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: April 5, 2004

April 5, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 14

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Spring Break
  • Don't get all Juror 4 on me
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • France


  • None


  • Dalton on WorldWatch, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Spring Break

First, this word from Rae:

When Dad asked me to write the introduction to his column this week I couldn't say no for several reasons: I like the guy, he's done me innumerable favors, and I like to write. This is my spring break from Brandeis (in Massachusetts), and I'm spending it with my loving parents in beautiful and sunny California. It's not just the weather that I've been enjoying, however. I choose to go to college 3,000 miles away, but I do miss my family, and returning home is always a joy. I like how going to college has really given me a new perspective on life in general and specifically my parents. My parents didn't have many rules, but as an independent teenager I found what few there were endlessly frustrating. Now that I have my own space and control over my schedule, I can appreciate them more. There's enough distance, both chronologically and psychologically to reflect on what great parents they were, and what great parents they continue to be. I've only spent a day with my parents so far, but it's been a delight, and I only anticipate more of the same for the rest of this week. Thanks Mom and Dad!

It is so great having Rae home. I miss Marlow already, and she just left on Wednesday.

Never, in my whole life, have I needed the week of Spring Break more than I needed last week, the first Spring Break of my full-time teaching career.

Our break, you will notice, does not coincide with Easter; rather it comes at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter is unique among all the school quarters in its utter paucity of breaks. It is a hard nine-week slog to the end of the year with nothing but a day off for Memorial Day. At a time of year when the students are warmed by the spring sun, distracted by the imminence of summer (or, in the case of my all-8th-grade student population, the end of middle school).

Last week, by the way, marked the end of Marlow's most recent visit. She's off for a month in New York City and a week in Chicago before returning home for two weeks, followed by a month in Mongolia, two months in China and two years in The Netherlands working on a masters degree. Quite a travel schedule, you must admit. She left Wednesday, the same day I left for LA, so I spent as much of Monday and Tuesday with her as I could.

The trip to LA was to visit my widowed mother-in-law and to see Firesign Live at UCLA, a celebration of the Firesign Theater featuring readings from their albums performed by a large cast with a live orchestra. John Goodman, George Wendt and Howard Hessman were the big names. It was the second (anda second best) Firesign event I have ever attended. Mostly, like most people I knew the group from their albums and CDs. Since they were attending, rather than performing, they were out in the audience, and I walked past all of them (except Phil Austin) at a distance of less than three feet. I did not gawk, stare or otherwise make a fool of myself, but it was, without a doubt, one of the coolest evenings of my life. Three hours of Firesign in performance. Like wow man. There were actually lots of suits in the audience--unlike the 25th anniversary concert I dragged Marlow to at the Berkeley Community Theater in 1994. At that time, she said, "I've never seen so many bald guys with pony tails dressed in tie die," then asked me what the funny smell was. No funny smell at UCLA last week, I must say. It was sublime. I am so glad I went.

Rae arrived Saturday, two hours earlier than we expected. I was covered with paint (I had been helping Vicki paint a rental house), and proceeded to remain covered with paint while Rae and I ate lunch (at the Willie McCovey's tribute restaurant in Walnut Creek) and ran three hours worth of errands. I shutter to think what people thought of me, in crummy clothes covered with paint. But Rae didn't sweat it, so I didn't sweat it. We saw Starsky and Hutch Sunday (my second time), then tried to take Rae to our favorite little six-seat Tuscan/Italian restaurant in Berkeley, Locanda Olma on College Avenue near Ashby. It was closed for the night (no reason given), so we went to the small Italian place two doors down, which serves Sicilian food in a much noisier atmosphere, family style.

After a month of Marlow, and just two days into a week with Rae, my office looks like it has been swept by several hurricanes (Marlow's tossing of several empty boxes into the mix did not help). Vicki tells me clutter is bad feng shui. For the moment, I have bad feng shui.

Don't Get All Juror 4 On Me

I heard a great item on NPR, about how people in the East have started using the phrase "Don't get all Juror 4 on me," to mean, "Don't be the one person who gums up the work," after the juror who hung the Tyco jury. I love the English language. Two centuries from now, no one will know what Tyco was--heck, if John Ashcroft has his way, no one will know what a jury was. But we'll still be telling people to stop acting like a Juror 4.

Political Notes

A former FBI translator says the US government knew planes were going to be used as bombs before 9/11. British papers (such as the Independent) take her more seriously than American papers. Who's right?



Peggy Coquet saw this in Portland, Oregon, my home town:

No One Died
When Clinton Lied

Craig Reynolds found this American Progress article tracing the variations on Why We Went In. Also from Craig: Prosecutors Are Said to Have Expanded Inquiry Into Leak of C.I.A. Officer's Name.



George Bush has proposed murdering a plan for a robust increase in the number of IRS agents working to disrupt the finances of terrorist organizations (I.R.S. Request for More Terrorist Investigators Is Denied by David Cay Johnston). Since Bush said you're either for the terrorists or against them and this position helps the terrorists, it seems George Bush is supporting the terrorists.


Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

It's as if he had a week's worth of stuff extra...

Findory: it was such a pleasant surprise to find Findory News, a personalized news agent. It is easy to use and works quite well. Long time readers will recall I was a big fan of the NewsSeer personalized news agent from NEC Research. I was greatly disappointed when it went "on hiatus" in November 2002. Findory works on a different principle, but the overall effect is the same: a page of automatically chosen news headlines aggregated from many sources -- much like Google News -- but with the editorial selection weighted towards my own interests. Findory infers my interests by watching which news articles I select to read. Bloggers on Findory: ResearchBuzz, Joho and Living in India. Another way to visualize the news: Newsmap.

Gmail: Google's foray into free ad-supported email has generated a lot of comment, both pro and con. Gmail provides a permanent stable email address (despite changing your ISP or employer) and a free gigabyte of storage. It is accessible from any web-enabled device, backed up, and searchable via the worlds best search engine. On the other hand, all of your email is in the hands of someone else. This admits the possibility that it could be data-mined, cross correlated with your searches, or handed over to nefarious third parties (certainly via court order, potentially to Google's "partners", and--if Google was ever sold--your email would be part of the corporate assets transfered to the new owner, whoever that might be). The fact that Google will automatically mine the content of your mail to include targeted ads has already given pause to many potential users. A sampling of the coverage: Google to Unveil Free E-Mail, Free E-Mail With a Steep Price?, Google E-Mail Ad Plans Raise Fears About Privacy and Why Gmail gives me the creeps. There is speculation that this is a step towards The Google Desktop and a frontal assault on Microsoft's desktop dominance. Also new from Google: Personalized Search which comes with its own set of privacy concerns, and Web Alerts which sends you email about new hits on a given Google query. I've been using a similar service from GoogleAlert.

P2P: Orlando U.S. District Court Judge David Baker ruled that the record labels could not lump together lawsuits against users of peer-to-peer network accused of copyright violations. Canadian Federal Court Judge Konrad von Finkenstein refused to compel ISPs to identify music uploaders (as CRIA (the "Canadian RIAA") had sought) and further said uploading music files was not itself a violation of copyright! A new study by researchers from Harvard and UNC show that downloading songs from the Internet does not harm sales of the corresponding music CDs (see also New Scientist, Wired and the original draft paper). Despite the lack of evidence of harm, Congress continues its unbalanced approach to copyright law, moving enforcement from civil to criminal prosecution. Public Knowledge said: "It's one thing for private industry to bring a lawsuit and be ridiculed for suing youngsters and grandmothers. It's quite another for the Justice Department to make an arrest."

Phishing is that email-born scam which tries to trick you into revealing valuable information at the bad guy's web site. It is growing by leaps and bounds because it frequently pays off well for the miscreants. Anti-phishers are looking for answers: Technology Advances to Fight Online Scams.

Technobits: How E-Voting Threatens Democracy --- flash mob supercomputer cluster --- 54 cent songs --- eat your licorice! --- really pure glass from an electrostatic levitator --- cool grid-based travel log: Degree Confluence Project via Wired.



AP and UPI report the French Government announced today that in light of the Madrid bombing, France has raised its terror alert level from "run" to "hide." The only two higher levels in France are "surrender" and "collaborate."




Dalton on WorldWatch, Dan Grobstein File

Richard Dalton notes:

If I had a browser that limited me to 10 URLs, WorldWatch would be one of them. This latest report, "Good Stuff" (free, like many of WW's efforts), provides lots of useful insight into the crap we regularly overbuy. Even if I choose to ignore the impact of my buying habits on my own life, I'd have to be a real hard case not to think about the legacy I'm providing for my 4-year-old granddaughter.

Downloading "Good Stuff" requires registration but that just means you'll get regular info about other area's of WorldWatch's vital research.

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times:

  • Charlie McCarthy Hearings. (funny parody of the terms under which Bush is testifying to the 9/11 Commission. [ED NOTE: OK, I give up, Maureen Dowd is not as bad as I thought she was, and I'll stop slamming her every time Dan includes one of her columns. She's better than I thought, although she's no Paul Krugman, and I'll just have to get used to saying nice things about her by quoting her. This column is exceptional.].

From the Washington Post: Framework of Clarke's Book Is Bolstered, a remarkably even-handed look at the mostly valid critique of Bush counter-terrorism efforts.

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