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

May 17, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

May 17, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 19

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Pneumonia On The Run
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 16 Surprising Facts Found in "The Da Vinci Code"
  • Two Dogs
  • Survivor Southern Style


  • Kill Bill 2


  • Reynolds on New Science and the Stata Center, Mari Schindler on Seinfeld and Superman, Malchman on Mexican UFO, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Pneumonia On The Run

Taking the advice of my doctor and my mother, I took two days off from school, Thursday and Friday, for total rest. I literally did not get dressed or leave the house for any reason on either day. I read and watched Monty Python DVDs all day both days, slept in and napped whenever I was tired. Saturday afternoon, for the first time in six weeks, I turned on my side in bed during a nap and did not wheeze. My coughing is way down. I had to leave the house Saturday, but I plan another day of near total rest on Sunday. Apparently, inactivity and napping are the only things that beat walking pneumonia, a disease I hope never to contract again.

While I was out Saturday, I stopped by my room and found two lovely, large, hand-made get-well cards from 3rd and 4th periods, which contained a number of touching sentiments (side by side with a number of silly sentiments).

Political Notes

Thinking about the James Glanz article on the ABM (so-called) system cited last week, it occurs to me that the following misleading sentence appears: "In highly controlled tests, the interceptors scored hits five times in eight tries."

That should read "In highly controlled unrealistic tests . . ." according to numerous prior reports by The New York Times.

Further, while it may be obvious, Glanz fails to mention that with only 20 interceptors the U.S. would start losing cities at a rate of just under one city (and its population) for every warhead launched over 20. Alternatively, with only 20 interceptors, if 20 credible targets (not warheads) were launched and the system responded with 20 interceptors, the U.S. would start losing cities at a rate of just under one city for every warhead launched beginning with the first warhead.

Finally, it appears that for much less than the cost of an ABM (so-called) system, the threat from North Korea could be eliminated.


Noteworthy articles in The Washington Post of May 9, 2004:

1. "A Proven Formula for How Many Troops We Need" by Stephen Budiansky (we successfully followed the 1 soldier per 40 person rule in Germany and Kosovo which translates to 625,000 troops in Iraq; right now there are an estimated 170,000 coalition soldiers in Iraq. The U.S. contribution of 135,000 soldiers is severely straining the Army).

2. "What Are Those Contractors Doing in Iraq" by Deborah Avant

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Music and copyright: Playfair is open source software that strips FairPlay DRM locks from Apple iTunes AAC music files. As mentioned here last month, it was removed from SourceForge after a DMCA takedown notice was served. As soon as a new version of FairPlay was out, a new version of Playfair quickly followed, hosted by a new ISP who seems prepared to fight. Interestingly when Playfair strips DRM restrictions from AAC files, it does not remove the ID of the legal owner of the file. This would seem to make it useless to pirates. While its swell to hear that Apple Wants to Open Song Vaults my friend at a major record company says that in most cases music missing from iTunes is being held back by music publishers. How do musicians feel about Internet file-sharing? Rep. Rick Boucher's DMCRA seeks to fix some of the obvious stupidity of DMCA. It got a hearing this week: Congress May Ease Restraints on DVD Copying and Congress returns to the DMCRA. Among the cosponsors of DMCRA is California Rep. John Doolittle who spoke passionately in its defense.

Astro news: The Remarkable Red Rectangle: A Stairway To Heaven? First image of extrasolar planet?: Possible First Photo of Extrasolar Planet Hubble sees 'planet' around star. The meteor did it: Crater Linked to 'Great Dying', More Evidence Points to Meteor in Mass Extinction.

Technobits: Simputer is a low cost computer for the developing world --- absolutely gobsmacked: metal Velcro --- three entangled photons --- contrails contribute to global warming --- SpaceShipOne: 38 miles high --- Sperm inject RNA into eggs at fertilization --- Scientists: Virus May Give Link to Life --- hardware news from E3: DS, PSP and Cell --- Google on the witness stand --- Reinventing the Yo-Yo.


The Top 16 Surprising Facts Found in "The Da Vinci Code"

Number 8 is mine!

May 12, 2004


Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" is a thriller which involves a clues hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Or something like that.

Okay, to be honest, I have no idea what the book is about. All I know is it's popular enough to warrant publicity-hungry TopFive doing a list about it.

16> The number of stars in a Norman Rockwell painting represents the number of times he got to bang the housewife.

15> Painted as a coded rebuke of Catholicism, each poker-playing dog represents a different pope.

14> Nostradamus embellished his original prediction, which stated merely: "HAZY IS THE REPLY, LATER THOU MUST TRY."

13> In the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" painting of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and James Dean in a diner, Jimi Hendrix was in the men's room taking a leak.

12> As part of a Satanic pact, Ben Stiller and Ben Affleck are assigned to signal the arrival of Armageddon when the combined number of their box office flops reaches 666.

11> Reading every seventh word from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" provides a recipe for a killer five-alarm chili.

10> A cheap Rolex knock-off purchased on the streets of Manhattan inspired Dali to paint "Persistence of Memory."

9> "The Last Supper" shows the disciples prefer the blood of Christ over Coke in a blind taste test.

8> The physical motions of the macarena, viewed in a mirror, represent the American Sign Language translation of "The Godfather."

7> Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" was conceived under the working title "Hey Adam, Come Over Here and Pull Your Creator's Finger!"

6> Monet changed his name to Manet in an attempt to elude creditors.

5> The background of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is obviously Neverland Ranch.

4> Jesus' middle name was Herman.

3> Duchamp's original idea for "Nude Descending a Staircase" was squelched by his beloved model when she refused to slide down the handrail wearing only a cowboy hat, boots and spurs.

2> In Mondrian's abstract "Composition No. 10," the red square is totally faking it.

and's Number 1 Surprising Fact Found in "The Da Vinci Code"...

1> A race of people with both eyes on the same side of their noses controlled Spain throughout much of the 20th century.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 108 submissions from 34 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
John J. Brassil, Nashville, TN -- 1 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 8

Two Dogs

A girl was visiting her blonde friend, who had acquired two new dogs, and asked her what their names were.

The blonde responded by saying that one was named Rolex and one was named Timex.

Her friend said, "Whoever heard of someone naming dogs like that?"

"HelOOOooo," answered the blond. "They're watch dogs!"

Survivor Southern Style

Due to the popularity of the Survivor shows, several southern TV stations are joining together and are planning to do their own, entitled "Survivor: Southern Style."

The contestants will start in Alabama, travel over to Georgia and on to South Carolina. From there they will head up to North Carolina and over to Tennessee. They will then proceed down to Mississippi and Louisiana, finally ending up back over in Alabama.

Each will be driving a pink Volvo with New Jersey license plates and large bumper stickers that read: I'm Gay, I'm a Vegetarian, NASCAR Sucks, Go Yankees! Smoking is for idiots, Hillary in 2004, Deer Hunting is Murder, and I'm Here to Confiscate Your Guns!

The first one that makes it back to Montgomery alive, wins.


Kill Bill Vol. 2

It's almost Shakespearean, in the sense that it is a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Which is not to say there weren't enjoyable, directorly touches. But, apparently Quentin Tarantino has decided to show us everything and teach us nothing. He took a welcome break from the ultra-violence of Vol. 1, and made Vol. 2 much more intellectual. This puts me into the group that thinks he should have just made the thing a single long excellent movie (with an abrupt change of tone in the middle) instead of two very different films.

I loved the beard on the Chinese master. The zooms in and out and the music simulating a siren were respectable homages. Bill's discussion of comics, a Tarantino obsession, was a nice touch. I never considered that when Batman wakes up in the morning, he's Bruce Wayne. When Spiderman wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. But when Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. Clark Kent is the "other" identity, correctly and interestingly identified by Tarantino as Superman's comment on the human race: weak, cowardly and unsure of itself. Experts disagree with this analysis, including, on sober reflection and after 15 minutes of websurfing, myself. Time recently took a look at Supe.

But what Kill Bill all adds up to is that it doesn't all add up to anything. It's a collection of cute, clever tropes, and half-witty dialog in the service of nothing but the story. And that's a shame. Well, at least Tarantino can be entertaining, and that's something.

Not worth a special trip, OK to see if you've nothing better to do.


Reynolds on New Science and the Stata Center, Mari Schindler on Seinfeld and Superman, Malchman on Mexican UFO, Dan Grobstein File

As part of a recent email exchange I was allowed to eavesdrop on, regular contributor Craig Reynolds offered his opinion of the book New Kind of Science."

As to "A New Kind of Science", I have not read it past a quick skim of the online edition. It has been the subject of much controversy since it was published. Some (like the author) say it is a revolutionary new way of looking at natural science and will change everything. Others think is isn't that new, clearly has some value, but is less than a revolution. Some say its more about Wolfram's gift for self-promotion than a scientific revolution. A quick search found this collection of reviews:
A Collection of Reviews of "A New Kind of Science"
this one jumped out for me:
A Thirty-five Year Old Kind of Science

There were download problems the night I tried Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman--maybe you'll have better luck. I got this link from Mari Schindler, my mother. The one complete episode (A Uniform Used To Mean Something) is clever and funny and makes the point American Express would like it to make.

Robert Malchman found this Mexican UFO Story from CNN

His favorite paragraphs:

The video was first aired on national television Monday night then again at a news conference Tuesday by Jaime Maussan, a Mexican investigator who has dedicated the past 10 years to studying UFOs.

"This is historic news," Maussan told reporters. "Hundreds of videos (of UFOs) exist, but none had the backing of the armed forces of any country. ... The armed forces don't perpetuate frauds."

Malchman notes:

Yeah, they just perpetrate atrocities against POWs. You know, only a guy who believes in UFOs would believe that about the military! He's almost sweet in his innocence.

The perfectly serviceable temporary World War II space known as Building 20 was torn down to make way for Frank Gehry's Stata Center. Craig Reynolds found the Slate review here, while David Weilmuenster and Dan Grobstein found the New York Times review here. Me? I'm just glad I was there when the old building was there.

Dan Grobstein File

New York Times

  • Paul Krugman is the greatest columnist ever. Even if he does bury his lead at the end:

Meanwhile, Abu Ghraib will remain in use, under its new commander: General Miller of Guantánamo. Donald Rumsfeld has "accepted responsibility" - an action that apparently does not mean paying any price at all. And Dick Cheney says, "Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had. . . . People should get off his case and let him do his job." In other words: Just trust us.

There's a useful lesson here for George Bush's America as well as for the ayatollahs' Iran: when a religion is imposed on people, when a government tries too ostentatiously to put itself "under God," the effect is often not to prop up religious faith but to undermine it. Nothing is more lethal to religious faith than having self-righteous, intolerant politicians ... drag God into politics.

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