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: December 15, 2003

December 15, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 49

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Sick and Tired, Yet Exhilarated
  • Concerts, Concerts

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Groundhog Day In The News


  • 12 Days (Malchman), American Threat and New England Weather(Dalton), The Dan Grobstein File

General News

Sick and Tired, Yet Exhilarated

What a complainer! But really, there has been an outbreak of flu in California, and, for me, at least, the best way to fight it has been doubling up on my already high vitamin C and getting a lot more rest. My nutritionist told me last weekend that five hours a night sleep and an occasional one-hour nap was not cutting the mustard.

Then on Monday and Tuesday I was feeling faint and feverish. Tuesday, I came home, went to bed at 3:30 and slept for three hours. Then after two hours awake, I slept through until 5:30 the next morning. I did the same thing Thursday (Monday and Wednesday I have band rehearsals). I made it through the entire week! I may not have been at my best; in fact, on one or two occasions I was tired and cranky and interacted with my students in ways that did not meet my own standards. But no one is dead, no lawsuits have been or can be filed, and, in fact, I had a positive observation by my principal, who told me it is a joy to watch me teach. Gosh, I hope the students feel the same way!

Sleeping any time I am not in a classroom has made me a bit of a dull fellow, especially as Vicki continues to work nights (although she joined me in the sleep-a-thon Tuesday), but I always knew the first year of teaching would be difficult. Never in my life have I looked forward to a two-week vacation more than I am looking forward to winter break at my middle school this year.

There's still that delayed gratification thing. Right now, what I mostly see is hard work and a few unhappy students complaining. I know that, somewhere down the line, I will find I have lit the fire I am hoping to light in a student or two, but the wait is certain the be a long one. Still, I need to repeat my mantra--I know I am doing more good for the world in a classroom (even as a first-year teacher) than I ever was as a computer journalist (even with 30 years experience). I believe in public service--have my whole life. I haven't really put my money where my mouth is since I worked for Ron Pelosi's campaign in San Francisco in 1976. I am exhilarated to be back in public service. It's just that, sometimes, it is hard to remember I am exhilarated when I am so tired and everything hurts so much every day.

An insight I have had before re-occurred to me as I wrote this. I cannot allow my satisfaction to be dependent on the feelings and opinions of 13-year-olds. I need to learn to be satisfied with a job well done by my own standards, and a feeling of accomplishment from knowing I am doing good, important work well. No more bylines. No more bonuses. Just the hope of occasional joy and insight, either on my part or the part of the students. If I can bring some joy into the room, their lives and my life, all the better. But we're on a journey, and it will be sad if we can't enjoy the process as well as the destination.

Concerts, Concerts

I keep forgetting to give advance notice of my concerts; do any of you who live in the Bay Area care/want to know when one of my brass bands are performing? I play tenor saxophone in the Contra Costa Wind Symphony, which had its winter concert at Acalanes HS last Wednesday and played at Rossmoor on Saturday. The Danville Town Band, for which I serve as announcer, had a concert near Blackhawk on Sunday at which I narrated an orchestral setting of The Night Before Christmas (which, apparently, wasn't really written by Clement Clark Moore). I thoroughly enjoyed each performance--in fact, making or talking about music is one of the few things (besides the world's greatest wife and the world's greatest daughters) that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other in this difficult year of career transition.

Anyway, drop me a line (my email ID is at the bottom of the column) if you're interested in seeing advance notification of my concerts.

News From Marlow

There was another earthquake here today, around 1 pm. I was having lunch with a bunch of friends. It seemed to last a little longer than the last one. Only the kids from Shi Da seemed to notice it, the Taiwanese people just kept eating.

(News account of the earthquake)

HONG KONG, Dec. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, jolted the eastern county of Taitung Wednesday, causing landslides and damage to some bridges. No casualties have so far been reported, Taiwan media said. The quake took place at 12:38 p.m., with its epicenter near the southeast coastal region of Taitung. Wednesday's quake was strong enough to sway buildings in Taipei, some 300 kilometers north of Taitung, for about a minute.

This is just a tiny fraction of Marlow's Kaohsiung trip.

After tea we decided to go to the nearby island of Chi-ching. It was a quick, cheap ferry ride away. The four of us rented ATVs on the beach and rode them around for awhile and then did a small hike (made longer by O's choosing the only road/alley in the town that didn't actually go up the hill) up to the lighthouse. When we finally got to the lighthouse steps we found that the gates were closed, but it didn't really matter, we sat on the steps chatting and enjoying the cool air as the sun set. It was a nice view of Kaohsiung as well as the island. We took the ferry back to meet O's aunt and uncle for dinner. They borrowed a big VW bus from another uncle for the occasion, and we headed out for streetside BBQ. Ama and Agong were out at KTV, and would stay out later than we did actually. I like the little charcoal grills they use here in Taiwan, they are fun to cook with, but since you eat slowly its easy to just keep eating, also the aforementioned niceties insured that I ate more than I should have. Also as the only one of the girls who was drinking I was also introduced to the tradition of elder toasting. Basically someone older than you can call you out whenever they want with a simple "gan bei" (dry cup) and you have to salute them and take a sip of your beer, or what have you. After dinner we got some coffee and then headed back to the house.

Political Notes

The best news I've read in ages from William Saletan at Slate: Saddam's capture doesn't guarantee Bush's re-election.


Thoughtful demographic analysis of the American map going into the 2004 election (thank you, Dan Grobstein).


I redid the math in the wake of the New York Times article on unfavorable changes in the Electoral College that I mentioned here a few weeks ago.

The Dec. 1 story in The New York Times does not in fact indicate either that things look bad for the Democrats or that the Democrats need the southeastern states to win the Presidency for the second time in a row in 2004.

The states Gore carried now have 260 electoral votes (note that there are 538 and only 537 were cast in 2000). When the steel tariffs were cavalierly reimposed in early December, 2003, there was rampant dissatisfaction in Ohio (20), West Virginia (5), and Pennsylvania (which Gore won in 2000). The Gore states plus just Ohio and West Virginia would give the Democratic ticket about 285 (which wins). Adding Florida (about 27) and New Hampshire (4), gives the Democrats about 316 electoral votes. Given his anti-environment, anti-working people, anti-Medicare, anti-national security (precious little border protection, cargo inspection, and slashing funds for the Coast Guard), and pro-terrorist (for example the Mujahadeen al Khalq being coddled in Iraq) positions, Bush may also be in for some losses between the Rockies and the Mississippi.


I love the Internet! Thanks, Craig Reynolds! Type "miserable failure" into Google. Here are some of the blogs working to make that phrase synonymous with... well, you can guess.,0,2339508.story

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

In Canada it's OK to download music: as I write this on Friday evening the decision is only a few hours old so details and analysis are hard to find, there is a story at and some messages to Politech. The Canadian Copyright Board says you are within your rights to download music, make personal copies, and so on. The flip side is a plan to levy a fee on MP3 players of up to $25, similar to the cut of blank media that goes to the record companies. $25 to fill up an iPod sounds like a great deal to me. It would cost about $30,000 to buy 2000 CDs, or $2000 to buy the songs at Apple's iTunes Music Store. Speaking of which, there is an interview with Steve Jobs in Rolling Stone: "He changed the computer industry. Now he's after the music business."

Diebold slimeball: long time readers of this column know I like to villainize certain corporations. As deserving of scorn as are Microsoft and SCO, I'd have to put Diebold in the top three, with a bullet. Their notoriously insecure electronic voting machine made them a cause celeb for high tech pundits. Turns out their ATMs are just as insecure: Cash machines infected with worm, Experts Worried After Worm Hits Windows-Based ATMs. Now you might wonder which is worse, losing your vote or your bank account? In fact you could lose both, since Diebold uses the same Microsoft OS in both its voting machines and ATMs. Lest you think Diebold is merely technically incompetent, rest assured that their sliminess extends into their sales practices, like Diebold's plan to gouge Maryland if it had the effrontery to demand verifiable voting.

Anti-secrecy meets pro-anonymity: somehow these two stories seemed to belong together, a profile of Steven Aftergood as One Man Against Secrecy and a look at Ian Kerr's anonymity research project.

Technobits: Dan Gillmor on SCO's Mind-Bogglingly Bad Faith --- EFF on the inadvisability of plugging the "Analog Hole" (PDF file) --- Legal Times article: Too Quick to Copyright (PDF file) --- New DVD Format War --- human population may be 1000 times the sustainable level --- Hitachi plans fuel cell powered PDA in 2005 --- Cerritos city-wide wi-fi --- Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools --- cutting edge toast technology.




Groundhog Day In The News

Groundhog Day, the best comedy ever made, was featured in a recent New York City film festival, which caused the New York Times to write a feature story about it. Both Dave Sims and Dan Grobstein sent it along to me. I am looking for a copy of the catalog, so I can tell you who wrote about the film in there and what they had to say.

December 7, 2003
New York Times
Groundhog Almighty

A NEW movie series from the Museum of Modern Art, "The Hidden God: Film and Faith," features some pretty brooding stuff. There's a 1955 Danish movie about a man who thinks he is Jesus Christ, an Ingmar Bergman pastiche about a tormented pastor, a Roberto Rossellini movie about monks. These are, of course, the "intellectual with a capital I" films that audiences might expect at a religious-theme retrospective organized by a major museum. Subtitles and all that fancy stuff.

With one exception. On Thursday, the opening-night feature at the Gramercy Theater, where the series is being presented, was "Groundhog Day," the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray as a sarcastic television weatherman forced by a twist of fate and magic to relive one day of his life, Feb. 2, over and over.


12 Days (Malchman), American Threat and New England Weather(Dalton), The Dan Grobstein File

Yes, Virginia, there is a company that estimates the total cost of the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas, and has been doing so since 1984. CNN couldn't resist the story. Robert Malchman tipped me.

Richard Dalton notes that Europeans view America and Korea as tied for the world's second-most dangerous country, even with Iran and just behind Israel as a threat to world peace.

He lives on Cape Cod, which was subjected, along with the rest of New England, to the largest early Noreaster in history. His report:

Got through things pretty well. Had about 7-8" of snow, followed by 1/2" of rain, topped by 4 more inches of snow. It was kinda weird on the Cape.

The Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

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