now, "to prevent them from being snatched." President Bartlett's bon mot on the subject was, "don't ever take them off."

Interestingly enough, the other two shows I watch religiously are That 70s Show and The Simpsons. By conscious decision of the show creators, the Simpson children will never grow up and even so much as graduate from grade school, not to mention high school (except in "set in the future" episodes like Lisa's marriage or her term as President). But 70s is also featuring a graduation plot, as Eric graduates from high school and moves in with Donna. It is giving Eric's mother, Kitty, a nervous breakdown. That, too, I find easy to understand. Red paints a picture of life after the children for Kitty; as the show ends, she's beginning to see it. In Red's immortal words, "we've done the kid thing. Now is our time." It is worrisome because this is a transition that so many people manage badly. Not surprisingly, the departure of the last child from the house frequently breaks up a marriage and always stresses it. I expect stress. I don't expect a breakup.

I do expect to cry when Marlow graduates from Columbia next week. Not as much as I'll cry when she gets married of course, but still. I am proud of her, concerned for her future in difficult economics times, and sympathetic to the fact that her plans to study China in Taiwan are being messed up, big-time, by the SARS epidemic. I don't want to think about Rae's graduation yet, and I don't have to because it is almost a month away.

But mostly, I try to keep foremost in my mind my mother's advice, wisely issued many years before it became relevant (I am paraphrasing here): "Just remember that your number one job is to raise your children to the point that they can and want to leave home and be on their own. If they can do that and lead a happy life, you've done your job as a parent."

I know they can leave home; Marlow has and Rae is about to. I hope, pray and expect I've equipped them for happy lives. Most of that is now out of my hands.

Job Interview: Part 1

I had my first formal job interview this week; there are openings in both English and Social Studies at the NextTownOver (NTO) Middle School. Although this is not the middle school I have spent most of my time substituting at, it is very similar and not much of a commute. I have friends in the district office who tell me that it is a well place to work, the principal (Mr. B) is a great guy. This will be my first formal, full-scale life-changing job interview since 1979, so it should be interesting.

I don't know if it is a coincidence (Mrs. S, my teacher friend, says there are no coincidences), but I got my first three substitute assignments at NTO Middle School this week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday, the 6th grade core teacher I subbed for at NTO Middle school was on campus grading writing evaluations; said she swung between elation and suicidal despair reading the late-spring efforts of sixth graders there. She also said she got hired in May for this job, meant to spend the summer getting ready, and showed up in August, at which time NTO's nine other sixth grade core teachers buried her in great lesson plans.

I met NTO's principal in the faculty lounge Tuesday. He saw me standing perplexed, walked up, introduced himself (let's call him John, since that isn't even close to his real name), and said he'd stop by Wednesday to watch me teach for a few minutes. I said a little prayer that I looked good when he stopped by. I was impressed with how friendly and outgoing he was.

It didn't happen Wednesday, however, because I spent my three periods of 8th grade English that day administering the grammar assessment and supervising 30 minutes of silent reading. Substitute/babysitter work at its finest.

Thursday, I had a full day of classes, two periods each of 7th grade core three times. The teacher was nice enough to leave me real lesson plans to teach, for the most part, but, regrettably, John, the principal didn't have time to stop by and watch me teach. Alas. I inserted my own little addenda, explaining to the students why we were teaching them this particular bit of history (the history of the Catholic church in dark ages Europe).

Friday, I had my actual interview, shortly after the 1pm starting time. There were a panel of three teachers and the principal. I will not violate the confidentiality of the process, but I will say I think I chatted along a bit too long with my answers. I hope to get this job, but if I have another interview, I vow to offer shorter answers. Let them ask questions. Don't fillibuster. Gosh, though, I'd love to get the job. At least I wasn't nervous, stupid or stunned.

Foodie Madness

Marlow asked if we could have dinner at the French Laundry, a restaurant in the Napa Valley town of Yountville.

Why is it so hot? She had seen this article:

Critics say world's best restaurant is French - but in California
By Michael Paterson
Daily Telegraph (London)
(Filed: 29/04/2003)

A British-dominated panel of food critics has decreed that the best place to eat in the world is the French Laundry, a French restaurant run by Americans in California.

Marlow, by the way, has eaten at the No. 4 restaurant, Jean Georges in New York City. We'll get her to compare them for us.

As it turns out, Vicki and I ate at the French Laundry with our Gourmet Group a few years back, when it was merely wildly famous. Now, of course, it is insanely famous, as people from all over the world attempt to eat there.

So, of course, it has an absurd and brutal reservation system. You may call no more and no less than two months in advance for a reservation at the 11-1 lunch or the 5:30-9:30 dinner. Reservations are taken by telephone only, starting at 10 am pacific time. I started autodialing, once every 10 seconds, at 9:59. It took me until 10:26 to get through (and let me assure you, you've never been bored until you've sat through 120 autodials to the same phone number). By the time I got though, the only reservation left was 9:15 pm on Saturday, July 12. Jackets for men, no jeans, shorts, tee-shirts or tennis shoes. I will, of course, let all of you know if the place lives up to its hype.

Now, I must say we've eaten in several three-star Michelin restaurants and those were, as the rating indicates, worth a special trip. It isn't that far to the Napa Valley from here, but with the hoops we have to go through, and the dress code, and the advance notice, we're expecting something grand.

Foodie madness, and we're participating.

Lunar Eclipse

Although we missed totality, and had to climb the hill behind the house to get high enough to see it, Vicki, Rae and I watched the middle quarter of the total lunar eclipse together Thursday night at about 9pm pacific time. It was quite a site and a wonderful shared family experience. Fortunately, the Bay Area's "late night and early morning low clouds and fog" were in abeyance this once.

Political Thoughts

A couple of thoughts in the wake of the Times Jayson Blair mea culpa mentioned in this space last week:

The mea culpa itself quoted from The Times standards and practices manual. The quote made clear what the problem is. The Times standard is that its reporters are supposed to provide reports that appear "believable." If The Times were to require reporters to file reports which were "accurate" or "truthful" rather than "believable" readers would be better served.

For example, The New York Times correspondent Judith Miller (touted in some circles as a so-called expert on bio-terrorism) filed a report which appeared on May 11, 2003, which alleged that U.S. forces had discovered on about May 9, 2003, a mobile biological weapons laboratory in northern Iraq. The picture of the alleged lab and Judy's report made clear that the sides of the truck on which the equipment resided had been removed (that is, anyone looking at the truck could see through the truck to the other side and would have seen the readily recognizable equipment which conveniently looked just like the illustration of a mobile lab displayed by Colin Powell at the U.N.). According to The Times and Ms. Miller, the truck was located fifty (50) feet (that's feet not yards) from a building which had been guarded by U.S. troops for the last two (2) weeks. If the truck was fifty (50) feet from the building, how did it go undiscovered and unnoticed for the better part of two weeks? The report in The Times provided no answer.

In the wake of the mea culpa, when is William Safire (who waxed semi-eloquent about the mistakes in his May 12, 2003, column) going to get around to withdrawing the counterfactual claim (made by Safire in his column shortly after September 11, 2001) that there was a warning with respect to Air Force One on Sept. 11, 2001? Karl Rove, who is an associate of George Bush, peddled the story to many reporters. The object of the exercise from Rove's, Bush's, and Safire's perspective was to justify Bush's ramble around the country on the morning and afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001.

Does this sound familiar?

Why of course people don't want war. Why should some poor slob . . . want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back . . . in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war. . . But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked [and] denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

Who said it?

For extra credit, when?

Feel like some poor slob? Know anyone who's been attacked for lack of patriotism lately (as for example Senators from Maine and Ohio who opposed a tax cut but even supported the invasion of Iraq)?

Who: Hermann Goering, Luftwaffe commander

When: Nuremberg trials, 1946

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

Weekly summary of Microsoft derision: there has been a huge security hole in Passport since September 2002, allowing anyone who knows your email address to get your credit card number. Oops. The good news? It could mean a $2.2 trillion penalty for Microsoft. The New York Times snickers at Microsoft "innovation": Apple Tweaks Microsoft Over a New Computer. Now Microsoft is trying to undercut the price of the free Linux OS. Perhaps that sounds less absurd in Redmond than it does here in the real world. Bloomberg suggests this strategy may impact profits!

Speaking of Linux, the folks at SCO have threatened to sue all commercial Linux users. Turns out what they really want is to get bought out, and this is just their way of endearing themselves to any potential buyers. Perhaps they were caught in that same reality-distortion field that hit Microsoft. This seems to be based on the fact that they own Unix intellectual property, but apparently don't understand the difference between Unix and Linux. Particularly amusing is that they seem to have opened the door to suing themselves.

Special handling for blogs on Google: as Reuters first reported, Google will offer a segregated blog search. Speculation swirls around the question of whether blogs, and their contribution to Page Rank will be removed from the main index. Because of their dense interlinking, blogs are highly rated by Page Rank, increasingly top Google search results are blog entries. How does it feel to have a 900 pound gorilla sniffing at your lunch, or Can Daypop Stay Out of Google's Headlights?

A quasi-serious proposal by a Caltech professor for a Journey to the Center of the Earth. Turns out this is NOT inspired by Jules Verne nor the recent film The Core, but the latter did prod the Prof into publishing the idea.

Technobits: online papers from a conference on The Public Domain --- Copy Protection Is a Crime: "Fairness means knowing when to make exceptions." --- two interesting sketch-as-input systems: Teddy (sketched 3d models, Windows only?) and Denim (sketched website design) --- there is an applet for creating PDFs of those ubiquitous Danger/Warning signs: I amused myself making a Warning with Icon number 58 and the phrase "Boxes may cause sparks to shoot out of your butt" --- I hope I have not previously mentioned Yesterday's Tomorrows (I sense "deja URL" but Google says no) --- A is for Apple, B is for B'Tselem: The Google Alphabet (article) --- a Brit ex-pat pointed me to this parliamentary discussion of spam, why aren't Congressional transcripts this erudite?

RIAA Looks Stupid, Again

Daniel Dern forwarded an email from a friend with these elements:

The comments of Daniel's friend:

These fools [the RIAA] sent a cease-and-desist letter to Penn. State Astronomy simply because the word "Usher"--an emeritus professor--and "mp3"--for an acapella song about the Swift gamma-ray satellite--were both on their website at the same time. It seems reasonable to populate all web pages with the word "mp3" and your-favorite-musical-emeriti to protest unsophisticated crawling.

The story:

RIAA apologizes for threatening letter

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
May 12, 2003, 3:16 PM PT
WASHINGTON--The Recording Industry Association of America apologized Monday to Penn State University for sending an incorrect legal notice of alleged Internet copyright violations.

The notice and subsequent apology appears to be the first time a faulty incorrect notification has been made public. The incident also shows just how easily automated programs that search for copyrighted material can be fooled, as well how disruptive such notices can be on college campuses.

Last Thursday, the RIAA sent a stiff copyright warning to Penn State's department of astronomy and astrophysics. Department officials at first were puzzled because the notification invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and alleged that an FTP site was unlawfully distributing songs by the musician Usher. The letter demanded that the department "remove the site" and delete the infringing sound files.

...The department has on its faculty a professor emeritus named Peter Usher and the same FTP site hosted Usher's work on radio-selected quasars. The site also had a copy of an a capella song performed by astronomers about the Swift gamma ray satellite, which Penn State helped to design.

The combination of the word "Usher" and the suffix "mp3" had triggered the RIAA's automated copyright crawlers....

Extra URLs from Declan:

The Chromatics song that triggered the RIAA's cease-and-desist letter:
Listen to it here (it's really excellent -- I just ordered the AstroCappella CD)

Here's hoping I can cost the RIAA 37 cents, plus a few hundred dollars to draft a pointless threatening letter: MP3, Madonna, Beatles, Rolling Stones, WAV.

Web Site of the Week

Floppy The Robot, The Truth?

Daniel "Web Site Of The Week Is Mine" Dern:

Turn your old legacy computer into a legacy-free machine...remove that floppy drive and build...Floppy the Robot! (seen in SlashDot)

On a more serious note, check this out. I certainly don't,

This well researched website has over 200 pages of explosive information on 9-11, all of it taken from major media sources! With each statement, direct links are provided to the source article on the major media website article. This makes it quick and easy to verify everything that is said, even on the summaries. The evidence strongly suggests that 9-11 was allowed to happen by certain top government, military, and intelligence officials for reasons of "national security," and in order to protect and control the international trade of oil. After reading this, you will never be able to look at 9-11 the same again. Available free at For a 10-page summary of the best from this timeline, see For a powerful two-page summary with links that you can print and share with friends, see



A Guide to U.S. Newspapers

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they should run the country.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the Washington Post. They do, however like the smog statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn't have to leave L.A. to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country, and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority, feministic atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are democrats.

10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

The Top 15 Signs You May Be a Bad Driver

No. 15 may be low, but it's still on the list!

May 14, 2003

15> You have a reserved parking space with your name on it -- at traffic court.

14> You spend an inordinate amount of time scraping hair and bone out of your front grille.

13> After heading off for the corner deli, you end up in downtown Basra.

12> You've racked up so many points on your driver's license that you can redeem them for a reduced sentence on your next vehicular manslaughter conviction.

11> Every year, Italy issues you a driver's license.

10> Awarding you the best actress Oscar for "Monster's Ball" was just a sneaky way to encourage you to ride in limousines.

9> You get more unwanted tickets than friends and family of the Detroit Tigers.

8> After less than 10 minutes in your car, Saddam and his sons change their minds and now "feel like walking to Jordan."

7> Your family already has a roadside cross ready to mark the inevitable spot.

6> Earl Scheib just named his new 160-foot yacht after you.

5> Whenever you go out, your friends make you the "designated drunk."

4> You see more middle fingers than a manicurist.

3> The highway patrol cops in your state have memorized your date of birth, social security number, home address, license plate number and how many points you have left before your 39th trip to traffic school, which is named after you.

2> The other day, you ran right into the garage door -- and it was up at the time.

and's Number 1 Sign You May Be a Bad Driver...

1> Every time your cell phone rings while you're putting on makeup, you spill your tea, drop your Game Boy and rear-end the car in front of you on the freeway.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 112 submissions from 40 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mike Levy, Los Angeles, CA -- 1 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
Mark Niebuhr, Minneapolis, MN -- 1 (16th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15

The Top 16 Programs on Spike TV

A tie for No. 14 is better than... well, a tie for No. 15. I wish I was Bill Muse.

May 16, 2003


Struggling cable channel TNN, which just two years ago changed from The Nashville Network to The National Network, announced recently that it will call itself Spike TV and become the first network aimed specifically at men.

16> Beer Factor

15> Trading Spouses

14> SCI: Strip Club Investigation

13> That '70s Chauvinism

12> 6 Minutes

11> Martha Stewart's Living... IN HELL!

10> Iron Chef Boyardee's Bachelor Cooking Smackdown

9> Hookers Say the Darndest Things!

8> Everybody Loves Raymond in a Healthy, Heterosexual, Manly Way

7> Xtreme Stooges

6> Boffing the Vampire Slayer

5> Survivor: Fabric Store

4> Who Wants to Beat Up a Figure Skater?

3> Twin Peaks -- I Kid You Not!

2> Judging Amy's

and's Number 1 Program on Spike TV...

1> Farts: The Ken Burns Documentary

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 136 submissions from 48 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- 1 (57th #1/Hall of Famer)
Dave Henry, Slidell, LA -- 14 (Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 14


X2 Redux

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

My friend and former colleague Tom LaSusa is...cough... a little younger than I am and has a different take on X2:

Frankly, I'm wondering if we went to the same movie. :)

First off, Bryan Singer has mentioned on several occasions (I believe) that this is his "Empire Strikes Back" -- intentionally leaving things open. I believe it was his intent to make us feel like this was the middle chapter of something.

Being of different generations (grin) I can see that while you would root for the classic line-up, I'm more partial to the modern group. I've been reading X-men comics on and off now since the early-mid 80's. Ironically enough, I think one of my first X titles was "God loves, man Kills", which this movie's plot is (VERY) loosely based upon. I ended picking up a reprint of the issue where Xavier and Scott recruited Storm, Colossus, Wolverine etc to help them rescue the original team, and was hooked ever since. I grew up watching Rogue go from bad gal to good gal, saw Jean die, and be reborn, Magneto go from enemy to friend, then enemy again, and a slew of other plots.

So for me, this was all those adventures rolled up into one nice, neat package.

Now, I will agree with you -- they are really pushing Logan down our throats. Ideally, they are hoping to spin off his own series (don't know if Jackman would want to keep going that long with the same character). And I don't blame Halle Berry for saying that she is not happy with the lack of screen time -- but really -- anyone who hasn't realized that these are really Wolverine movies with the Xmen wrapped around them are kidding themselves. That being said, I think Jackman was and still is a great choice for the character. And I was thrilled beyond belief when he went "berserk" and killed all those soldiers. I'm glad someone remembered that Wolverine is first and foremost, a killer.

The ending was a wonderful set up for the inevitable sequel -- which in my opinion would give the supporting cast even more to work with.

I found it to be everything I expected and more. Plenty of popcorn moments, decent character development. All around fun. I'm going back soon for a second round.

The Matrix Reloaded

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

First, a trip down memory lane. The nut grafs from my review of The Matrix on April 5, 1999, the week after it opened:

This movie has received almost universal terrible reviews, at least in the media I see and hear. Part of it, I think, is an innate prejudice against Keanu Reeves. There are reviewers in this country who made up their minds about him while watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and nothing he can do will ever change their minds.


Go see this movie for the special effects alone. If you, like me, want to split your sides when Keanu delivers his trademark, "Oh, wow," line, go right ahead. This film proves that a flat, affectless actor can be perfect in some roles.

Funny how the movie went on to become both a cult and an Internet phenomenon, and how few reviewers own up to their lousy reviews of the first outing. Also, no one claims Reeves doesn't have what it takes to stand at the center of this particular piece of fiction.

Anyway, if your favorite part of Star Wars is what I always call the "Republican" sections, when Darth Vader is busy telling Luke, "You'll grow up to be just like me someday..." you'll love the Matrix. People are constantly telling Keanu what he's going to do, because it's fate. Doc Brown from Back to the Future would be so disappointed.

The R rating for this film is ridiculous; I've seen more skin... well, never mind. No swear words, much less gun violence than the first film, brief and I mean BRIEF nudity and sexual situations. There is speculation on the IMBD bulletin board that it is kicks to the head that earn an R rating. Weird. The movie rating system in this country is broken and does need to be fixed.

All the stuff you've heard about is there. The fight scenes are spectacular and take the scenes from the first movie to new heights, without repeating themselves. The morphing scenes are truly amazing. The shots of the underground human city are as dark and murky as the constant philosophical musings, which would shame your average fortune cookie writers. And, like Back to The Future II, and The Two Towers, this film suffers from "middle segment of the trilogy disease," with more loose ends than you can shake a stick at. In the Matrix universe, I'd be very careful about what I shook a stick at. Somewhere out there in the Internet multiverse, I am sure someone has a lucid explanation for both the Keymaker and the Architect (played by Helmut Bakaitis, but with an uncanny resemblance to a slightly younger Arte Johnson), but I'll be darned if I can figure out what they're up to.

You want philosophy, take a class at college. You want entertainment, see the Matrix Reloaded. I am, howver, insulted and hurt by the 138-minute length; they could easily have cut this to a much brisker two hours. Help! Where's the discipline in Hollywood! But it passes both the watch test and the watering eyes test; I never looked at my watch, and I kept forgetting to blink. My hat's off to the directors/writers, the Wachowski brothers (long may they rein--and go rent their other movie, Bound sometime; it was good too). Carrie-Ann Moss fans will want to know that she gets much more screen time, and kicks much more ass by herself in this film than in the first Matrix.


More on Jayson Blair, Lewinski Joke, Grobstein, Dern

Steve Lopez of the LA Times wrote a very funny column about the Jayson Blair/New York Times troubles. Edward J. Epstein runs a very informative web site called Exclusive to the New York Times which is must reading for all truly interested media types. UPI's Joe Bob Briggs weighs in on the scandal as well.

At least 1,600 web sites have posted this quote; not a single one offers any evidence that it is true or accurate. But it's funny, so let me be 1,601:

"I voted Republican this year. The Democrats left a bad taste in my mouth."
-- Monica Lewinsky

The Associated Press couldn't resist a wacky pseudo-science story from Britain about monkeys and typewriters and Shakespeare. Neither could Wired Magazine. Neither could Richard Dalton. And now, neither can I.

Dan Grobstein's finds in the New York Times include a robot that digitizes books. He also found:

Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights
New York Times
May 16, 2003

...Or as Mr. Deaver said he learned long ago with Mr. Reagan: "They understand that what's around the head is just as important as the head."

To which I can add only that, in both cases, there is precious little concern about the miniscule contents inside either head.

Daniel Dern found a web log that proposes an 18-cent coin. Also, a commentary worrying about Sorkin's departure from West Wing entitled Pity about the Patter.

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