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 24, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

May 24, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 20

Table of Contents:

General News

  • 1300 A Week!
  • Marlow Leaves--Again
  • 14 Days
  • The Rationalization Of Decisions: A Case History
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Bush Light Bulb Joke


  • Guest Review: Valentin
  • Goodbye Lenin
  • Shrek 2
  • Mean Girls
  • Troy


  • Sims on Net Pictures, Dan Grobstein File

General News

1300 A Week!

Average daily visits to my web site have risen this quarter from 81 to 187, meaning there are nearly 1300 visitors a week!

Marlow Leaves Again

This time, she left for three months in Mongolia and China. Then she returns home briefly in August before starting a two-year Master's Degree course in Leiden, The Netherlands. She does not think she'll come home from Holland; in fact, she wants us to come to see her at Christmas her first year there.

When I was her age, I was just starting work at UPI Boston. She pointed out to us that the last month is probably her last extended stay at home. Which got me to thinking. My last extended stay at home was the summer I interned for the Oregon Journal during the summer after my junior year at MIT; I didn't spend more than a few days at home again until I started full time at the Journal five years later. At that time, I spent three months living at home, looking for an apartment). Yet, unlike Marlow, I wasn't conscious of the end of an era. Maybe my parents were, but I didn't remind them, frequently, that they weren't likely to see much of me again. Of course it hurts, and yet it is part of life. Reminding me again that the only constant in life is change.

14 Days

I have not been a counter. I didn't count elapsed time, I didn't count remaining time. But as the days in the Joaquin Moraga middle school dwindle to a precious few, the small number weighs on everyone, teachers, administrators and students alike. We all know there are 14 school days left, and one of them is a field trip to a water park, so there are only 13 teaching days left. It gives everything we do an air of finality, like Johnny Carson's last few months on the air, when each skit was introduced with, "Now, here for the last time is..." Now, here for the last time, are my first six classes of students. The great 180.

The Rationalization Of Decisions: A Case History

C.S. "Sam" Jackson, who founded the Oregon Journal in 1902, made sure his will clearly stated that his newspaper, if it was ever sold, should be sold to the employees. Alas, both his son and successor and his daughter died before their mother did. She left the Journal Publishing Co. to the Jackson Foundation. The Jackson Foundation sold the newspaper to the Newhouse newspapers. I asked about this once, and "Boots," secretary to Donald J. Sterling, Jr., the editor of the Journal explained it to me thusly: "There was no one who was willing to pay more for The Journal than the Newhouse organization, since it would give them a monopoly in Portland. If the Jackson Foundation had sold or given the newspaper to the employees, they would just have sold it to Newhouse, and then they would have gotten the money instead of the employees.

Here's the rationalization from the foundation web site:

The Oregon Journal continued as an independent newspaper following the deaths of Philip Jackson in 1953 and Maria Jackson in 1956. In 1959, the Journal pressmen began a labor strike that would continue for more than five years. Fearing that the mounting losses would bankrupt the newspaper and thereby deprive The Jackson Foundation of much of its principal, the Foundation trustees sold the Journal in 1961 to the owner of The Oregonian. The sale agreement required the new owner to continue the Journal under its independent editors until 1981. The separate publication of the Oregon Journal was finally ended on September 4, 1982.

Note the gratuitous union-bashing, and the complete lack of any mention of ignoring the founder's will to sell the paper to the lowest-rent national newspaper chain in existence, then or now. About what you'd expect from U.S. National Bank--a lot of heart and a clear understanding of Sam's principles. Gene Klare sums this up in a history of the Newhouse purchase.

Political Notes

Some good URLs:

Newsweek on prisoner abuse
New Yorker on prisoner abuse
UPI: Army, CIA want torture truths exposed


Was Rudy Giuliani uninformed or lying (as usual The New York Times buried the lead story on page A27 and devoted the front page article to the marshmallows thrown by the 9/11 Commission to the ex-mayor who could not or would not arrange the proper communications needed to save the police and fire department personnel on 9/11)? The article is Contradicting Other Evidence, Giuliani Says Firefighters Heard Order to Evacuate by Jim Dwyer.


Concerning Dan Grobstein's item about the Appleton newspaper (PSACOT of about 5/17/04): Bush did not carry Wisconsin in 2000 (lost by about 5,000 votes out of 2.5 million). From a slightly closer understanding of the situation on the ground in Appleton, given that Appleton is close to the heart of Republican sentiment in Wisconsin (Bush carried the Congressional district (8th) in which Appleton is located by 52-43 and the adjoining district (6th) by 53-42) it is significant that the Appleton paper felt the need to solicit support for Bush. If Bush does not have support in the Appleton area (Fox River Valley) he probably will lose Wisconsin in 2004.Of course, he may just be losing support among those who are motivated to write the newspaper.


The Pentagon issued a non-denial denial in response to Sy Hersh's latest report on torture in Iraq ( The Pentagon said that story was "outlandish, "conspiratorial," and "filled with error and anonymous conjecture." The Pentagon failed and refused to say the entire report was incorrect. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice reportedly said "As far as we can tell, there's really nothing to the story." Of course, Condi is correct. Just like she was correct that there was nothing to the report of an impending terrorst attack in the U.S. which she and George W. Bush received and ignored a month before 9/11/01.


If someone were driving a car with passengers downhill on a straight scenic road with a view for miles and drove past a series of road signs which warned first (Danger Road ends 1 mile at unprotected 1000 foot cliff), second (Danger Road ends in one half mile at unprotected 1000 foot cliff), and third (Danger Road ends in 500 feet at unprotected 1000 foot cliff) and then thinking the signs, the clear view of the cliff edge, and the warning screams of the passengers could not possibly be correct drove off the road at the speed limit and went off the cliff would this person be referred to as a strong leader or delusional?


The Bush as Hillbilly Song

Here's an excerpt:

Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy name Bush.
His IQ was zero and his head was up his tush.
He drank like a fish while he was drivin' all about.
But that didn't matter 'cuz his daddy bailed him out.


Dan Grobstein offers an anecdote you'll never hear anyone tell about George Bush:

I just finished Carl Reiner's "My Anecdotal Life". In one anecdote he describes being invited to the White House to see President Clinton after Reiner received a "Mark Twain" award. He brought his older brother Charlie who was fighting cancer. Clinton spoke to Charlie and found out that he had landed on Utah Beach on D-Day +4. Clinton asked him "Your outfit took Ste. Marie l'Eglise and St. Malo?" "Yes," answered Charlie. "How did you know that?" "I read a lot," said the president, smiling.

I recently rented a Sid Caesar dvd which got me to read his autobiography and then Reiner's book. Keeps my mind off of Dubya.

Sounds like a good plan for avoiding thinking about the "President."


According to reports (on May 20 and 21, 2004) by CBS News' Lesley Stahl unnamed sources apparently lacking the courage to provide their names to the public allege that convicted felon and Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi revealed to Iran U.S. secrets known only to a few very top level U.S. officials. In the past, Chalabi enjoyed rabid support from Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. The alleged information was allegedly so sensitive that its release could lead to the deaths of American soldiers. If the reports are correct, who is (are) the U.S. official(s) who should be stripped of their security clearances and their positions of public trust? What is being done to find them? Stay tuned to CBS News to learn whether CBS (which reports it has withheld the alleged secret information at the request of the U.S. government) ever inquires into these matters.CBS reported that the information in their reports was "rock solid." One wonders if that means CBS and its source(s) are sure the accuracy of the information is as much of a "slam dunk" as the information about WMD in Iraq. One of the tenets of the journalism world is that the reporter must understand the motivation(s) of her anonymous sources (especially when the sources are engaged in internecine bureaucratic warfare (as for example with the Secretary of Defense)).

More information (which really calls into question the May 20, 2004, raids on Chalabi's home and Iraqi National Congress (INC) office) was provided by The Washington Post ("Chalabi Aides Suspected of Spying for Iran" by Scott Wilson on May 22, 2004) which informed its readers that:

"One of Chalabi's advisers said Friday that INC officials received advance notice of U.S. plans to search the INC building and removed their computers weeks ago. The adviser, Francis Brooke, said 'nothing of any intelligence value' was recoverd in the raids."

Surprise, surprise.


As Dan Rather said Friday night May 21, 2004, as he began the CBS Evening News with a story about new pictures of prisoner torture by the U.S. military in Iraq: "It just keeps getting worse."

The journey up the chain of command now appears as if it may wind through the office of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez (the highest ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq). For the details read "Prison Visits By General Reported In Hearing: Alleged Presence of Sanchez Cited by Lawyer" by Scott Higham, Joe Stephens, and Josh White in The Washington Post, May 23, 2004. When asked for comment, the Defense Department in Washington passed the buck to Iraq where the U.S. military command said the Washington Post report that Gen. Sanchez was present during prisoner torture was false.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Major hole in Mac OS X: Mac users have been immune from the vast majority of security problems for several reasons. Apple has traditionally taken an "off by default" approach for options that affect security. Mac OS X is built on Unix which has a solid record on security. Plus almost all malware is written for Windows because it is the most plentiful "prey", and because Microsoft's abusive practices make it a target for politically motivated crackers. Things changed in an instant this week when an Extremely Critical vulnerability in OS X was announced. It affected uses of Apple's Safari, as well as IE, Mozilla and other web clients such as NetNewsWire. The original report to Apple by Lixlpixel was made privately on February 23rd. Apple made no response for months and the news began to spread. On May 17th Secunia issued a public alert, and then upgraded it to Extremely Critical the next day. On the 21st Apple released a patch apparently fixing the exploit.

Obligatory music items: contrary to what the RIAA says, Moses Avalon claims music sales are up, its shipments that are down. Kazaa's makers continue to poke at music industry: Sharman Presses for Evidence. Steven Levy's iTunes and Lawsuits.

Virus v Virus: this good-news-bad-news story concerns a potential treatment for AIDS: Designer Virus Stalks HIV. The good news is obvious. The bad news? Well using "gene therapy" for one, which has its own GNBN history. Another is that the "treatment" would be just as contagious as AIDS, which would be good, as long as it doesn't mutate into something worse. (The idea of infecting people with a contagious cure has come up in science fiction several times.) But the really bad news is that the anti-HIV treatment was relatively easy to construct. Imagine if someone used similar technology to make not anti-AIDS but super-AIDS. <shudder> The next article may seem related only because I'm not a virologist, but on a similar topic: A New Way To Kill Cancer: SLU Research Shows Viruses Can Destroy Lung, Colon Tumors.

GoFast: 62 miles high Last week I quipped "SpaceShipOne: 38 miles high" (that is a borderline "quip" if you are old enough to remember Eight Miles High by the Byrds). While SpaceShipOne is destined to be a manned vehicle, it was upstaged this week by another non-governmental space vehicle. After a launch from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, the GoFast rocket by CSXT reached an altitude of 62 miles, the informal 100 kilometer definition of "space": First amateur rocket blasts into space, Amateur rocket fired into space.

Technobits: the Cisco Code was a friend of mine (*): 1, 2, 3 --- open-source vulnerabilities --- phisher king gets 4 years (more) --- in Greece you can be jailed for buying a counterfeit CD, and in Italy its jail for downloading music --- Lycos Beats Google with 1GB Email, no sweat: Google ups ante to 1000GB, oops just a bug --- RSS client survey --- Safe and insecure --- Cory Doctorow: cinema copyright warnings: a call to action .


Bush Light Bulb Joke

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace
a light bulb?

The Answer is SEVEN:

One to deny that a light bulb needs to be replaced;

One to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the light bulb;
One to blame the previous administration for the need of a new light bulb;
One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs;
One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton $63 million for a light bulb;
One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the light bulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag; and finally
One to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.


Guest Review: Valentin

An enjoyable wisp of a film by Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti. The elements here have all been seen before - cute, precocious boy (the title character, played by Rodrigo Noya in his US film acting debut) who lives with his bitter, recently-widowed grandmother; the playboy father, who flits from girlfriend to girlfriend. Valentin wants a mother and a family, so he hatches a scheme to accomplish that goal, with somewhat unexpected results. There are points where Valentin turns a bit saccharine but, overall, it is small, warm-hearted treat.

-Neal Vitale

Goodbye Lenin

Another enjoyable wisp of a film, by German director Wolfgang Becker (in German, with subtitles). Well, you certainly can't say you've seen these elements before. An East German woman, resident in East Berlin, throws herself into devotion to the Communist state, even winning national awards for her dedication. As the fall of the Berlin Wall nears, there are demonstrations. Her son is arrested. She faints and ends up in an eight-month coma. One of the most amazing aspects of this film is its accurate depiction (according to press accounts) of the mind-boggling level and pace of change in East Germany. Once the wall came down, everything changed and it changed very fast. When the mother awakens, her son is told she must have no shocks. So, just for her, in her old apartment, he recreates the socialist past, with a combination of videotapes of old East German shows, cooperative friends and the occasional bottle or can of East German comfort food. To steal a line from Neal, there are points where Goodbye Lenin turns a bit saccharine but, overall, it is small, warm-hearted treat.

Guest Review: Shrek 2

Neal says it better than I could; I concur.

When you love a film, I think it's natural to approach the sequel with trepidation. Such was the case for me with Shrek and Shrek 2. Shrek was a brilliant, ground-breaking work that transcended being simply an animated kids movie - I felt it was as good (if not better) as any of 2001's Best Picture nominees. So how could 2 top that?

It can't. Shrek 2 is very well-done - funny and clever, sending up Hollywood and pop culture, spoofing films from Mission: Impossible to From Here To Eternity - in a rollicking hour and a half. But it's working hard at being amusing, and at times the rapid-fire references and jokes are almost too much. It's as if the filmmakers know they are going to be measured ageist the very high standard of Shrek, and think that sheer virtuosity will carry the day. And it almost does. Antonio Banderas' Puss In Boots is a nice addition, and Eddie Murphy's Donkey nearly steals the show again. Shrek 2 is very, very good, but it can't match the staggering originality and charming freshness of its predecessor.

--Neal Vitale

Mean Girls

You must have been beaten to death with Tina Fey publicity. I know I have. She's the head writer for Saturday Night Live and adapted a book about middle school girls (Queen Bees and Wannabees) into an incredibly atypical teen movie, completely oriented around girls. No sex, not bad language, just evil sniping and one or two fights. It turns out, in the end, to be a "good girls win, bad girls lose" film, with Lindsay Lohan proving that she won't be limited to Freaky Friday style projects. A nice little film.


Not exactly the Iliad and the Odyssey, but instead of Homer we get several shot's of Brad Pitt's butt, and a few minutes of Peter O'Toole on-screen and apparently sober. And isn't that, alone, worth the price of admission? Plus, on a per-minute basis, this nearly-three-hour film works out to be a real bargain.

You know it's an epic, from the length and from the number of scenes shot on sand. Ever since Lawrence of Arabia, and probably back to the silent biblical epics of the 20s, sand is a sure sign of large, serious intent in movie-making. That and long shots. Of course, prior to the invention of computer-generated grahpics, a long-shot of a crowd scene meant you had assembled a really large group of extras. Now, it simply means you've assembled a really large group of computer programmers.

Despite the gratuitous plot changes and conflation (no one's ever going to offer a straight adaptation of Homey) designed to make the film more "Hollywood," this film is not too bad. It is a heck of an investment of time, but it's almost worth it.


Sims on Net Pictures, Dan Grobstein File

Dave Sims checks in with Why You Should Never Put Your Picture On The Net.

Dan Grobstein File:

Molly Ivins take on Iraq.

New York Times

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