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

September 6, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

September, 6 2004 Vol. 6, No. 35

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Getting So Much Better
  • Marlow in The Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Uncovered: The War on Iraq
  • Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism
  • Vanity Fair


  • Dan Grobstein File

General News

Getting So Much Better

I've been trying a lot of things to get over my variety of health ills--really, everything except what I have to do, which is lose 100 pounds (I've finally lost 5, and that's a start). Anyway, I am seeing a homoepathist (mostly for allergies), and a nutritionist, and a cardiac doctor, and I am taking a night class in mindfulness. Plus, I cut my work schedule back to half time. I don't know which of these things is doing the trick--perhaps all of them had to work together. All I know is that the nutritionist tested my blood Saturday morning and for the first time in a year--I'm in balance! No bad pH, no toxins, no signs of stress in my adrenals or kidneys or liver. In fact, the results were so good they brought a tear to her eye. All I know for sure is that I feel better than I have since before I started teaching. I am relaxed, sleeping well, and controlling my appetite. I know this is good for me and my students both. I am not snapping at my students; a calmer me in the classroom is a better teacher, I am sure.

ALSO: I made quite a discovery in the classroom last week, which dovetailed with something I have known for years. People remember songs better than prose. The Animaniacs cartoon series used to do educational songs. One of them was all the state capitals. I played the song for my class, several of whom had heard it in 5th grade. Three of the students told me they got 100% on the state capitals test because they remembered the song.

This reminded me of something I discovered last year when I looked up Battle of New Orleans: "In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Col. Jackson down the mighty Mississip." It was a hit folk song in 1959, but I discovered while searching for it that it has been written by Jimmy Driftwood, a high school principal and history teacher who loved to sing, play instruments and write songs, who wrote many other historical songs.

Well, Wacko's state capital song, and "New Orleans" and Garrison Keillor's song about the Minnesota State Fair convinced me I should write a historical song for my class. To the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, here it is:

The Aztec, Inca, Maya Song
(To the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic)

The Aztec lived in Mexico: TEN-och-tit-lan Lake.
Religion told them they could steal the crops that they could take.
The guns and bugs of Cortez were much more than they could take, in 1532.

Aztec, Inca and Maya, you can learn them if you try-a
Don't just heave a great big sigh-a, Just learn to sing this song

The Maya built their pyramids, they're quite a sight to see.
In Central America they ruled from sea to sea.
We don't know just what happened, it remains a mystery from 900 A.D.

Did the slaves and farmers riot? Poor soil could not support their diet?
We know it just got really quiet when the Mayans disappeared

The Inca lived down south in the mountains by the sea.
They did terraces for farming and built stone-paved roads you see.
At Machu Picchu Incans felt religion come to be.
And Pizzaro killed them all

Aztec, Inca and Maya, you can learn them if you try-a
Don't just heave a great big sigh-a, Just learn to sing this song

The Mayans did a calendar based on astronomy.
Incans ran the biggest empire known to you and me.
The Maya and the Aztec they did things religiously
And that just ends this song.

Marlow in The Netherlands

Marlow is in The Netherlands right now, at Leiden University, working on her degree in International Relations. Here's what's new from her:

This place is really absurdly adorable. On Friday I had a bunch of people over to ny place before the "International party" and we discovered while sitting in the courtyard that I have my own petting zoo. There are ducks, two humongous rabbits, doves/pigeons (not sure), a talking pigeon, and a fishpond. Man those rabbits are big. The courtyard is especially nice in the early evening when the sunlight is indirect but still pretty bright.

We went to a quieter bar and then to De Burgt (or Burcht) which is the castle in the middle of the city that used to mark the entrance to Leiden where traders and visitors had to pay an entrance tax. The castle is on a little artificial hill that is the tallest point in Leiden. The nearby pub is classy and probably pretty old as well and is supposed to be a gathering place for the intelligentsia and Leiden faculty, but since it stays later than any other bar in town, it starts to fill up with students as it gets later.

Political Notes

Horses all over America found it difficult to sit, due to the inordinate convergence of their back ends in New York City. And, by the way, Al Jazeera devoted more prime time to convention coverage than ABC, CBS and NBC, which, thanks to a GOP Federal Communications Commission no longer feel the slightest obligation to perform in the public interest at any time.


This is the single finest graphic I have ever seen in any newspaper anywhere, by the New York Times on word usage at the conventions. Draw your own conclusions.


It's been clear for a long time that during George W. Bush's National Guard service there were no successful air attacks on Texas by the North Vietnamese. However, while this news has so far eluded most of the national news "Big Feet" allegedly "working" on the staff of The New York Times, Frank Rich managed to get the observation (as part of a much longer must read piece about the fraud Karen Hughes and Bush have perpetrated since at least 1999) on the front page of the Arts and Leisure Section of The New York Times for Sept. 5, 2004 (How Kerry Became A Girlie-Man). Excerpt:

"Only in an election year ruled by fiction could a sissy who used Daddy's connections to escape Vietnam turn an actual war hero into a girlie-man . . . It's a marvel, really. Even a $10,000 reward offered this year by Garry Trudeau couldn't smoke out a credible eyewitness to support George W. Bush's contention that he showed up to defend Alabama against the Viet Cong in 1972."


Dan Grobstein noticed the same thing I did (particularly egregious in Cheney's speech, although Bush did it too...

It's like they take all of their weaknesses, tell everybody that those are the Democrat's weaknesses and then when the Democrats try to bring up the Republican's weaknesses, nobody is interested because it's old news.


From the Atrios blog (a GREAT political blog):

Wow, I never thought Zell would be able to improve on the original German version of Pat Buchanan's '92 speech, but he did.


Columbus swift boat vet angry about letter. Thank you Craig Reynolds. Also: Justice Department Censors Supreme Court Quote. Thank God this particular piece of lunacy was exposed.


My friend Clark Smith taught me something about poker long ago that reminds me of the challenge Bush faced in his acceptance speech Thursday night. Clark used to say, "If you can't imagine any card that can improve your hand, don't play." Alas, for Bush, that wasn't an option. But I truly can't imagine a card he could play that would improve his hand.


I hate doing long blog excerpts, but this one is great. Frankly, it is wonderful to see the GOP's relentless lie and propaganda machine get its comeuppance. There is some cursing in this excerpt:

GOoPers abandon Zell to the wolves by kos
Fri Sep 3rd, 2004 at 02:43:12 GMT

Funny. They're cutting Zell loose. After gauging the harsh reaction from Democrats and Republicans alike to Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address at the Republican National Convention, the Bush campaign - led by the first lady - backed away Thursday from Miller's savage attack on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, insisting that the estranged Democrat was speaking only for himself.

Late Thursday, Miller's name was removed from the list of dignitaries who would be sitting in the first family's box during the president's acceptance speech later in the evening. No explanation was immediately offered, but the change was made only a few hours after Laura Bush, asked about Miller's deeply personal denunciation of his own party's nominee, said in an interview with NBC News that "I don't know that we share that point of view."

Aides to President Bush and his campaign said Miller was not speaking for all Republicans.

LOL. All those smug fucks, bragging about bagging a Democrat as their keynote speaker, can't run far enough in the other direction. They welcomed him with open arms. He's theirs. We're not taking him back.

On the other hand, we like our keynote speaker. Ours -- Barack Obama -- represents the future of this country. Zell was the past. They can have the past.

Update: As pointed out in the comments -- remember how Dick said, "I'm glad Zell Miller is on our side"? He was more than happy to embrace Zell when taking the stage after him.

But at the first whiff of trouble, the first whiff that Rove's pre-speech vetting went awry, they cut him lose. Cowards.

Be sure to read his comments on Kerry's midnight Ohio rally as well. Is Zell Miller the Evil Emperor from Star Wars?


Bob Nilsson writes:

An interesting analogy between W and a corporate CEO from the weblog of Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan.

"Let us imagine you had a corporation with annual gross revenues of about $2 trillion. And let's say that in 2000, it had profits of $150 billion. So you bring in a new CEO, and within four years, the profit falls to zero and then the company goes into the red to the tune of over $400 billion per year. You're on the Board of Directors and the CEO's term is up for renewal. Do you vote to keep him in?"

Also this video, GWB: Words Speak Louder than Actions from a recent Daily Show; a humorous summary of GWB's past four years in office.


This just in...

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Diebold GEMS: software flaw or criminal intent?: Bev Harris of reports that the Diebold GEMS central tabulator has a critical flaw, a backdoor allowing centralized vote tampering. Not only may this make the installed base of 1000 or so Diebold GEMS central tabulators unsuitable for use in the upcoming election, but it may be evidence of a treasonous plot to tamper with our democratic institutions.

Shorthorn: Microsoft's next big operating system product has been "a couple of years off" for several years. It was going to have a single innovative feature called WinFS -- sort of Google for your local disk. This week they announced that Longhorn would finally come out in 2006, but would not include WinFS. Longhorn Comes Up Short and Without crucial feature, what will new Windows do? This kind of dismal performance can only help Apple, Linux and open source apps. David Coursey of eWeek says the smart choice is Apple because OS X is "Linux done right".

Music menage a trois: it was almost Apple and Sony against Microsoft in the online music market: Apple offered Sony iTunes deal. Either way, Microsoft launched its offering this week: Microsoft Challenges Rivals With New Online Music Service.

Garage door opener v. DMCA: Judges OK garage door openers in copyright case, but wait its more complicated than that: Is DMCA Decision a Pathbreaker?.

Reporter v. Wikipedia: an old school newspaper reporter cast aspersions on Wikipedia (the "open source encyclopedia") and ran into a buzzsaw: Who Do You Trust, The Wiki Or The Reporter?, Wikipedia, Reputation and Accuracy and Wikipedia Reputation and the Wemedia Project.

Its official: IE is unhip: the newly redesigned Mozilla website notes that Wired magazine proclaimed: Firefox: wired. IE: expired.

Technobits: New Process Could Help Make Hydrogen Fuel Affordable and Hydrogen Fuel Closer to Fruition --- Supercomputer Seeks Comeback --- cool animation When Viruses Attack --- 4 new exoplanets are more Earth-like --- Sanyo to Produce HD-DVD Players --- Logitech Laser Cordless Mouse --- When Nerds Protest The RNC.




Uncovered: The War on Iraq

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism

The Orinda Theater is showing these two films as a double feature. All I can say is, how apt. Both were clearly shot in video and bumped up to 35mm; the artifacts are atrocious. But these films are about content, not art. Robert Greenwald co-produced both of them; you can see his filmography here. Basically, this former theater director has decided to make movies with a message; last year he did Enron. One of his talking heads in the Murdoch film was James Wolcott, whom I knew from Vanity Fair, but did not know until this week (see mention in political notes) is also the author of a first class political blog.

Pacing and graphics leave a lot to desire, but the content is first rate. Learn the true story of the Iraq War, and of the Fox News effort to subvert American journalism. I particular enjoyed Bill O'Reilly's meltdown at the book show where Al Franken taunted him, and his statement that he had said "shut up" once, followed by a shut-up medley from his show.

These two films preach to the converted, of course, but even the converted need preaching to now and then.

Vanity Fair

It's getting late and something has to give. As has so often been the case in recent months, it's going to be this movie review. Vicki and I saw Vanity Fair in the perfect place; the lavishly appointed, Circa 1940 Orinda Theater. It is directed by Harvard-educated Indian director Mira Nair, which was enough to draw Vicki in all by itself, since Nair did Vicki's favorite film, Monsoon Wedding. We both found it entertaining and lavish. Great sets, great costumes, great cinematography. Who knew Reese Witherspoon could act? The New Yorker had this weird review where it said she wasn't the center of the film; maybe they were reviewing a rough cut, because she was certainly the center of the version I saw. I have not read the original novel, although I am now tempted to. As with most costume dramas, this film, alas, suffers from bloat and runs 2:15. It would have been a better film at 100 minutes, that's for sure. Still, I suggest you see it.


Dan Grobstein File

Dan Grobstein File:

  • AP stories disappear from everywhere they are posted, so here's the lead:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- The United States and its allies have moved closer to capturing Osama bin Laden in the last two months, a top U.S. counterterrorism official said in a television interview broadcast Saturday.

[ed note: What a surprise! The election's coming up, and we're nearing a capture of Bin Laden. Boy, who could have seen that coming? Oh wait... everybody.]

New York Times:

Mr. Bush, it's now clear, intends to run a campaign based on fear. And for me, at least, it's working: thinking about what these people will do if they solidify their grip on power makes me very, very afraid.

Inside Madison Square Garden, W. kept insisting he'd made the world safer. Outside, the exploding world didn't seem safe at all.

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