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: August 11, 2003

August 11, 2003 Vol. 5, No.33

Table of Contents:

General News

  • I Have a Job
  • Catalina: You CAN Go Home Again
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Bush Humor, The Highline


  • The Top 12 Things Overheard at a Naked Biker Rally


  • Swimming Pool Redux
  • The Countdown


  • Firesign, Sullivan, Dalton, Nilsson, Hanzel, Gill, Grobstein

General News

I'm going to be in the New York Times again (probably) in an upcoming piece on executives becoming teachers. Keep an eye out for it!

I have a Job

Well, it happened. Just as my mother predicted, my failure to get the first job I applied for simply left me free to accept the job of my dreams. Well, almost. I will be teaching six periods a day of 8th grade social studies--U.S. History through World War I. I will be in the room across the hall from Mrs. S, my best friend and a veteran teacher of the same subject upon whom I can lean heavily as I get the ball rolling. I will be replacing a beloved teacher who has taken ill, which means it won't be easy. Plus, I wanted a half-time job and this is a full-time job. But at least, since I am teaching the same subject all day, it means just one prep. Of course, keeping six classes in synch will be a challenge in and of itself, but it's a challenge I think I am up to. We'll see as time goes on. My first day is Wednesday Aug. 27. Wish me luck! I have two weeks to prepare--which is actually MORE time than I expected.

I'm going to try and wait to have my nervous breakdown until Thanksgiving break so I have some time to recover from it. Just kidding. I think.

I know I can talk. Can I listen? Can I inspire? Can I assess fairly? These are the big questions. The world is full of mediocre teachers. If I can't be a great one, I'm not sure I want to be a teacher at all. Will I move some or all of my 180 students? Only time will tell.

If you have any materials or suggestions (including web sites, books, videos, plays, songs, posters and lesson plans) that will help make U.S. History through WWI accessible, send them along.

Catalina: You Can Go Home Again

You know how sometimes you have a wonderful experience somewhere, and then you go back and it isn't quite the same the second time? Well, we had a wonderful time as a family at Santa Catalina this August--for the second year in a row. My wife's side of the family has vacationed there for four generations; Vicki's grandmother stayed in a tent cabin at the turn of the century, and her parents owned a summer home on the island when she was growing up.

The Marlow family summer home was sold years ago, but we stayed, for the second time, in a condo at Hamilton Cove. Six flights, 74 steps, up from the nearest street, but a beautiful ocean view, great sea breezes and a golf cart thrown in (private cars are rare and getting rarer on the island). We took the inland tour for the first time and saw numerous bison as well as some very domesticated ravens (don't call them crows) named, fittingly, Edgar, Allan and Poe.

We swam. We played tennis. We dozed and read. We ate out, including at the country club. We saw the flying fish (not quite as many as last year) and took the submarine version of the glass bottom boat. It was a wonderful four-day weekend during which much bonding took place. Marlow and Rae kayaked. We'd go again in a New York minute. I hope we have the chance.

The temperature is a very even 74 with lows in the 60s. Alas, perfect weather for me is a high of 70 and a low of 50. It is a special kind of hell to be in a place where the weather is perfect... and four degrees too warm every day.

Political Notes

You've heard, I'm sure, we have a female programmer candidate who is selling thong underwear with her name on it at her web site:

Georgy Russell for Governor
her thong underwear

Tom LaSusa informs me of another candidate. WARNING! FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY:

A female gubernatorial candidate doing naked jumping jacks.

* * * *

It really is amateur hour at the Central Ignorant Agency. Check out "In Sketchy Data, Trying to Gauge Iraq Threat" by James Risen, David E. Sanger, and Thom Shanker in The New York Times of July 20, 2003. In October 2002, George Bush alleged that Saddam Hussein met with Iraq's "nuclear mujahadeen." Bush and or his colleagues wanted Colin Powell to make the same allegation and illustrate the allegation with a picture. Powell wanted proof. The CIA showed Powell a picture of one such alleged meeting and the following conversation ensued:

Powell: "Now tell me who these guys are."
CIA response: "Oh, we're quite sure this is his nuclear crowd."
Powell: "How do you know? Prove it. Who are they?"

No one from the CIA could answer the question.


Craig Reynolds suggests Defeat The Right In Three Minutes.


Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee says the recall is a revolt of the people against a government they don't like. I wrote him:

Your column was reprinted in the Contra Costa Times today. While I have seen and respected your work for years, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion. The recall is not a revolt of the people, dissatisfied with their government. It is the final and absolute proof that anyone with a million dollars can get a ham sandwich onto the California ballot, with paid signature gatherers successfully using the arguments "please sign, I get $1" and "go ahead and sign. It doesn't mean you're going to vote for it."

Referendum, initiative and recall are in need of serious revision; either that, or put our laws and public offices up for auction on E-Bay, with the proceeds going to the general fund. At least that way we'd get our money's worth and cut out the middlemen.

* * * tracks the influence of campaign contributions on Bush. Thanks Dan Grobstein for bringing it to my attention!

* * *

Richard Dalton found this, in a Pew Research Center for The People and The Press Update:

Bush Approval Slips - Fix Economy, Say Voters Democrats Frustrated with Party Even as Candidates Gain Visibility

Bush's approval rating has declined and his lead in a match-up with a hypothetical Democrat has been cut in half to 5% during the last month. A growing number of Americans (57%) now rate the economy -- not the war on terrorism -- as the more important presidential priority.

* * *

E-mail versions of George Bush's "résumé" keep making their way around the Internet; as best I can tell, this is the original résumé, complete with author credit.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

SCO v Linux: early in the week Forbes put a post-apocalyptic spin on the looming Linux Battle Royal. Then SCO revealed how much they hoped to extort from each Linux user. Their new business plan is based on the fact that protection rackets are more profitable than software development. By the end of the week two counter-suits were fired across the bow of SCO, one by IBM and one by Red Hat.

Music Industry Weekly Cluelessness Wrap-Up: The RIAA's overwrought attempt to sue everyone who they suspect of downloading music is beginning to be seen for the abuse of process and privacy that it is. I guess the RIAA is concerned that only 87% of the public think they are scumbags, so they are going after the senators and grandmas who were still on their side. Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State wrote Protecting privacy from the 'new spam' decrying the erosion of privacy under the vast powers given to copyright thugs under the DMCA. Even the phone company thinks the RIAA is over the top. But at least the music industry is a fount of creativity. The folks at the Creative Commons had a suggestion for, Lessig dissects the prickly response from the idiots in Vivendi Universal Legal Department.

EU v MS: EU Plans Fine, Remedies for Microsoft 'Abuses', A Stone Hurled From Across the Pond and EU's Power to Be Tested in Microsoft Showdown.

New Googlisms: two new items from the folks at Google labs. Now you can widen a search to include synonyms of your search terms. For example Googling for "Paul Schindler" article finds 693 hits but "Paul Schindler" ~article finds 2680 {Ed. note: many of them by the Paul Schindler of the Long Island Gay News]. My quick experiments indicate that Google has some quixotic ideas about which words are synonyms. TR has more on geeky Google search syntax which mentions Cookin' With Google: you type in a few ingredients and it searches for recipes containing them. Google also launched email-based notification of News Alerts.

Who replies to spam? this amazing Wired article describes how lax security (knock me over with a feather) at a spammer's e-store allowed the curious to explore that question. It has been suggested that the way to stop spam is to hunt down and kill the five dozen people in the world stupid to fall for the ridiculous claims in spam advertising. But the truth seems to undermine that happy fantasy, turns out that many of the people who buy "male enhancement" pills based on spam really, really ought to know better. It is quite depressing. Well at least the ones who have been outed by this experience may think twice next time.

Technobits: Bush Misuses Science, Report Says --- CAPPS II debunked (free registration required) this is the same issue that drives John Gilmore batty --- from Wired Bush Impeached? Wanna Bet?, note that the AAM site is a direct clone of the graphic design of the now defunct Pentagon site PAM (cached) --- The NYT magazine had a great article about the down-to-earth economics of Steven Levitt The Probability That a Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (and Other Riddles of Modern Life) --- Inventor develops 'talking glove' for deaf --- Lindows unveils DVD application

Web Site of the Week

Bush Humor, The Highline

I may have printed this list of funny Bush pictures before, but it's worth saying twice: many are infantile, some are quite funny.

There's an abandoned elevated railway line from the 1930s called The Highline that runs down the west side of Manhattan from 38th to the 20s. In the 20 years since the last train ran on it, it has become an urban forest, with grass and trees. CSX wants to tear it down. Citizens want to make a park out of it. I like the idea of a park that's five miles long and 30 feet wide. Go see the pictures and the proposals. It's quite something. There are people who live and work in New York City that haven't heard a word about this.


The Top 12 Things Overheard at a Naked Biker Rally

Not a great list, or a classy one, but I came in No. 9

August 4, 2003


The North American Nude Bikers club held its first rally recently. Although we swear that has nothing to do with why we were on hiatus, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a list about it.

12> "Seriously, how hot can a leather seat possibly get from mere sunlight? Let's ri-AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!"

11> "For the last time: I'M NOT WEARING A LEATHER JACKET!"

10> "Nothing comes between me and my Harley Davidson... well, except maybe that annoying little trickle of ass-sweat."

9> "I hate the way these cretins dress me with their eyes."

8> "The changing tent is over there in the Rite Aid parking lot, Mr. Vice President."

7> "So *that's* where the other end of those wallet chains go."

6> "After seeing the 'Grannies from Greensboro' cruise by, I'm changing my name to *Queasy* Rider."

5> "Get a load of that chopped rod! No, no -- over there! John Bobbitt just arrived."

4> "Jersey Dog wins Longest Ride to the Rally; Hopper takes the Biggest Bike award; and Carolina Mama wins for Most Intimate Bug Impact."

3> "Nice skid marks."

2> "Hey! Show us your ti-- ah, screw it. This is no fun."

and's Number 1 Thing Overheard at a Naked Biker Rally...

1> "Man, I hope no weirdos show up."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 111 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Joseph Prisco, Ithaca, NY -- 1 (5th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9


Swimming Pool Redux

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database


Robert Malchman thinks he understands Swimming Pool. As you know from last week, I'm sure I don't.


I will explain the ending: The whole story after Charlotte gets to France is in her head -- it's the plot of the novel she writes (called Swimming Pool) and shows the editor at the end. As she says to the editor early on, she had an idea on the train that she just can't get rid of. She incorporates some real elements -- the house, the waiter, Marcel, the fact that the editor has a daughter -- but Ludi is a creation of her imagination entirely, and there is certainly no murder. There, does that help?

The Countdown

Neal Vitale always has good ideas. He noted its about time to start the Oscar countdown (even though we all "know" that only films released in December win Oscars, due to the academy's collective short attention span/ADD/Alzheimer's), with the only two contenders so far being:

Best Picture:
Seabiscuit, Finding Nemo

In other categories, my favorite films so far this year are:

Indie Film:
Whale Rider, The Hard Word

Spellbound, Winged Migration, Lost in La Mancha

Narration by a dead person:

Bend it like Beckham

A Mighty Wind


Firesign, Sullivan, Dalton, Nilsson, Hanzel, Gill, Grobstein

Big week for correspondence.

If you're a Firehead like me, you'll want to know:

Firehead Ted Alvy is the first to notice that Firesign's own Phil Proctor is in the latest TV Guide (08/09/03 with Jay Leno on the cover); his picture identifies him as the voice of Big Brother and on Rugrats - but no mention of his being 25% of Firesign Theatre (27% by weight).

27% by weight. You've got to love Firesign people. I know I do. Even though, at the 25th reunion tour, my daughter Marlow, then 12, said, "Dad, I've never seen so much tie die and so many balding middle aged guys with pony tails in my life." She was talking about the audience, of course...

Kevin Sullivan writes:

Nice article on Richard Parker. Sorry to say I never knew him. It was easy to feel the emotion in your writing about him. More vignettes highlighting his approach to life would have gone down well.

Good point, and I'll try to revise that epitaph some day to include some. Any readers who knew Richard are welcome to chip in a contribution.

FYI - I've found the Internet has opened up doors to music that I never anticipated. I've tuned in to some easy-to-find streaming stations and looked for good "work" music. My pattern was to listen at work with my headphones on, and not pay any attention to the music. If some bit of music particularly was pleasing, I'd note the artist (shown in the browser window) in a log I kept, and go back to work. What I found was that over weeks and months, a few artists would keep reappearing on my list. What I discovered, and what I'm sure is old news to the music cognoscenti, are two interesting artists in the jazz world, Bela Fleck, and Bill Frisell. Check them out! I haven't heard anything bad by either of them. BTW, I've noticed that some of their clips are used as the filler/transition music on NPR between articles.

Kevin also reminded me that we should all look up at Mars this month, since it won't be this close for another 50,000 years.

Richard Dalton wanted another word with you about Bloggers. I'll repeat both his comments so they make sense:

Have you thought about the possible relationship of Blogs and Reality TV? What is it that has moved so many people to live vicariously through the lives of the famous (from Madonna and the Osbournes through Anna Nicole Smith) to the much more ordinary lives of bloggers?

Is this evidence that we are so involved in media "reality" that the day-to-day stuff (our lives) aren't as interesting anymore?

By way of clarification, I wasn't referring to the Blogger but the reader. And yes, there is a difference between subject matter Blogs and biographical ones, in my view.

The ever-thoughtful Bob Nilsson checks in:

Your more accepting stance on the Policy Analysis Market resonated with Business Week -Betting on Terror: An Explosive Idea [BW offers this article both for free and for pay].

I remember that you also took an independent and somewhat contrarian view of Richard Nixon back in 1973. Back then you said you did not dislike Nixon because of his crookedness (before the full story was known) -- after all, few politicians were very clean. Rather, you disliked him because of his bad policies - like cutting funding for education.

It probably won't surprise close friends or regular readers to find that I cannot remember saying that. When you talk as much as I do, and express as many opinions, you're bound to forget a few now and then.

Which reminds me of a line of mine Clark Smith quoted back to me, after talking me into some ill-advised adventure during my freshman year in college. I agreed to come along, saying, "Wish-wash. I'm so wishy-washy, I don't know whether to sleep in a bed or a bowl." I probably forgot the line five minutes later; he remembered it for 30 years. Life is funny that way.

John Hanzel found it in The Guardian: the secret of long life is to become a scientist.

Phil Gill was amused by Maureen Dowd's gay makeover of Bush.

The Dan Grobstein File:

From the New York Times:

  • In a column entitled State of Decline, the Nearly Perfect Paul Krugman writes: "From smog to silicon, from the sexual revolution to the tax revolt, the future has usually arrived in California first. Now the Golden State is degenerating into a banana republic. Can the nation be far behind?" He also bemoans the fact that the CIA, under Bush orders is now cooking the books to make intelligence fit political needs.
  • Nicholas Kristof notes, sadly, the total collapse of our North Korea policy under Bush.
  • The flash mob fad reminds Dan of an old Larry Niven story.
  • Steve Martin, one of the smartest funnymen in the world, deftly skewers the search for WMDs on the op-ed page.
  • Former Congressman and Hillary doormat Rick Lazio explains why free trade's in trouble.

From elsewhere, Dan found these stories:

  • The competitiveness of the penis (BBC)
  • The Xerox glossy watermark hack: is it a bug or a feature? (Slashdot)
  • The Bush team plays games with history. There's a surprise; they can't tell the truth about the present, why should the past be any different? (Newsday)
  • You can find the Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush - U.S. President and Naval Aviator - 12" Action Figure. (KBToys)

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