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

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

December 6, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 48

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Getting Better
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Presidential Joke
  • Things to do Before The Inaugural


  • Guest: Christmas With The Kranks
  • Guest: The Spongebob Squarepants Movie


  • Harvard Sucks, Boondocks Correction, Sullivan Surfs, Malchman Comments, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Getting Better

I assume the reason I don't feel compelled to write so much is that things have calmed down in my life. No major health problems. No major teaching problems--unless you count the problem that my technically sophisticated students are reading this web site. It isn't too hard to find. I am not too worried; I don't ever mention a student by name or a class by period, but some fellow teachers say my column causes a hubbub among my charges. So be it; I did this before I taught, I'm doing it now, I'll be doing it long after I retire. Tuesday of this week is my first meeting with my newly named new-teacher advisor. Paperwork, here we come!

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: she's in Copenhagen. She was going to meet a friend there, but the friend got sidetracked. Marlow finished her last paper on Monday (today) and will be in the Danish capital until she flies back to greet her visiting sister in Amsterdam on Sunday. Here's her belated Thanksgiving report:

So I had my late Thanksgiving on Saturday.

I took the train from Leiden to Utrecht where we got off and wandered around for a couple of hours and bought some tulips and wine for our host and then headed out to Eindhoven. We did a little shopping and then went back to her apartment. She has a nice set up with Ikea furniture and a bunch of Philips flat screen TVs. She had bought a turkey, maybe, it might have been a big chicken, although her boyfriend says it was definitely turkey, but we never found a wishbone. It turns out she can't really cook. She fretted about things like seating arrangements and place mats. The dinner turned out perfectly. The turkey was just right, there were garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, made from fresh cranberries, country-fried corn, salad, with dressing made by cooked carrots, warm rolls, and beer and the wine we had brought. It was a proper feast. Afterwards there was also plenty of coffee (some with Kahlua), and two flavors of winter vla, bitter cookie and pear with syrup, and whipped cream, and a mysterious Dutch cake whose flavor and very nature we had trouble deciphering, but it was just as delicious the next day for breakfast. For actual Thanksgiving I had curry vegetable stuff with one of my neighbors here in Kaarsenmakersstraat. It was not actually so dissimilar from last Thanksgiving when I ate curry food by myself in a Thai restaurant in Qing Mai because I was growing tired of one of the Americans I had been hiking in the mountains with. Which isn't really so bad, those were both pleasant enough meals. But it was nice to do it properly, even if it wasn't with family, and rather a motley crew at that.

Political Notes

This thread began down in letters, but I liked Richard Dalton's most recent installment, so I moved it up here:

I agree that the behavior of a "country" isn't a monolithic thing. In fact, countries (and corporations for that matter) are fictions--surrogates for groups of people and the actions of that group. I've always been intrigued by the fact that a corporation is "it" in the U.S., and "they" in the U.K.

As a U.S. citizen, the U.S. government acts on my behalf, whether I agree with its actions or not. That's what's so embarrassing about communicating with people in other countries at this point. I know overseas friends understand that I oppose the Administration's agenda, yet "my country" contimues to wage an unjust war. I tried my damnedest to defeat Bush and I'm still considering a move out of this country because of its bankrupt morality. By the way, it isn't just the Iraqi war that causes those feelings. I'm equally embarrassed by our rampant materialism, our disrespect for the environment, and the way we disregard the poor and sick people of this world.

I still don't consider Bush as evil. Tragically misguided and unthinking, yes.


See also: We need a recount.

It seems that through various means, the Presidential election was stolen in Ohio (and elsewhere). An effort (uphill to be sure) by 25 Ohio citizens as plaintiffs-contestors is being made to assert their statutory right under Ohio law to contest the Ohio result and put Ohio (and thus the Presidency) in Kerry's column. Read Bob Fitrakis' columns about it in the Free Press. If you would like to contribute in trust to a trust fund of the lead trial lawyer for the effort, here is the information:

Funds by Fed wire should be sent to:

National City Bank
Columbus, Ohio
ABA routing number: 044000011
credit to the account of Ohio Election Litigation Fund account number: 982307158

Contributions by check payable to the
Ohio Election Litigation Fund
Clifford Arnebeck, Esq.
Arnebeck Law Offices
1351 King Avenue - 1st Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43212


The Boondocks analysis of political control in the United States: the right controls the news, voting machines, and money. The Democrats control their temper and the comics.



Does Bush need our prayers? Probably.

Good wrap-up of coverage on the recent scathing report from the Defense Science Board: They hate our policies, not our freedom.

The Fastest Way To Send a Message: Why is James Baker talking to the president via the New York Times op-ed page? By Fred Kaplan at Slate.

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh by Molly Ivins in the Texas Observer.

That wacky Harry Shearer caught John Edwards combing his hair.

The Mirror, not Britain's most reliable newspaper, says: Fallujah Napalmed. Nov 28 2004. US uses banned weapon ..but was Tony Blair told? By Paul Gilfeather Political Editor

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

How Google Works

And now, this from Craig:

Make DDoS, Not Spam: probably at one time or another every victim of spam has contemplated revenge. Trouble is, most effective revenge strategies are illegal and would lower you to the level of the spammers. Spammers do a pretty good job of covering their tracks, but if the point of the spam is to drive some sort of e-commerce (or e-scam) website, that website becomes the vulnerable weak link. Lycos Europe decided to exploit that vulnerability by using idle computers to overload the sites advertised in spam: Screensaver tackles spam websites. They claimed to provide "throttling" to prevent this from becoming a "distributed denial of service" attack (which is unlawful in many jurisdictions and a violation of most ISP's Terms of Service) but it didn't work: Anti-spam plan overwhelms sites. They have given up for now: Lycos pulls the plug on anti-spam screensaver and apparently this was part of a ill-conceived Vigilante Marketing campaign.

Copyrights and lefts: good news, the senate passed a bill that was merely disappointing instead of one that was ludicrous: A Kinder, Gentler Copyright Bill? The new IP PAC IPac says "The government should not be in the business of preventing technology changes just because some companies are afraid it might hurt their existing business models": Battling the Copyright Big Boys. Declan McCullagh on the lobbyist for Kazaa. Senator McCain strikes a blow for copyright sanity: watermarks are not "labels". Two older links that got lost in the shuffle: When will the music industry do it right? and Students Fight Copyright Hoarders.

Technobits: The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China (and blog is Word of the Year) --- Philly WiFi and Taipei WiFi --- Does a Free Download Equal a Lost Sale? --- as Firefox usage expands, IE market share has dropped below 90% --- tracing color laser prints back to source --- Paralyzed woman walks again after stem cell therapy --- more on overtime and burnout in the game industry [previously] --- Wikinews --- Mozilla gives sneak peek of Thunderbird e-mail app --- 1000 top library books (according to library purchases) --- for us TRON fans: Solar sail craft gets launch date --- 10x10: cool interactive graphic of the top 100 news headlines and photos, updated hourly --- chocolate suppresses coughs better than codine, tastes better too.


Presidential Joke


Jimmy Carter steps forward timidly:" I've come for some courage."

"NO PROBLEM!" says the Wizard. "WHO IS NEXT?"

Ronald Reagan steps forward, "Well........., I.......I think I need a brain."

"DONE" says the Wizard.


Up steps George Bush sadly, "I'm told by the American people that I need a heart."

"I'VE HEARD IT'S TRUE!" says the Wizard. "CONSIDER IT DONE."

There is a great silence in the hall. Bill Clinton is just standing there, looking around, but doesn't say a word. Irritated, the Wizard finally asks,


Is Dorothy here?"

Things to Do Before The Inaugural

Some things to do before the Inaugural:

1. Get that abortion you've always wanted.

2. Drink a nice clean glass of water.

3. Cash your Social Security check.

4. See a doctor of your own choosing.

5. Spend quality time with your draft age child/grandchild.

6. Visit Syria, or any foreign country for that matter.

7. Get that gas mask you've been putting off buying.

8. Hoard gasoline.

9. Borrow books from library before they're banned -Constitutional law books, Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter, Tropic of Cancer, etc.

10. If you have an idea for an art piece involving a crucifix - do it now.

11. Come out - then go back in - HURRY!

12. Jam in all the Alzheimer's stem cell research you can.

13. Stay out late before the curfews start.

14. Go see Bruce Springsteen before he has his "accident".

15. Go see Mount Rushmore before the Reagan addition.

16. Use the phrase - "you can't do that - this is America".

17. If you're white - marry a black person, if you're black - marry a white person.

18. Take a walk in Yosemite, without being hit by a snowmobile or a base-jumper.

19. Enroll your kid in an accelerated art or music class.

20. Start your school day without a prayer.

21. Pass on the secrets of evolution to future generations.

22. Learn French.

23. Attend a commitment ceremony with your gay friends.

24. Take a factory tour anywhere in the US.

25. Try to take photographs of animals on the endangered species list.

26. Visit Florida before the polar ice caps melt.

27. Visit Nevada before it becomes radioactive.

28. Visit Alaska before "The Big Spill".

29. Visit Massachusetts while it is still a State.


Neal Vitale notes: In reflecting on my Oscar-worthy list over turkey and cranberries, I realized that I had omitted Kevin Kline in De-Lovely. While I didn't de-love the film, I was de-lighted by him.

Guest: Christmas With The Kranks

This adaptation of John Grisham's curmudgeonly best seller, "Skipping Christmas," can't decide what it wants to be. There are moments when it veers towards Bad Santa-esque edginess and bile, taking a snappy "bah humbug" approach to Christmas. Then it does an about face, and careens into preachy and saccharine moralizing. This mix of inconsistency and indecision is not good for a film. The actors don't help matters - Tim Allen is caught in the limbo between comedy and treacle; Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Akroyd play one-dimensional cut-out characters. All of the worthwhile bits of Christmas With The Kranks are in the trailer.

--Neal Vitale

Guest: The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

My soon-to-be 11-year-old daughter and I are big fans of the hit TV show; inspired by the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, we went off to the theatre the next day with high hopes. Unfortunately, what is silly, antic, and clever in 15-minute doses feels a bit bloated and wearisome when stretched to an hour and a half. Yes, there are a few butt jokes that wouldn't make it on post-Janet Jackson TV, we get the requisite film addition of celebrity voices (Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson, and Alec Baldwin), and a live David Hasselhoff does a nice send-up of his "Baywatch" persona. But you would be better off putting the movie's admission price toward your monthly cable or satellite bill and sticking to Nickelodeon instead.

--Neal Vitale


Harvard Sucks, Boondocks Correction, Sulivan Surfs, Malchman Comments, Dan Grobstein File

If you haven't seen the Harvard Sucks hack, go take a look.


A recent reference to the comic strip Boondocks was in error. As a reader pointed out:

The Boondocks characters don't live in a ghetto. They live in the suburbs. That's part of what makes it so funny... their adaptation to their new surroundings.

I mean, come on.... They live on Timid Deer Lane. That's as far from
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as you can get!


Kevin Sullivan makes Netsurfer look like a subscription worth having. The Reality of Running Away From Stuff takes a look at Hollywood's lousy physics.


Robert Malchman (who, at least in this case, is capable of being a glass half-empty kind of guy) offers an alternative to the mayonnaise jar analogy made here last week:

I've been meaning to write this all week (apropos of "The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 cups of coffee...")

The golf balls are the horrors you can't avoid in life: death of loved ones, disease and illness, parents who work out their childhood issues on you so that you're an emotional basketcase just like they are, etc. This fills your life from the moment of birth until you die.

The pebbles are persistent aggravations that permeate your life: crappy job; insane and/or moronic bosses; whiny spouse; whiny, greedy, ungrateful children; the lemon you drive; the hovel you live in, etc. These aggravations fill the space in your in between the unavoidable horrors.

The sand is the stupid grit that makes every, single day of your life annoying: the guy who cuts you off in traffic, the DVD player programmed to self-destruct one day after the warranty expires, the airlines who send your luggage to Oakland instead of to Orlando, the garbage bag that breaks while you're taking it to the curb, morons who wander laterally across the sidewalk instead of getting the fuck out of your way, dripping mustard on a shirt the first day you wear it, etc., etc., etc. These are the little things that are so stupid, they should never happen, but they do, and all you want is to take a high-powered rifle to the top of some building and start shooting.

Oh, and the coffee? After you pour that into the mayonnaise jar and it mixes with all the dirt and crud already there, turning it into a chunky, black mass -- that's there to remind you that your whole life is a big jar of shit.

Yes, I'm having a bad week. Why do you ask?

Also from Robert: Kenneth Star finally admits he never should be handled the Lewinsky case.

Dan Grobstein File

  • The Welsh resort where The Prisoner (my all-time favorite TV show) was filmed is still there. I fondly remember watching reruns on Sunday night with my then-roommate Norm Sandler. Every week, when I turned off the TV, he'd say, "What did that mean?"

New York Times

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