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An Explanation, not an excuse

"Life is not one thing after another, but the same damn thing over and over again," according to Edna St. Vincent Millay. Despite my efforts to appreciate the hell out of every day I have been given by the grace of God since I almost died last year in a car accident, I find myself slipping into complacency. I flatter myself to think that this is a natural human condition. As the Bush administration is learning, we can't constantly be kept scared. By the same token, I can only be so appreciative for so long. I doubt I will ever take life for granted again, but the intensity of my gratitude has definitely waned.

There were a few small breaks from the routine last week. Over at YouTube, Someone has posted one of my editorials from The Computer Chronicles, the public television program for which I did software reviews from 1986 to 1995. The editorial in question belittled the Macintosh as all packaging and no content, and featured my classic (well, classic within my family and among the staff of the program) signoff, "That's my opinion, I'm Paul Schindler." My daughters still say it now and then. Last week, my students asked me to say it in class. I am not posting the link to YouTube because the posting violates copyright, and I am sure someone from the Chronicles will have it brought down soon.

At school, my colleague Mrs. S needed a few days off for personal business. She runs the daily video bulletin, a very exacting technical task for which no other teacher, nor any substitute, is prepared. So I took it on for three days. Phew! I have no idea how she does it. You have exactly 39 minutes to go from nothing to a five-minute video newscast. It is complicated and difficult and you're depending on the focus, concentration and hard work of a dozen eighth graders. Here's a hint: if you're a betting person, don't bet on 100% focus, concentration and hard work from a dozen eighth graders.

Finally, someone has posted a Paul Schindler Wikipedia Page. It is marked as a stub. I am tempted to work on it, but you're not supposed to edit your own page. It is probably there because my name s referenced at the Computer Chronicles page.


by Craig Reynolds

This is a special "I was going to skip Technobriefs this week but find myself stuck at the airport" edition.

Unsecret: yikes! software data protection undone by a hardware hack, discovered by Ed Felton, et al.: A Method for Critical Data Theft. A site established as a data haven for leaked documents soldiers on dispite a California court's attempt to disrupt its operation: Whistle-blower site taken offline and Wikileaks Site Has a Friend in Sweden. Note that the site is still there, but you have to use its numerical IP address. On Wednesday Google found 243 sites listing the IP number, on Friday there are 3900!

GDC: I was at the Game Developers Conference this week, so here are some game-related bits: Are casual games the future?, A Little Pre-GDC Evening Reading and Intel unveils eight-core high-end, gaming platform. A release date has finally been set for the long anticipated Maxis block-buster Spore: Evolution Is a Slow Process, Preview: Spore and Hands-on with 'Spore'.

Technobits: Smugglers Return iPhones to China --- Google lunar challenge gets under way --- After HD DVD Drop, Toshiba Spends $835M to Back PS3.

Neal Vitale's Oscar Picks

2007 was a good year for film, and the slate for Sunday's festivities is happily full of many deserving nominees. I am expecting a sweep by the Coen Brothers' excellent No Country for Old Men of all the major  film awards.. The following are who I think will win, as opposed to who I think should win (I've noted the few instances where this appears to be a particular injustice).

Best Picture
No Country For Old Men
Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress
Julie Christie
Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett (I still feel Tilda Swinton was miscast in Michael Clayton)
Best Director
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Best Animated Feature Film
(While I like this film, I thought Surf's Up was actually better, and much funnier)
Best Art Direction
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

Best Cinematography

There Will Be Blood
(All the candidates in this category are excellent)
Best Costume Design
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
(Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the competition here)
Best Film Editing
No Country For Old Men (This award usually follows the year's dominant film, which is unfortunate for The Bourne Ultimatum)
Best Foreign Language Film
The Counterfeiters

Best Makeup

La Vie En Rose
(A film I hated)
Best Adapted Screenplay
No Country For Old Men
Best Original Screenplay


Best Original Score

Atonement (Those typewriter keys!)
Best Original Song
"Falling Slowly" (The best song of the bunch, by far)
Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Visual Effects

Best Documentary Feature

No End In Sight

Best Documentary Short Subject


Best Animated Short Film

I Met The Walrus

Best Live Action Short Film

Tanghi Argentini

Neal Vitale Reviews: In Bruges

3.5 stars out of 5

Writer/director Martin McDonagh comes off his 2006 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film (Six Shooter) with the very funny black comedy  In Bruges. Cut from the same cloth as films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, this is a deftly-written and surprisingly finely-acted story of two hit-men from London hiding out in a picturesque but quaint  Medieval town in Belgium. Actors Colin Farrell (Miami Vice, Alexander), Brendan Gleeson (Beowulf, Harry Potter), and Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener) are perfect as the trio at the center of the action, cold-hearted and violent, but quirky and full of recriminations and moral conflicts. The pace of of the film is a bit languid for my tastes, but In Bruges is clever and well worth seeing.

Wolfe on Forgiveness, Lasusa Links, Dan Grobstein File

Freedom of the press is important. Freedom of information is important. A terribly bad federal court decision shut down Wikileaks, but you can find a link to Wikileaks new home in Sweden.

Regular contributor Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe writes about forgiveness on her blog.

Tom Lasusa surfs the web so you don't have to: Overheard in NY...Great comic book art..James Bond fanatic creates underwater car...A Very Star Wars Valentine...Des Moine's "festival for bacon."...This link would have been helpful to me, say around 1990?....Warrantless wiretapping explained by Snuggle the Security Bear...The five Most Bad-assed Presidents of all time...Where the World's Oil Money Is Going...Haiti's poor eat mud cookies. I kid you not... PICK OF THE WEEK: A VERY Interesting Comparison of Obama and Clinton's bills and senate activity. . . Tournament of blood: The sheer horror of horse-fighting. . . There's a lake at the bottom of the sea. . . FRIGGIN GENIUS. . . Stanford is free to students whose families make less than $100,000. . . Tex Avery toon on the Future of Television, 1953. . . A Lead on the Ark of the Covenant. . . 5 Things I Didn't Know about Poop. . .

See also Tom's comments in the Long Letter from Tom LaSusa about Spidey and MJ, posted below.

Dan Grobstein File

  • Josh Marshall wins Polk award. This is America's highest honor for serious journalism. For a blogger to win it marks a serious sea change in the narrative of American media.
  • McCain and the Media--from before the NY Times dustup of this week


    He is good at keeping the romance going with big media. Back in Arizona -- where he's rarely engaged on any issue, except to refuse to help -- it's a very different story. There he ignores and has contempt for the local media. He is, in his mind I suppose, a figure of national stature, not a public servant of the citizens of Arizona.
    He feuded for years with the Arizona Republic because the paper had the audacity to raise legitimate questions and demand answers. In other words, to treat him like any elected official. After being bought by Gannett -- a large media corporation with business interests before Congress -- the newspaper completely backed off. It has few resources committed to the campaign of the first (nominal) Arizonan to be the likely party nominee since Barry Goldwater. Editors assigned a reporter whose bona fides was being a reliable conservative editorial writer. Now never is heard a discouraging word.


Long Letter from Tom LaSusa about Spidey and MJ

If you're not a comic fan, you'll want to skip this next part. I once owned Amazing Adult Fantasy, as well as Spiderman 1-100, and the news from Spiderman's world (his marriage to Mary Jane retroactively annulled in a pact with the devil!?!) left me fuming. I decided to ask one of the most thoughtful analysts of this field I know, Tom LaSusa, who had this to say:

Much has been written on the topic, from professional articles to blog/discussion boards. The majority of the comments are of course negative, and that's where I stand. Frankly, I'm appalled at this move.

Joe Quesada, EIC of Marvel, has been notoriously vocal of his displeasure of the marriage -- he believes that it has stunted Peter's character and limited the stories. Just about everyone who disagrees with him finds this an completely ridiculous idea -- has Quesada felt stunted in his own wedded bliss? Does he feel that a person cannot grow as a person if they are married? There's countless comic characters that are in long-term relationships that continue to thrive, evolve and mature, so such an argument seems to have little credence.

So what are we saying here -- that Peter Parker chose his elderly aunt over his loving (and massively hot) wife? Sure, the aunt raised him like a son, but let's be real -- Aunt May would be devastated if she knew he had chosen her over MJ. This choice was so unlike Peter -- it goes against all the development the character had going for it. Even worse, he goads MJ into making the choice for him -- he's not even 'man' enough to do it himself. Very cowardly, and very not like the character.

The biggest issue I think everyone has is how exactly it was handled? A Deal with the Devil? Come on. I think a lot of people figured, "okay, Quesada is going to get what he matter what." But at least end the marriage in a respectable way. Perhaps the stress of living on the lam proves too much and MJ just can't take it anymore. That would have been a very acceptable end. And wouldn't disparage all the years of stories that are now worthless thanks to the Mephisto angle.

What's also equally frustrating was Quesada used the excuse that he wanted to re-establish Peter's secret identity (lost during Civil War) in order to get his desire of wishing away the marriage. Frankly, there were tons of ways you could have put Peter under the mask without losing the wedding ring. In one non-Spiderman title that he guest starred in, they even alluded to a solution -- suggesting that several people wearing high-tech costumes have been parading around as Spider man for a while. There were several panels with people saying "Hey...maybe that Parker guys ISN'T Spiderman then?" Quesada just used the re-masking as a red herring in my opinion.

And then of course, there's all the retcon stuff that's been introduced which makes no sense -- Harry Osborne's back? Peter is living with Aunt May again? Organic shooters gone, mechanical web shooters back? Quesada went nuts with all his tinkering. Everyone knows it. Michael Straczynski knows it -- which is why he nearly demanded his name be taken off the book in the end.

The main problem with all this is the fact that, despite all the gripes from the fans, the book continues to sell. All the internet threats to stop buying the book until Quesada set things right were hot air -- and with the book still selling, that's all that matters to the Marvel head honcho.

Straczynksi's comments on the whole thing, including his conversations/disagreements with Quesada. It's a very interesting read.


by Craig Reynolds

Until the end of the world: while it may sound like the plot line of a Wim Wenders film, the Pentagon plans to shoot down disabled satellite. See this update: Operation Rogue Satellite: The Latest. Is it about the danger from the hydrazine (you are a million times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be hit by this satellite) or something else (Russia: U.S. may use satellite blast to test weapon)?

Comcast: anticompetitive, anticonsumer: Comcast continues its efforts to destroy Internet usability and stifle innovation: Comcast to FCC: We block only 'excessive' traffic, BitTorrent firms: Comcast throttling is anticompetitive and BitTorrent Developers Introduce Comcast Busting Encryption.

Traffic: one item about optimizing traffic "throughput": Could smart traffic lights stop motorists fuming? and two about providing the required traffic data: Capturing traffic data using GPS-enabled cell phones and Software gets smart cars talking.

Technobits: House Leaders Oppose Immunity, Reid Prepares For Extended Negotiations and At Odds Again on Wiretapping (tell your US Rep to oppose immunity) --- Computer Analysis of 9-1-1 Calls from California Wildfires Offers Potential Early Warning System for Future Emergencies --- Android Hands-On Video: It's Fast, It's Still Not There --- Robot glider harvests ocean heat --- Artificial Energy Islands Could Power The World --- AT&T to roll out Wi-Fi access to over 7,000 Starbucks locations --- Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? --- Do Statins Make You Stupid? (previously) --- New Mini-Pterodactyl Among Smallest Known --- great bio by Nick Tredennick, who is speaking next week at Stanford --- not only do kids love politicians but vice versa: exhibit 1, exhibit 2.

Another Light Week

Just living La aburrida vida (as opposed to la vida loca). Cruising down the river, teaching 8th graders about the Alamo and 7th graders about the middle ages (coming soon--The Black Death!), moving from week to week. The column is early this week because Vicki and I are off for a four-day weekend. It is short because I don't have much to say, although there is much interesting stuff to read.

Cowards in Congress

If your Senator(s) is (are) on the list of those who voted, in violation of their oath of office, for telecom immunity for aiding, abetting and conspiring to violate the law and the U.S. Constitution, you may wish to call them, write them, tell them they will not be re-elected. Here's the list. If they voted "Nay" call them, vote them out of office, ask them if they deliberately lied when they took their most recent oath of office; if not, why not in their view.

Here's a letter from a patriotic American (Rep. John Conyers ( D.- Mich.), House Judiciary Committee Chair, asking questions which should have been asked before Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.), and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) exhibited their profiles in cowardice last August and approved a violation of the U.S. Constitution because they could not be bothered to delay their vacation to ask a few questions.


  • House Approves Contempt Citations Against Bolten, Miers. The Republicans, of course, walk out of the chamber in a petulant fit at this moment of honesty.
  • You heard of Infragard, a joint venture of the FBI and private entities? Me either. Its supposed to protect our infrastructure. Sounds fishy to me. Fringe players on the Internet are both riled and scared; the MSM hasn't had a thing to say about it that I can find.
  • McCain is eligible to be president, even though he was born to American citizens on a naval base in Panama:
    "Some might define the term "natural-born citizen" as one who was born on United States soil. But the First Congress, on March 26, 1790, approved an act that declared, "The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States." That would seem to include McCain, whose parents were both citizens and whose father was a Navy officer stationed at the U.S. naval base in Panama at the time of John's birth in 1936."
    See also Currently, Title 8 of the U.S. Code, Section 1401