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: March 15, 2004 March 15, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 11

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Cool Weekend in Seattle
  • Teaching Update
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Osama Bin Forgotten
  • The Top 15 Indications That Military Intelligence May Be Suspect


  • Guest Review: Starsky and Hutch, Spartan
  • Fog of War


  • Hanzel on MIT Jobs, Marlow on IPOD Death, Coquet's Cool Stuff, Dalton on Blogs, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Cool Weekend In Seattle

Took a quick (90-minute) flight north to Seattle this weekend to visit my niece Stephanie, her relatively new husband Daniel, their son Daniel Jr. (on the occasion of his first birthday) and Daniel's large family, including his preacher mother and preacher father. Marlow and my mother were there too. Marlow was cute the way she got along with little Daniel, even changing a diaper or two.

It was a whirlwind, but Stephanie and Daniel have a beautiful apartment and a cute little dog and are working hard at assembling their young lives into a life that will last--a process I haven't witnessed in a long time (and never from the outside), but which should also be fun to watch when my own two daughters go through it.

Also, Daniel liked the toy Vicki and I bought for him, and we got a ton of cute pictures.

I left 80 degrees and dry to spend two days in 50 degrees and rainy, but that's the Pacific Northwest for you. Also, Oak Harbor, where the family and the birthday party were, is a long drive from Seattle. But I knew that.

Teaching Update

I haven't had much to say lately about the most important new thing in my life, my job as a teacher. The joy quotient remains low and the stress quotient remains high, which, I have been told, is typical for a first year teacher.

Harry Wong, a seminar-giving super-teacher defines the phases of teaching as Fantasy, Survival, Mastery, and Impact. Fantasy was where I was before I started, survival is where I am now. I am told I can reach mastery if I stick with it a year or two. That will be hard, especially if I keep gaining weight instead of losing it.

Repeat after me: it isn't brain surgery, and I haven't permanently damaged anyone yet. It is a low standard, but I have met it.

Political Notes

The more I think of last week's item about SIM cards used to track terrorists, the more I wonder if the blabbing officials involved even realized they exposed their own warped sense of priorities by placing PR ahead of national security by sacrificing the information they admitted they were still receiving.

Job growth prediction or wild lie? You be the judge, after looking at this Paul Krugman infographic. Thank you, Craig Reynolds. Also: Bush Flip-Flops from (and Dan Grobstein spotted a Bush flip-flop documented on Calpundit.) Dan also notes that a letter-writer to the Boston Globe claims Bush's house in Crawford, Texas is underassessed.

Also spotted by Craig: The New Pentagon Papers at (a followup to an LA Weekly article about a Pentagon whistle blower mentioned here a few weeks ago).


When John Kerry went to Chicago and referred to "crooked liars" as "Republicans," did that give all the "crooked liars" a cause of action for being defamed by the enormous damage to their reputations caused by being accused of being a Republican in Chicago?

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Grand Challenge ends not with a bang but a whimper. The requirement to complete the qualification course was waived. The final route was reduced from 200 miles to 142. But still there was no winner. The odds on favorite, CMU's Team Red's Sandstorm, had a control failure at mile 7.4 leading to vehicle damage. None of the other bots did any better. DARPA posted a preliminary description of the results (MS Word file). Some initial press coverage: Early problems knock several robots out of Mojave Desert race, Teams Struggle in Pentagon-Sponsored Robot Race, Defeat Wins, and Desert Terrain Proves Too Rough for Robotic Racers. Sounds like DARPA may run the event again in two years.

FCC sued over broadcast flag: several public interest groups (EFF, The American Library Association, Public Knowledge, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Consumers Union) filed suit against the FCC's attempt to suck up to media barons, trample consumer rights and stifle technological development by enacting the broadcast flag requirement.

eVotes versus the real world: California state Senators Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) moved to ban paperless electronic voting machines from the November presidential election. Dan Gillmor points out that candidates in one Orange County race are separated by only five votes, but a recount is impossible due to black box voting machines.

Microsoft helps SCO harass Linux users but tries to claim it was merely coincidence that steering BayStar Capital to invest in SCO helps Microsoft against the Linux threat. This story was mentioned here last week and I don't think there is any new news, but fortunately for Linux folks it is moving up the media food chain: New York Times: Microsoft Said to Encourage Big Investment in SCO Group, BusinessWeek: SCO's Suit: A Match Made in Redmond?, Microsoft behind $50 million SCO investment and (OK, The Register is pretty low on the food chain, but still funny) Microsoft encouraged anti-Linux investment - shock!

Infectious Blogs: Wired's Warning: Blogs Can Be Infectious describes the flow of memes in the blogosphere. The epicenter of this research is the Blog Epidemic Analyzer from HP's Information Dynamics Lab. Nice diagram and discussion here: How News Travels on the Internet.

Technobits: good science, bad marketing: Bristol Study Proves Rival Drug Better --- RIAA setback: One File Swapper, One Lawsuit --- whence came the Quiznos "Spongmonkeys"?: Internet Animation Goes Mainstream --- way cool swimming robot.


Osama Bin Forgotten

Pentagon officials believe they have been unable to locate Bin Laden because he has found a place to hide out where:

(1) it is easy to get in if you have the money
(2) no one will recognize or remember you
(3) no one will realize that you have disappeared
(4) no one keeps any records of your comings and goings
(5) you have no obligations or responsibilities.

Pentagon analysts are still puzzled, however, as to how Bin Laden found out about the Texas
Air National Guard in the first place.

The Top 15 Indications That Military Intelligence May Be Suspect

I'm No. 9

March 9, 2004


The Web site is still a bit screwy this morning, but I'm working on getting all the problems resolved on our new server home. Thanks for your patience.

15> It seems pretty far-fetched to classify a 7-Eleven as an "enemy stronghold."

14> Amount of new messages always seems to increase just after dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.

13> The person calling into headquarters claims to be "Major Dick," then breaks down giggling.

12> They've just proudly informed you that they're closing in on Saddam Hussein.

11> "It appears to be the work of Ali al-Plisskin." "Al-Plisskin? I thought he was dead!"

10> Field maneuvers identification manual AHG-412, "Ass vs. Hole in Ground: Distinguishing Characteristics," clocks in at over 400 pages.

9> The latest report from Afghanistan: Osama bin Laden is hiding in the conservatory with a candlestick.

8> The map of Iraq you've been handed shows a large orc settlement just north of Baghdad.

7> Sealed dossier clearly marked "CONFIDENTIAL," "CLASSIFIED," "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY," "SWAK" and "XOXOXO."

6> The CIA just obtained a purchase order for 500 pair of flame-retardant pants.

5> Latest high-definition satellite photos of the insurgent stronghold Samarra show clearly-defined subdivisions of Main Street, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Frontierland and New Orleans Square.

4> They report "increased dental chatter" during periods of very cold weather.

3> Recon photos of alleged foreign operative "Jaylo Butay" are regularly found in insecure locations such as bathrooms and barracks.

2> Hidden somewhere in every report: "olin-Cay owell-Pay is an ussy-pay."

and's Number 1 Indication That Military Intelligence May Be Suspect...

1> The latest U.N. weapons inspectors' discovery confirms military intelligence's worst fear: oxymoronium.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 82 submissions from 31 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
David G. Scott, Kansas City, MO -- 1 (12th #1)
Greg Preece, Toronto, Canada -- 9
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9


Guest Review: Starsky and Hutch, Spartan

Starsky & Hutch

I confess that I have never seen an episode of Aaron Spelling's 1970s ABC series Starsky & Hutch. But the film, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the title roles, hardly needs that context. It is a wonderful send-up of everything to do with that era's popular culture - fashion, hairstyles, television, music, film, cars, sex. Casting is clever, with Snoop Dog, Carmen Electra, Fred Williamson, and an uncredited Will Ferrell. Though it is little more than an expanded sketch, Starsky & Hutch is entertaining and amusing.

[ed note: Marlow and I saw it too, and really liked it--same note applies, neither of us has ever seen a single episode]


David Mamet's latest is an episode of West Wing on steroids (and I mean that in a good way!). Spartan is a tightly-paced thriller that follows the hunt by a special ops team for the President's missing daughter. Val Kilmer heads the search, and he is the perfect blank page for Mamet's dialogue - terse, quietly kinetic, hyper-macho speech laced with lovely literary and arty overtones. Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) is fine as Kilmer's protégé, as is Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy on Married...With Children) as a top Presidential operative; the normally reliable William H. Macy is miscast as another of the President's aides, and wasted in the role. Mamet continues to struggle with the differences between stage and film but, in Spartan, the difficulties are minimal and do not lessen the impact of a compelling effort.

--Neal Vitale

Fog of War

They don't come much stranger than Robert Strange McNamara. But Erroll Morris, who won the Oscar for best documentary with this film, does a fine job of getting inside the head of the man who ran the Vietnam war for President's Kennedy and Johnson. He evokes the era with an astounding array o f camera tricks and research, all built around a simple interview with McNamara looking right in the camera. A tour de force and an excellent film of great interest to any thinking adult.


Hanzel on MIT Jobs, Marlow on IPOD Death, Coquet's Cool Stuff, Dalton on Blogs, Dan Grobstein File

John Hanzel forwards a New York Times article about how technology graduates can't find jobs. Strangely, it does not make me feel better about my old field.

My daughter Marlow notes: Woman Kills Boyfriend With IPOD.

Peggy Coquet found this at Slate:

From Today's Papers:

The Post''s magazine guy, Peter Carlson, notices that big-time prof Samuel Huntington has started a bit of a controversy by arguing in the latest Foreign Policy that the "most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants." Among the reasons these folks shouldn't be let in. Huntington says, is that they stick to themselves and cluster in their own neighborhoods. Carlson says the prof is right:

"As we all know, Huntington's beloved Anglo-Protestants were always eager to share their neighborhoods (and their country clubs) with folks of other colors and creeds. In fact, before the Civil War, many Anglo-Protestants were so eager to meet folks from other cultures that they actually purchased them. That's an act of brotherhood that today's Mexican immigrants just can't match."

She also likes a hoax web site, of which this is an example.

#26: Tass Expands Into American Market
In 1982 the Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced that they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was "the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain." The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by "simultaneous hunting accidents" in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with "standard-issue Soviet Army rifles." The announcement was bylined "By John Reed," and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be "thoroughly red." In response to the news, the offices of the Compass and the Gazette received calls offering condolences for the death of the publishers. One caller also informed them that he had long suspected them of harboring communist tendencies, and that it was only a matter of time before all the papers in the country were communist-controlled. When the publishers tried to explain that the article had been an April Fool's prank, the caller replied, "You expect me to believe a bunch of Commies?"

Richard Dalton notes:

Goodness! Unethical practice among bloggers? What do they think they are... journalists?

Warning: Blogs Can Be Infectious

Confirming what many have suspected, a study finds that the most popular bloggers aren't the most original. But they do have a knack for swiping material from other, lesser-known blogs. By Amit Asaravala.

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

Washington Post

Ashcroft Funds Under Scrutiny
Money Raised for Fine, Legal Costs Related to Senate Campaign

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 2004; Page A04

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's 1998 leadership political action committee, Spirit of America, and his Senate reelection campaign committee, Ashcroft 2000, raised more than $100,000 last year in order to pay a fine and legal costs for violating campaign finance laws, according to Federal Election Commission records and Garrett Lott, treasurer of both committees.

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