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 27, 2003

October 27, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 42

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Little Early
  • The Beach
  • A Public Service: Lie and Lay
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 12 Other Celebrity-Endorsed Products


  • Runaway Jury


  • Kevin Sullivan on the Sox, The Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Little Early

Years ago, I promised myself I would never take another red-eye flight, that I was too old to be dragging my butt out to the airport at 10 at night and then springing into action, virtually sleepless, after arriving on the East Coast at 6:30 a.m. or so. Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In order to maximize the amount of time I get to spend with Rae in Waltham at Brandeis Parents' Weekend, I am, as you read this (depending, of course, on when you read it), on a plane to Boston. Or already there. Or, if you're reading it on Oct. 27 or later, back already.

To those in Boston I didn't see while I was there, I plead overscheduling. I haven't seen Rae since August, and that's the longest I've been apart from my youngest daughter since she was born. I wish I had the time to see everyone. I don't. I only wish I had the time and money to buzz over to Taiwan and see Marlow as well, but I don't. So, I do what I can.

The Beach

There are three kinds of people in the world: ocean people, mountain people and desert people. Some people enjoy more than one of these climes, but I find they are the rare exception rather than the world. Fortunately, I am an ocean person married to an ocean person, so we never have to argue about where we want to go on vacation. Of course, with my working as a teacher, vacations are few and far between. Still, we are only 25 miles from the Pacific, and I promised myself a couple of years ago I would get to the beach regularly, a promise I have not kept since the school year started. Well, last weekend Vicki was busy for a day, so I took off to the prosaically named Ocean Beach at the end of Lincoln in San Francisco. With the help of a special SPF 50 golf umbrella, I spent several hours reading by the beach, soaking up the breeze and the salt air without so much as a hint of sunburn. I love the water and the sand. They revitalize me.

News From Marlow

In Tapei:

We went to KTV from midnight-5am since that's the cheapest block of time on Thursday. Altogether the five hours cost 306 NT$ per person, about $9 American. We got our own room with a big comfy black leather couch and access to a buffet with a couple types of cold and hot soups, caffeinated soda drinks and coffee to keep you going, desserts, breads and jams, noodles, french fries, chicken nuggets, etc. The boys especially made good use of the buffet and got their moneys worth. The singing itself wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be. There were two microphones in the room that we could pass around. And they both had an echo effect that made even the weakest most off-tune voice sound somewhat passable, and with two people using both microphones it was especially hard to sound too bad. So I don't even have to get way drunk to sing, in fact we didn't do any drinking at all... Most of the songs were in English, with the exception of a couple Ricky Martin songs and Feliz Navidad. Being the only native English speaker there and the only one to grow up with these songs actually gave me an advantage over reading for the faster songs which helped bolster my confidence in my tone-deafness. I ruled at "Baby got back", though probably only Rae will appreciate what that means. At 5 am we split a cab home, and I slept until 4 today, and I just got back from the pool and am about to go out to B1, a local bar I haven't been to yet.

When I got back to the apartment yesterday I turned right around and went to the MOCA again with Jianna to see the finished first floor installations, half of the first floor was dedicated to an artist who was into using glow in the dark green liquid in plastic containers and industrial twist-ties and tubes, also in neon glow-in-the-dark kind of colors, and lots of motion and weird sounds, I'm not sure what the greater message was, but it was fun to wonder through the various rooms he/she (?) had set up. The other half of the first floor was a big plastic bubble basically the shape of that half of the first floor, so you went through a tube in the hall and then the white plastic filled the rooms completely like a second skin. I thought leaving the exhibit was like being born, Luke compared it to the quarantine in ET.


I went paragliding last Sunday. It was a lot of fun. Paragliding is half way between parasailing and hangliding. Basically you and a guide/coach are hooked up to a parachute and then you run towards the edge of a cliff/hill near a beach so you get the coastal winds. You actually leave the ground before you get to the edge of the cliff so there is no sensation of free-falling or any opportunity for the parachute not to open. It is very safe, despite what I know all of you who aren't Rae are thinking. You land the same place you took off from, or at least we did, if you are so inclined you can actually paraglide for many kilometers, supposedly in favorable winds people have paraglided almost the full length of Taiwan. Our flight maybe ran between five and ten minutes.

We went with a group called Freshtreks, run by a French couple (the wife works for an architecture firm in marketing, but the husband needed something to keep him busy). It was a package deal, we met in Taipei and they drove us out to the beach to the north (WuLien?) and supplied us with lunch. It was a really fun day. G, L, D, and this Scottish girl all came. Then there was an American father and daughter (the daughter was probably 15 or 16), two engineers from Taizhong (a German and a Dutchman, named Oand A) a Taiwanese guy (H), a Belgian (E), and a group of four Indians. After the paragliding we went down to the beach and hung out for awhile, but you couldn't go into the surf past your waist because it was the weekend when it officially became "winter" and the riptides were considered too strong for swimming. I didn't bother going in at all because it was cold, I just sat on the beach talking to L. Eventually we played some summer camp type games on the beach and then headed home to Taipei. It was a pretty tiring day, but it was a lot of fun, the paragliding and the getting out to see the coast away from the city.


In cooking class we made something with "wu hua ji rou" (five flower pork), I don't remember what the actual dish was called. It involved this really fatty pork, kind of between huge cuts of bacon and salted pork, dry tofu, green peppers, this weird vegetable that looked like an onion but smelled like garlic, and a sauce that was a combination of "tian mian jiang" (sweet noodle sauce), soy sauce, hot sauce, salt, sugar, and water. The pork was first boiled for a long time with some ginger and some other stuff, then everything is cut to look similar and its all thrown into the wok together (of course). It was delicious like something made with that much fat and oil is bound to be.

A Public Service: Lie and Lay

In a recent discussion, my sister-in-law asked me about lie and lay. She is a former teacher, and she has trouble with the distinction. We worked it out. I found a very clear explanation (at least it was clear to me) out there on the Internet.

The verbs lie and lay are commonly confused. This is not because of the meaning of the verbs, but because of the way they are conjugated. Firstly, we will look at the meaning of the verbs:

Lie: to be in or move into an esp. horizontal position on a surface:

The mechanic was lying on his back underneath my car.
The cat just loves to lie in front of the fire.
She lay back in the dentist's chair and tried to relax.
Lie still a moment, John.
He lies awake at night, worrying.
He lay down on the bed and cried.
I usually lie down (=rest/sleep) for an hour after lunch.
Snow lay thickly over the fields.

The verb lay means to put (something) in esp. a flat or horizontal position, usually carefully or for a particular purpose:

She laid the baby (down) in its cot.
I'll lay your coats on the bed upstairs.
Perhaps we should lay paper over the floor while we're decorating the room .
She laid aside her book and went to answer the phone.
The dog laid its ears back (=put them flat against its head) and howled.
He laid down his knife and fork, saying he couldn't possibly eat any more.
Lay the rug flat on the ground.
There will be some disruption for the next few weeks while contractors lay
a new cable/sewer.
We're having a new carpet laid in the hall next week.
They've been laying bricks (=making a wall with bricks) for two weeks and
the first floor is already finished.

Next, the confusing part - the way the verbs are conjugated.

If you're still interested, follow the link.

Political Notes

Richard Dalton checks in with this. Note that Boston Globe URLs disappear quickly, so if you want to read it, read it fast. By the way, I waited to say something until I had, or heard, something intelligent said. Both Dalton and Carroll have something intelligent to say.

I'm surprised you had nothing on Gen. William Boykin's God-is-on-our-side rantings. After all, this is a senior anti-terrorism military officer saying "My God is bigger than your god." As I expected, the Globe's James Carroll has a well-considered response to this jerk. Carroll remains one of the clearest voices I know on moral and spiritual issues.

Warring with God
By James Carroll
Boston Globe

I KNEW that my God was bigger than his,'' Lieutenant General William G. Boykin said of his Muslim opponent. ''I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.'' That and other remarks derogatory of Islam caused a stir last week, especially because the general holds a key position in the war on terrorism. Awkward memories surfaced of President Bush's inadvertent use of the term ''crusade'' to define that war, and fears broke into the open that the war was, despite disclaimers, a religious war after all.


A respectful religious pluralism is no longer just a liberal hope but an urgent precondition of justice and peace.

In the 21st century, exclusivist religion, no matter how ''mainstream'' and no matter how muted the anathemas that follow from its absolutes, is a sure way to religious war.

After thinking more about several remarks in recent weeks, let me simply note:

The Republicans lied about prescription drugs during the Michigan races in 2000 and managed to hold onto a few House seats. They are lying about the environment, the explicit intelligence warning given to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, about the type of events which occurred the next month, the military, their devotion to America, the $87 B for Halliburton, and various other matters right now. They will continue to do so during the campaign. The remedy is to expose every lie as it is uttered right now and not to accept the inside-the-Beltway notions that they all lie and that lying to the American people is acceptable and an acceptable part of the game.

I have more than one reprinted the George Bush résumé. I won't get into a detailed spitting contest about it. I will simply say that, having read the first dozen or so points in the web's most popular refutation, most of them don't actually refute George's record, but are, rather, of the nature of "he's not the only one" or "he's not the worst one." The are no more "the truth" than the obviously exaggerated and highly partisan résumé is. The résumé is a slanted political document that doesn't give the president a break. The "truth" is a slanted political document that throws every break to the president.

In my personal opinion, as a package, the "president" is quite a passage. But then, I didn't vote for him and I don't think the Electoral College legitimately voted for him either. For the first time since Benjamin Harrison (1888), we have a president who lost the popular vote and for the first time since Hayes V. Tilden (1877), we have an electoral vote outcome that is widely considered fraudulent. I simply hope the outcome of this Electoral College hanky-panky works out better than last time. As part of the backroom dealing that cinched the election for old Rutherford B., the federal government withdrew from the South and threw African Americans to the wolves by tacitly agreeing to cease enforcement of the 15th amendment. That shameful episode lasted until the Civil Rights act of 1964.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

I left too early for Craig to do it this week.


The Top 12 Other Celebrity-Endorsed Products

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9...

October 20, 2003


The Olsen Twins have their own toothpaste coming out. It's "sort of bubblegum with a minty flavor to it."

Hmmm... ever wonder what other strange celebrity/product combos might be out there?

12> Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge -- Life Savers' Five Flavors of Terror Alertness

11> Britney Spears and Madonna -- Breath Savers

10> Giorgio Armani -- Italian Dressing

9> George Bush -- Boggle

8> Robert Downey, Jr. -- Super Shootin' Smacks, the Intravenous Breakfast Cereal

7> Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Kleenex Tissues With Lotion

6> David Beckham (circa 2034) -- Old Spice

5> Ted Williams -- Sub-Zero Freezers

4> Michael Jackson -- Mr. Potato Head

3> Bob Dylan -- voice recognition software

2> David Crosby -- seed catalogs

and's Number 1 Other Celebrity-Endorsed Product...

1> Kevin Bacon -- Sixth Degree Geneology-Tracking Services

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 93 submissions from 37 contributors
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brad Simanek, Cedar Rapids, IA -- 1 (15th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9


Runaway Jury

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Last Sunday, Vicki and I had a choice. We could go see Mystic River, which is guaranteed Oscar bait for almost everyone involved. But a friend who had seen it waved us off. "Very serious, very depressing," she said, adding, "well-acted, well-directed." I'll probably have to see it by myself.

Vicki wanted to be taken out of herself and entertained. A quick look at the local offerings lead us to Runaway Jury, based on a John Grisham novel we had listened to together as a book on tape.

Very entertaining, very stylish thriller, with a very satisfying Hollywood ending which, along the way, makes some serious points about the serious issues of gun control and the jury system (especially jury consultants). There was the usual Hollywood hokum and exaggeration, but it was entertaining from start to finish. At the end, you want to stand up and cheer (at least I did).

Gene Hackman is a genius, and has an outside chance of getting an Oscar nomination for his turn as a thoroughly evil jury consultant for the defendant gun company. Dustin Hoffman seemed to be sleepwalking through his role as the plaintiff's attorney. John Cusack really should run for president. He's certainly a better actor than Arnold. He has that whole naïf/innocent thing down pat, and plays it like a violin in this film. No chance for Oscar gold, but one more brick in the edifice of a very satisfying career, from the audience perspective at least.

Rated PG-13 for violence, language and thematic elements (like a total lack of ethics). Don't take your little kids. But if you want a near-perfect Hollywood entertainment experience that will only make you think a little bit, this could be your movie. Take anyone over 13 and go see it.


Kevin Sullivan on the Sox, The Dan Grobstein File

From Kevin Sullivan on Republicans, and, more importantly, on a subject I ignored last week, the dashing of the hopes of the fans of the Cubs and the Red Sox:

Reading Steve Coquet's commentary brought this offering to mind as a short message to Republican leadership: "If you are in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging"

I was surprised that there was so little commentary on the sporting escapades of both the Chicago and Boston baseball teams. There was an impressive amount of media coverage here.

My favorite comments on the proceedings were

that the Chicago loss was a tragedy of Olympic proportions in that the Cubs had finally CONVINCED the most doubting of their fans that they had achieved a position from which they could not possibly lose before dashing their dreams and

the most unhappy fans of all were the FOX network executives who would have a received a much higher audience share from a Cubs / Sox World Series and lastly

that the Cubs and the Sox should arrange to play each other anyway and donate the proceeds to an appropriate charity (possibly to one involving the production of miracles). The last comment was my own.

The Dan Grobstein File

The comic strip Boondocks offers a whole new explanation for Ann Coulter.

In the New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof writes:

Homer's most powerful lessons include the need to restrain hubris, to cooperate with allies, to engage the real world rather than black-and-white caricatures. If Achilles and Odysseus can learn those lessons, maybe there's hope for Mr. Rumsfeld or even the mighty Mr. Bush.

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