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 31, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

May 31, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 21

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Another Quiet Week
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Bush Light Bulb Joke


  • Supersize Me
  • Coffee and Cigarettes


  • Press Box, Poetry Firing, Giant Rat, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Another Quiet Week

I do this column because I miss writing. But as the school year winds down, and with Rae back home, and my effort to reduce stress and get more sleep and rest both, I haven't really written much of my own and wouldn't even do the column this week, except for the swell contributions of my friends. Oh, and a chance to tell you to run out and buy Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a clever and funny book about punctuation by a British author. Also, you can read about my band's upcoming concert in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Political Notes

Read the full text of Al Gore's remarks in New York last week. Damn, if only he'd talked like this during the campaign! How dare they!


The prisoner torture amounts to a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention (both of which are the law of the land for the United States and its employees). According to a report from London, Don Rumsfeld 's response is to make it easier to conceal future illegal activity by banning cellphones with digital cameras from U.S. military installations in Iraq and eventually from all U.S. military installations. Without the pictures, it is unlikely the ultimate U.S. authority (the public) would ever have believed the reports of torture which have been made for roughly the last year.


To find out why one should eschew euphemisms, read "What's in a Word? Torture" by Adam Hochschild in The New York Times, May 23, 2004 in which one finds:

Torture "permanently scars the victim even when there are no visible marks on the body, and it leaves other scars on the lives of those who perform it and on the life of the nation that allowed and encouraged it. Those scars will be with us for a long time."


Several from Craig Reynolds:

Michael Moore Film Nears Release as Disney Sells from Reuters.

Terrorism Warnings from the New York Times.

60 Minutes had Gen. Zinni on Bush in Iraq: they screwed up.


Long-time reader and contributor Bob Nilsson checks in:

I don't know if any of your contacts have read Joseph Wilson's book "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Exposed My Wife's CIA Identity." The author certainly came across as extremely articulate and sincere in an interview I recently heard while traveling in NYC. He noted that before anything was published on the subject, Robert Novak was telling a complete stranger in Washington that Wilson was "an asshole and his wife is a CIA agent". Turns out the stranger was a friend of Wilson's who had recognized Novak walking on the street and although he had never met Novak he struck up a casual conversation and happened to ask about Wilson. Never mind that the White House leak about Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, threw her life into a shamble, it criminally destroyed a whole network of intelligence contacts and front organizations. Wilson, who was our last acting ambassador to Iraq, relates compelling first person observations of meetings with Saddam Hussein. Based on the interview, it should be a good book.

How George W. can shield the guilty party (Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff had a large role) is hard to fathom. W's father had called people who leak CIA operatives names to the press the most insidious of traitors.

On another subject...

I find it interesting that even with the out of control contracts that KBR/Halliburton has been given in Iraq, the company still managed to run a hefty loss for their most recent quarter.

The awarding to KBR of all those contracts without competitive bidding is looking worse and worse. Not only are the troops, the government, and the taxpayers not happy, but neither are their stockholders.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Online music, illegal musing: I am certainly not a lawyer, but I know that the RIAA's attempt to increase customer loyalty by suing them is doomed to failure. The Berkman Center for Internet and Society filed an amicus brief with the court hearing one of RIAA's shooting-own-foot lawsuits. Their report on legal arguments over the brief is thought-provoking. They list several arguments against RIAA's theory of the case, including "the question of whether making files available in shared folders constitutes a violation of the copyright holders' public distribution rights." It is a violation of copyright to let someone else listen to your music? What about playing loud music in my house with the windows open? My neighbors can listen to music they have not paid for. They might decide not to buy music because they can hear it through my window. Will the RIAA sue me for leaving my windows open? If that is a copyright violation, what about playing recorded music while I have dinner guests? Will the copyright cops start busting dinner parties? Part of the issue is that popular P2P software (like KaZaA) comes from the manufacturer set to share by default. Unless you are a geek you probably don't know how to tell it NOT to share your music. In effect the RIAA is going after people because they are not geeks. The music industry will say "we aren't going after the little fish (the downloaders), we only target the egregious uploaders". Which is to say they actually target non-geeky little fish -- normal kids. Ironically if there is any crime in P2P, it is downloading: unauthorized copying. Uploaders are in gaged in nothing more criminal that playing music through open windows.

Insecurity and disprivacy: as mentioned here last week, Apple released a patch for the pair of Extremely Critical OS X vulnerabilities Lixlpixel reported to them on February 23rd. Not so fast: Mac users still not safe from vulnerability, says Secunia the security firm that publicly announced the vulnerabilities (more). Conversely, how could a Apple-lovin' dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft-hater like myself not run an item titled: Why Windows is a security nightmare? Speaking of which: MS UK 0wn3d by hackers. Again. Finally, its TIA redux: Govt Computer Surveillance Rings Alarm Bells.

Space watch: the Cassini space probe is nearly within Saturn's rings providing some spectacular images: Rings ready for their close-up. New image from Hubble and WIYN shows Star Birth Gone Wild in 'Cosmic Hurricane'. Surprisingly, quasars seem to arise in humble host galaxies. NASA has narrowed down the proposed designs to Two Telescopes for Hunting Earth-like Planets.

Technobits: NEC unit fined $20,000,000 for stealing from school kids --- "Buffalo Spammer" gets 3.5 to 7 years --- The Penguin That Ate Microsoft --- Linux Group Tightens Submission Process --- Comcast: "We're the biggest spammer on the Internet" --- --- Aussies told: ignore SCO --- Wartime Wireless Worries Pentagon --- Biotech is not the answer --- Statistical flaws revealed in top journals' papers --- origami robot --- Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.--- way cool image search by color (via Word Color, via Brain Off Quick Links) --- Diebold Voting Machine "ads".


Old Joke, Updated To Bush Joke

As the President is getting off the helicopter at the White House, he has a baby pig under each arm.

The Marine guard snaps to attention, salutes, and says: "Nice pigs, sir."

The President replies: "These are not pigs, these are authentic Texas Razorback Hogs. I got one for VP Cheney, and I got one for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld."

The Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and replies, "Nice trade, sir."


Supersize Me

McDonald's food, three meals a day for a month: 30 pounds of sugar, 12 pounds of fat. The guy who did it saw his cholesterol increase 10-fold, and he gained 25 pounds, which is a lot for a guy who started out at 185 pounds. It isn't Michael Moore, but it is scary and entertaining at the same time. You should definitely make time to see it.

Coffee and Cigarettes

Jim Jarmusch is a genius and he proves it again with this collection of vignettes. It was filmed over a period of 17 years; it features artists as diverse as Iggy Pop and Bill Murray in blackout skits whose only common feature is the use by the actors of coffee and cigarettes as props. The segments are, by turns droll and hysterically funny. Several of them run on too long, but this is compensated for by the short stories that are too short. This movie got decidedly mixed reviews, which it does not deserve, because it is good, amusing film-making. It won't ever be at your local cineplex, but it is worth a drive.


Press Box, Poetry Firing, Giant Rat, Dan Grobstein File

Check out's Press Box column. I find it fascinating. You can sign up to be alerted every time Jack Shafer writes a column. He was a leading campaigner in the effort to get the New York Times to apologize for Judith Miller's terrible coverage of WMDs before the war.

Daniel Dern sends word of a poetry teacher fired for not censoring a student.

Craig Reynolds:

I also loved the NYT item about using giant Gambian pouched rats for clearing land mines. Do you recall The Tale of The Giant Rat Of Sumatra? Also here.

Do you remember the future, Dr. Memory? Well, forget it.

Dan Grobstein File:

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