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: July 14, 2003

July 14, 2003 Vol. 5, No.29

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Teaching Ahoy And Other Matters
  • What Broadcast Call Letters Stand For
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Happy Birthday Tron

Web Site of the Week

  • None


  • The Top 15 Reasons Top5 Has Never Insulted You (Part II)
  • The Top 16 Cities Named by Potheads
  • The Top 15 Signs Your Online Romance Is Bogus


  • Whale Rider


  • Grobstein File, Craig's Notes

General News

Teaching Ahoy And Other Matters

I start teaching summer school Monday. For the next three weeks, these columns (at least up here at the top where I have to do the writing) may be a little on the thin side. I'll try to keep you posted as I ride the bronco, but right now I'd just like to be a chapter or two ahead.

So what was I doing going to Whale Rider? Because both girls wanted to see it and I wanted to be with them, that's why.

And of course, we take off after lunch today for the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, which I mentioned two months ago--selected by a group of British restaurant reviewers s the best French restaurant in the world. Marlow's suggestion; it's an early birthday party for Vicki. Our reservation is for 9:15 and we'll be spending the night at the Napa Marriott. I'll let you know how it was next week.

What Broadcast Call Letters Stand For

I was also fascinated by the fact that WLS stood for World's Largest Store (Sears) and WGN meant World's Greatest Newspaper (Chicago Tribune), WCFL stood for Chicago Federation of Labor and KOIN in Portland, Ore. (my home town) meant Oregon Independent Newspaper (The Oregonian) while KPOJ stood for "Portland Oregon Journal" (the now-defunct afternoon daily for which I once toiled) and KBPS stood for Benson Polytechnic School, my high school alma mater. Turns out there are hundreds of such stories from around the U.S. and even around the world. My college station, once WTBS (for Technology Broadcasting System) is now WMBR (Walker Memorial Basement radio). Anyway, there's a lot of these stories, and if you've always wondered what your local stations' call letters mean, check out my call letters page, which includes links to the people who REALLY keep track of this phenomenon. As a billboard in my hometown once said, we've been KISN your wife while you were away.

Political Notes

Facts about Iraq you may not have known, from my friend Richard Dalton:

This is from a presentation I attended recently, put on by the Cape Codders for Peace and Justice--a very effective local group.

Main points from Benjamin Joffe-Walt (Human Shields Iraq) talk in Brewster 6/19

Human Shields is an international anti-war group of people who placed themselves in areas of importance to Iraqi civilian life to act as a deterrent to military attack on civilians. Benjamin is one of the few U.S. citizens that participated in the Human Shields action, and is the first from the group to speak publicly in the U.S. about his experiences in Iraq. Benjamin gave a very informative presentation on the war through photo-based stories of the Iraqis he met, and the following is from notes I took:

In Sept, '02, 3.5% of the American public thought Iraq was a threat to the US; in Feb., '03, 60% did, but almost no one in Iran or Kuwait (countries which had been invaded by Iraq) felt threatened.

How many did we kill in Iraq? Gulf war 1 killed 105,000 Iraqis (according to the US army), 150-200,000 (according to the Red Cross).

The current Iraq war: while General Tommy Frank says, "We don't do body counts", our government tells us that about 10,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed, and the Iraq Body Count website [mostly academics, mostly British] estimates about 7,000 civilian deaths.

But consider:
about 6,000 bombs were dropped in 36 days in 1991
about 6,000 bombs were dropped in 2 days in 2003.

Using figures from the Stockholm International Peace Institute, Benjamin told us that Massachusetts taxpayers spend $497 million/year on nuclear weapons, and $329 million/year on jet fighter aircraft.

While in Iraq, Benjamin took a short taxi ride out of Baghdad to visit the confluence of the Tigris & Euphrates rivers, a site that was once the prime tourist destination in Iraq as it is thought by many to be the location of the 'garden of Eden'. When he arrived, the stench was overwhelming, and with his limited knowledge of Arabic, all he could gather from locals was, 'shit in water'. It turns out that this is because our government destroyed 70% of Iraq's water- and sewage-treatment facilities in 1991; due to the sanctions, by 1996 all such facilities were disabled.

As a consequence, 600,000 tons of raw sewage flows into the garden of Eden daily; the average Iraqi child gets diarrhea 12-14 times a year; diarrhea and dehydration caused the death of 500,000 children from 1991-2003. Another 250,000 died from childhood cancer (400-1000% increase - depending upon cancer type - above the 1991 incidence) and birth defects (5-600% above 1991 rates). 1 in 5 Iraqi children suffer from severe stunted growth (all from the World Health Organization).

We were also told that Iraq's currency is the most devalued of any in the last half of the 20th century: 250 dinars was worth $750 in 1991, 30 cents in 1996, and 12 cents today; in 1991 the average Iraqi teacher salary was $450/month, today it's $3/month. Benjamin had to fill a backpack with large bills to buy a bottle of water.

And we learned that under the UN oil-for-food program, profits from Iraqi oil sales went into a UN-controlled account: 13% of those profits went to Kuwait for reparations; 27% went to the UN for expenses. The Iraqi government could make requests to spend from the remainder on food, medical supplies, etc. Any of 9 countries could veto such a request, and the majority of such humanitarian requests were vetoed: 95% of the vetoes were by the U.S., and 5% were by the U.K.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

Microsoft fails to comply. While the Bush DOJ gave barely a wrist slap to Microsoft in its sweetheart anti-trust settlement, it was still too much for the recidivist corporate criminals in Redmond. They could have stayed within the bounds of the toothless settlement with a half-hearted nod towards legal business practices. But no: U.S. Unsatisfied with Microsoft Licenses Microsoft compliance at issue (Report Raises Concerns On Antitrust Settlement) and on a separate issue Massachusetts investigating possible MS settlement violations. One can hope that as Microsoft continues to engage in criminal activity, its antisocial activities will eventually provoke a "third strike and you're out" reaction.

Geek as Cybercommando: Dissertation Could Be Security Threat describes how a George Mason University graduate student aggregated publicly available information on telecommunication infrastructure to produce a dissertation that may never see the light of day due to concerns about national security. ("Classify my dissertation? Crap. Does this mean I have to redo my PhD?" says Sean Gorman "They're worried about national security. I'm worried about getting my degree.") DePaul Law Professor Katherine Strandburg sees this as a mirror of TIA, an unintended analog to Open Government Information Awareness.

How secure is the Diebold GEMS Voting Machine system? According to an investigation by Bev Harris: it sucks. See Inside A U.S. Election Vote Counting Program and the follow-up Bald-Faced Lies About Black Box Voting Machines. Are these design flaws due to incompetence, or are they back-doors to enable vote tampering? This is yet another argument for using Open Source software in government.

Microsoft to treat stock options as expenses: the monopolist I love to hate got one right. I know this is only tangentially related to the "Techno" focus of this column, and I am certainly no expert in corporate finance. But I do feel strongly that keeping stock options "off the books" is one of the hallmarks of the Enron-ization of American business. To prevent abuse and manipulation, particularly by corporate officers, stock options should be accounted for as expenses. I have been in high tech industry since 1975 and think it is is ludicrous to assert (as does Cisco CEO John Chambers) that "employee stock option plans are vital to the growth, innovation and the future of the technology industry and jobs in this country." Hogwash. My enthusiasm for technology is utterly unrelated to stock options. What stock options do is attract the "get rich quick" mentality which created, then burst, the tech bubble. See also: Tech companies snub Microsoft options move and In Silicon Valley, Pressure for Stock Grants in Lieu of Options

Technobits: FreeNet v RIAA: who will win the P2P arms race? --- spoofing PayPal --- presents its 2004 American Presidential Candidate Selector: fill out an opinion survey, it recommends a candidate --- eMob backlash --- The Antigravity Underground --- Gaming the Safeway Club Card.

Happy Birthday Tron

I have known Craig Reynolds, who contributes Technobriefs every week, since the days when he worked both at The Tech and at MIT's Architecture Machine. After college, he worked in the field of computer graphics; he was listed in the credits of the first major commercial motion picture to use CGI. As he wrote:

Yesterday I visited the Computer History Museum at its new home in the former SGI North American Sales Office at the corner of Shoreline and 101 in Mountain View. It is already a fascinating exhibit although it includes only about 15% of the Museum's collection of artifacts.

Today I looked at the CHM's web site and found an image from TRON on the ome page. I had forgotten the date, but the Museum says July 9 is the 21st anniversary of the film's release:

Web Site of the Week



The Top 15 Reasons Top5 Has Never Insulted You (Part II)

No. 5 is mine, all mine, do you hear me?

July 7, 2003

15> We're still too busy answering "fan mail" from 1999's NRA list.

14> Oh, we have, we have. You're just too obtuse to have noticed. By the way: nice haircut.

13> You rely on Amish AOL for all your e-mail humor updates.

12> It's our fault -- we didn't realize a few people actually voted for Pat Buchanan on purpose.

11> Left-handed feminist surfers are pretty laid back unless we make fun of the way your pendulous breasts swing when you wax your boards.

10> You open your daily Top 5 List e-mail message only to see if there are any pictures.

9> We insult men in descending order of penis size, so you may be waiting a while, Chester.

8> After Bill's repudiation, Ken's interrogation, Hillary's disdain, Linda's betrayal, cable news' vilification, HBO's lack of support and the dismal failure of "Mr. Personality," Top5 couldn't possibly get under your skin.

7> As a Vulcan, you have no emotions.

6> You get automatic immunity because you're a contributor now, unlike that pompous airbag Trebek.

5> Despite your numerous amusing balding middle-aged guy foibles, the balding middle-aged guys who own and write the lists fail to see the humor potential.

4> You always bring twice-baked potatoes smeared with Country Crock and Velveeta to the weekly Top5 staff meetings.

3> Because we're gentle-natured, compassionate folks who would never intentionally hurt anyone's feelings, even a semi-literate pea-brained walking bullseye like you.

2> Alphabetically, you're on our list right after Zone Diet followers and zoologists, Sheep-Boy.

and the Number 1 Reason Top5 Has Never Insulted You...

1> "Sorry, I'm away from my e-mail again today. I'm busy banging yet another bikini model on the beach in the back of my Hummer between bank runs! Hugs & Kisses, Carrot Top."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 102 submissions from 39 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Carl Knorr, Devo City, OH -- 1 (8th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 5

The Top 16 Cities Named by Potheads

Normally, I print the credits: mine and No. 1. But I was listed for both 7 and 12, as were 14(!) other people, so I decided to omit the credits. Suffice it to say that great minds think alike.

July 8, 2003

16> Cannabismark, ND

15> Tallahashish, FL

14> Roachanoke, VA

13> Browniesville, TX

12> Toke-Yo, Japan

11> Stashville, TN

10> Sacremellow, CA

9> San Anstonio, TX

8> DudeYouJustTotallyJustThrewUpInMyHairrisburg, PA

7> Bong Kong, China

6> Galvistoned, TX

5> Whoamaha, NE

4> Wreckedjavik, Iceland

3> Munchie, IN

2> Hemphis, TN

and's Number 1 City Named by a Pothead...

1> Dorito, Ohigho

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 113 submissions from 45 contributors.

The Top 15 Signs Your Online Romance Is Bogus

July 9, 2003


Kassem Saleh, a colonel in the U.S. Army, is alleged to have proposed to dozens of women he met through online dating services.

"But Chris," you ask, "How can I tell if my online romance is the real thing?"

15> Keeps suggesting that you demonstrate the depth of your devotion to each other by exchanging credit card numbers.

14> His IM messages are chockablock with correct grammar usage and impeccable spelling.

13> Subject: "Handsome Nigerian Prince Needs Your Help To Deliver 45M US Kisses"

12> Given's desperate, cheesy come-ons, it's gotta be fake... right?

11> She claims to be both a pop superstar and a virgin.

10> She keeps saying she knows an all-natural, healthy way to increase your manly length by five to ten inches.

9> Says your engagement ring is available "FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!!"

8> Small trouble: refers to self in third person. Big trouble: alternates between "he" and "she."

7> Strange that a Victoria's Secret model can get so worked up over a "Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek" debate.

6> Your best friend is also involved with an animated paper clip. Could there be two?

5> "... and then I started Top5, which has brought me international fame and millions of dollars. So what do you do?"

4> He's the third astrophysicist this week to ask you to forward a picture of your boobs.

3> Responds to your e-mails with "Are you the Nykeela who's 25 and like walks along the beach or the Nykeela who's so hot she makes the sun seem like a flickering candle?"

2> "Hello, $RECIPIENT_NAME, you're like no other $GENDER I've ever met. I think I'm falling in $EMOTION with you!"

and's Number 1 Sign Your Online Romance Is Bogus...

1> Your 17-year-old hottie slips up and mentions how bad it was in Nam.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 88 submissions from 33 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mark Weiss, Austin, TX -- 1, 11 (16th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 8


Whale Rider

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Sweet, gentle, beautiful, uplifting, clever and smart. Keisha Castle-Hughes is one of the cutest child stars I have ever seen in a motion picture (although she's called on to cry a little too often for my taste). Her relationship with her father and her grandparents is beautifully and lovingly portrayed. There isn't a false step in the whole film.

This is an art-house film, set in the Mori country of New Zealand.

The plot summary, from Johno at IMDB:

The legend is that Paikea rode on the back of a whale and led his people to New Zealand. Since that time tradition has decreed that the first-born male descendant will become chief of the tribe. Then Pai is born...and she is a girl.

Rated PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference, although I am surprised the MPAA could even tell about the language, given the occasionally cute, occasionally impenetrable New Zealand accents. The length is great; 105 minutes.

Five stars. Take the family! Support intelligent film-making.


Grobstein File, Craig's Notes

The Dan Grobstein File:

  • One of the saddest results of our war in Iraq is that it may finish off Tony Blair before Saddam Hussein. (New York Times)
  • Why don't conservatives care about the lack of WMDs in Iraq? (Christian Science Monitor)

Craig Reynolds liked Richard Cohen in the Washington Post on why the CEO-In Chief Needs An Audit. Also he wrote this:

I didn't find this myself, the Daypop link to Bush Defends War, Sidestepping Issue of Faulty Intelligence was tagged with this Ari Fleischer quote:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

Is that really as nonsensical as it sounds to me?

Yes, Craig, it is nonsense. Apparently, in his last few days as press secretary, Ari is striving for new heights (or depths) of gibberish and nonsense.

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