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

July 5, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

July 5, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 26

Table of Contents:

General News

  • On Being A Teacher
  • Groundhog Day
  • Auto-Google
  • Marlow from China
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
  • Gmail


  • None


  • Fahrenheit 9/11
  • Guest Review: Spiderman 2


  • Reynolds On Dropping Standards, Coquet On An Inadvertant Pun, The Dan Grobstein File

General News

Hey, I'm a liberal and I love America! Happy Fourth of July!

On Being A Teacher

I have been struggling to express these thoughts in this column for month. My teacher friend Kent Peterman managed to say it for me:

Congratulations on surviving a year of teaching. Not the snap job it seems to those outsiders is it? I have a psychologist friend who read a study about job stress. Air traffic controller is number one. Number two is teaching. You're not surprised I'm sure. I sympathize with you and with the complicated relationship one has with teaching. The highs are incredibly high. But it is exhausting. I relate oh so well to the countdown of days. It's not that you don't love what you do. You do. It's just so intense you're waiting for that break. An interim when your whole life and soul is not consumed by teaching.

I feel your pain about the recipients of your kvetching as well. Outsiders, civilians, etc. don't understand the angst or the need to unburden. You are not a whining sniveler. You have a need to share the incredible burden of teaching. It is mentally and physically exhausting. I have been doing it for 39 years and I still get totally wiped at the beginning of school and at other times in the year. They are not calloused people. They just don't understand. Early in our relationship, before my wife became more enlightened, she once said to me. "The beginning of school must be an easy low key time for you." To my credit I didn't shoot her and did marry her. But now she understands and is great about monitoring our social life for the first six weeks of school. One of our teachers is married to a middle school teacher. When she started teaching (long after he did) I was her mentor. One day in week two of school she came to me and said that she had been a rotten wife. I asked her why she thought so. She said that she had never understood why her husband was tired at the beginning of school. Now she did.

So carry on my friend. The rewards are there. They are great.

Take care of yourself. When they said to put your heart and soul into the job they didn't mean it literally.

Enjoy the well deserved summer. Relax. Read. Sleep. Don't feel guilty. You deserve it.

Your colleague (gosh that sounds good...I'm so glad you're a teacher),


By the way, on a similar subject: shame on me. I just took a State of California survey on the value of my teacher credential program. I learned a lot, especially from my supervisor and both my master teachers, as well as the classroom observation I did. Perhaps it was because I was already 50 years old when I started the credential program. Or maybe it was because I teach in a middle school in which, out of 180 students, there were two English Language Learners. Regardless, some of the material I mastered in the credential program was a pointless waste of time. At one point, that question was literally asked: was your credential program a waste of time. Well, parts of it were and parts of it weren't. Anyway, I didn't tell the truth.

The people who taught me worked hard. The school that runs my credential program does an overall excellent job, within the constraints of idiocy mandated by the state of California. I was not going to get it in trouble by telling the truth. It wasn't the fault of the college or its credential program. It is the fault of the fatuous fatheads who have never taught in a middle-school classroom, setting their absurd content standards and their "jump through the hoops" credential program that insures that almost no one in the right mind will make a mid-career switch into teaching.

Don't get me wrong. Prior to October 2001, when I began my journey into the classroom, I thought teacher credentialling was stupid and that we should simply invite content experts into the classroom. Well, as one of my wise master teachers once said, "Yes, you can write. But can you teach someone else to write?" The jury is still out on her question, but even in science and math, where the need for teachers is desperate, I am not at all sure that a sparkling résumé insures the ability to impart information to students. You do need pedagogy and classroom management skills. If only those were the areas upon which teacher education concentrated.

Craig Reynolds asks:

Is "Teach for America" a good thing (or some kind of evil plot)?
New ideas in teaching yield dramatic results (USA Today editorial)

My answer: it is a good thing to bring fresh blood into the classroom, but this editorial makes a common mistake. Ignorance of good teaching methods is not, trust me, an advantage for teachers.

Groundhog Day

Did I mention that Groundhog Day is my favorite movie? Or that I maintain an extensive fan site devoted to the movie? I have made good use of the time freed up by summer vacation; the site now includes the Groundhog Day section of The New Yorker's Howard Ramis profile, as well as the Groundhog Day essay from Stephen Simon's book The Force Is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives. If you don't know much about the Buddhist nature of the film, do stop by and visit.


I Google myself now and then to see what the net's saying about me. Of course, while my name is uncommon, it is not unique. Even if I filter out the Long Island gay journalist, Madonna's attorney, the radical Ohio priest and the Chief Technology Officer of a Schindlertech, there are still 1,600 pages which mention my name (most of them from or my college years at The Tech. Still, I do find an interesting reference now and then:

Marlow from China

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

Yesterday night we had our first PE class. We played basketball with some Chinese students. I rocked. There was one other American guy who kind of knew how to play, and the Chinese students weren't half bad, but everyone else appeared to be pretty new to the sport. The PE teacher complimented me at the end, and when I told him I'd played rugby in college he asked if I'd been on scholarship, because obviously I was good at that too.


Two weeks down. The second week actually was much easier than the first week. I'm starting to get the hang of this speaking Chinese thing. I also am starting to have more of a regular schedule. I'm still tired all the time, and I'm still studying all the time, but I feel slightly less like death. I'm worried I'm losing some of my English, but what the hell, I had a lot to start with, I guess I can afford to shave off some in the name of Mandarin.

Last night, Friday here, we all, well maybe slightly over half of us, decided to go out together. First we went to a local student bar, Sunny's. Sunny's is weird because it is actually on campus, and is supposed to be geared towards foreigners, which I guess isn't that weird, because Chinese students don't really drink, so if you're going to have a bar on campus, I guess it would have to be geared towards expat students. After awhile there we decided to go to an actual club. So we went to David's. The customers were predominantly Chinese, but between us and the Russians, half the clientele was white. I got to see what I heard about last week from other students who went to "Blue Kiss", the infamous Russian floorshow. Apparently a club isn't a club in Harbin without three Russian girls and a guy in spangles and sequins doing a little dance. And in fact, it might have been the same performers as the other students had seen before. Weird. There was also a Russian singer, then it went back to dancing. The music ranged from MC Hammer to Russian pop. It was fun, but also pretty weird...

And I got an A+ on a story I wrote for my literature class describing what might happen if the characters met again 10 years later.

Political Notes

Craig Reynolds notes:

Have you been following the McCain-Feingold v Fahrenheit 9/11 flap?:

It's campaign reform vs. free speech

Should the FEC ban ads for Fahrenheit 9/11?

Through the McCain-Feingold Looking Glass


I believe I have pointed to the Cost of War website before, but it not, go have a look. Scary.


I have been waiting for the perfect riposte to Cheney's foul-mouthed outburst. I am sure Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman will weight in. But in the meantime, Maureen Dowd, about whom, frankly, I've had serious doubts over the years, continues her recent hot streak. There is an advantage to having a Washington reporter who always rips the president, regardless of party, when you despise the resident of the oval office: Are They Losing It?


Heaven help me, I am falling in love with the Wonkette blog. Here are two recent funny items.

1. Really, no sooner can you say "slow news day" and Drudge comes to the rescue: VICE PRESIDENT HILLARY; SPECULATION INTENSIFIES IN WASHINGTON

[Please imagine the 70 point type and siren.]

In equally reliable news, we hear:


A popular choice among third graders, the entire press corps will be rocked when Bush taps St. Nick, the jolly judge of character beloved by all, to replace the increasingly controversial Dick Cheney. "All signs point in his direction," says one of the most influential and well-placed third graders. While initially put off by citizenship issues, the administration decided to go with the nation's largest elf employer after learning he maintains a legal residence in Florida.

2. Drudge may have the inside scoop on the Vice President Hillary story, but we've been making a list and checking it twice -- The Bush-Santa Claus ticket has a much better chance of actually happening.

Official Washington has fallen in love with the idea, says a well-placed elementary school student. And while some claim to have spotted Kris Kringle leaving the Clarendon headquarters of BC04 early this morning, the campaign continues to deny that they will bump Cheney to pursue what one analyst calls a "very Northern strategy," and another simply dismissed as "polarizing."

St. Nick's connections to the birthday of Bush mentor Jesus Christ would seem to put Claus on good footing with evangelical groups, yet some close to the campaign worry that when it comes to politics, he wobbles like a bowl full of jelly. ("Like he really holds people to this naughty/nice thing. When's the last time someone actually got a lump of coal in their stocking?" snipes a consultant.) Others say his party affiliations are dubious. Kringle campaigned vigorously to eliminate the estate tax and has given generously to GOP causes; still, a White House insider says that deep down, "I always figured he was a lib -- with his giving ways, his environmentally sound transportation, his hippy beard, and bright red clothing." But, as another source said, "It still makes more sense than McCain."

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Konfabulator v Dashboard: at Apple's WWDC Steve Jobs previewed Tiger (Mac OS X.4). One of the new features is called Dashboard. The first reaction of many in the audience was "oh, did Apple purchase Konfabulator?" So similar in concept and appearance was Dashboard to the popular Konfabulator that many felt Apple had ripped off one of their loyal developers. Was Apple adopting Microsoft's evil "Embrace, Extend, Eliminate" strategy? (The Konfabulator web site says "Cupertino, start your photocopiers!" a take off on Apple's WWDC slogan "Redmond, start your photocopiers!") MacCentral wrote: Konfabulator, Dashboard controversy flows out of WWDC, TNL discussed it in OSX 10.4 preview: hits and misses. Not so fast! says John Gruber of Daring Fireball, a superficial similarity does not a rip off make!. He makes a good case that the conceptual ancestor of Dashboard is the 1981 concept of a desk accessory in the original Mac OS. Yet it is hard to imagine that there was never a conversation at Apple like "Konfabulator is a cool concept, lets reimplement it the Right Way..." I would have liked Apple to offer to buy the "rights" to Konfabulator for a modest sum even if they never planned to look at the code, just to acknowledge and reward the Konfabulator team.

Poor old IE: you hate to see a hardworking and humble group like the developers of Microsoft's Internet Explorer catching flack for all the bugs, security holes, and lack of standards compliance that they have foisted on the 95% of computer users who are their victims. After all, its not like they have a monopoly on browser software, or work at a company with almost unlimited cash reserves. Oh, wait a minute, it is like that. So why the hell can't they fix the buggiest browser in the world? As I mentioned last week, even Microsoft fans are writing articles like Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer. Then this week comes news that US-CERT (now affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security) officially Warns Against Internet Explorer -- if not for the sake of your own hard drive, at least dump IE in the name of national security! There was another "I'm not a Linux geek, but still think you should dump IE" article Are the Browser Wars Back?. Wired chimed in with: Mozilla Feeds on Rival's Woes. (BTW: I've been a happy Mozilla user since 2001. But then, I am a Mac/Linux geek.)

Speaking of the Evil Empire: the boys in Redmond are trying to use lawsuits to silence critics in foreign governments: Microsoft unit accuses Brazilian official of defamation, Microsoft lawyers try to silence a critic, that's a mistake, Chilling Effects and the local ordinance we call the first amendment.

IQlight: its all my wife's fault. She forced me to watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and now I'm addicted. On a recent episode I saw a cool lamp and just had to track it down. Its the perfect light fixture for the geometry geek in your life.

Retro tech: Wired ran an article about retro tech: To Be Cool, Tech Taps the Past but manged to miss an especially cool example of the trend, the Rolleiflex MiniDigi, a lovingly crafted reproduction of the classic Rolleiflex 6x6cm twin lens reflex.

Technobits: EFF Publishes Patent Hit List --- Two Indicted in Bio-Art Case --- Appeals court backs Microsoft-DOJ antitrust settlement --- is Google's Orkut based on "borrowed" code? --- OSS .NET implementation Mono 1.0 released --- Apple's Rendezvous comes to Windows, Linux, Java --- sneaky primates, big brains --- Space Elevator: Momentum Building --- Better Science Through Gaming.


The deal is, Google offers great free email, but it is going to automatically "read" your incoming mail and offer links--sometimes paid links--it thinks are relevant. Tom Armstrong, a friend and contributor to my Groundhog Day, The Movie web site, was reading an email from me about the site:

Gmail is very weird. While I was reading your mail, I see there's an ad-like thing off to the side. It reads as follows ...

Related Pages Groundhog Day Script Writer Danny Rubin: Groundhog Day The Movie ... Paul Schindler's weekly self-published column commenting on current ...

It's a "Related Pages" link, which can be either a paid ad, or just something the google megacomputer pulled down off the shelf. It is strange having google toss in ads/stuff relating to what's written in the email you are reading. It feels like John Ashcroft, Phillip Dick and George Orwell are peering over my shoulder.




Farenheit 9/11

I don't have a lot to add to the two guest reviews which appeared here last week, except to say there was one hell of a crowd at a 2pm showing on a Tuesday. Alas, Moore is preaching to the converted, but at least he's getting them fired up; if Gore had just held his base, he'd have won. If people really are as mad as hell and refuse to take in anymore, Bush is a one-termer, and that's what I'm hoping for. Just like John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Guest Review: Spiderman 2

Lots of confessions before starting this review. Growing up, I was a DC Comics guy, so I never read Spider-Man. I'm not a huge fan of the "bigger, louder" school of summer-film-making. I feel that sequels rarely improve on the originals. And I thought Spider-Man was passable, but not much more. With all that said, Spider-Man 2 does improve on its predecessor across the board, and is good, solid, popular entertainment. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) continues to wrestle with the choices in his life, and Spider-Man 2 nicely develops the complexity of his character and his relationships with friends and family. Visually and aurally, the film is arresting - there are superb special effects and action sequences, and there is a wonderful comic book gloss to everything from Spider-Man's costume (which prompts one of the film's better laughs, an elevator encounter with "Queer As Folks" actor Hal Sparks) to villain Doctor Octopus' laboratory and apparatuses. If you are looking for two hours of mainstream summer fun, Spider-Man 2 is a good choice.

--Neal Vitale

By the way, I started out reading DC from 1958-1961, but once the first issue of the Fantastic Four came out, I was hooked on Stan Lee's vision of superheroes with very human problems. So when Lee and Johnny Romita invented Spiderman in 1962, I was there; for years, I owned issue No. 1. I was unimpressed with the first movie; maybe, as Neal suggests, the second is better. I think the comic books were right about the webbing though--it came from cartridges Peter rigged up rather than right out of his wrist. On the other hand, the movies now have him unable to sling webs if he is nervous or distracted, and that's not a bad gimmick. I saw it. I liked it. Neal expressed my feelings quite well.


Reynolds On Dropping Standards, Coquet On An Inadvertant Pun, The Dan Grobstein File

Allow me, courtesy of Craig Reynolds, to join the 14,000 or so web pages that either reprint or point to this test. We'll start with Craig's comment:

Ouch! I'd still be held back, repeating 8th grade.

Now, as is frequently the case, has a few words on the Salina 8th Grade Test of 1895. Not the usual "it never existed," but rather a thoughtful essay which suggests "it doesn't tell us what you think it does about deteriorating school standards."

I should mention in passing that I have a fairly firm policy in my 8th grade U.S. History class; if I can't remember it without reading the textbook, I don't test on it. I figure only things that have stuck in my memory are worth knowing. Alas, this isn't a lot of help for my students, as I have an unusually retentive memory.

Peggy Coquet writes:

I was catching up on my reading, and was nearly at the end of your June 21 column when I found the Harry Potter review and this line:

... the new director, Alfonso Cuarón, had the courage both to step into Chris Columbus' shoes (no small feat) ...

I'm giggling here ... I know it was inadvertent, but still ... thanks.

I don't know if he has big feet or not, really.

Dan Grobstein File:

  • Steve Gilliard, one of my favorite bloggers had a good line the other day: "Freedom's just another word for no public services." [ed. note: Robert Reich suggests that everytime someone says "cut taxes," you convert that to "cut services" and see how popular it is.]

New York Times

Let's say the obvious. By making Iraq a playground for right-wing economic theorists, an employment agency for friends and family, and a source of lucrative contracts for corporate donors, the administration did terrorist recruiters a very big favor.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.

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