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

November 29, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

November 29, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 47

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Thanksgiving Break
  • Teaching: Tying Up Loose Ends
  • Wow! What a Cold!
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Neal's Early Oscar Line
  • Paul's Early Oscar Line


  • Not this week

General News

Thanksgiving Break

An abbreviated column this week. No students all week, but Monday and Tuesday were staff meetings. Rae and I took off Tuesday night for Oregon to spend it with my parents and some old friends of theirs, while Vicki headed for LA for Thanksgiving with her mother.

Teaching: Tying Up Loose Ends

In the process of compiling Tales of Teaching 2004, I was reminded of how I felt at various times during my first year, and how that compares to the way I feel this year.

I was up to the challenge of teaching, although I'm not sure I was up to the challenge of teaching well. I can listen and I can assess, but the question of inspiration is also still open. It was a bell-shaped curve; I moved a few students, left a few students in the cold, and merely annoyed most of the students in the middle by trying so hard.

I had forgotten that I really only wanted a half time job last year; I took what was offered then, got what I wanted this year.

I think I've learned enough never to have a section of my whiteboard entitled "Do Me First" again.

By Sept. 15 last year I was having back spasms, exhaustion, insomnia and anxiety. I was always tired and always sore I think weekly massages and a half-time schedule prevented those symptoms from being as virulent this year.

I still don't have a "look" as good as my mother's, but I am getting there. I yell less, glare more. And sometimes I blow my whistle.

Is still seem to be popular with my students, and I'm still unsure whether being beloved is an unadulterated good thing. It's a compliment, but not necessarily and assessment.

My luck continues; one prep, great students, great colleagues. There is no teaching situation in the world better than that.

Last year, my illness came a month later, in December; I used almost the same words (I made it through the week) as I did this year for last week (see item below). Don't know if falling ill earlier is a good sign or bad sign. I can't be sick for Christmas; we're going to Europe. The issue of "whether to take a sick day if you can still stand up without falling over," on which I mused last February, is still an issue; it is still probably true that if you don't take the time off, the illness will only drag out.

The gratification is still delayed. I am getting used to having a "got to be there" job with fixed hours and limited bathroom breaks. I am less frazzled. I still enjoy time off, but don't spend all my time thinking about it. I checked with my wife this morning, who informs me that my attitude has improved 100% since last year.

The joy quotient is higher and the stress quotient lower, which, I am told, is typical for a second-year teacher. Joy will never hit 100% and stress will never hit 0 while I am still alive. I accept that.

Harry Wong, a seminar-giving super-teacher defines the phases of teaching as Fantasy, Survival, Mastery, and Impact. Fantasy was where I was before I started, survival is where I was last year. I feel I am moving towards mastery. Who knows how far off impact is.

Kevin Sullivan isn't a fantastically wealthy teaching consultant, but I liked his description of teaching:

We used to say,
"in a teacher's first year, the teacher learns"
"in a teacher's second year, the student learns"

And the cynical added
"after that no one learns"

And I'm still fond of my own formulation:
Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. It's a baseball season, not a football season. It's a ground game, not a passing game--you grind out the yardage inch by inch on the way to the goal line. Don't swing for the fences every day--take a single if you can hit one.

Wow! What a Cold!

I got sick the day after the election. I know a lot of people who did. The letdown was palpable around here, as was the depression and fear. That's got to affect your immune system.

It was just a bother for the first week, but then it peaked and became a constant hacking cough during the second week. Wednesday of Thanksgiving Week marks the third week of this cough, which is so bad at night I have to sleep in the guest bedroom--partly to help Vicki get a good night's sleep, partly because it is easier to sleep sitting up in that bed.

I love my students, but Oh! Their germs.

I barely made it through last week--wouldn't have made it, except that we had a Potluck Thanksgiving feast on Thursday I wasn't about to force my colleague to run by herself. Plus there was a test and a quiz and mid-quarter progress reports.

This is why it fries my beans that administrators think we're constantly trying to cheat them with sick days; they never consider the days we drag in because we're professionals and feel we have to be there. I sincerely hope I didn't give a single student my cold, even though one of them probably gave me theirs. But I did what I had to; I'm a teacher. Still, it's heck to have a cold you can't sleep off because you can't sleep because you have a cold.

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:

Christmas is a little different in The Netherlands.

So I went with Onno this weekend to Friesland. I worked really hard on Thursday and Friday on my two papers, on one the UN and China and one on the EU and China, the first due on Tuesday, the second due on December 3rdish (we can hand it in on the 6th, following Monday, but if we do that he'd like us to feel guilty about it). I did enough work on both to feel good about finally getting out of Leiden. We got to the train station around ten, I brought my computer and some homework. We went to Zwaagwesteinde where Onno's parents live, but first we had to transfer at Schipol and Amsterdam, and then we stopped to visit Onno's brother M who works at a coffeeshop in the capital city of Friesland, the biggest city of the northern province, whose name I can't remember. I could look it up.

Anyway, M works at a place called De Os, the Ox, but we couldn't exactly find it, so we wandered around the downtown area and the shopping district, which was littered with pepernoten, or spiced cookies, that were soggy in the gutter from the procession earlier welcoming Sint Klaas to the city, his assistants Zwarte Pete, or Black Peters, through the cookies to the good kids, but the bad kids they beat with sticks and stick in their present bags to take back to Spain, where Sint Klaas came from on a steamboat, even though he is from Turkey. He was a Bishop. It's quite an involved story. It was good to actually finally see it though, since I've been seeing all the adds on tv, and now I finally got to see the guy who the pointy hat and the beard and the cane...

We had some cheese sandwiches and then had more coffee with Onno's grandma, then Onno's parents picked us up and drove us up the coast...

We had some fried fish and chips and looked at the boats and used Onno's dad's binoculars to look at the Frysian islands. Then we walked around the harbor to get to a cafe on the tip, we got to walk along a dike under modern windmills. I didn't bring my camera, which is a shame, but on the other hand I'm glad I wasn't carrying anything. We saw a lighthouse on the opposite shore and could make out the outline of a second island, where I guess Mom might have been thirty some years ago. We had our coffee and then retraced our steps and drove back to Onno's parents house to check on train schedules and then it was back on the train to Leiden. We had to take a local train, then transfer twice, and from Utrecht it was a direct shot to Leiden, but with lots of stops.

Political Notes


  • San Francisco Chronicle: Liberals, the election is over, live with it Carol Pogash. Apparently, we're all crazy when we say the election was stolen. Of course Woodward and Bernstein were crazy when they said Nixon was behind Watergate. We'll see if Ms. Pogash is right.
  • I, like Jerry Colonna, take comfort in Danny Gregory's Election Analysis in his blog, Everyday Matters.
  • I don't do graphics very often, but this one has been around a lot in several versions, and the one Jerry linked to specifically asks us to copy, not link. So, here goes:


Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

On vacation





Neal's Early Oscar Line

With the caveat that " many of the likely Oscar candidates are loaded into the next six weeks," Neal Vitale offers these early picks (note, these are the ones he likes, not the ones he necessarily feels will be nominated):

Best Picture

Finding Neverland
The Door In The Floor
Garden State (maybe)

Best Actor

Liam Neeson (Kinsey)
Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Jeff Bridges (The Door In The Floor)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)(possibly)

Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) (possibly)

Paul's Early Oscar Line

I don't disagree with any of Neal's picks, but I'd add a few of my own. I must note that, after observing that, in reviewing movies on and off for 32 years, I have noticed that the output of the movie industry is generally a sea of mediocrity with a few islands of quality sticking out. Some years more, some years fewer. Although Oscar season is still ahead of us, I don't think 2004 is any 1939. These are the films I remember liking (and particularly disliking, or being disappointed by)

Best Picture
The Incredibles (it's that good)

Best Actress
Annette Benning (Being Julia)
Julie Delp (Before Sunset)
Naomi Watts (We Don't Live Here Anymore)
Laura Dern (We Don't Live Here Anymore)
Mary Matlin (What the #$*! Do We Know)

Best Actor
Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset)
Tom Cruise (Collateral)

Best Documentary
Supersize me
Fahrenheit 9/11
What the #$*! Do We Know

As usual, I have some other categories for which there are no awards, except, in some cases, well-deserved ignominy:

Not as good as it should have been for all that money and/or all those stars:
The Day After Tomorrow
Vanity Fair
I, Robot

Weird, Quirky and Eccentric (all came out at about the same time and had budgets that were less than the weekly bagel bill for The Day After Tomorrow):
Shaun of the Dead
Team America
Dirty Shame
Napoleon Dynamite
I (Heart) Huckabees (what a cast!)

Technological achievement:
Sky Captain

Clockwork franchise extensions
Spiderman 2
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Won't be nominated because it's a raunchy comedy, but I kind of liked it
Harold and Kumar Go To The White Castle


Not This Week

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