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: November 17, 2003

November 17, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 46

Table of Contents:

General News

  • God
  • Paul in Print
  • News from Marlow

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Mystic River
  • Looney Tunes
  • Guest: School of Rock


  • No Time

General News


I remember a line from a skit about God one of the National Lampoon's comedy albums that contains the line, "However you conceive him, hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin." I believe my fuzzy conception of God comes somewhere between those two absurdist poles.

I don't think there is a personal God; rather I view him as some sort of cross between the prime mover and The Force as postulated in the Star Wars movies, which in turn draws on numerous religious traditions that suggest that all living things in the universe are connected. I believe after conversations with people I respect that we each carry within us the divine spark (iyam), that our ultimate meaning is to experience life and that when we die that spark becomes part of the universal whole.

In a way, this line of reasoning reminded me of Jung's collective unconscious, which, if I understand it correctly, posits that there is a basic set of knowledge we humans all share without knowing it. I like my mother's theory about that, which is that it is passed on genetically, and that the reason none of us know how to act after the age of 50 or so is that almost none of our ancestors ever lived that long. We're stuffed full of information on early life, because all the ancestors who reproduced made it through puberty.

Sometimes I wonder if so-called "junk" DNA is the means by which this ancestral memory is passed on. Maybe it's like the 90% of the brain we used to think wasn't doing anything--it looks like junk DNA because it doesn't code bodily functions, it codes memories. We'll see.

Anyway, when I "pray," or, more precisely, give thanks for my great good fortune, I try to limit my relationship to God to one of gratitude rather than begging. It feels better, and I don't think the begging does any good. I don't ask for favors--well, not very often anyway.

Paul in Print

I obtained my California teaching credential from Chapman College's satellite campus in Concord, Calif. by going to night school for a year and a half. Somehow, the school's alumni magazine heard of me and asked to do a profile. This is that profile. Note the nice words spoken by one of my former professors, a man whom I believe is one of the best teachers I have ever observed, Bill O'Brian.a I do not know when, or if, this article will appear (or whether it will be edited), so mum's the word...

Spring '04 Alumni Profile

Facing a layoff after 28 years in journalism, Paul E. Schindler, Jr. '03 wondered whether his longtime field was still right for him. After much soul-searching, Schindler opted to abandon the publishing world to pursue his decades-old dream of teaching. The next step - choosing the right credential program - was easy: Chapman University College. Thanks to the streamlined schedule at Chapman's Concord, Calif. campus, Schindler was able to earn his credential in just 16 months and now teaches U.S. history at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in Moraga, Calif.

"My goal was to become a credentialed teacher as quickly as possible and Chapman allowed me to reach that goal," the Bay Area resident says. "They helped me with my paperwork, offered me excellent counseling and gave me the chance to take courses from top-notch teachers."

Chapman wasn't Schindler's only option; it was his first choice. "I could have attended Cal State Hayward for less money or St. Mary's College of California, which is much closer," he says. "But neither of those programs offered the flexibility of year-round scheduling."

Since finishing the program in August 2003, Schindler has embraced a whole new schedule. On campus by 7:15 a.m., his school days include six classes and a 44-minute preparation period. Each night Schindler grades papers or devises lesson plans for an hour or two.

Before entering the program, Schindler spent his days immersed in the world of magazines, newspapers, wire services and the publishing industry. His journalism career began nearly three decades ago with stints at the Associated Press and United Press International. He then returned to his hometown of Portland, Ore. to work as a reporter at the Oregon Journal. For the next 20 years, Schindler wrote and edited stories for computer publications owned by CMP Media, a Manhasset, New York-based company.

Transitioning from career journalist to teaching guru hasn't been easy, but the classroom management tactics he learned at Chapman have helped smooth the road. "It isn't enough to know the material; you have to know how to put it across so students want to learn it," he says.

Schindler's passion will help him become an expert educator, says Bill O'Brian, an instructor at the Concord campus. "Paul was an excellent student who had a great enthusiasm for teaching, like he was discovering a whole new and exciting way to live."

-- Rebecca Harris

News From Marlow

I went to SOGO to buy a Go board. But there really wasn't that much selection so I ended up not buying a Go board. Instead I got a CD case, a necklace, and two toys (a raptor with a missile launcher on its back and a gorilla with a machine gun on its shoulder, some assembly required, directions in Japanese). SOGO was crazy. I might not have gone if I'd known that it was going to be so packed. Apparently this week is a big sale; everything in the store is marked down 20%. It's still not really that different from western prices, but I guess it was cheaper. The place was a zoo. Everyone and their mother and their kid was there. Going up the escalators took forever, especially to get to the higher levels where they have the toys and stationery.


I went to Sushi Express [then went to] buy Chinese music. We each got two or three CDs. I got ones by AYa, Yan Zi and David Tao. None of it is in a style I would have gotten in English, but I'm hoping through repeated listenings it'll grow on me more. There are a couple songs on each CD that I like, now its time for me to choose one or two for my next KTV appearance. G got an album by T-Rush a two-girl band and L got a CD by Jay Chao, a rapper. After we'd bought our music we came back to our apartment for a watching of the DVD's that came with half of the music we'd bought, apparently a fairly compulsory accessory these days for Asian music. The videos were weird, and half of the DVDs were more commentary than video, which probably would have only been mildly interesting had it been in English, and as it was all in Chinese, it was hard to watch. But all the same, we had a fun little Chinese music video party.

The guy who lives in the big compound on my walk to school, who I think I've mentioned before, is the Prime Minister of Taiwan. How's that for a good neighborhood?


I'd heard that Mucha Tea Park was a good place to get traditional tea. There was two paragraphs about it in the lonely planet and I tried to look it up online. From the descriptions of a "tea park" with 60 + tea growers and tea shops grouped together I expected there to be one concentrated area of tea shops where you could wander through the tea terraced hillside from tea house to tea house sampling the different varieties.

Actually what they meant by 'tea park' was a mountain to the south of Taipei where they grow tea.

The cab driver insisted on teaching L the tea ceremony since he was the only guy present, which actually seemed gender counter-intuitive to me as far as tea ceremonies go, but I guess that's how they do it.

First he dished out two spoons full of the tea from the container we'd bought (and still have plenty of here now) into the brown clay teapot. He heated the water in a metal teapot on a hot plate on the table. He poured some water into the tea and didn't let it steep very long as he was just using that tea to wash everything. We each got two cups: one tall skinny one, one normal Asian style teacup which I'm sure you can picture on your own. Everything was washed in tea: hot water and tea were being sloshed around liberally as this was going on but there were bowls and a drainage device set up to accommodate some of the spillage (but not all by any means). Then the actual serving of the tea was begun. It would be repeated as many times as we wanted more tea.

The water, once heated, was poured into the clay teapot and left for 40 seconds to one minute in the pot, which was also bathed in hot water and sitting in hot water. Then the tea would be poured into a ceramic teapot through a sieve. Then from the ceramic teapot into the tall teacups. Then the shorter, stouter tea cup would be placed on top of the taller one and flipped over (don't forget to smell the aroma of the tea captured in the taller cup before you put it back down, but be careful its hot). Voila, a cup of Taiwanese tea.

The tealeaves were good for five or six rounds and then were discarded in what looked like a cross between an ashtray and a bowl with beautiful wooden tweezers. It wasn't at all what I imagined a tea park would be. Perhaps it would be nice to go back sometime with someone who has a car so we could do a little more exploring and visit multiple teahouses. But it was still an enjoyable experience, and the only real tea ceremony of which I have been a part.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

The Diebold E-Vote mess just keeps getting messier: California halted the certification process for Diebold voting machines because of allegations that Diebold had installed uncertified software on voting machines owned by a California county. Certainly it would be bad if they skipped the certification process to get in a last minute bug fix. But if they would do that, how do we know that the last minute patch did not have a more sinister purpose? Of course since Diebold's vote (mis?)counting software is proprietary there is no way to do an independent audit of the integrity of the software. (Although the state IS conducting an investigation of the software updates and forcing Diebold to pay for it.) In contrast, the Australian eVACS system is completely transparent: it was specified by voting officials and then implemented commercially as an open source Linux app, whose source code is available for anyone to inspect. You may recall that the Diebold scumbags tried to use the odious DMCA to prevent the posting of incriminating documents, now they are being sued for abuse of copyright. Technology Review had a piece on the future of technology and voting.

iTMS, pro and con: while Time named the iTunes Music Store its Invention of the Year, Steve Jobs admitted that Apple makes no money at all from the service. The Register condemns Apple, Jobs and iTMS as little more than lackeys for the RIAA (I enjoyed their term "pigopolist"). Also of note, just days after the release of iTunes for Windows, MyTunes, a P2P app, was released which allows sharing music from an iTunes client.

RIAA's anti-infringement goons guilty of infringement? in a delightful bit of irony, Altnet warns that the parties who identified victims for the RIAA anti-sharing lawsuits were probably infringing on Altnet's patents. BigChampagne claims they are clean.

Obligatory picking on Microsoft: for the second(!) time Microsoft just plum forgot to renew the registration for a Hotmail domain. D'oh! When I heard Microsoft put out a reward for some virus writers, I wondered if they would put out a reward for identifying the Microsoft employees who created then failed to fix the bugs which the virus writers exploited. OK, probably not...

EyeToy: Dr. Rick Marks, one of my colleagues at SCEA R&D was featured in a nice NYT article about EyeToy a video camera for PlayStation2. Much of Rick's work here has related to the video-as-input idea that has now been commercialized as EyeToy. A million of them have sold in Europe since July and they are now available in the US. Kids love it, and parents like a video game that leads to jumping and dancing rather than unmoving lumps on the sofa. (More links here here.)

Technobits: Ethan Ackerman's Analysis of FCC's broadcast flag rules --- knock me over with a feather the Patent Office will review the bogus Eolas patent --- it sounded like Linux was nearly Trojaned but not according to these comments by Douglas W. Jones --- fish and chips: using RFID to track poachers




Mystic River

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Hello Oscar! Grown men crying, Clint Eastwood directing, and a beautiful, relentless, totally downbeat film with an unhappy ending. Everyone involved in this film above the line should start making space on their mantles for the statues that will fall like rain on a Sunday night in the spring. It deals with serious issues, which it doesn't solve, and human breakdown, which doesn't end well. Pure award bait. Don't see it if you don't want to be bummed out. The shot of Sean Penn screaming and crying in a sea of Boston Police will be as classic as Orson Welles muttering Rosebud as he drops the snowball on the floor. Sean Penn. Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon (he's more than a parlor game) and Laurence Fishburne give the performances of their careers. Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney are wasted, of course; aren't all female actors wasted these days?

Looney Tunes: Back In Action

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

From the first few bars of near-perfect imitation Carl Stalling to the end of the film, this is a lovely revitalization of the Looney Tunes franchise which, ironically, is played as a movie about Warner Brothers trying to revitalize the Looney Tunes franchise. The live actors, Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin(so nice to hear his old laugh again) are perfect and hilarious. Timothy Dalton is pretty good in what amounts to a cameo. Joe Alaskey does a fair imitation of the classic Mel Blanc voices. This is an excellent, first-rate, fantastic, mildly entertaining film that mixes cartoons and live action, albeit not as well or as interestingly as Roger Rabbit from a few years back. Real adult animation fans should be swarming to see it. They're not. I tripled the median age at the showing I was at. Cartoons aren't just for kids, folks. If you ever want to see a revival of quality animation, you have to get out and support it. Go see this film. It's pretty good.

School of Rock

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

This from Neal Vitale:

Jack Black has shown moments of brilliance in his earlier work - for example, in Stephen Frears' film adaptation of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity; on HBO as half of Tenacious D (with Kyle Gass); and in Foo Fighters' R-rated video for "Low." But with School of Rock, Black shows that he can carry a film. In Mike White's cute but gossamer story of a faux substitute teacher who inspires and educates a classroom of nerdy/prissy private school kids by channeling AC/DC's Angus Young, the burden is all on Jack Black. His is a wonderfully ballsy, off-balance performance (ably assisted by Joan Cusack in a small role as the up-tight school principal) that keeps him as the center of energy and on screen virtually non-stop. My main cavil is the irony of a film starring a bunch of putative ten-year-olds that is sadly but appropriately (for language and content) rated PG-13.


No time

Ran out of time for the many excellent emails that crossed my desk this week. Thanks to all of you: you know who you are, and I am will try to do better this week. Don't give up on me!

I do have a Neal Vitale music review:

Rabbit Songs - Hem

This debut of Hem is a delight. Featuring the beautiful, crystalline voice of Sally Ellyson in simple and elegant arrangements (shades of Norah Jones!) tinged with bluegrass and traditional folk, Rabbit Songs is captivating, distinctive, and seductive. It is a powerful testimony to the magical combination of talent, restraint, and good taste.

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