Could you name three major innovations of the Song dynasty and explain why they were important?

I could, but I'm not interested in doing your homework. Honestly, I was really never that interested in doing my own homework when I was a kid. I don't see why I should be interested in doing yours.

On the other hand, I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have about China or photography or anything else. Just don't ask me to do your homework. I can tell.

Who are you?

My name is Paul Frankenstein.


I live in New York City.

How do you pronounce your last name?

It's spelled "—stein," not "—steen," and should be pronounced appropriately. Of course, there are many people out there who's names are spelled "—stein," but are pronounced "—steen," so really, the only way to make sure is to ask.

What's OmniWeb?

Click on the button on the front page and find out.

Hey, they don't have a Windows version!

Too bad.

Cool name! Where does it come from?

One of those bits of Prussia that's now in Poland. There are a bunch of von Frankensteins living in Europe. I'm not related to them.

Hey, are you related to Jeff Frankenstein of the Newsboys?


Hey, are you related to ____ Frankenstein of ____?

Probably not. Really. I'm not trying to avoid long-lost relatives; it's just that I personally know everyone with my name that I'm related to.

Is "May you live in interesting times" really an ancient Chinese curse?

I wish it were, but it's not. As far as I can tell (well, as far as half-an-hour of research on the internet can tell), it's actually an American saying that dates back to sometime in the middle of the 20th century. This is not the first time a saying has been mis-attributed to the Inscrutable Knowledge of the Mysterious East; "One picture is worth a thousand words", long attributed to Confucius, was actually invented in 1921 by an American advertising executive. As a side note, my mother thought that "... interesting times" was a Jewish saying.

Real Chinese proverbs tend towards the oblique and untranslatable, such as: "Long sleeves are an advantage in a dance", "Will Your Excellency enter the jar?", "The map has been unrolled and the dagger appears", "The old man at the frontier lost his horse", and my personal favorite, "For three months meat did not taste like meat."


That's what I said.

Is that really your name?


How did you get it?

My parents gave it to me.



Are you Jewish?

No. While there are a more than a few Jewish folks named "Paul" (like this fellow's father), most of us Pauls aren't. See the next question for the probable reason. On the other hand, Jane Galt once knew a nice Jewish boy named "Christian"...

Tell me about your name.

Persistent, aren't we? OK.

The first person named "Paul" was a tough, thuggish Jew who lived in Palestine roughly 2,000 years ago. His name was originally Saul, which means "small," but as far as I know, he wasn't particularly short. He changed his name from Saul to Paul while traveling to Syria. Why? Well, it has to do with a vision he saw of Jesus Christ (who, to the best of Saul's knowledge, was dead), who showed him the errors of his ways and converted him to Christianity. Subsequently, Paul travelled all over the civilized (at least what he believed to be civilized) world to spread the word (some would say that he went to spread The Word), and, in the process, became the founder of Christianity as we know it today.

What about the other part?

What other part?

The other part of your name!

Oh, that part. Well, the story starts with my great-great-grandfather, who was a tailor who lived in a small town in Prussia (but currently in Poland) called Frankenstein, no doubt named after the local baron. His original last name was Kunze, or something similar. When he came to the United States, shortly before the Civil War, his last name and his place of birth were flopped in the records, and he became Frankenstein. About 110 years subsequently passed--years which included such significant events as both World Wars, the birth of the modern Olympics, the invention of the semiconductor, the decolonization of what is now called the Third World, the advent of the forward pass, and, of particular importance to me, the birth of three generations of my immediate ancestors.

What do you do for a living?

I'm in law school.

How do you put your pages together?

More or less by hand.

The very first web pages I wrote, all the way back in 1995 or so, were hand-coded HTML written in SimpleText, the basic text editor that shipped with every Mac OS from 7.5 up through 9.2.2. It's a little like Notepad, for Windows users, though it's a somewhat better program. Some of that original hand-rolled code is probably still floating around somewhere on this site (probably in the Photo section).

What you're currently looking at was pretty much designed using Dreamweaver 4. The self-portrait at the top of the main page is untouched by Photoshop except for some color-correction and the gradient fade.

Once I had the design down, I stopped using Dreamweaver. Using Dreamweaver for the kind of editing I do is like using a Peterbilt truck as a golf cart. I use either emacs or BBEdit to create/massage text and code. And I use a set of aliases to do some really crude site-management via scp (mostly just pushing files around to different places on the internet).

For the geek-inclined, the process goes something like this: I open index.html in emacs (or BBEdit if I'm at home), add a new entry, then save the file. Then I upload it to a Linux server that has a Windows 2000 virtual directory mounted using Samba. The Windows 2000 machine actually serves the pages using Apache.

At some point in what is hopefully the not-too distant future, this will all change. Stay tuned for details.

It's all about Movable Type, baby.

The basic layout (and the banners on the main page) was done by Michelle Foster, then I took hammer and tongs to it to make it work with Movable Type.

The current design is a heavily mutated and evolved version of the standard "Clean" Movable Type style. All the heavy lifting was done in BBEdit.

This iteration of the design started off with this article on three-column design made easy. There was a fair amount of tweaking and moving stuff around, mostly in BBEdit (though at least some of the down-and-dirty quick changes were implemented in Emacs). And, of course, I benefited greatly from the input of my friends, half of whom said that they hated the new design.

Condensed China was originally written in Word, and I used Word's search-and-replace features to do most of the HTML formatting (things like replacing all the paragraph breaks with <p> tags and the like). Sometime in the late 1990s Martin Doudoroff completely redesigned it and actually made it look pretty.

How did you get interested in China?

Well, I was born in Hong Kong. That may have had something to do with it.

What web browser do you recommend I use?

Everyone has a preference. I like to use OmniWeb 4, though it's interesting CSS implementation make some sites look odd. This site looks best in IE 5.2 for OS X. Other people are fans of Chimera.

Safari. If you're forced to use Windows, I very strongly urge you to switch to Mozilla Firefox.

Do you think that the US is going to get into a war with China?

Probably not, and I think that the US shouldn't take the attitude that "China is our enemy". For one thing, China isn't really interested in taking over the world, unlike the Soviet Union. For another, the fundemental long-term strategic goals of China and the US are basically the same. It's just the details that are problematic, and highly so at that.

There are real and serious problems in the relationship between the US and China, and neither side is wholly faultless. One of the big problems is named Taiwan. But are these issues insurmountable? Again, I have to say probably not.

It's "fundamental", you idiot.

I've never been able to spell.

What do you look like?

Go back to the main page of this site and keep reloading it until my picture comes up.

How old are you?

I was born while Spiro Agnew was vice-president.

What kind of car do you drive?

I live in Manhattan. I don't own a car.

What's the best band I've never heard of?

Saint Etienne.

I've heard of them. What's the best band I've never heard of, since I've already heard of Saint Etienne?

The Sisters of Sharon.

What do you do for a living?

A humble Computer Geek by day, I turn into a handsome, dashing, debonair (well, at least my mother says so) Computer Geek by night. It's not a bad gig if you can get it. I'm also good at giving out unsolicited advice. Call your mother when it's not her birthday. She'll appreciate it.

Where should I go for my next vacation?

Somewhere you've never been before.

New York and St. Louis are 870 miles apart. If a train going 80 mph leaves New York at 2 a.m. eastern time, and a train going 65 mph leaves St. Louis at...

I told you I don't do homework.

What's the best restaurant in New York?

I don't know. I can't afford to eat at all of them. Heck, I'm not too sure I could afford to eat at one of them. But if you really want an answer to this question, I'm be happy to take your donations for the cause.

What do you believe in?

Darwin, death, and taxes. Everything else is negotiable.

What's the best book you've never read?

A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Probably never will read it, either, but maybe I'll get around to it after they commit me.

What's the best movie you've never seen?

Until a few years ago, it was Last Year at Marienbad. Then I saw it, so now it's not on the list. I guess first place is now Andrei Rublev.

Kirk vs. Picard?


Have you ever had a fan club?

I wish they'd tell me about it if I had one.

Five all-time dinner guests?

John Steinbeck, Karl Marx, Elizabeth I, Umberto Eco, Kublai Khan. Plus a small army of translators. This list is subject to change.

Why is there such crap played on the radio?

Blame Clear Channel. I personally stopped listening to commercial radio years ago.

Connery vs. Lazenby vs. Moore vs. Dalton vs. Brosnan!

Connery, hands down.

What do you really want to do with your life?

Grow up, I think.

Do people really ask you these questions?

Sometimes. But generally not really frequently. Except for the one about the train.

faq, part the second

Wherein I attempt to answer other people's FAQs.

What are some books Sasha Paul likes?

Unfortunately, all the books I've had the pleasure of reading recently have titles like Tort Law and Alternatives or Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System. It's gripping reading.

How can I get an Autograph?

Send me your postal address, with your name and whatever inscription you want me to write, and I'll send one to you.

Don't you have better things to do than work on this web page all the time?


How do I know when a new page is up?

Come back and check. This is a blog, after all. I usually get something new up at least once a day on weekdays, under a new customer-friendly policy of "Fresh New Content Daily or Your Money Back!" Or you could join the 21st century and use an RSS reader.

Is it true that you can unlock secret guns?

I have been advised by my doctor and my attorneys not to answer this question.

Does Joel Furr Paul sell t-shirts and stuff?

As a matter of fact, I do. Right over here at Cafe Press. Buy some and you'll help me move one step closer to my eventual and inevitable goal of global domination.

I heard rumors of secret pages at the Story site your site. Is this true?


So you aren't really an asshole?

Well, I don't think so. YMMV, though.

This is a microcosm of all relationships, isn't it?

That depends on how you look at it. I figure that you have to learn how to live with yourself before you can live with other people, right? So I'm working on that part. At least that's my most recent rationalization.

What's with the Aliens? Do they really control everything, and do they have some sinister plan to conquer Earth?

Well, see, it goes like th^(*asl$!&*@()kbuh*(7--NO CARRIER

New York, May 29, 2006

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