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 13, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

September, 13 2004 Vol. 6, No. 36

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Better Year Teaching
  • Marlow in The Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Missouri Farmer


  • We Don't Live Here Anymore: Paul and Guest


  • Dalton on songs and guns, Bob Nilsson, Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Better Year Teaching

I was at the doctor's the other day, and he asked me how I liked teaching. Last year, when anyone asked me that question, I paused a long time before answering, indicating some ambiguity. This year, without even thinking, I said "I love it."

Is this because I teach half time? Did the luck of the draw give me easier students? Is it because this is my second year, not my first year? As my mother said, maybe it is all these things together. All I know is, so far I am having a much better year.

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:\

First, a correction: Marlow has a talking PARROT, not a talking pigeon, in the courtyard of her apartment.

I drank it at my place and then went to the nearby cow bar. A bar with tiles dating back hundreds of years in the bathroom.

Biking everywhere is more fun than walking, but I'm saddle sore, and some of the muscles in my back are not used to all the balancing and bumping, but I'm sure my body will get over it. And I still get lost a lot, I'm looking forward to actually figuring this town out, but there is very little in the way of grid-like sense to anything, all the canals are curved and meet at weird intersections.

The other student housing, in Hooigracht, is supposedly haunted. It used to be an asylum, and before that a nunnery. I thought that was just idle international student chatter, but the other night when I actually went, it was pretty spooky. It's a huge building with weird rules, like you can't get to some floors from some other floors. Finding the third floor of the E wing was a huge challenge. And there's a lot of slightly rundown stained glass in the hallways. Supposedly there's a lesbian nun ghost somewhere. But that sounds particularly made up.

Political Notes

You don't need the supposedly forged documents of CBS to prove Bush was a deserter; just the documents released by the White House, properly analyzed. I think we all know the punishment for desertion in time of war.


If you support the policies and character of John Kerry, please drive with your headlights on during the day on Friday. If you support George W. Bush, please drive with your headlights off at night.


This from my brother, the only person on Earth whose rant of this sort I would publish:

I am sick and tired of your left wing liberal column's leanings It is time the right side or as we call it Republican party has something to say. Pres. George W. Bush war on terrorism is now showing results. By electing John Kerry we go back to tax and spend mentality that is only used for him to be elected. He has no clear vision and his tendency for exaggeration is pretty well documented.

Although George Bush has his problems (he is not perfect) he is not his father. Given the world's situation it is time to band together and re elect the President George W. Bush.

First of all, given the way the 2000 election went, is this really a "re-election" for Bush? I don't think so. Talk about exaggeration: what about "the president's" Mission Accomplished statement last May? Talk about tax and spend: no other president has turned such a huge surplus into such a huge deficit so quickly.

But leaving that aside, as a veteran, I would think my brother would be offended by Bush's blatant draft-dodging. If not that, how about "President" Bush's efforts to cut military pay, military pensions (on which my brother depends) and veterans' health care? How about the stop loss orders that keep people from leaving the military. I can tell you Steve wouldn't have liked it if Donald Rumsfeld had postponed his retirement after 20 years.

I hope Steve isn't worried about the Kerry tax increase (for people who make more than $200,000 a year, which has never been me or my brother). I hope he isn't favoring Bush's repeal of the estate tax (which applies to 1% of all estates, and will never apply to my parents, my brother or myself), or the repeal of the capital gains tax (never paid by my parents or brother).

My brother has listened to and loved Rush for years. Alas, Rush has poisoned his mind, as he has so many others. It amazes me that any son of the working class (our father was a milkman, our mother a teacher and day-care provider) can support the silver-spoon failure who has failed upwards into the White House and is now failing there every day. But the fact is they do, in large numbers. Chances are Steve is right, Bush will win his first presidential election in November. And that is sad.


The thoroughly disreputable British tabloid, The Mirror, quotes from Kitty Kelley's forthcoming bio The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty as saying Bush used cocaine at Camp David during his father's presidency. The Independent also has a story based on the Kelley book. Sounds about right. Also, the thoroughly disreputable Larry Flynt says Bush arranged an abortion for a girlfriend when such operations were illegal--hypocrisy for a man on a pro-life platform. If the Democratic Party isn't willing to match the GOP's mud-sling-a-thon, then it's time its supporters did.

American casualties in Iraq, predictably, have hit 1,000. They're just going to go higher, whether Bush prohibits pictures of the coffins or not.


New York Daily News: George W. Bush admitted a friend of his father used influence to get Bush into the National Guard. Bush admitted he favored the Vietnam War but wanted someone else to fight it.


This is a great hatchet job, just what Cheney deserves! Thank you, Craig Reynolds!

The Curse of Dick Cheney
The veep's career has been marred by one disaster after another


Robert Malchman has an interesting Zell Miller theory:

He's actually a Democratic Fifth Columnist who tricked the Repugnicans into putting him on prime time at their convention so that he spew such outrageous lies and hate on "behalf" of the Repugnicans that it would turn off swing voters, a la Pat Buchanan in 1992. Miller is really a true Democrat, committed to getting John Kerry elected.


Leave it to The New York Times to leave, as usual, the news for the end of this Sept. 12, 2004, article:

Atomic Activity in North Korea Raises Concerns


You slog through 18 paragraphs about sources and reports which may or may not be circulating in Washington and dithering intelligence (or ignorance) agencies. Then you find that Yonhap, the South Korean press agency, reported there was a powerful explosion on Thursday (Sept. 9, 2004) in North Korea. It was apparently about where one would expect it if the North Koreans wanted the fall-out to land in the Pacific rather than on their territory. Finally, (in brackets no less):

"The cause of the blast has not been determined, but the Beijing official said Washington was not ruling out the possibility that it may be linked to a nuclear test. Yonhap reported that a mushroom cloud up to 2.5 miles in diameter was spotted after the blast in remote Yanggang province in the far northeast."

Note to The New York Times and chief science writer William Broad, don't swallow what the government and/or the Bush campaign (Sanger is a White House Correspondent) was dishing out hook, line, and sinker. You might consider making a call or two and finding some expert who would opine on possible non-nuclear explosive causes of a mushroom loud 2.5 miles in diameter. If you can't find such an expert or found such an expert (or experts) and they all think it is either likely to be or must be nuclear, you might consider reporting that.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Nukes for Windows: there is a fascinating story of a techno whistle-blower at The Register. It is the tale of Gerald Wilson who formerly worked at BAE Systems on Combat Management Systems for the British Navy's nuclear-armed warships. He was apparently fired for pointing out the dangers inherent in moving these systems from Unix to Windows. He argued that "Windows is 'proprietary technology owned by a foreign corporation', has 'many and continuing security flaws', and is not even warranted by Microsoft itself for safety-related use." Referring to sworn testimony by Microsoft's Chief Software Architect in the US antitrust case: "Anyone with elementary knowledge of computer science can see that Microsoft Windows, as described here by Gates, is inherently insecure by design." Will Britain be the first nation to lose a war -- or misfire a nuke -- because of a Windows virus?

Vidiots: once again technology is being hobbled in order to preserve profits of antiquated corporations: DVR Makers Bow to Hollywood. In contrast, here is some hot new technology: a high-def camcorder for the consumer market -- or at least the high end of that market: list price is $3,700. There was much excitement about a TiVo/Netflix partnership, although some think distribution rights will be a problem (registration required). This Reuters piece about a new video DRM scheme: Tech Firms Announce Video Anti-Piracy Technology seems to completely misstate the history of DeCSS: "crafty programmers ... discovered ways to crack into DVD players, for example, to make copies of Hollywood movies quickly and cheaply." In fact DeCSS was written because (1) a licensed DVD player not available for Linux, (2) CSS was incompetently implemented. The easiest way to watch DVDs on a Linux machine was to write some software, which is what (then teenage) Jon Johansen did. None of the criminal actions or civil lawsuits against him have prevailed.

Internet topics: Intel calls for Internet overhaul cites PlanetLab, Wheat Field Wi-Fi in Washington state, spam-friendly ISP and Open sourcers revolt against Microsoft antispam plan.

Technobits: EFF on PDEA: Misguided Copyright Bill Moving Through Congress: "This is a business problem, not a FBI problem." --- Calif. to Sue Diebold Over False Claims --- the end of public satellite imagery? --- distinguished economist Samuelson questions Outsourcing --- Save Betamax: national call-in day September 14 --- In Internet Calling, Skype Is Living Up to the Hype --- wardriving (its roots in Hollywood, hacker ethics) --- zombie market --- OK, this time for sure: first image of an exoplanet? --- New Scientist on KiRo - The Table Soccer Robot --- The Flapper: a paper airplane that flaps its wings when it flies.


The Missouri Farmer

Thank you Kent Peterman:

An old farmer in Missouri had owned a large farm for several years. He had a large pond in the back, fixed up nice; picnic tables, horseshoe courts, and some apple and peach trees. The pond was properly shaped and fixed up for swimming when it was built.

One evening, the old farmer decided to go down to the pond, as he hadn't been there for a while, and look it over. He grabbed a five-gallon bucket to bring back some fruit. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee.

As he came closer he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping in his pond. He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end of the pond. One of the women shouted to him, "We're not coming out until you leave!"

The old man frowned, "I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked or make you get out of the pond naked." Holding the bucket up he said, "I'm here to feed the alligator."

Moral: Old age and cunning will triumph over youth and enthusiasm every time.


We Don't Live Here Anymore: Paul and Guest

Props to the people behind the camera, director John Curran, writer Andre Dubus who wrote the short stories We Don't Live Here Anymore and Adultery and Larry Gross who wrote the screenplay. Also to the leading actors, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts, playing the two nastiest, most confused married couples since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe. They have created that rarity of rarities, a film about adult themes, by adults, for adults. I'd call it an adult movie, but as we all know, that term has been perverted.

There was a plot, there was a story arc, lessons were learned, but the movie was strangely unsatisfying. I have seen adultery. I suppose Tolstoy was right, Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Meaning that every adultery is unhappy in its own way, so perhaps it isn't odd that these differed from the adulteries I've seen. Still, the behavior in this film seemed unlikely. And what was with the occasional thought-balloon voice over? All that was missing was the reverb and the wavy focus. Weird effect.

Anyway, We Don't Live Here Anymore is OK, and worth celebrating for its effort to deal with adulthood in an intelligent way. It should be rated NC-17 and probably would be, except that rating is the kiss of death. Keep your children below college age as far as possible from this film. It would bore them confuse them and, frankly the non-explicit sex will make you both uncomfortable. I wouldn't have wanted to explain it to my girls.

Here's Neal Vitale's more concise take:

Taking a page out of the Neil LaBute (In The Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors, Nurse Betty) playbook, We Donít Live Here Anymore is a caustic and unpleasant portrait of two couples struggling with their lives and marriages. While there is a top-notch cast (featuring Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, and Peter Krause) and occasionally interesting portrayals of complex emotions, the four characters at the center of this film are uniformly unappealing, unsympathetic, and opaque. I can respect We Donít Live Here Anymore for attempting to explore complicated and difficult terrain, but I have a hard time suggesting that anyone join this particular journey.

--Neal Vitale



Dalton on songs and guns, Bob Nilsson, Dan Grobstein File

This from Richard Dalton, inspired by last week's comment that students learn songs better than prose:

Also, your thoughts on music as a memory tool are very useful. Studies have shown that older people with mild to serious dementia have much better ability to recall songs than other kinds of memories. In a lighter mood, I ran across Tom Lehrer's 50s classic "the Elements" through a Web site that features the talents of designer Mike Stanfil.

It's not only typically brilliant Lehrer (based on a Gilbert & Sullivan tune) but Stanfil has added Flash graphics that match Lehrer's crazed recitation very well. Stanfil also includes the elements that have been added to the periodic table since Lehrer cut the song.

Too bad I don't teach chemistry. Also from Richard: the end of the assault rifle ban.

Bob Nilsson checks in:

This may be of interest to your readers from Massachusetts, where the Museum of Bad Art is located, especially since John Ashcroft has been a frequent topic of your column. It now turns out that Ashcroft was the mysterious subject of the MOBA masterpiece entitled, "Sunday on the Pot with George". That fact has been revealed, if only tentatively, by the always reliable Annals of Improbable Research.

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times:

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