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 24, 2003

November 24, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 47

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Eight Years on the Web
  • Elsewhere on this web site...
  • Teaching Update
  • News from Marlow
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Defining Turkey

Movies c

  • Elf and Brother Bear (and Simon and Garfunkel)
  • Countdown


  • Strom on Phishing, Reynolds, Carroll, Schrempp, Dalton, Dern, Sims, The Cost of College, the Dan Grobstein file

General News

Eight Years on the Web

It's been eight years since I first posted a home page on the Internet. Self-indulgent? You bet! Arrogant, egotistical, self-advertising, even a little dangerous (letting total strangers find out so much about you)--all of that too. But so far no one in my family has been kidnapped, and I've had some pleasant interactions with old friends who found me via my page. It's fairly easy to catch someone up with what's going on in my life--I just send them to my web page. As a former journalist, I feel comfortable with my home on the web. As a teacher, I may have to rein in the content, someday, since it's probably more than is good for my students to know about me, and several of them are sophisticated enough to have found this site as well as my home page. But so far, as I enter my ninth year in cyberspace, my home page has been for me--in all of its 15 or so iterations--a pleasant experience.

Elsewhere On This Web Site

Two students conducted email interviews with me on the subject of Women in Journalism movies. My opinion on this subject is as good as some people's, and better than most. I corrected it this week, when John Scott found it on Google and pointed out that it was Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein, not Joseph Cotten, who had the great speech about the woman in the summer dress on the ferry in Citizen Kane. I added the full text of that speech to the site. If the subject is of the least interest to you, go have a look.

Teaching Update

Many of you have asked how teaching is going; I wrote out this description for a college friend of mine and decided to share it with all of you:

Teaching is the hardest thing I have ever done. I am constantly tired, constantly sore and frequently observed and judged. I was none of these things at any point in my journalism career... well, at least not in the last 25 years of it. I have idiot paperwork to do for the State of California. Thank goodness my school is a reasonable and peaceful place.

My former master teacher and friend of 25 years teaches across the hall and shares lesson plans and advice. I have only one prep per day since I teach the same thing to the same grade six times each day, and all I can say is thank God for that. My first year is so unlike hers, in which she had three preps, no help, and a teacher who actively undermined her. I am such a lucky guy. Possibly the world's luckiest.

News From Marlow

Well, here I am in an Internet cafe in Thailand. Bangkok to be more specific. I'm leaving the city for Qing Mai tomorrow. We're going by overnight train (goodie). I'll be taking the train back on Saturday night to fly back to Taipei on Sunday night, classes start again on Monday.

I really like Thailand, everything is cheap, and we finally had a big Thai dinner tonight. I've already seen like a million temples as well as the National Palace and a cabaret show (the transvestites here are SOOOOOOO much better than the ones at AsiaSF).

It's a little hard to get by when no one has cellphones that work. People who aren't tourguides really don't speak much English, I guess not surprisingly.


In the morning (today) the fog had cleared. We could see the gorge and the mountains and it really was all beautiful. Green and lush with marble striped rocks that almost looked like they were moving as a result of the way they jutted up and flowed into each other. The river was moving strong, but not necessarily full looking, no snow melt in these parts, just rain water. We decided our only activity in Tairoko would be the Wenshan hot springs, as we had done plenty of hiking the previous day. It was still 3 km to get to the hot springs, walking along the side of the windy, steep road, but the hot springs were great. There were actually a fair number of people there given that it was a Monday morning. There were a couple westerners, but mainly Asian tourists. The hot springs were still out in nature, not pumped into a resort as many hot springs in Taiwan apparently are. We had to go down many stairs to get to the bottom of the gorge as well as crossing a suspension bridge.

The springs were divided into three pools. The smallest one was the source and the hottest (I could only put my leg in for a few seconds) and most mineral filled and cloudy. The second was still too hot for us to stay in for more than a half minute at a time. The last was comparable to our hot tub in Orinda in temperature. People were also hopping the small fence and going directly into the river which was relatively warm next to the hot springs and had comfortable flat rocks to sit on and small rocks that were easy to walk over. We spent the morning moving around to the different pools and checking everything out. It was really nice, and the overcast weather and slight misty rain made it an appropriate day for going to hot springs, even if it was still a little humid. But I can't imagine going there on any other kind of day being as enjoyable. It even cleared up both of our colds a little. We somehow managed to catch the bus on the way back which was a pleasant surprise, since neither of us had brought water, so we weren't looking forward to the walk back, even if it would be downhill this time.

We had been expecting to spend more time at the hot springs and hadn't counted on catching the bus back so we ended up being able to take an earlier bus than we'd expected to Hualian. The fog stayed away so that the drive was beautiful and we finally got to see what we'd missed the previous day. We were the only two on the bus for most of the way. Hualian is a beach town, and today was not exactly beach weather, as I'd already described.

Can't get enough of Marlow's adventures? They are detailed in full at her blog.

Political notes

Things aren't as bad as they seem? That's the radical position of Adam Seitchik, a new politically oriented blogger, whose stuff I find thoughtful, thought-provoking and well-written. I intend to plug him regularly here. His title this time: The "Feel Bad" Richest Nation on Earth.

An extremely long, very clever video editing job on Bush and Blair footage to the tune of My Love. Thank you, Richard Dalton.

Craig Reynolds found this in the British newspaper The Guardian: War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal. At least one contributor pointed out the generous use of partial quotes and ellipses.

Lots of politics this week:

As George Bush said on November 7, 2003 that Syria has left its people "a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin." (for the quote see "Man Was Deported After Syrian Assurances", by Dana Priest, The Washington Post, Nov. 20, 2003). In short, notwithstanding his woeful ignorance of foreign affairs, Bush knew that Syria practiced torture. It is illegal to for the U.S. to send anyone to a country where that person is likely to be tortured. But Bush did nothing while U.S. law was violated and a Canadian citizen was tortured for 10 months.

The start of the criminality was set forth in "Deported Terror Suspect Details Torture In Syria" (by DeNeen L. Brown and Dana Priest on the front page of The Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2003) which reported on a news conference in Ottawa, Canada by reported torture victim Maher Arar. Canadian citizen Arar arrived to change planes at JFK in New York (on his way from Tunisia to Canada) on Sept. 26, 2002. He was detained, flown to Washington, D.C., and then to Jordan where he was driven to Syria. On Oct. 6, 2002, the then acting Attorney General Larry D. Thompson (apparently acting in concert with, or conspiring with, the CIA and persons whose identity is currently unknown) ordered Arar deported to Syria and thus apparently conspired to violate U.S. law ("Top Justice Aide Approved Sending Suspect To Syria" by Dana Priest, in The Washington Post of Nov. 19, 2003). After official protests by Canada, unidentified U.S. officials alleged that Syria assured the CIA it would not torture Arar ("Man Was Deported After Syrian Assurances", by Dana Priest, The Washington Post, Nov. 20, 2003). Given that even George Bush who is almost totally unfamiliar with and inexperienced in foreign affairs knew Syria engaged in torture as shown by the quote above from his Nov. 7, 2003 speech, it would appear that there was no reasonable basis for the CIA to believe the alleged Syrian assurances. U.S. officials admitted as much to Brown and Priest as appears in their Nov. 5 article. Arar is preparing to file a suit against the United States. There is no indication that Bush has advocated vigorous enforcement of U.S. laws enacted to prevent the torture and terrorism inflicted on Mr. Arar. There is no indication as of Nov. 20, 2003, that Thompson and those with whom he may have conspired will be indicted or even investigated.

Some additional facts appeared in "Qaeda Pawn, U.S. Calls Him. Victim, He Calls Himself." by Clifford Kraus in The New York Times of Nov. 15, 2003. While Mr. Arar was in custody in New York, U.S. officials reportedly injected Mr. Arar with a substance they refused to identify. One wonders whether the medical authorities in New York State will inquire into this matter. Colin Powell has asked John Ashcroft and George Tenet for a clarification of Mr. Arar's treatment.


For a reasonably evenhanded account of how Dick Cheney lied about Iraq (so far) check out "Cheney's Long Path To War" (by Mark Hosenball, Michael Isikoff, and Evan Thomas) in Newsweek of Nov. 17, 2003.


"Inspector General Finds Major Security Risk At Pentagon" is what the headline should have been on the main business article in The New York Times for Nov. 15, 2003 (page B1) but instead there appeared "Report Finds No Violations At Pentagon By Adviser" (by Stephen Labaton). It seems that after inquiring into the conflicts of interest of Richard N. Perle currently a member (and, until his March, 2003, resignation, Chair) of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, the Defense Department's Inspector General found no violations of law or ethics by Perle because he worked for DOD less than 60 days a year. In typical Times style, the paper saved the most interesting information for the last three paragraphs. It seems that Perle swore out an affidavit without reading it. When one signs an affidavit, the signature confirms that the contents of the affidavit are true. In this case, Perle signed and was ready to file a first affidavit in which he blatantly used his DOD position to benefit a private foreign business client in a deal which would have put critical U.S. telecommunications links apparently used to transmit classified data under control of a citizen of mainland China. While purporting to serve the DOD, Perle also advised a company which illegally gave classified rocket technology to mainland China. After questions were raised by Labaton in The New York Times, a second affidavit was prepared which Perle also signed after allegedly being told falsely by his lawyer that the offending language had been removed. Thus, Perle signed a second affidavit without reading it which calls into question whether he swore falsely and whether he can be trusted with classified information if he can't even be trusted to read affidavits that he signs (apparently the affidavits were not formally filed in connection with the Chinese controlled takeover of the assets). The IG gave Perle a pass ("unintentional mistake") after which Don Rumsfeld said he still trusted Perle all of which raises the question of whether the American people should trust Don Rumsfeld if he is going to allow Perle (and presumably many others who did not come to the attention of The New York Times) continuing access to classified information while in the paid service of those increasing the ability of a hostile nation (China) to strike American cities with nuclear tipped ICBM's .


In "Iraq Said To Have Tried To Reach Last-Minute Deal To Avert War" (by James Risen) on the front page of The New York Times of November 6, 2003, one learns that Iraq apparently agreed to substantially all of the U.S. conditions before the invasion in March, 2003. According to the article, the Iraqis offered, among other things, to allow U.S. troops, 2,000 F.B.I. agents, and U.S. weapons inspectors (i.e., not the U.N.) into Iraq to search for the weapons which Iraq said did not exist (and which the U.S. has (as of November 2003) not found), to help fight terrorism and as part of that effort to surrender an indicted suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, to grant the U.S. first priority on Iraqi oil and mineral rights, to support any U.S. peace plan for the Arab-Israeli peace process, and to hold elections. When the offer was conveyed to the architect, and one of the chief proponents, of the invasion Paul Wolfowitz (at the Defense Department) and the CIA , the U.S. refused to discuss the offer with the Iraqis. The Times quoted the U.S. citizen through whom the offer was conveyed as saying: "At least they could have talked to them."

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Send Them Back! is a very clever play on the question of just what IS the value of an MP3 file? If downloading is "stealing" then surely emailing the file back to the RIAA should make things right. Of course the RIAA doesn't want them since the cost to copy digital data is infinitesimal. Sending a copy to them does not make them any richer, just like downloading a copy does not make them any poorer. They would have you believe that every downloaded song is a lost CD sale, but the fallacy of that argument is obvious. Demand for music is cost-sensitive: when you have to pay $18 to get a song on a CD you will aquire fewer songs than if you can get them for free. Its ludicrous to think that a kid who downloads 1000 MP3s would have other wise spent $18,000 at the local music store. So here is what I want to know: if I download an MP3 and send two copies of it to the RIAA, do they then owe me money?

Technobits: a lame-assed attempt to use the DMCA to prevent competition in the garage door opener business has been quashed --- Brazil goes Open Source --- a kinder, gentler nuclear reactor? --- Skype Voice-over-IP from the founders of KaZaA, and reactions --- collaborative filtering: Plucking Musical Gems from the Web --- SecondLife: what you create in our virtual world is yours --- a great collection of Earth pictures from the USGS.


Defining Turkey

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is back with some seasonal humor on my website. Here's an excerpt.

A Turkey Is Someone Who

Asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

Forgets that a small home will hold as much happiness as a large home like Bill Gates owns.

Believes the home economists who insist that $33.09 will feed a Thanksgiving feast for 10.

Agrees with Johnny Carson that the best way to thaw a frozen turkey is to blow in its ear.


Elf and Brother Bear

From Neal Vitale:

These two films provide a interesting contrast. Elf is Jon Favreau's entertaining, warm-spirited tale of a human (Will Ferrell), raised by an elf (Bob Newhart) at Santa's workshop at the North Pole, who sets out in New York City at Christmas time to find his birth father. It is clever, funny, and sweet, enlivened by excellent comic turns by Ferrell and Newhart; the stylized, retro North Pole set designs in particular are delightful, as are some wonderful uses of forced perspective. The film is immensely appealing to an adult, while also pleasing a child. Brother Bear, however, enthralls and animates the average 6- to 10-year-old (based on wild applause and cheers for the movie), while plodding along to those of us who are older. It is an earnest, perfunctory morality play, made using traditional animation techniques, full of Native Americans and animals set against lovely painterly backdrops, with the standard-issue Disney soundtrack of bland Phil Collins tunes. There are a few amusing elements - notably a pair of Canadian moose, voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas - but those moments are few and far between. These two films provide case studies for the do's and don't's of making a PG movie that can also work at an adult level.

Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends Tour

I caught the reunion tour of Messrs. Garfunkel and Simon earlier this week at Los Angeles' Staples Center. As I took my seat, words and phrases started popping to mind - bifocals, Rogaine, relaxed jeans... Even compared with Paul McCartney's recent performances, this crowd was old. But once I could get past the sight of Granny rockin' out to "Feelin' Groovy," this was a very well-done, enjoyable performance. These two guys, even at 60+, still sound great together, and the catalogue of often decades-old material holds up beautifully. Rearrangements of songs like "Hazy Shade of Winter" and "Slip Slidin' Away" kept things fresh, as did a solid backing band. Simon is one of America's best songwriters, and the nearly two hours of music was one classic after another. Add to that a four-song guest appearance by The Everly Brothers, plus a warm and friendly vibe from the once-antagonistic stars, and it was a memorable night. Now if I can only find my glasses....

I wrote Neal when I read these reviews:

I am so jealous that you got to see S&G; I was a big fan as a boy. Your description of the crowd reminds me of taking Marlow to the Firesign Theater 20th anniversary in Berkeley (on a school night, no less). Her comments were "I've never seen so many guys with pony tails wearing tie die." "What's that smell" and "If all of you already know all the words, why are
you here?"

At S&G, Neal says, " The smell was more Ben-Gay than pot."

The Countdown

Best Picture:
Seabiscuit, Lost in Translation, Mystic River

Best Animated Film:
Finding Nemo

Best Director:
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Clint Eastwood (Mystic River)

Best Actress:
Diane Lane (Under The Tuscan Sun)

Best Actor:
Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men)

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

Indie Film:
Whale Rider, The Hard Word, Station Agent

Spellbound, Lost in La Mancha, Gigantic

Narration by a dead person:

Bend it like Beckham

A Mighty Wind


Strom on Phishing, Reynolds, Carroll, Schrempp, Dalton, Dern, Sims, The Cost of College, the Dan Grobstein file

David Strom warns us all to watch out for phishing. Here's an excerpt:

The technique is called phishing, and some very clever crooks use it. Here's how it works. You put together a bunch of HTML-formatted e-mail messages asking people to reconfirm their account information.

Don't be ashamed if you've come close to being fooled; even computer professionals can be bitten by this one.

Craig Reynolds found sidewalk chalk paintings.

One wag wrote to me:

Reuters headline today: Jackson's Friends Say He'll Fight the Charges;
Missing subhead?: Vow to Hold Breath Until He's Cleared of Wrongdoing

Jon Carroll, the world's greatest living newspaper columnist, does cats again. The pull quote:

What in tarnation are those darned cats waiting for? It could be Godot, but probably not. Most cats prefer Edgar Allan Poe to Samuel Beckett.

Blog-rolling department: I was looking for one-foot extension cords (they're called Power Strip Liberators) and found them on Jim Schrempp's web site. He's a cool dude. What would the universe be like without Google? As he put it:

These little one foot extension cords are meant to allow you to actually use all the power outlets on that power strip under your desk.

A great television show, for which I did a lot of work, The Computer Chronicles is now available at Thank you Richard Dalton. No, I did not know until you told me.

Totally, totally amazing. Check out, What Is The Meatrix, but not just before eating--unless you're a vegetarian. Thank you, Daniel Dern.

Worried about the "20 feet of the small intestine that cannot be effectively viewed with standard tests?" David Sims says the University of Iowa's pillcam may be for you.

In the New York Times special section on "Education Life" (Nov. 9,2003) there is a chart (page 28) which lists annual tuition, fees, and room and board for various private institutions of higher education. The annual tab at George Washington University is $29,320. At roughly that dollar level or below one finds MIT ($29,600), U. of Pennsylvania ($29,318), Harvard ($29,060), Dartmouth ($29,145), Stanford ($28,563), Yale ($28,400), and Princeton ($28,540) all of which cost less for a year (after considering room and board) than GWU. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture of the relative value of an education at these institutions? (Comments that they all cost too much will be summarily rejected but thanks anyway).

The Dan Grobstein File:

  • Enron and Worldcom are the rule, not the exception, argues this commentary by's Dick Meyer.
  • A British sense of humor, apparently, displayed in the choice of music at a reception for Bush.

New York Times

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