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: October 13, 2003

October 13, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 40

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Five Years Later
  • Nice Saturday Redux
  • Another Great Carroll Column
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 14 Poems About This Fan Letter
  • Zen Judaism


  • Out of Time


  • Coquet on the Internet Tourbus, the Dan Grobstein File

General News

Five Years Later

It's been five years since fury at the Clinton impeachment drove me to write this weekly blog. It was that or check into the booby hatch. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. It has since evolved into a combination of diary for me and my family and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, Adair Lara or Jon Carroll, or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it).

PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. I don't believe anyone who reads this column except Peter Peckarsky would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it, or revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft (and become the father of the personal column).

Ironically, this column, born in a political circus, celebrates its fifth anniversary during another political circus. Curiously, I am not as passionate about this one as I was the impeachment, even though its roots extend to the same right-wing, Republican conspiracy to overturn elections they cannot win fair and square, or to change the rules in the middle of the game. That conspiracy now includes the 1996 presidential election (impeachment), the 2000 election (fraud and illicit Supreme Court chicanery), attempts to redistrict Texas and Colorado (not the way the game has been played for 230 or so years), and now the 2002 California Gubernatorial election.

Still, I expect you'll read as much or more about Marlow and Rae and their doings, and my classroom, as you will about politics in this forum. Maybe I'm just mellowing with age.

News From Marlow

In Tapei:

I realized that my Wei-qi (go) lessons are in the same neighborhood as E's family's apartment after I got an email from E mentioning her sister, S, who I had forgotten to contact again once I settled my initial computer problems here in the apartment. So I called S and arranged to have dinner with her and some of her friends after my lesson. I walked over to the apartment and met her and we went to a Chinese restaurant called KiKi's.


I ordered the Szechuan style beef even though they insisted it was normally too hot for westerners, and the waitress also second guessed the order with me being at the table until they decided to just get it "a little bit spicy." I tried egg tofu for the first time, really good, a little sweeter than regular tofu, though that might have been the preparation, and also some kind of green melon/squash type vegetable whose name I didn't quite catch. Then there was a pork dish and a seafood soup. There is a certain art to ordering a balanced meal at a Chinese restaurant and I'm hoping I'm absorbing some of it. I try and always defer totally to the Chinese person present, but they normally make you choose at least one dish, which is fine, but I really prefer trying all new stuff.

After dinner, at which everyone was very helpful in suggesting activities, foods, and amusements in Taipei I might enjoy, complete with drawn maps, we went to a brand new bar/lounge called "Sofa." Apparently it was just recently opened by a fashion-designer who merged with/ bought out(?) an indie record store. The record store is now contained within the DJ booth and the club did look like it was designed by someone with a fashion background. It was very mod. Kind of retro-1950s America. I asked them if retro worked in Taiwan, and they kind of nodded at me vaguely and then admitted it was just western. There were conch shaped speakers, dim lighting, low tables, comfortable couches, ours was sparkly in brown and orange with matching throw pillows, until we got moved to a couch that was built into the wall and shaped kind of like a flower with individual seats, the kind of couch I could easily imagine in a conversation pit, even though I've never really seen that architectural feature in real life. A lot of people were drinking tea. Bars here seem to all have good tea selections and pretty full kitchens, not like bad bar food in the states. A lot of people in Taipei smoke cigarettes any time any place, its kind of like being back in New York my freshman year, or really anytime before the smoking ban laws.

News From Rae

This just in from Rae at Brandeis:

I enjoyed the two movies I saw Friday, American Splendor and Lost in Translation. American Splendor was clever and funny and I would recommend it to anyone, Lost in Translation was well-done and interesting, but mom and dad may have a point about me being too young to appreciate the nuances of the relationships in that movie. Next week I think I'll see Under the Tuscan Sun- a movie about an American woman in her 30's who decides to move to an Italian villa just for the hell of it.

Nice Saturday Redux

Vicki read my item about our day last week and had this to add:

Nice item on our day in S.F.! Maybe it will inspire others. I would have mentioned how efficient and non-touristy the Oakland ferry ( is. It's a catamaran! Great views of the bay and sailboats are out in force. Sit on the top deck for the best view. We got a bonus side trip to Angel Island on the way back where bicyclists go for the day. I went for Chagall more than anything, but ended up enjoying the ferry the most - to my surprise! I'm thinking next time we might make the farmers' market our destination via the ferry, go with a group and all choose something to cook for an evening get together with the same group ( Another time - make Angel Island the destination for a day of walking or biking. More fun than I imagined!

Another Great Carroll Cat Column

Selective hearing in cats
Jon Carroll
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
San Francisco Chronicle

We have determined that both of our cats know their names. We do this by mentioning their names in normal conversation and watching their ears. Inevitably, Bucket's ears will twitch when the word "bucket" is spoken.

Bucket will of course pretend that her ears did not twitch. Bucket will certainly pretend not to know her name when it's called loudly. This is part of the Humiliating the Owner game, which is right up there with Kill the Buzzing Fly in the cat amusement pantheon.

Political Notes

Ruben Navarette Jr., syndicated by the Dallas Morning News is another one of those who can't admit the truth. "those ridiculous charges about the recall was part of some vast right-wing conspiracy to overturn elections." I guess they grown them ignorant down in Texas. That's just what it was, is and always will be Ruben. Starting with the impeachment of Clinton, through the Supreme Court theft of the 2000 election, with a stopoever at the Texas Legislature, and now California. It wasn't the "will of the people." It was $2 million of Darrell Issa's money that took a moribund and marginal effort to recall Davis and put it over the top. I've said it before and I'll say it again. With $2 million for paid signature gatherers, you could put a ham sandwich on the ballot in California. Ruben probably didn't know this because he lives in a state where he already has a ham sandwich for a governor. Here in California, we're just getting started. Word is $300,000 has been raised to recall Arnold. As soon as the effort goes public, I plan to contribute.

Oh, and, hey, Ruben? Give me a call or drop me a note when some right-wing jerk of a Republican is unfairly impeached, robbed of an election, or recalled for no good reason by an idle Democratic millionaire's money. Then you'll be in the right ballpark.

* * *

Craig Reynolds writes:

An Open Letter to Paul Krugman
By Arnold Kling
Tech Central Station

I enjoy Krugman's sometimes over the top rhetoric, but I suppose Kling has a point [that Krugman attacks motivations rather than consequences.

I, too, enjoy Krugman, but Kling, alas, does have a point.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Doin' the anti-DMCA rag: last weekend I read and throughly enjoyed Jeff Howe's Listen, It Isn't the Labels. It's the Law. He starts off sounding sympathetic to downloaders, then to Big Music, but that is just prelude to his main point: a strong condemnation of the horrible DMCA. See EFF's collection of DMCA horror stories: Unsafe Harbors. The abuse of due process, invasion of privacy, and the apparent nullification of common sense under the provisions of the DMCA figured in another interesting story this week. SunnComm's MediaMax CD3 software was supposed to prevent copying of data from music CDs (they call it unauthorized copying, I call it fair use of a legally purchased product, take your pick). But there was a hitch: CD-Copy Protection System Said to Have Simple Flaw, Shift key breaks CD copy locks. See also John A. Halderman's original technical report: Analysis of the MediaMax CD3 Copy-Prevention System. But rather than slink away with their tails between their legs, properly chastened by the exposé of their defective product, the nosebleeds at SunnComm claimed the report was "disseminated in a manner which facilitates infringement" in violation of the DMCA or other applicable law. Now it sounds like someone in their legal department got a clue, because the next day they were in full speed reverse. On the good news side: ISP Charter Communications filed suit to block DMCA-based subpoenas and Wired wrote about Magnatune, a record label that encourages sharing and seeks to be musician-friendly.

MovieBeam is a new strategy for delivering movies to home viewers. (Its "Netflix without mailing DVDs" or perhaps "Netflix meets TiVo.") See 'Datacasting' Refuses to Die and PVRblog's interview. Disney seems ready to embrace new business models, something the music industry was much too slow to do.

Technobits: NYT on Product Liability Lawsuits Are New Threat to Microsoft --- more on verified voting: Time to Recall E-Vote Machines? and The Voting Machine War --- 'Blogosphere' to reach 10 million, almost all dead according to The Blogging Iceberg by Perseus [Editor's note: or maybe things aren't so bad in the blogsphere writes Robyn Greenspan of Cyberatlas (thank you Richard Dalton)]--- the universe is shaped like a soccer ball: see and NYT --- remote laser powered flight.


The Top 14 Poems About This Fan Letter

Hey, 13 is still on the list...

October 6, 2003


I received the very interesting e-mail message you see below from someone who had found our October, 2001 list of "The Top 16 Bizarre Nostradamus Predictions" on our website.

Here's the message:


After visiting a webpage concerning Nostradamus' Predictions, I must say that I am outraged about the ignorant comments that were made after each one of his predictions. I'm not sure if I am contacting the right person about this, but this needs to be said. I do not understand how a group of people whom were NOT alive whenever these predications came along can sit there and judge them in such a tasteless manner. This website is nothing but a link of ignorance. I mean, what persuades people like this to write shit that has nothing to do with what is originally supposed to be talked about?!?! Mariah Carrey??? I'm mean come on..then someone goes to the great lengths of

making "fun" of someone's name. How old are the people running this website?? Especially the fact that mixing today's "technology" in with famous predictions made centuries ago..such as the television! This is absolutely absurd. Maybe you haven't even bothered to read over the shit that is commented on the page.


"My God, who let that Mariah chick sing?"
"Bush's wayward kid will win the American presidency in 2000. Is that
clear enough for you morons?"
"Until the flabby naked dude wins a cool million."
"Who would have thought? *WE* were the the weakest link. Goodbye. "
"200 channels, yet nothing good on the tube! "
"Will make pledge to lay down Spears. "
"Then retired, he shall discount travel fares
And fool no one with a bad hairpiece"
"His companion? A chimp named Bubbles."
"All eyes turn for an answer to Jordan of Nike. "
"(Three if you count Kate Winslet naked.)"
"Beware the ones with demonic names: Adam, Pauly and Carrot Top."
"I shall finally lose the nickname, "Nostra-dumbass." "

I mean what in the hell is wrong with the people who write this?! Do they have nothing else better to do than sit there and critize other people? Especially people that have NOTHING to do with ANY of Nostradamus' predictions? Honestly, it is ignorant people like yourselves that make the internet just plain SUCK. Maybe you should think about getting a life and stop being so damn childish about certain parts of history.

Stephanie S.
Houston, Texas


In order to prove to Stephanie that we here at TopFive are not ignorant, we decided to respond in verse....

14> You may think us juvenile,
Twisted, crass and cruel.
But what the hell did you expect
From grads of Humor School?

13> Roses are red
Violets are blue.
Rocks may be dumb
But they're smarter than you.

12> Thanks for your letter, dear Stephanie.
If I could hear your voice, I'm sure it would deafen me.
Hold your comments -- I know my pentameter is all out of whack
But unlike you, at least I don't smoke crack.

11> Dear reader, we apologize for having upset you.
Enclosed you'll find a coupon so that you can buy a clue.

10> I write these angry e-mails --
You can see I'm not a fan.
My psychiatrist said that I'll relax
As soon as I find a man.

9> We thought our list would please some folks,
But Stephanie clearly wasn't.
Looks like we ruffled feathers on
Carrot Top's first cousin.

8> Who is this a-hole's ISP?
TopFive will never tell --
Except to point out "a-hole"
Has an "A", an "O" and "L."

7> "A woman of Styles will appear, I foresee
Who mistakes my absurdness for real history.
The whimsy of others, to her, will lack sense
For her mind will resemble my prophecies: dense."

6> Listen my children, and you shall hear
Of Stephanie S.'s metaphorical rear.
When she calls others asses, they smile with chagrin
With her head wedged thereup, she's a big pain therein.

5> Stephanie, we joke for fun,
It's not like we teach French.
So just sit back and try to laugh --
Your sphincter might unclench.

4> We got a letter from Ms. S.
That didn't read correct-to-me.
In fact, I'd say that probably,
She's had a humor-rectomy.

3> Stephanie S. thought our list was a mess,
And sent us a letter, irate.
Must make them sick, those Dixie Chicks,
To have Stephanie from their state.

2> Thank you for your thoughtful note
Your thoughts are long and deep.
I wish that I could comment more,
But alas, I'm fast asleep.

and's Number 1 Poem About This Fan Letter...

1> Our jokes offended Steph so much
She felt compelled to quote 'em.
Well, if her rage came from the heart,
She's nuttier than a scrotum.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 68 submissions from 25 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Carl Knorr, Devo City, OH -- 1, 5 (9th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13

Zen Judaism

Peggy Coquet passed along a message she got. There are about 51 postings of this, most of them with the credits snipped off. It comes from the book Zen Judaism: For You, a Little Enlightenment by David M. Bader. Here are two examples. There are more on the web site:

There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.


Out Of Time

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Deep and thoughtful? Hardly. Oscar bait? Not a chance. Entertaining? Why yes, it is.

Denzel Washington is the police chief whose ex-wife (a homicide detective) gradually figures out he's the prime suspect in a murder. He's running out of time to prove his innocence. It's 20 minutes too long at 114 minutes, and the sex is just enough to make it PG-13. But it is suspenseful (I know my heart was pounding) and mostly well written by David Collard, a former writer for television's fantastic and ground-breaking Family Guy. I guess he forgot himself a little at the end with cartoon-like implausibility, but for the most part it's a great script. And Carl Franklin pulls out all the stops with breathtakingly beautiful photography that almost makes you want to spend time in Florida. Strictly speaking, this film is too clean, simply and well-lit to be truly film noir. But if you want to spend a couple of hours being charmed, transported and entertained without any risk of being made to think, you could do worse than Out Of Time. Eva Mendes and Sanaa Lathan are pretty easy on the eyes, by the way, and its nice to see Dean Cain working again, even if it is as a stupid psychotic justifiably paranoid cuckold. Well, it sure ain't Superman, that's for sure.


Coquet on the Internet Tourbus, the Dan Grobstein File

Peggy Coquet likes the Internet Tourbus. There's a cool item about MIT Courseware in the Oct. 2 issue, but you'll have to wait a month to see it because the archives are out of date.

Dan Grobstein File:

  • The "president" is a "poet."
  • The new model Republican party is scary. I agree.
  • 576 web sites carry this version of Abbott and Costello's Who's On First routine, rewritten for the computer age. Allow me to be number 577.
  • A fun tour of the new $20 bill. Dan thinks the picture makes Jackson look like a bobble head doll.
  • Are voting machines messing up our elections? Check out this compelling argument made strictly by using numbers from the recall. Of course, it might just be an ill-designed ballot (search this page for the world "Visalia").
  • Read the GOP analysis of the Texas redistricting and be afraid, be very afraid. Talk about changing the rules after the game is over!

New York Times

  • After years of being dominated by right-wingers, the New York Times bestseller list now features a few lefties.

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