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

June 28, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 25

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Change
  • Marlow from China
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 16 Signs You've Hired the Wrong Interior Decorator
  • The Top 16 Signs You've Had Too Much to Drink


  • Guest Review: Farenheit 9/11
  • Guest Review: I'm Not Scared
  • Guest Review: The Terminal
  • White Chicks


  • Cron news, Malchman On Poker with Cheney, Bill's Diary, the Dan Grobstein File

General News


A friend wrote me last week to note that some things never change, and she was, of course right, But as I responded:

"On the one hand, the only constant is change. On the other hand, you're right. Nothing changes. History repeats itself, the first time as farce, the second time as tragedy."

One nice change: I don't have to get up and go to school every day. And I will be a half-time teacher next year.

Marlow from China

Marlow's in China. Here's what she's up to:

My literature class went a little better than I'd expected. My two-on-one tone drill class went about as badly as I'd expected it would, but I have to assume that will get better. My one-on-one professor went over the history of Sino-Korean relations with me today, and luckily its all stuff I already learned, because I didn't understand 1/10th of what he said. Sometimes he'd throw in some English if I looked particularly lost, but I just find that frustrating too, I'd rather he just use more simple Chinese vocab, especially because his English is often heavily accented or a little funny, so I still have to think really hard to figure out what he is saying. I talked with Elliott, the director, about it a little in the afternoon, and he told me not to worry, as my listening comprehension goes up I'll understand more. This teacher has taught in this program before, and he did seem to realize I wasn't understanding him. He compared me with himself when he was studying in Japan and had an American professor who lectured in English. He does seem plenty smart, and this is his area focus. We're going to finish up history on Friday, then move to topics like "cultural relationship", "21st century relations", nuclear crisis, etc. I do hope it gets easier to understand him because these are all things I'd like to know more about. Oh, also he uses three or four different names for Korea and China. It would be hard enough if he just used the one common names for each (Zhongguo and Hanguo), but he prefers to be historically accurate and use their name as they were called at the time he's talking about. This should be less of a problem when we get to post-1949 relations, which should be the majority of the class.

Yeah, I'm tired and often hungry because I haven't figured out my schedule here yet. It is a little too hot during the day, but in the evenings it cools off to a reasonable Cali kind of weather.

Political Notes

If you don't follow one other link this week, go see how Wonkette translates Paul Wolfowitz's letter of apology to journalists:

Thursdays with Wolfie: Smallest Violin Edition


This from Craig Reynolds:

Senior intel officer: Al Qaeda will attack US to ensure Bush win
Christian Science Monitor
His new book, others, also highlight intelligence, administration failures in war on terror.
by Tom Regan


FCC Fines Dick Cheney $250,000 For Using The "F" Word In The Senate Floor (


Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Baghdad Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, wrote an informative three part series about Iraq ("Mistakes Loom Large as Handover Nears on June 20, 2004; "An Educator Learns the HardWay" on June 21, 2004; and "Death Stalks An Experiment In Democracy" on June 22, 2004) in The Post. In the event the accompanying graphics are not available on-line, among the more interesting graphics were: a. a pie chart showing that 92% of surveyed Iraqis view the "coalition" forces as Occupiers and 2% view the forces as Liberators ; and b. a chart showing significant insurgent activities (explosives, car bombs, mortars and rocket propelled grenades) per day in May, 2004 over 50 which is close to the all-time of about 60 (reached in early April, 2004) both of which exceed the previous high of about 40 reached in November,2003, when U.S. forces were suffering high levels of casualties.

Seymour Hersh has an interesting article ("Plan B") in The New Yorker of June 28, 2004 (The (unsurprising) bottom line is that the Administration has no Plan B if the June 30 transition to alleged Iraqi sovereignty fails and is merely hoping to limp through the November election. The article also reports that new Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi has questionable credentials as a doctor and (after helping Saddam Hussein gain power) was an intelligence operative and a director of assassinations for Hussein.


Overlooked in the brouhaha fully and accurately reported only by The Washington Post over Dick Cheney telling a patriotic American (Sen. Patrick Leahy and by extension all of his constituents) to "F*** yourself" on the floor of the senate was the cause for Cheney's divisive, uncompassionate, and uncivil comment. Cheney, who was supposed to have no further financial interest in (or ties to) Halliburton (despite continuing to receive about $150,000 a year from the alleged war profiteer) responded to a gracious greeting from Leahy by protesting too much about Leahy's comments about Halliburton's alleged war profiteering. If Cheney really had no further interest in Halliburton, why should Cheney care what anyone said about Halliburton? In an effort to restore civility, compassion, and inter-faith religious understanding to Washington discourse, Leahy (a Catholic) also noted that he and other Catholics had been attacked by Cheney's colleagues for being anti-Catholic. It was at that point that Cheney following long-standing Republican family values policy (as exemplified by recently withdrawn Republican Illinois U.S. Senate nominee Jack Ryan and the late Vice President Nelson Rockefeller) encouraged and directed Leahy (using an imperative verb form) to have sex in public (in this case in the U.S. Senate chamber). It should be noted that while Cheney has not apologized as of this writing. When Nelson Rockefeller (who extended his middle finger to some of his fellow citizens during the 1976 campaign) was asked whether his extended middle finger accurately reflected his attitude toward all of his fellow citizens Rockefeller at least said the entire incident was unfortunate.

The journalism buffs in the audience will note that The New York Times failed to report accurately on Cheney's comments by reporting only an undefined and unquoted Cheney expletive. Shades of the 11-letter barnyard epithet the Times coyly reported during the Chicago 7 trial [sending many of us to the dictionary].

Thus the Times left its readers as uninformed about what a purported candidate for high public office actually said about a matter of critical public importance in a very public forum (the floor of the U.S. Senate) as these same readers were about purported WMD in Iraq. Given presumptive Republican Presidential nominee George Bush's purported interest in restoring civility and dignity to American public life, it remains to be seen whether Bush will chose to offer Cheney a spot on the ticket given Cheney's rejection of what Bush says are Bush's core values.

Computer Industry News

Gary Reback, whom I learned to trust and respect during the various Microsoft antitrust actions is writing a daily blog of the DOJ vs. Oracle antitrust trial.

How the mighty have fallen; Comdex is no more.

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Another stupid law from Big Media: the Inducing of Copyright Infringement Act is based on the idea that its not enough to outlaw copyright infringement, we must also have laws against the ill-defined act of inducing copyright infringement. Say by manufacturing a device like iPod. This territory was covered in 1984 in the so-called Betamax decision, which said that VCRs are OK, despite their potential use for copyright infringement, because they have substantial non-infringing uses. The Induce Act says that isn't good enough anymore. So, no more VCRs, DVRs or photocopiers? Geez! Worse there is already bipartisan support for this nosebleed of a bill. File-Trading Bill Stokes Fury, Bill to Curb Online Piracy Is Challenged as Too Broad, Senate bill bans P2P networks. On the positive side, a Setback for Big Media: the U.S. Court of Appeals slaps down a goofy FCC plan for even more media consolidation, pleasing an odd-bedfellows collection of opponents.

The traditional berating of Microsoft: a Microsoft-savvy (MCSE) software engineer explains Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer. (Speaking of bugs and lack of standards compliance, I recently discovered that a new page of mine provokes a CSS bug in IE.) Yet more skulduggery from Microsoft exposed: Halloween XI: Get The FUD. Joel Spolsky explains How Microsoft Lost the API War. Meanwhile in Europe Microsoft Critic Asks for Voice in Court Decision.

Mathematical origami: the NY Times ran an nice profile of the amazing curve-based paper folding of the late David A. Huffman: Cones, Curves, Shells, Towers: He Made Paper Jump to Life. Yet it didn't even mention that this was the person who, as an MIT student, invented what is now known as Huffman coding: a core technology of most data compression applications. As I dug (well, Googled) into this topic I was reminded of a page about Huffman's paper folding at PaulHaeberli's pioneering 1994 website GRAFICA Obscura. See this 1991 profile of Huffman from Scientific American. And just for kicks, debunk that old myth: How to Fold Paper in Half Twelve Times. Speaking of pioneers passing on: Bob Bemer, "the father of ASCII" died this week.

Technobits: more TSA lies --- Net-Savvy Campaign Boosts Bush --- GIF is free!: LZW patent expires --- hot xbox2 (Xenon) rumors --- new smaller fuel cell --- QuickTime with H.264 --- robot body parts: The Humanoid Race --- tracking popularity of Yahoo's images.


The Top 16 Signs You've Hired the Wrong Interior Decorator

June 21, 2004

16> He shows up wearing tights and a beach-towel cape and shouts, "This is a job for Decoratorman!"

15> His stated intent to "Graceland this place up" is a little worrisome.

14> Suggests trying a scheme that's color-coordinated with your gastro-intestinal tract.

13> It turns out the only thing he has in common with Martha Stewart is a felony conviction.

12> Her default solution to any wall-covering situation? Clay Aiken posters.

11> Keeps trying to convince you of the decorative power of Quaker Rolled Oats.

10> Asks if you wouldn't mind storing some corpses for him in your basement "until the heat dies down."

9> Suggests you sell your kids "since they keep messing the place up."

8> As you enter your house for the first time, Tom Bodett and some guy with a violin are serenading you.

7> Her preferred living room fabric? Ham.

6> It's not really important to you that the carpet match both the cat AND your toupee.

5> You ask for a "country" decor; he gives you post-Nazi Poland.

4> Every single room is the same: aqua on one wall, orange on another and Dan Marino's face looking down from the ceiling.

3> "I call this look 'Abu Ghracious Living.'"

2> You're not sure exactly what's involved in a "Chuck Berry- style" bathroom, but it can't be good.

and's Number 1 Sign You've Hired the Wrong Interior Decorator...

1> Thanks to Escher & Sons, you can no longer find your bathroom.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 129 submissions from 47 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Michael Cunningham, Woodridge, IL -- 1
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 6

The Top 16 Signs You've Had Too Much to Drink

A three-way tie for fourth is a form of winning, right?

June 25, 2004

16> The pants you just wet are not your own.

15> Her lips may be saying, "Baaaaa," but her eyes are screaming, "YES!"


13> Well, five boilermakers ago you would have qualified as an English soccer fan.

12> You just woke up next to a teddy bear you don't recognize, with its paws in an inappropriate location.

11> You wake up and realize you slept with a dog. A REAL dog.

10> The ATF suggests that you take up smoking instead.

9> You have vomit on your jacket. It's not yours, but there it is, nevertheless.

8> Your bed spins at 33 rpm.

7> Your liver is trying to dial 9-1-1.

6> You wake up naked in a strange car, clutching a keg tap and sporting fresh ink on your nether regions. Not that I'd know.

5> John Kerry's starting to sound like he's taking a position on something.

4> In a sudden moment of clarity, Bush's foreign policy strikes you as shrewd and effective.

3> You see pink elephants... and get them to give you a ride home.

2> You squish when you blink.

and's Number 1 Sign You've Had Too Much to Drink...

1> You are seriously considering voting for Ralph Nader.


[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 116 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brad Wilkerson, Mesa, AZ -- 1, 3 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
Larry Hollister, Concord, CA -- 4, RU name (Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4
Mark Weiss, Austin, TX -- 4


Guest Review: Farenheit 9/11

Michael Moore is an audacious and compelling activist filmmaker. There is little confusion about where he stands on the issues he tackles in his films, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is no exception. Here he presents a damning picture of Presidential ineptitude, incompetence, and sheer ignorance, interweaving conspiracy theories involving Big Business and the Saudis, and portrays the human cost of the American-led war in Iraq. His aggressiveness with his film's subjects, while muted from the Heston-baiting of Bowling for Columbine, remains in full display, and he reprises his clever use of animation, sound, and television and film clips. The entire picture he creates is entirely persuasive - at least to those who already agree with his point of view. If you are in Moore's camp, Fahrenheit 9/11 is enormously entertaining and delectable in its skewering of a stolen election, imbecilic President, and contemptible Administration. While there are moments in the film where you may feel manipulated, you tend to chock it up to "making the point." Those on the other end of the spectrum will find it predictably dishonest and loathsome. Will it move someone in between the extremes? One can only hope.

--Neal Vitale

Also, comments, not really a formal guest review, from Dan Grobstein:

Some scenes need more fleshing out, more information. Like Richard Clarke's and Craig Unger's comments. But I guess I would have done a 4 or 5 hour movie. The Iraq war stuff basically just plays and you get his point without Moore having to help you. I could have done without the bit where Moore rides around the Capitol in an ice cream truck reading the USA Patriot Act, but I guess you have to let Moore be Moore.

I'm aware of the controversy in Bowling for Columbine where Moore took parts of Charlton Heston's speeches from different times and put them all together to make a point. But Moore is trying to make a point in his films and I don't think that there are any "untruths" in the three that I've seen. He may stretch it a little and may be a little flamboyant, but his premise is basically correct. I think he was much more careful in Fahrenheit because he knows how important it is to get the message out that Bush must lose the 2004 election or the country and the world are in great danger. He was definitely preaching to the converted at the show that I went to.

Guest Review: I'm Not Scared

I'm Not Scared (Io Non Ho Paura) is set in the Calabrian countryside in 1978, and follows ten-year-old Michele Amitrano (nicely played by Giuseppe Cristiano) as he stumbles into a kidnapping plot involving his father. It is a tightly crafted film with a jolting conclusion. The storyline is well-paced and evocative, touching on themes of retribution, atonement, and compassion. Exceptionally beautiful camera work and lovely visual textures also distinguish I'm Not Scared. In the wasteland of early summer film-going, this Italian film by Gabriele Salvatores (director of 1992's Mediterraneo) is an intriguing option to the blockbuster wannabees.

--Neal Vitale

Guest Review: The Terminal

Steven Spielberg has made another of his entertaining, enjoyable films - not too challenging, sentimental in all the right ways, mildly thought-provoking. The Terminal features Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorvski, an Eastern European immigrant who is stranded at JFK when his homeland's political travails render his passport and visa - and therefore Navorski himself - "unacceptable" to the United States. Hanks is wonderful in the role, using body language and impeccable comedic timing to great advantage. He is aided by a polyglot band of airport workers (especially Kumar Pallana as a cantankerous janitor) in his battle with the authorities (Stanley Tucci as a lifer with Customs and Immigration). The film's set also deserves note. The spectacular terminal meant to be a new United facility in New York - and which is featured prominently in virtually every scene - was in fact built from scratch in an old Boeing hangar in California. The Terminal goes on a bit long for such a featherweight story, clocking over two hours, but the trip is not demanding and the passage is diverting.

--Neal Vitale

White Chicks

Years ago, my mother warned me that most serious reviewers are incapable of producing a reasonable review of a film intended strictly for entertainment. Well, a whole dogpile of Wayans brothers have put together a film that had me laughing out loud, despite the presence of fart jokes (which I hate), a totally implausible, tissue-thin plot, a bunch of odd storytelling cul-de-sacs and implausibility out the wazzoo. Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln? Well, frankly, I laughed out loud. About a dozen times. This film was trashed by nearly every reviewer in America, and rates a 2.6 out of 10 on IMDB. And yet, still, I liked it.

By the way, five hours a day in the makeup chair. Rather longer than shown in the film, which suggests the two Wayans brothers we actually see in drag can make the change in 10 minutes flat. It is true what one reviewer said though: those blue eyes are weird.

Rated PG-13 for crude (and how) and sexual (not very) humor, [bad] language and some drug content [very little].


Cron news, Malchman On Poker with Cheney, Bill's Diary, the Dan Grobstein File

Ken Cron career news: Cron leaves Vivendi Games, and his successor lays off 40% of the staff to cut costs. (note, too, that the new CEO is named Hack. You can not make this stuff up).

Robert Malchman proves parody and satire are not dead with a link to this poker game with Dick Cheney. He also passes along a link from a friend about the long arm of the law.

In the spirit of that old National Lampoon feature, Mrs. Agnew's Diary, here's "Bill Clinton's" "blog."

Dan Grobstein File

The GOP makes a big deal out of Kerry's wealth. Guess what? Bush is a rich Yalie too!

From Mission Unaccomplished.

New York Times

Krugman doesn't mention the fact that Ashcroft refused to meet with the abortion clinic people at the time of the anthrax mail scare. They have a lot of experience dealing with this stuff and he wasn't interested. There have not been any arrests either.

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