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.

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Tales of Teaching 2004
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October 25, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

October 25, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 42

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Short Column/Short Week
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Bush Joke


  • Motorcycle Diaries


  • Just One from Dan

General News

Short Column/Short Week

Short column, short week; I am headed for Boston, the home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells speak only to Cabots and the Cabots speak only to God. Taking care of some personal business.

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: nothing. She still doesn't have ADSL in her apartment. When she gets it, in a week or two, I expect to hear more from her.

Political Notes

As we rapidly approach Armageddon...


Don't miss the Sunday New York Times Magazine article Beyond A Doubt by Ron Suskind, co-author of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's book. Devastating stuff, so nasty the White House was forced to lie about its contents.



Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

The high cost of free registration: in the post-BugMeNot world, sites that offer content "free with registration" (because they profit from mining the information provided on registration forms) may have to adapt their business model as more and more people circumvent registration: Why Web Publishers Fear a Little Sharing. An analog of this in the real world is swapping of "affinity card" offered by supermarket chains which allows people to obtain the discounts while keeping their information private.

RSS for FactCheck.ORG: the non-partisan Annenberg Political Fact Check service (made famous then Dick Cheney mistakenly referred to it as FactCheck.COM in the veep debate) presents its articles in a blog-like format. They will also send new posts to you via email. But if you prefer to use an RSS aggregator you can use this third-party RSS feed for

Will code for food: Endangered species: US programmers and Job Cuts in Tech Sector Soar, Report Finds.

Google good/bad news: on the one hand: Google 'saved' Australian hostage while on the other: Google's Desktop Search is valuable, yet creepy and Google Desktop Sharing could be really really bad.

Technobits: Diebold Coughs Up Cash in Copyright Case --- Break-In At Berkeley May Have Compromised Data Of 1.4 Million Californians --- Candidate Has Platform for Geeks --- big honkin' LEDs (ow! my eyes!) --- TV-B-Gone: Inventor Rejoices as TVs Go Dark --- All-Girl Gaming Team Takes Aim at Boys (gratuitous images) --- Flat-screen TV emits international distress signal.


Bush Joke

I probably printed this before; I am too lazy to check. It is too good to pass up.

George W. Bush is visiting a primary school and he visits one of the classes. They are in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asks the President if he would like to lead the discussion of the word tragedy. So the illustrious leader asks the class for an example of a tragedy.

One little boy stands up and offers: "If my best friend who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a runaway tractor comes along and knocks him dead, that would be a tragedy."

"No," says President Bush, "that would be an accident."

A little girl raises her hand:

"If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy."

"I'm afraid not," explains the exalted leader. "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room goes silent. No other children volunteer. President Bush searches the room.

"Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?"

Finally at the back of the room, little Johnny raises his hand. In a quiet voice he says: "If Air Force One carrying you was struck by a missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaims President Bush, "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be a tragedy?"

"Well," says the boy, "because it sure as hell wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either."


Motorcycle Diaries

There's probably a great movie in the story of the trip Ernesto "Che" Guevera took around South America by motorcycle which changed him from a plodding middle-class pre-med student into a raving revolutionary. This isn't it. The film, in Spanish with English subtitles, manages to be previous and precocious at the same time, and that isn't a good combination. The salt of the earth are so salty here, the villains so cardboard. As far as I know, there is no good recipe, for a movie or anything else, that involves salt and cardboard. As A.R. "Pete" Gurney Jr. once said to a class full of undergraduates in his MIT playwriting course, "Good versus evil is a comic book. Good versus good is interesting." I'm glad I know how Che got his nickname and why he became a bloody terrorist stalwart of the Cuban Communist revolution, but I'd like to see the story told in a more engaging way.


Just One from Dan

Dan Grobstein found this in the New York Times: Bush vs. the Laureates: How Science Became a Partisan Issue

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