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 31, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

October 31, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 43

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Cleopatra's Ethnic Heritage
  • Duck's Breath Mystery Theater
  • New York Bound
  • Political Notes: Iraq Casualties, War Lies, Millergate Lies, Plamegate Lies, Dumb TomDelay quotes, No More Miers

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Worst Pun Ever


  • Elizabethtown


  • Dan Grobstein File, Cleopatra Answer

General News

Cleopatra's Ethnic Heritage

While we were watching HBO's Rome the other night, Vicki asked me what ethnicity I thought Cleopatra was. I had always heard there was a good chance she was Egyptian or even African, so I suggested that the lovely white girl playing her might not be appropriate. "Surprise," Vicki said, "Cleopatra was..." [answer in the Letters section at the bottom of the column]


Duck's Breath Mystery Theater

Five years ago, I took Marlow and Rae to Berkeley Freight and Salvage to share one of my finest and most guilty pleasures: a comedy troupe formed in Iowa but nurtured in the San Francisco Bay Area called Duck's Breath Mystery Theater. They basically stopped performing together during the 1980s, but before they broke up they made several funny record albums and recorded numerous amusing radio programs. I loved the Ducks. The performance I saw with the girls was their special 25th anniversary reunion. Their special blend of slapstick and the absurd made them a cross between Monty Python and the Firesign Theater. But like Firesign, and unlike Python, show business (that bitch goddess), never saw fit to make financial successes out of the Duck's Breath people. Merle Kessler continues to get some mileage out of his Ian Shoales character, a social commentator. In fact, I am proud to say, I became friends with Merle during the time I ran an Internet audio site; he did 42 commentaries with web and technology themes for me. He was nice enough to invite me to a reading of his recent stage play, Broke--the first SF play based around a PowerPoint presentation.

If you know my wife (and a few of you do) slapstick and absurdism would not seem to be her taste. In fact, when I told our daughters their mom was going to join me for the DBMT 30th anniversary show at Freight and Salvage, there were amazed and disbelieving. And yet, albeit with an enormous amount of eye rolling, Vicki voluntarily accompanied me to the show and enjoyed herself. The Ducks are still funny after all these years, still writing new material. A great group that deserved wider success and fame then they were able to earn.

Prior to the show, we had a lovely Persian meal at Alborz Restaurant on Center Street in downtown Berkeley.


New York Bound

I filed the column early this week because I am off to New York City to see my daughter Rae, three stage shows (Spam-a-Lot, Putnam County Spelling Bee, Proof), and as many of my friends as I can squeeze in. Of course, Rae will expect most of my time, and I am sure I owe her that.

For 20 years I went to New York City four times a year, minimum, for work, yes, but also pleasure in my off hours. It has had a hold on my imagination since 1970, when I started regularly taking the train down from Boston while attending school. Since 2001 I have only been a half dozen times. I miss the smelly, dirty, crowded, noisy old place. I am glad Rae wanted to meet there. She's taking the train down from Boston...


Political Notes

Iraq Casualties, War Lies, Millergate Lies, Plamegate Lies, Dumb TomDelay quotes, No More Miers

Richard Dalton Notes:

The news this week will be full of the fact that 2,000 American military people have now died during the Iraq conflict. We should also consider that somewhere between 26,000 and 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by military intervention in Iraq.


She withdrew. I shudder to think what kind of person Bush will throw up next... Raw meat for the radical right? Probably.





Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Gooooooogle: watching introduction of new services from Google is "like drinking from a fire-hose." Who's on first? Base: while on the web only briefly for a test/preview, Google's new (data)base system (screenshot) allows users to post tagged links. This base-ic technology puts them just inches away from competing with eBay, or Craigslist, or local newspaper classified listings -- especially if the rumors of a PayPal-like Google Wallet service are true. First source on this was (Or...All Your Base Are Belong To Google), see Is Google aiming to squeeze eBay? and Google Gives Peek at Classified Ad Service. Print: commentary on the copyright controversy from cNet: Google's battle over library books and from Google: The point of Google Print. Its apparently less contentious across the pond Google Print Expands in Europe. Maps: good or evil? How computer maps will help the poor versus India: Google Maps Too Graphic. Video: archival footage from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation Google delves into the TV archive Finally, see how result rankings correlate between two leading search engines: Visual Yahoo Vs. Google.

Wi-Fi: the concept of free or low cost municipal wi-fi networks continues to be hot. Everyone seems to like it except for companies who would rather charge high rates for providing this service. Call me a pinko, but this sounds like arguing for free-market alternative to municipal fire departments and sewer systems. From Wired, BBC and Fortune: Cities Unleash Free Wi-Fi, Wi-fi cities spark hotspot debate, Wi-Fi Mania: When Whole Cities Are Public Hot Spots and Could Universal Broadband Add $500 Billion to the GDP?. More details have emerged about the SF Wi-Fi initiative: Google's Wi-Fi plan for San Francisco envisions ambitious testing ground, And the other San Francisco WiFi Bidders. While outside the city limits: Biggest Wi-Fi Cloud Is in Rural Oregon and Broadband net goes stratospheric (just gotta love anything involving airships!).

Fuel Cell Phones: powering portable electronic devices with fuel cells is a technology whose commercial availability seems to slip about a year per year. But it seems like its adoption is inevitable at some point: Power boosts for future gadgets Conceivably in 2010, Olympians could be talking on fuel cell powered cell phones while riding between venues on a fuel cell powered bus: The Hydrogen Olympics.

The tell-tale dots: back in July the EFF announced they had found visually subtle patterns of yellow dots in the output of several color printers, apparently put there to allow prints to be traced back to the printer they came from. Now they have decoded the dots and released open source code to decode the dot patterns (which turn out to provide time, date and the printer's model and serial number): Is Your Printer Spying On You?. Press coverage: Secret tracking codes in Xerox printers cracked and Codes Make Printers Stool Pigeons. FYI, here is a list of printers tested by EFF.

Apple's Aperture: like recursive acronyms from MIT in the 1970s, Aperture seems to have an is not stuck in the middle of its full name: "Aperture is not Photoshop". Still its ultra slick user interface and support for RAW image format make it quite interesting: Aperture: Real workflow for professional photographers and Apple: Aperture not a Photoshop competitor.

Technobits: How Plamegate Hurts the Net --- Unacknowledged convergence of open source, open access, and open science --- Does Open-Source Software Make The FCC Irrelevant? --- Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems --- Library of public domain books preview -- MSN will add 150k titles in 06 --- profile of DVD Jon Meet the film industry's worst nightmare --- Futurists Pick Top Tech Trends --- Negroponte and the $100 laptop: The Hundred Dollar Man --- pattern analysis Science Finds New Patterns --- "Coverpops" great browsing interface: a few thousand science fiction magazines (and other genres) --- very odd: video of real plants "enhanced" with computer animated eyes and tendrils.



Worst Pun Ever

Pearls Before Swine last Sunday.




A light and lovely little film, about on a par with Just Like Heaven, which is to say that, while it is not as bad as many of the reviews, it is better than most of them let on. I actually wanted to see In Her Shoes which had a 62/100 on the AOL review meter, as opposed to the 52 score for Elizabethtown, but my little local theater had messed up their print of Shoes, so I took what I could get.

First, let me repeat my oft-repeated gripe; TOO LONG. Two hours and 20 minutes? that is an hour too long. A good romantic comedy, like any good comedy, is worth about 90 minutes, never more, and maybe a few minutes less. Why had directors forgotten this important rule?

The film deals with life, death, success, failure and love--all the big issues. It does so in a soothing, Hollywood kind of way.

But I will also object to the fact that Kirsten Dunst told Orlando Bloom, "if we walk away now, before we have sex, we can be friends for life." Bloom does not take no for an answer, at least not at that point, but of course agonizes and dithers until he seemingly drives her away. I'll say no more, in case you decide to see the film for yourself. Suffice it to say that, even if the Cameron Crowe couldn't bring himself to end the picture at 90 minutes, he surely could have done so at the false ending two hours into the proceedings. Anyway, I'm here to tell you that Dunst was probably right.

How do I know? A very long time ago, I saw a couple of movies and had dinner with a female friend of mine. I wanted a serious relationship. I have never forgotten what she said: "We could have a lousy affair that might last six weeks or six months, but won't last forever. Or we could be friends forever." She was right. She also supplied the will power at the time, but she was right, and I was wrong. I've never forgotten her wisdom, and am grateful for our lasting friendship. None of my former lovers are friends of mine. Case closed on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

A sweet little film, if the film you planned to see is sold out or not showing. To twist the old Michelin Guide formulation, not worth a special trip.



Cleopatra was Greek. Check it out; it's in all the good history books.

Dan Grobstein File, Cleopatra Answer

Dan Grobstein File

  • Buzzflash: Cellphones of War
  • Bush has gutted the GOP, and now there's no elders left to help him; he's Shipwrecked (requires either membership or forced viewing of an advertisement).

Dan sent along this:

The CommonCensus Map Project is redrawing the map of the United States based on Internet users' voting, to show how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to traditional political boundaries. It shows how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional, and local levels.

This information will finally settle the question over where disputed cultural boundaries lie (like between New York City and Upstate New York), contribute to the national debate over Congressional redistricting, and educate people everywhere as to the true layout of the American people that they've never seen on any map before.

Participation takes just 12 clicks. Take a look and participate in CommonCensus.

PLUS, if you're a sports fan, you can vote on which sports teams you support, to make a similar map that shows exactly what areas of the US support which teams.

Thank you!

New York Times

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