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 22, 2004

March 22, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 12

Table of Contents:

General News

  • How Parenting Changes
  • Weight, Health, Life
  • Odd Dream
  • Teaching Aphorisms
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Guest Review and Editor's Note


  • Murdock on NBC Monitor, Smoot at ISO, Colonna's Madeleines, Seybold Dies, Journalism Note, Dan Grobstein File

General News

How Parenting Changes

I suppose it is a sign of my pathetic obsession with television that I continue to use TV analogies to describe my parenting, but there you are, that's how I think of it. I have already mentioned that I have been demoted, in the sitcom of my daughters' lives, from a regular to a guest star "in a very special episode" that only airs a few times a year (actually, while Rae remains an undergraduate, I get a chance for summer reruns when she's home).

But I notice with Marlow, who, as a college graduate on her way into graduate school is now essentially a visiting adult, that the rhythm of her visit home is more of a comfortable, easy, good friend visit. It occurred to me today that it's more like a regular episode of a series than that sort of "do something every minute, arrange for a spectacular guest star" feeling of home visits from college. In short, she's a regular series now, rather than a stunt for sweeps week.

Weight, Health, Life

Good friends have been writing about my recent comments about weight and health.

I do need to step back, somehow, from the abyss. I tried regular psychotherapy for nearly two years, and it didn't help as much as I'd hoped. I have an inkling how I got here, but no clear path out of the hole.

I'd like to be around for a while, as I'd like you to be around for a while. My nutritionist advised me to get a massage every week. "Don't feel guilty about the time you set aside to get it," she said. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, because while she was in the middle of the sentence, I was already wondering how I was going to manage not to feel that guilt. During the first term, I managed a dip in the hot tub a few times a week. Haven't managed that since Christmas. I feel helpless and hopeless sometimes.

Still, every morning when I rise, I remember to thank God for the fact that I am still able to get up each day, and that each new day is another opportunity to get "it" right, however "it" is defined.

Odd Dream

I had this really odd dream this week. I was at my parents' house in Portland, Oregon, the one I grew up in. The wooden shades that were added to the living room picture window a decade or two ago were gone; it was wide open, as it was when I was a child. A man is standing in the front yard, looking into the house. To my eye, he bears a resemblance to Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. I open the front door, leaving the screen door shut and locked. The man is backlit, as if in a religious painting. I ask if he is Newsom, and he says no, then asks me if I believe in miracles. He is holding what appears to be a bible. He has a bag slung over his shoulder, which he opens up, and from which he removes a rifle. I try to slam the door shut. He starts shooting. I hit the floor and try to roll behind the brick wall in the kitchen. Then I wake up. It was an extremely scary dream. I don't ever remember being shot at in a dream before.

My mom's theory is that everyone in a dream is you, or rather some aspect of you. And of course, the "truth" of a dream is never literally the truth, so probably I'm not really concerned about being shot at or shooting someone (I don't own a gun, which would make the latter, well, difficult).

Teaching Aphorisms

Words to live by (thank you Peggy Coquet)

He who opens a school door, closes a prison. -Victor Hugo, poet, novelist,
and dramatist (1802-1885)

And an accurate description of teaching from Kevin Sullivan:

We used to say,
"in a teacher's first year, the teacher learns"
"in a teacher's second year, the student learns"

And the cynical added
"after that no one learns"

Let me add one of couple of my own: teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. It's a baseball season, not a football season. It's a ground game, not a passing game--you grind out the yardage inch by inch on the way to the goal line. Don't swing for the fences every day--take a single if you can hit one.

Political Notes

The Sunday New York Times Magazine profiled Al Franken. If you like him like I do, read it. True, he's a Harvard man, but sometimes we must overlook the faults of others.

Paul Krugman. Wow. What can I say? Taken For A Ride, March 19:

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." So George Bush declared on Sept. 20, 2001. But what was he saying? Surely he didn't mean that everyone was obliged to support all of his policies, that if you opposed him on anything you were aiding terrorists.

Now we know that he meant just that.


The message so far of the tragedy in Spain is that the liars lost. For example, read "Spain Campaigned to Pin Blame on ETA; Despite Evidence to Contrary, Basque Group Was Focus in Blasts" by Keith B. Richburg, in the Washington Post, Mar. 17, 2004, and "Voters Want Honesty" by David Bach in the Washington Post, Mar. 17, 2004 ("What drove voters to the opposition and turned the election around was, quite simply, the government's information policy in the aftermath of Thursday's train bombings, and the appearance that it was manipulating information to benefit the governing party's electoral prospects. . . the lesson of Madrid should be heeded: that ordinary citizens . . . have a right to transparent investigations and the right not to be misled.").


Donald Rumsfeld lying and squirming on Face the Nation. Thank you, Craig Reynolds.

How can you tell when Rumsfeld is lying? Either his lips are moving or his fingers are typing (or, to be precise, the fingers of his ghostwriter are typing).

Donald Rumsfeld writes (The Price of Freedom in Iraq) that when "freedom and self-government have taken root in Iraq, and that country becomes a force for good in the Middle East, the rightness of (the invasion) will be just as clear as it is today in Korea, Germany, Japan and Italy." Does that mean that if the newly democratic Iraq by majority vote decides to merge with Iran and let the ayatollahs rule both Iran and Iraq, the invasion of Iraq will have been right? Does that mean that if in an exercise of self-government the newly democratic Iraq votes to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East (especially those maintained by any country which has attacked Iraq, as for example by destroying a certain reactor under construction in 1981) even if it takes a war to do it, the invasion of Iraq will still have been right because the Iraqis are merely continuing U.S. policy to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and the governments which acquire them? Do Don and George plan to tell the electorate (and the Israelis) about this before or after the November election?

By the way, in the article in The Times, Don faults the elected leader of Iraq for using chemical weapons against Iran. It must have been space limitations that prevented Don from informing readers that Don provided the chemical weapons to Iraq.

Former White House advisor (and one of my fellow MIT alums) Richard Clarke reveals another of Don's dirty little secrets. On Sept. 12, 2001, Don proposed bombing Iraq because it had more targets than Afghanistan, not because Iraq was in any way responsible for the previous day's exposure of Don and George's willful neglect of the threat to America about which they were warned in abundant detail by the departing patriotic Democrats of the Clinton Administration who actually protected United States national security (as opposed to Don and George's advocacy of destroying it).


I read Slate a fair amount but am not in the habit of quoting it here. But their analysis of the 100% lying nature of a Bush-Cheney attack ad is too good not to share.


From Dan Grobstein:

Food for thought:
*Ronald Reagan - divorced the mother of two of his children to marry Nancy Reagan who bore him a daughter only 7 months after the marriage.
*Bob Dole - divorced the mother of his child, who had nursed him through the long recovery from his war wounds.
*Newt Gingrich - divorced his wife who was in the hospital for cancer treatment.
*Dick Armey - House Majority Leader - divorced
*Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas - divorced
*Gov. John Engler of Michigan - divorced
*Gov. Pete Wilson of California - divorced
*George Will - divorced
*Sen. Lauch Faircloth - divorced
*Rush Limbaugh - Rush and his current wife Marta have six marriages and four divorces between them.
*Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia - Barr, not yet 50 years old, has been married three times. Barr had the audacity to author and push the "Defense of Marriage Act." The current joke making the rounds on Capitol Hill is "Bob Barr...WHICH marriage are you defending.
*Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York - divorced
*Sen. John Warner of Virginia - divorced (once married to Liz Taylor.)
*Gov. George Allen of Virginia - divorced
*Henry Kissinger - divorced
*Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho - divorced
*Sen. John McCain of Arizonia - divorced
*Rep. John Kasich of Ohio - divorced
*Rep. Susan Molinari of New York - Republican National Convention Keynote Speaker - divorced
Don't let homosexuals destroy the institution of marriage.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

EU set to slap down Microsoft while in the US, Microsoft's criminal abuse of its monopoly power was treated with a tepid "boys will be boys" attitude and they were basically told to go forth and sin no more. Of course they ignored the settlement and immediately started sinning again. But in Europe they actually seem to take anti-trust laws seriously, and it looks like Microsoft was not able to talk it way out of a fine that is rumored to be in the range of 100 million to 1 billion euros over bundling Windows Media Player with the OS. Ouch! They may also be forced to sell a reduced-price version of Windows without the bundled media player.

Downloading news: while iTunes Music Store hits the 50 million song mark, Apple crushed an iPod-alike (aka "pBop", "pPod") that might have horned in on their territory. On the other hand, indie-only rival sells song with no DRM for the same 99 cents. (E.G. buy an open copy of "Smoothie Song" by Nickel Creek from their "This Side" CD here.) Speaking of downloads and P2P, I was disappointed to note that California's AG Bill Lockyer is apparently now working as a toady for the MPAA, circulating their draft letter on the evils of P2P.

Color copiers reject banknotes, or more precisely: some of the newer, smarter color copiers will refuse to copy certain European bills. Markus Kuhn provides this explanation of how they recognize banknotes (PDF) and Asher Blum provides an application that lets you use this trick to make your own documents copy-resistant. As mentioned here in January several image-editing application impose the same "no money" restriction.

Technobits: DoD readies plan to draft the geeks --- Quaoar, Varuna, and now Sedna: is it a small planet or big KBO? --- duck! Asteroid Makes Close Earth Flyby --- this week Google launched its new locality-based search, apparently in rapid response to Yahoo's launch of a similar service a few weeks back (e.g. here is a list of pizza joints within one mile of the Whitehouse) --- Google PageRank Calculator Value Report without Toolbar --- Toshiba get Guinness to plug their drive: record for "world's smallest" disk --- Glassner on folded paper models--- Techno-hoax or viral advertising with good special effects? Either way its clever and well done: Mini Cooper "robot".



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Guest Review and Editor's Note

Well, call me an old grump, but I didn't much care for Eternal Sunshine. This film reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, another flimsy love story featuring a comedian (Adam Sandler, rather than Sunshine's Jim Carrey) playing it straight opposite a typically "serious" actress (Emily Watson in Love, versus Kate Winslet). To be fair, Eternal Sunshine is warmer and sweeter, exploring some mildly interesting intellectual terrain - how a relationship insinuates itself into all parts of a person's mind and thoughts - and Carrey does a good job playing emotionally fragile and vulnerable. The pace is maintained in Eternal Sunshine and, unlike the tedious Punch-Drunk Love, it doesn't bore. But I expected more from the likes of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) and director Michel Gondry (a notable music video director for the likes of Beck, The White Stripes, Bjork, and The Rolling Stones), and I was disappointed. I want a love story to engage me and draw me into the lives of characters with whom I can connect and relate; I found myself coolly removed from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

--Neal Vitale

Well, this dispute doesn't rise to the level of the dueling reviews of O Lucky Man Neal ran (my puff and his pan, each running a full facing page) in the summer 1973 issue of The Tech, but it does mark our first major dispute in this forum. I was incredibly impressed, again, by Charlie (Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) Kaufman's script. I find him the most original mind now working in Hollywood. Apparently, just as James Bond has a license to kill, Kaufman is the only screenwriter in Hollywood who has permission to write a voice over in a major studio film, and in his hands, the technique works. Brilliant, clever, funny, deeply disturbing, and amazingly well written, I have to give this one four stars. Neal didn't actually pan it, of course, but I felt he damned it with faint praise.


Murdock on NBC Monitor, Smoot at ISO, Colonna's Madeleines, Seybold Dies, Journalism Note, Dan Grobstein File

Knowing of my love for old-time radio, my radio buddy Bruce Murdock was kind enough to pass along the web site for the NBC Monitor program, which ran on weekends from 1955-1975. There are also a bunch of great NBC links on the site. Man oh man, did I spend a lot of time wandering around these links! The only thing worse (lately) was the old-time SF radio pictures that Kevin Mostyn put me onto a few years back.

MIT graduates will be interested to note, as Daniel Dern was, that Smoot (yes that Smoot) is now head of ISO. No kidding!

If you check out the notes at the bottom of my column, you'll note I do blogrolling for friends. This week, I've added a new blog, written by my old friend and colleague Jerry Colonna:


"And suddenly the memory revealed itself: The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane."

I added it because I like and admire Jerry, because I enjoy and respect his writing, and maybe a little tiny bit because he wrote a nice entry about our professional relationship.

John Seybold died. His influence was great, and it affected a couple of MIT grads:

As an industry consultant in 1972, Mr. Seybold played a key role in the decision by U.S. News & World Report to become the first customer for the Atex Publishing Systems Corporation, a garage start-up created by a group of recent M.I.T. graduates. Atex would go on to become the dominant company in the computer typesetting industry in the 1970's and 1980's.

"He had the faith that a few guys in a garage could build a system that would be usable by a major enterprise," said Richard Ying, a co-founder of Atex."

Ah, Atex. That really brings back memories...

This note came to my journalism book site this week:

While looking about for new textbooks for my journalism class at the University of New Mexico next fall, I found your site. Since you are fond of "old journalism," you might just be interested in my book, published by Academy Chicago last year which deals with the worst single building fire in US history. When I began researching in 1961 while working for CBS News, I had the good fortune to interview at least five men who were involved in the tragedy, which claimed over 600 lives. One was Charles Collins, a new cub reporter in 1903 who covered the theater's opening six weeks earlier and returned to cover the disaster. The book centers on him. Collins later became drama critic of the Chicago Trib. There is much about the journalism of the time which you may find interesting.

Enjoy the read and be sure to note the story of another cub reporter, from the Chicago City News Service, who hired a kid to render public phones inoperable in the area of the theater so that he'd get the scoop.

Anthony Hatch
Santa Fe, NM

Dan Grobstein File

From the San Francisco Chronicle
A Buddhist on good, evil and Gibson
Laurel Wellman

An interview with Robert Thurman, author of "Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well," who was the first Westerner ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential People in 1997.

Here's the nut graf, as far as I am concerned:

"My new guru in life is Bill Murray, because actually the best metaphor for the infinite life, the reincarnation thing, is 'Groundhog Day.' You keep coming back until you get it right. When you get it right, then you have a really great time. Nirvana means you live with other beings in a really happy way. "And we all could, in the 21st century -- if we used our brains a little better."

New York Times

Objecting to Bush Medicare benefit deception and fakery.

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