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

April 4, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

April 4, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 13

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Thank God For Vacation
  • Groundhog Day Praise
  • Facial Hair
  • Marlow in Atlantic City
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Sin City


  • Killer Bees, Dern on Comic Covers and Radio Lovers, Malchman on Biblical Guidance, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Thank God For Vacation

I missed another big opportunity to give a shout out to my buddies in Portland. I arrived in town on Saturday morning, left for Canon Beach on Monday morning and rarely left my room until the next Saturday morning. Then I returned to Portland, followed by an early flight to Oakland Sunday morning. It was heaven. I read four books, watched several DVDs, wasted too much time on Terry and JP, saw a great West Wing, and generally recreated. The Pacific Ocean was 100 yards from my patio. It rained every day, and the wind was fierce, but I sucked in a lot of salt air and positive ions just sitting in my room. I feel so recharged and revitalized it isn't funny. No one could possibly teach without a break now and then, myself included.

I did see Phil Adamsak, business editor the Oregon Journal when I was a reporter there. They broke the mold after they made Phil. He is a terrific, warm human being. My time with him was seminal and helped make me who I am today.

Groundhog Day Praise

Tom Armstrong writes about a Roger Ebert reconsideration of Groundhog Day, my favorite movie:

Pretty spiffy new column by Mr. Ebert on GHD which begins ...

Groundhog Day is a film that finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself before you see how good it really is.

I think that Ebert was rather cool toward the film when it opened. Anyway, I think he's come around.

Facial Hair

A tip of the PSACOT hat to the first reader who can find an authoritative source that answers this question: what percentage of American men have facial hair, either a beard or a mustache? The Economist has a cute article on facial hair, and this website has a funny article on facial hair. But after some time with google, all I could find is that 90% of American men shave five or more times a week. But someone with a mustache could shave five times a week; I have a beard, and I shave my cheeks five times a week so I don't look like Grizzly Adams. Anyone know for sure if only 10% of us have American guys have facial hair?

Marlow in Atlantic City

She took a week off from her studies to visit the greater New York area. Her brief report:

I won three dollars in Atlantic City. I was up a bit over a hundred at one point. We played blackjack, hold 'em poker, and craps. Mike was doing ok, and then we played craps and he cleaned up. Ended up clearing over $250. It was a good time, except the weather was crap, so the actual walking on the boardwalk wasn't great. There was even lightning when we left.

Political Notes

Like the White House Press Office, Google does not distinguish between "journalists" and journalists. Thus it was very hard to confirm a note from Dan Grobstein found on a polemical blog stating that Judge Greer in the Schiavo case is legally blind. If you push the "news" button at Google long enough, and minus out the "news" sources that are nothing but polemical bile, you get to the International Herald Tribune which also says he is legally blind. Thank God he was able to depend on expert testimony and the law instead of emotionally inflammatory videotape in making his courageous decision.


  • Bob Herbert of the New York Times on Abu Ghraib.
  • The Weekly World News tackles politics here and here.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

MGM v Grokster @ SCOTUS: the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether operators of P2P distribution systems can be held liable for illegal activities of their users. Here is a wrap-up of reports and commentary: NYT: Lively Debate as Justices Address File Sharing, Travis Kalanic in FT: Comment: MGM v Grokster, from a Harvard Law blog: A Few Notes from the Grokster Argument and Who's blogging Grokster. At about the same time MGM's lawyers were denouncing P2P as an inherently criminal technology, another music label was rolling out its own P2P DRM-based distribution system. Lastly, note Mark Cuban's wonderful broadside against the old media barons Let the truth be told...MGM vs Grokster.

Robot roundup: there is a great piece in Wired, La Vida Robot, describing how several Mexican migrant high school students from Phoenix and their teachers banded together to form the winning team in a competition for remotely controlled underwater robots. Most of their competitors were college students. I wasn't the first to be reminded of Stand and Deliver about Jaime Escalante leading a rag-tag team of underprivileged Latino students to excel academically. Other cool robot news: M-TRAN II: Self-Reconfigurable Modular Robot (M-Tran bots in action [MPG, 2.5MB], more). Self-Assembling Robots ("the future belongs to shape-shifting machines that don't look like humans"), Robots wobble but don't fall down, Snaking over Rugged Terrain and Eva the android and the creepy robot pirates (read about the Uncanny Valley).

Chimeric molecule as allergy treatment: Designer Molecule Stops Cat Allergies: "...Moreover, these results provide proof-of-concept for using this approach to develop therapies to prevent deadly food allergy reactions as well..."

Technobits: this article on black holes at Brookhaven lead Steve DiPaola to point out this Don't Panic-style disclaimer at the lab's website --- besides, science is just a theory: Scientific American: Okay, We Give Up --- Brazil: Free Software's Biggest and Best Friend --- Water bottle WiFi in Mali --- Sony Ordered to Halt PlayStation Sales --- Paul Graham on the Return of the Mac --- 1927 AT&T film: How to use the dial phone.




Sin City

Comic book adaptation has come a very long way since Batman on TV or Superman in the movies. No more camp, no more nudge-nudge. Well, OK, some camp. Actually rather a lot. But still, a serious, careful and loving adaptation of an amazingly stylized comic book. A decade ago, the state of special effects would not have allowed for such an amazing feat; black and white movie with little spots of color. Lips, or shoes, or eyes. Frank Miller, the comic book artist who created the characters, probably had a lot to do with that : he co-wrote the screenplay and co-directed (as well as co-produced) the movie. His involvement with the adaptation is unusually wide-ranging. Robert Rodriguez, who also co-wrote and co-directed, left his fingerprints all over the stylized violence, which had the middle-American mid-afternoon audience I joined laughing out loud at bashed heads and splashed blood. Even prodigy Quentin Tarantino, a long-time booster of Rodriguez (and fast on his way to becoming the Orson Welles of his generation) lent a hand as special guest director. This film is dominated by its special effects and oddball cinematography (also by Rodriguez), but also by two great performances: Bruce Willis as Hartigan, as you've often seen him (with and without hairpiece) and Mickey Rourke as Marv as you've never seen him--virtually unrecognizable even in tight closeups thanks to some amazing facial makeup.

When the MPAA rated it " R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue," they weren't kidding. .Like the comic book, it is really for adults only.


Killer Bees, Dern on Comic Covers and Radio Lovers, Malchman on biblical guidance, Dan Grobstein File

From the Palm Beach Post: Bee killer imperils crops. A tiny parasite, colloquially known as a 'vampire mite,' is devastating honeybees. That worries experts because honeybee-pollinated crops are valued at more than $15 billion a year. By Susan Salisbury

Daniel Dern found a collection of comic book covers so dumb they're funny. He also found

Robert Malchman found an AP story at CNN: Death sentence by jury that discussed Bible thrown out. His comment:

Again, I have no idea where to begin. I love the self-styled "Christians" who consult the Bible on the death penalty, yet seem to miss the part about "love thy neighbor" and "turn the other cheek," which is what the Catholics would focus on in a death penalty discussion. I think the last two grafs are my favorite, which I read as this nut saying the Bible teaches us to kill, and anyone who stops the killing is morally bankrupt. Sweet. Yet further evidence that any idiot can pull any idea out of his ass and use the Bible to justify it, which in my view pretty much renders that book useless as a moral compass or justification.

Dan Grobstein File

New York Times:

  • SPORTS / BASEBALL | April 1, 2005
    An Old Baseball April Fools' Hoax
    Twenty years ago, Sports Illustrated ran "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch," a 14-page exposé on an out-of-nowhere, fictional Mets pitching phenom.
  • OPINION | March 30, 2005
    Op-Ed Contributor: A Party Inverted
    The Republicans have built a stable structure to further their goals, but the Democratic Party rests on much more shakey ground.
  • OPINION | March 29, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: What's Going On?
    Once the Schiavo case settles, look for more intimidation in the name of God and undermining of the rule of law from the right.

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