In January of 1993, Carolyn bought a Macintosh computer and brought it into her classroom. At that time, only specially approved classrooms were provided with a computer at taxpayer expense, and most of those computers weren’t usable by a sixth-grader anyway. One classroom still had a TRS-80. They used it to program in BASIC. The Macintosh didn’t look nearly as impressive as the TRS-80, with its wires and grey ribbed sides and huge floppy disks. The TRS-80’s wires and even its color shouted “business.” The manufacturer called it “Mercedes Silver,” but the rest of the world called it “battleship grey.” Carolyn’s computer was small and beige, and the only wire hanging loose was attached to the mouse, which the BASIC programmers didn’t know what to do with.

While other students were learning BASIC, Carolyn’s sixth-graders created interactive multi-media presentations in a computer program called Hypercard.

Her computer was about three years old but it was all in one piece, making it easy to carry between home and school if she drove. It didn’t fit on her bicycle. She had to bring it home occasionally because school administrators weren’t sure that teachers should provide that level of supplies. They were disappointed that the students couldn’t program it in BASIC. Students needed useful skills, after all.

In January of 1993 we had a new president. The Washington Post on looking at his cabinet said that he had “assembled the most diverse Cabinet in history: five women, four blacks, two Latinos. But with 13 lawyers among the Cabinet’s 18 members, it doesn’t quite look like America.” Our new president was having trouble filling out his diverse cabinet with a woman who was both a successful lawyer and hadn’t hired an illegal alien to take care of her children.

Instead of asking why, he chose an unmarried woman from Florida to be Attorney General of the United States. The Post noted that “you can strike almost any pose and be fully justified in your righteousness.” The Walkerville Weekly Reader said:

Hillary Clinton resigned as First Lady yesterday, following the astounding revelation that she is an undocumented alien, a problem that has been plaguing the Clinton administration since the pair first took office in January. First daughter Chelsea Clinton noted that she’ll be missed, but “there can be no appearance of impropriety in the important post of First Lady.” The White House is reportedly scrambling for a replacement to fill Ms. Clinton’s shoes. A leaked short list of candidates included Frank Mankiewicz, Jerry Garcia, Gary Hart, Colin Powell, and Hubert Humphrey as possible replacements. When asked why a dead person was on the list, an unidentified spokesperson said, “The Vice President has always been a fan.”

Not having any children of her own, the new Attorney General had a reputation for accepting any accusation of harm to children, and an even stronger reputation for abusing the law to force the accused into jail or deportation.

The president had different trouble with his new assistant attorney general for civil rights. Turns out he disagreed with everything she stood for. When he told us that he’d never actually read his civil rights nominee’s views on civil rights, civil rights leaders were both confused and dismayed. The Post chastised our president with the taunt that “if he’d been president during the Civil War, blacks still would be in slavery.” The Reader noted:

Jesus Christ Denied Nomination

Clinton withdraws controversial civil rights nominee.

President Clinton withdrew his nomination of Jesus Christ as Civil Rights Assistant this morning. In a short press conference, he said “No one disputes Mr. Christ’s qualifications; he is the Son of God. But in his biographies—and there are at least four, written by close friends—he clearly advocates a radical lifestyle that I cannot support.”

Asked whether he should have known about these disqualifications before nominating the controversial preacher, the President said, “I wish that I had read these books before nominating him.”

The Walkerville Weekly Reader had fewer subscribers than the Washington Post, but I think they had a better writer. She wasn’t a lawyer, but she was a woman and Tom hoped she might consider invalidating herself for Attorney General someday.

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the ‘wet streets cause rain’ stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story—and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. — Michael Crichton (Why Speculate?)