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

October 11, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

October 11, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 40

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Six Years
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • How Big Is The Coalition
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Political Humor
  • The Top 16 Signs Pamela Anderson Is Your Sunday School Teacher
  • The Top 15 Things Overheard at D&D's 30th Birthday Party


  • Dirty Shame
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Shark Tale


  • Hunt on Body Language, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Six Years Later

(A reprint of my annual anniversary item, with small adjustments).

As of Oct. 16, it's been six years since fury at the Clinton impeachment drove me to write this weekly blog--an impeachment, we now find out, that even Republicans didn't want, but was forced on the nation by Dick "The Hammer" Armey. Anyway, I either had to start a column or check into the booby hatch. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. It has since evolved into a combination of diary for me and my family and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara or ongoing columnist Jon Carroll. Or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, considered the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it--but of course, if it hasn't happened in New York, it hasn't happened).

PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. I don't believe anyone who reads this column except Peter Peckarsky would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it, or revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft (and become the father of the personal column).

Ironically, this column, born in a political circus, celebrates its sixth anniversary during another political circus. I am as passionate about this one as I was the impeachment.

Bush running for his first election to the presidency (October surprise, here we come) has roots that extend to the right-wing Republican conspiracy to overturn elections they cannot win fair and square, or to change the rules in the middle of the game. That conspiracy now includes the 1996 presidential election (impeachment), the 2000 election (fraud and illicit Supreme Court chicanery), redistricting in Texas and Colorado (not the way the game has been played for 230 or so years), the 2002 California Gubernatorial election and, now, the 2004 election. See a pattern?

Still, I expect you'll read as much or more about Marlow and Rae and their doings, and my classroom, as you will about politics in this forum. Maybe I'm just mellowing with age.

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:

So I did end up going to Amsterdam Saturday for the demonstration on the Museumplein. There were three main unions represented. The attendance was over 200,000 making it the fourth largest protest in the Netherlands, ever. It comes over some anti-nuclear protests in the eighties and another labor protest last decade. Since the main issue on the table had to do with retirement and pension the average age of the crowd was older than I'm used to seeing at demonstrations, and of course a little more subdued as a result. There were people drinking and smoking in the crowd, but mainly there was music and speeches by the labor leaders.

This whole weekend is an extended October 3rd holiday. October 3rd is the anniversary of the day that William of Orange freed Leiden from the Spanish siege that had almost starved all the residents of the city (many others died of the plague). I ate some herring... The desserts are all really good, but mostly that's because they're fried, have lots of butter, or have lots of powdered sugar. The rides all looked pretty familiar from other amusement parks and fairs. The real day of celebration is supposed to be Monday, since you can't celebrate on a Sunday, and everyone wanted a day off from school anyway.

How Big Is The Coalition

The Bush-Cheney exaggerations about the Coalition of the Bribed and Coerced (John Kerry was right, even if he does have to back off for political reasons), aka the Coalition of the Willing, are so wild as to amount to effective lying. They speak over and over of the number of nations involved.

See Bush exaggerating size of coalition, experts say 34 nations provided troops in first war, by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post.

I decided to do some original research, because I felt sure the Gulf War coalition member nations represented more population than the Iraq War coalition--making it a bigger and more important coalition. I was right.

Gulf War I members: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.

Talk about complicated sourcing! The Gulf War I list came from The Associated Press, January 21, 2003: A war in Iraq would focus on Saddam Hussein as the 'center of gravity', By Richard Pyle, Associated Press Writer. He, in turn, cites "Contributions to the Multinational Coalition," The Middle East, 8th ed. (Washington, D.C.; Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1994).

Iraq War members: Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA.

The Iraq War list came from Coalition of the Willing List, Map and Troop Numbers, a great page that slices and dices the numbers several ways.

These population totals are based on 2002 U.S. Census Bureau estimates of world population. You can see my worksheets for Gulf War and Iraq War.

Gulf War Allies: population 1,326,835,000 people. Iraq War allies: population 992,349. There are lots of ways to measure an alliance; by number of troops (Gulf War swamps Iraq War), by dollars (Gulf War: paid in full. Iraq War: We're on our own) and by population of the members. By that yardstick, this is a 25% smaller coalition. The administration's deceptive use of "number of countries in coalition" is just that--deceptive. For the Gulf War we had 30+ large countries with us. For Iraq, we had 30+ small countries. (Note that I gave Iraq the benefit of the doubt by including several countries that have since dropped out).

Feel free to share the URL of this original research with your friends.

Political Notes



The respected London daily The Telegraph: The CIA 'old guard' goes to war with Bush. Be sure to click the link (requires registration) at the bottom of the story to a Sept. 17 story, "Memo leak discloses civil war concerns." Did anyone in the US have this story? It reported that the CIA warned of civil war in Iraq before the invasion. I don't remember seeing it anywhere, even here.

I can't make the link active, because it would ask you for my ID and password. Clever piece of confounding web site design.


I don't usually print Salon items because you have to pay to read them, but this one's too good to pass up; "Bush's mystery bulge: The rumor is flying around the globe. Was the president wired during the first debate?" That would explain a lot. You can see the picture for free at, which, by the way, shows Kerry winning the electoral vote.

As far as Mark McKinnon's non-denial denial to the effect that Bush "has not been assisted by an audio signal," the electromagnetic signal could be communicated to Bush through bone transduction rather than air. Many people wear radios of this type when they are running to stay alert to audible danger signals (e.g., motor vehicle horns).


PSALM 2004
Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.
He maketh me lie down on park benches.
He leadeth me beside the still factories,
He restores my doubts about the Republican Party.
He leadeth me into the paths of unemployment for his cronies' sake.
Yea, though no weapons of mass destruction have been found, he
maketh me continue to fear evil.
His tax cuts for the rich and his deficit spending discomfort me.
He anointeth me with never-ending debt.
Verily my days of savings and assets are kaput.
Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me all the days of his
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.


Translation assistance for readers of The New York Times.

Text to be translated: (From "In His New Attacks, Bush Pushes Limit on the Facts" by Adam Nagourney and Richard W. Stevenson, Oct. 8, 2004) In the process of attacking Kerry on Oct. 6 and 7, 2004, "several analysts say, Mr. Bush pushed the limits of subjective interpretation and offered exaggerated or what some Democrats said were distorted accounts of Mr. Kerry's positions on health care, tax cuts, the Iraq war and foreign policy."

Translation: Bush is lying his head off.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Microsoft apologizes for idiot Ballmer's iPod gaffe: first Microsoft's chief buffoon Steve Ballmer says iPods are primarily filled with stolen music because they can play the open MP3 format. This logical fallacy confuses "opportunity" with "criminal intent" but then, after listening to him for years, one has to assume that Ballmer is frequently confused. A outraged iPod owner used Microsoft's feedback page to demand an apology, and got one! (more links at MacDailyNews)

Futurist Air Force: as our lives continue to turn into science fiction, the U.S. Air Force is doing its bit, developing space war doctrine and antimatter weapons. Can Death Stars and light sabers be far behind?

PLATO reborn: in the 1960s a large online community based on time-sharing technology called PLATO foreshadowed much of the Internet-based online community of today. Today, via the web, emulation technology and Moore's Law, the PLATO system is once again online at This wonderful retro-computing emulation trend is preserving our valuable pre-history of the digital world. We once worried that as the old hardware dies, the old software would become unusable. But now you can, for example, run the original 1960s Spacewar code on a Java-based PDP-1 emulator inside your browser.

Technobits: how online commerce, particularly online distribution, enables the marketing of non-hits: The Long Tail --- Public Interest Groups Challenge Legality of the Broadcast Flag --- Think Secret rumor: 60GB iPod to pack photo-viewing features --- Genome Model Applied to Software --- visualizing the electorate --- why is Microsoft's IE so bad? --- the return of spam king Sanford Wallace --- stem cells from fat? --- "Frog's glue" could mend knees --- NASA considering giant pinhole camera to image exoplanets --- hydrogen powered vehicle generates own hydrogen from sunlight (but not enough to be practical) --- IFComp 2004 the competition for short text adventures.


Political Humor

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. So here's a story.

I went to the supermarket the other day. I was only in there for about 5 minutes. When I came out there was a city cop writing out a parking ticket.

I went up to him and said, "Come on, buddy, how about giving a senior a break?" He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. I called him a worthless municipal employee. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for worn tires.

I called him a blue suited imbecile. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket.

This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him the more tickets he wrote.

I didn't care. My car was parked around the corner and this one had a "Bush-Cheney" bumper sticker on it. I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired. It's important at our age.


A popular bar had a new robotic bartender installed. It could not only dispense drinks flawlessly, but also -- like any good bartender -- engage in appropriate conversation.

A man enters the bar, orders a drink. The robot serves him a perfectly prepared cocktail, then asks him, "What's your IQ?"

The man replies, "150."

And the robot proceeds to make conversation about Quantum physics, string theory, atomic chemistry, etc. The customer is very impressed and thinks, "This is really cool."

He decides to test the robot. He walks out of the bar, turns around, and comes back in for another drink. Again, the robot serves him the drink and asks him, "What's your IQ?"

The man responds, "100."

And immediately the robot starts talking, but this time, about football, baseball, cheerleaders, etc.

Really impressed, the man leaves the bar and decides to give the robot one more test. He goes back in, the robot serves him and asks, "What's your IQ?"

The man replies, "50."

And the robot says, "So, you gonna vote for Bush again?

The Top 16 Signs Pamela Anderson Is Your Sunday School Teacher

Tied for 11th

October 5, 2004


Actress Pamela Anderson is teaching Sunday school classes on the weekends at the church she attends with her boys, and she loves it.

Y'know, sometimes this is almost too easy!

16> She brought in a new statue of Mary with a double-D rack.

15> Christ's journey to Calvary is re-enacted in slow motion and bikini.

14> "Jesus loves me, this I know, for why would he have made me so beautiful and everyone else so ugly?"

13> As she sits there reading Exodus in her low-cut mini-dress, you can practically *see* the Promised Land.

12> Dad asks if you enjoyed "the sermon on the mounds."

11> "Eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not tape thyself making whoopie with thy spouse."

10> Her description of the parting of the Red Sea has a bunch of "lift and separate" language.

9> When you color a picture of the Last Supper, she helpfully points out which apostles had tattoos.

8> "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 45 minutes since my last confession."

7> Disturbing video footage from "Tommy Lee's Ark."

6> "Today we're going to discuss the Ten Comm-- umm, hold on a sec. [scribble] OK, we're going to discuss the Four Commandments, and I don't know what a graven image is, so we'll be glossing over *that* one."

5> Frequent biblical references to "Jezebel, and the Queen of Bathsheba, and that cow Anna-Nicole."

4> You feel more guilt walking out of church than you did walking in.

3> "Look at me. No, higher!"

2> Says she identifies with Jesus because both were nailed publicly.

and's Number 1 Sign Pamela Anderson Is Your Sunday School Teacher...

1> She once referred to the baby Jesus as "Kid God."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 136 submissions from 51 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Pam Wylder, Bloomington, IL -- 1, 9 (14th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 11
Andy Krakowski, Alexandria, VA -- 11

The Top 15 Things Overheard at D&D's 30th Birthday Party

13th place all by myself.

October 7, 2004 NOTE FROM CHRIS:

Role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons turns 30 this year, so of course we have to skewer its fans a bit. However, as so many folks pointed out to us regarding our recent list about the Burning Man Festival, TopFive has a moral obligation to deliver humor that is not only humorous, but is also 100 PERCENT ACCURATE regarding its subject. Who knew comedy writing had such stringent rules?

Anyway, back to the D&D list: We decided our best bet was to bring in an expert to handle such a delicate topic. It just so happens that one of our very own contributors is a closet D&D player. He agreed to moderate the list, as long as we didn't mention him by name, thus bringing shame and humiliation upon him and his family.

So let's have a nice warm TopFive welcome for guest moderator CARL KNORR of AKRON, OHIO!

15> "A jug of mead and four magic stones, same as in town."

14> "I am going to roll these commemorative 30-sided dice until I get two 30s. This is so COOL!"

13> "Like my costume? I made it in the many hours I save by never dating."

12> "I believe there are some Doritos in my bag of holding."

11> "Never trust anyone over level 30."

10> "The Cleric asks the bartender for a drink."

9> "Yeah, it wasn't easy, but I managed to squeeze a few days away from my extremely important job as a respected Internet humor writer to be here."

8> "Would you rather leave the welfare of your children to a 20-sided die or let me sell you some life insurance?"

7> "Say what you will: Professional D&D has never been the same since the lockout."

6> "Hey, can you spot me money for a beer? Those bullies at the Magic: The Gathering convention next door beat me up and stole my wallet."

5> "Man, it's cool that Gygax's mom let us have this in their basement!"

4> "Hey, baby, wanna see my +9 Pole of Lust?"

3> "Of course I still play every Saturday night. Except when I get called in to fix the server."

2> "OK, roll 3d10, and if you get higher than a 26, I'll let you touch them."

and's Number 1 Thing Overheard at D&D's 30th Birthday Party...

1> "The next one of you dorks who says, 'Get medieval on your ass,' can call Stripper-Gram for a replacement, got it?!"

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 92 submissions from 36 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Andrew Thomas, Shrewsbury, MA -- 1, 7 (11th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13


Question to my readers: how many of the clips in the new THX trailer can you recognize? I know the Gigawatt thing is from Back To The Future, and I am sure I hear Jurrasic Park. Do you think the "Well, well, well" is from Clockwork Orange? Where does the preaching come from? I can't find it anywhere on the Internet. Inquiring minds want to know.

Dirty Shame

I have seen most of John Water's movies from the last 20 years;

And Ursula Andress, the great actress from the 60s for whom Ursula Udders is named in the film, is 68 this year. That's just frightening.

Shaun Of The Dead

Funny. Hysterically funny. Laugh out loud funny. I really don't know how the British do it. Mind-bogglingly bloody and horrible as well, but really, really funny. Kudos to writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and to Wright again as director. If you think it is time the horror genre was sent up, way up, this is the movie for you. A great cameo by Bill Nighy, who played the dissolute rocker in last year's hysterically funny Love Actually, another British film.

These descriptions from IMDB are accurate:

Tagline: A romantic comedy. With zombies. (more)

Plot Outline: A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.

Shark Tale

Talk about the hard bigotry of high expectations! With this cast list, how could you go wrong with this cast: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, Katie Couric. And yet, somehow, they did. There were a few amusing moments, but that's not much of a payoff for sitting there for 90 minutes. I figured with that cast, even if the pictures were terrible, the acting would be great. The pictures were wonderful--the Acme of computer generated animation. But the writing was flat and terrible--which just shows again that good visuals and good acting can't make up for a stupid script. I don't even think the children enjoyed it. Rae said she'd never see it. She was right, I was wrong.


Hunt on Body Language, Dan Grobstein File

Tom Hunt, a new occasional contributor, passes on this note:

I thought this was interesting and since you are a movie buff, I thought you might also like David Thompson's editorial Split Decision in the New York Times [ed. note: the article is as much about cinematic style as the debate].

Hearing the candidates on the issues (or on the spin on the issues in Dick Cheney's case (and I'm constantly reminded of those T-shirts from another era-Dick Nixon...before he dicks You!)) is all well and good but being able to see their reactions to the other's speech is very revealing. Non-verbal communication often says more about that person than the words he uses.

He was right. I was interested.

Dan Grobstein File:

Dan asks: Do you know that the last 10 of 13 casualty announcements from the Defense Department have been sergeants?

New York Times

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