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: January12, 2004

January 12, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 2

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Quiet Week
  • News From Marlow

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Visual Thesaurus


  • None


  • Guest Review: The Cooler
  • Peter Pan
  • Paycheck
  • Guest Review: Cheaper By The Dozen


  • Doctor Fun, Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Quiet Week

Things went reasonably well my first week back at school. Gosh, it's hard to slip back into the harness. Spent a lot of time with Rae. Friday night, she went to the winter ball at a San Jose high school with one of her fencing friends; Vicki and I spent the night at the San Jose Fairmont, dining in the Pagoda (the in-house Chinese place--they were out of their duck entree, so I had a double serving of the duck appetizer), then going to bed at 9!

Saturday, we walked all over the San Jose State campus. Rae got up at noon. We went to Mountain View and shopped, then lunched at the Jon Bo Duck Restaurant (lots of Duck dishes!). We went to the Rodin sculpture garden at Stanford, as well as the Stanford art museum. What a wonderful day together. Rae was slated to fly into the east's sub-zero cold very early Monday morning. Gosh, are we going to miss her!

I know I've asked this before, and I even know the answer--it never stops hurting when they leave, no many how old they are and how many times it happens.

News From Marlow

More details of Marlow's travels are here.

Happy Birthday to me!

I'll start with birthday related news. My birthday party went quite well. On Friday we went to Costco after lunch to buy dinner and snacks. It was a lot of fun, just like being back in America. For dinner we got ribs (haven't had in four months), roast chicken (a relatively cheap way to feed a dozen people), gouda and brie (oh my god, I've missed cheese so much), foccacia, and we bought some romaine lettuce, croutons and dressing and made the first real salad I've had since I've been here. We also got cookies and cheesesticks and other snacky food, but dinner was really great. The usual crowd showed up for that at around 7 and then around 9 everyone else started coming.

I got a mahjong set as a big joint group present. It looks like a really nice set. I don't know how to play, but I'm looking forward to learning. It seems everyone else here already knows, and it is apparently something like gin rummy. The key in playing here is playing fast. When I get good I can play for money.

Around midnight we all went over to the nearby KTV ; Friday night is a popular Karaoke night in Taipei. This was the best Karaoke experience I've had thus far. There were so many professional singers that the caliber of the singing was not even comparable to our past trips. One of the girls brought a candle that played the tune to "Happy birthday to you" or "Zhu ni shengri kuai le."

We were still going strong at 4 am when our time ran out. It was quite an enjoyable evening, and a memorable birthday.

Political Notes

  • "An intelligence organization functioning in a country that doesn't tolerate dissent has a tendency to ignore dissenting information." -- From The Company by Robert Littell.


After his death, Osama Bin Laden went to paradise. He was greeted by George Washington, who slapped him across the face and yelled, "How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!"

Patrick Henry punched Bin Laden in the nose and shouted, "You wanted to end America's liberty, but you failed."

James Madison appeared, kicked him in the groin, and said, "This is why I allowed the government to provide for the common defense."

Bin Laden was subjected to similar beatings from John Randolph, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson and 66 other Americans. As he writhed in pain on the ground, an angel appeared. Bin Laden said, "This is not what I was promised."

The angel replied, "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for you. What did you think I said?

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Apple of our i : One interesting bit of news from the Consumer Electronics Show is that HP will resell a re-branded version of Apple's iPod in addition to providing the iTunes application (and a quick link to the iTunes Music Store) with its PCs. Not only is this a boost for the Apple-backed AAC music file format but one analyst remarked: "When has a major PC manufacturer promoted a software platform that was not Microsoft?" --- Perhaps a sign that Apple is doing well is that it is attracting more lawsuits. One is about the annoyingly short lifetime of the otherwise excellent lithium-ion polymer battery used in Apple's iPod and laptops: Law firm considering iPod battery class action suit. There is also a link on Apple's home page to G3/Mac OS X Settlement regarding the fact that a LOT of old graphics-based OS 9 software does not work worth a darn on an older machine with OS X. This bit a lot of home users whose games and kid's software stopped working when the upgraded to OS X. --- Apple put out an updated version of its classic why 1984 won't be like "1984" ad for the Macintosh. Its been suggested that this quite rewriting of history fits well with the Orwellian theme of the ad.

Technobits: 'DVD Jon' is not a crook --- What to do if you're sued by the RIAA --- Watchdog Sues Music Labels Over Copy-Protected CDs --- Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.--- the DMCA-inspired high-tech black market --- Cybergreen Reason interviews Bruce Sterling on media, design, fiction, and the future.

Visual Thesaurus

I don't get many software recommendations anymore; here's one from my old friend Richard Dalton:

Visual Thesaurus has been around for a while, but it recently has been upgraded significantly. It's an intriguing use of mapping software. People have been trying to mapping tools to a number of applications and, to me, this is one of the most logical I've seen (excluding project management software).

The marketing approach is pretty good. Offer an elegant, if limited, version on line. Then dangle the whole thing plus off-line convenience for a $30 download. Marketing's important since almost all WP programs include a thesaurus that satisfies most users besides professional writers.

I like it but then, you know how quirky I am.




A story in the New York Times about the endless credit rolls.

Guest Review: The Cooler

Wayne Kramer's directorial debut is terrific, yet it is an effort that seems to have been under-recognized to date in the awards nomination process. It is a fantasy love story of two losers escaping past lives in Las Vegas - Maria Bello, as a cocktail waitress, and William H. Macy, as the so-called "cooler" who brings bad luck to gamblers on a hot streak. But the surprise, innocence, and warmth of their relationship is set against ugly and savage undercurrents of deception, betrayal, and physical violence. Alec Baldwin, like Bello and Macy, is brilliant in his role - he plays the fading, old-line casino kingpin around whom the story's events unfold. Much has been made of the movie's sexuality and nudity. The presentation of Bello and Macy is candid and unsweetened, and there is nothing gratuitous about its inclusion in the story. All three stars should be in the thick of the "best acting" fray; The Cooler is a small, snappy film that should not be missed.

--Neal Vitale

In addition, Daniel Dern writes:

The Cooler, starring William Macey. Macey plays a Vegas casino's "cooler" -- the guy who helps dampen the luck of folks on winning streaks. His character is not a happy camper. Things happen, good and bad. Recommended.

These two reviews make me want to see it, but may not get around to it.

Peter Pan

J.M. Barrie's story has never had a more faithful or riveting adaptation than the new live action version now in theaters, starring several people you've never heard of or seen in the main roles, except for Hook/Mr. Darling, that mandatory double role, here filled by Jason Isaacs. You don't know his name, I'll wager, but you'll know his face. Lynn Redgrave has a cute cameo. No songs, lots of flying, and more of the actual plot of the book than you're used to seeing in screen adaptations. Plus the added benefit of an age and gender-accurate Peter Pan, played as the insufferable self-centered, immature and careless lad that Barrie invented in the first place.

Daniel Dern also chimed in:

Think of the lushness of "Hook" with a large dash of the wit of "Pirates of the Caribbean," and remarkable restraint throughout, and nobody you recognize. Lovely visuals, excellent script/story (based on the original book and stage play). Yes, for those of us who grew up seeing Mary Martin as Peter Pan (on television), it's easy to miss some of the songs (e.g., "I Won't Grow Up), as this is a non-musical (there's some song/singing, but little, and it's all explicit characters singing songs as part of what's happening, rather than bursting into song as what they're saying).

As no doubt someone has said (cough), "You'll believe a Pan can fly."

Highly recommended. Three metal hooked thumbs up, as it were.


What is it with director John Woo and that whole two guys holding guns at each other's heads at arms length? I think this is the third film where I've seen him use that trope. OK, John, we get the idea. As signatures go, this one's wearing out its welcome.

Ben Affleck is back to doing what he does second best (after light comedy--and way better than he does romance), action adventure. Philip K. Dick, Hollywood's favorite science fiction author, once again provides the bare bones of a plot; a guy who does secret work then gets his memory wiped. This time, the wipee finds he has sent himself a bunch of junk, that turns out to be a set of clues to the memory he had wiped. Pulse-pounding action, lots of things blowing up, and a stab at social relevance, along with the usual science fiction warnings about... well, no spoilers from me. Suffice it to say it will all seem slightly familiar, from the world view to the ending.

Guest Review: Cheaper By The Dozen

Reviewed here myself last week, but I liked Neal's succinct review so well, I decided to run it too (by the way, his assessment of Triplets of Belleville matches mine--he called it "quite a disappointing film.")

This remake of the 50s Walter Lang film is sweet holiday filler, harmless as well as toothless. Two wonderful comedic talents - Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt - are squandered, as there are not even enough truly funny moments to fill a standard-length trailer. Only Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show, MTV's Punk'd, and Demi Moore's main squeeze) in an uncredited role as a self-absorbed fledgling actor stands out. A mildly diverting and relatively kid-friendly way to spend 98 minutes, but nothing more.

--Neal Vitale


Doctor Fun, Dan Grobstein File

My daughter Rae likes the Doctor Fun online comic. Maybe you'll like it too.

The Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

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