g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
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  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
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  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, February 10, 2002
21:11 - This is what Sundays are for...

It was another beautiful day today, so I did what I've been meaning to do for a long time: I lit up the ZX-11 and rode it down the whole length of Monterey Road.

South of San Jose, the road follows the north-south valley next to the railroad, extending some twenty miles before it gets to Gilroy, where 101 joins it to cover the old route to Monterey. The old road is there between San Jose and Gilroy, though, with few cars and lights that get spaced further and further apart-- though you can see them coming a mile away, a rare thing in the Bay Area-- as you pass through the regions between towns.

The first of these towns that you get to is Morgan Hill, named for the peaked-cap hill just west of the town, part of the southern ridge of the Santa Cruz mountains that separate the Monterey Road valley from the ocean. Morgan Hill is a very surprising little treat to find so close to Silicon Valley: it's an agricultural town, with no freeway nearby and with a downtown area centered around Monterey Road that has diagonal parking on tree-shaded sidewalks for the little shops making up the traditional downtown shopping walk. No strip malls, few gas stations-- even the Rite-Aid is in a stand-alone little red-tile-roofed building, and it doesn't even have a Safeway facing it across an L-shaped shopping center. Very refreshing.

After the downtown area of Morgan Hill, I had my eye out for interesting-looking roads into the mountains that loomed up on the west with enticingly steep little canyons and green tree-terraced hills; I saw Watsonville Road leading off that direction, and made a note of it for later.

Gilroy is next; its downtown is very similar to Morgan Hill's, but the town is a lot more touristy, because of the garlic and the fact that the freeway comes back to meet and absorb Monterey Road there. There are a number of residential streets coming off of Monterey itself, giving the impression that Gilroy is an old-fashioned agricultural town like Morgan Hill, that is trying to fashion itself into an outlier of Silicon Valley proper-- it has a Caltrain station right in the middle of the old tree-lined downtown, the old root-broken sidewalk suddenly turning modern and crisp, with the red-surfaced crosswalks and stick-supported saplings saying "Brand-new! We're modern!" Still no good restaurants in the town, though.

Highway 152 broke off from the middle of Gilroy, though, with signs indicating that it was on its way to Watsonville: Would I like to come along? Well, hmm-- let me check. Yes! I followed it as it beelined for the hills; it wound its gently curving, eucalyptus-lined way down a deep valley full of vineyards and farmer's markets, and then met up with a northward-pointing road: Watsonville Road. Some guys on Harleys were turning onto it. Aha, I thought: I've just discovered my route home. For later. Not now.

As soon as I passed the turnoff for Watsonville Road, continuing westward, the air suddenly turned crisp and cold-- we hadn't even begun climbing or entered the canyon yet, but it was as if the road knew I was on my way up, and was dispensing with the heat just to welcome me. It's the same air that I always feel in the Santa Cruz mountains further north, up in Saratoga, when we're heading up to Alice's Restaurant; it appears the hills feel the same down south, too.

About five miles of entertaining, uphill twisties under a dark canopy of trees later, the road reached the crest of the hills-- and it was brought home to me in an instant just how razor-narrow this ridge of the mountains is, because I came around the last curve to find bright sunlight staring me in the face: the westward-sinking sun over a broad valley, spread out under me like the vistas from Quimby Road-- not quite as dramatic, but every bit as pretty. There's even a turnout with a wall for sitting and staring, right where the road comes out of the trees. And of course I had no camera.

Ah well. The road comes down from there down the escarpment-like westward slope of the ridge, reaching the floor of the coastal plain after about three miles. And then it was Watsonville.

This town-- well, this agricultural community is only separated by a narrow ridge from the tech and suburban centers of Cupertino and Saratoga and Los Gatos, but you'd never know it from looking: this town looks more at home up in Northern California somewhere, or any place hundreds of miles away. It's got pickup trucks and farmer's markets-- no fruit stands, those are for tourists; and this is no tourist town. It's a real, live rural community, but one with a surprising dash of Japanese restaurants sprinkled in among the taquerias and burger places.

It's also bigger than it looks at first. You see the "city limits" sign, you see a few downtown-looking buildings, and you think you're through it. But then you look down the road and see that it just keeps getting thicker and thicker with houses (not the modern big-block stucco-walled clay-tile-roofed tract homes, but real live individuals' houses) and businesses, and then finally-- it gives you plenty of warning, but somehow it still comes as a suprise-- you find yourself in a real, live, honest-to-goodness downtown. There's even an ornate, early-20th-century-looking hotel of about six stories right in the middle; you turn around it, and the buildings suddenly look modern and cosmopolitan, and the streets canyonlike; it's as though emigrants from Monterey and Ojai started their own little colony, and tried to make it look like Pasadena. And then there's that green, flowing ridge of hills at the edge of town-- it's really fantastically attractive.

So anyway, I headed back just before sunset, bypassing the vista point at the ridgetop so as to have as much light as possible; I didn't, however, try to keep up with the squid gangs on their Hayabusas and Ducatis that kept passing me on tight inner corners. I'm still a beginner, guys; I'll catch up in a year or two. So over the ridge, through the chilly tunnel of trees, and out into the dim valley of Monterey Road again. Except this time I took Watsonville Road, which was almost deserted of cars, full of great straightaways, and a helluva lot of fun. It met up with Morgan Hill where I'd seen it on the way south, and I was back on course.

Having now seen the western, off-the-beaten-path region of Morgan Hill, I know now that it's got a rather large residential area after all-- a modern tract-home area, as a matter of fact, with lots of little twisty roads, and even a posh enclave called "Sorrento" with palm trees and a fountain. People were walking around on the crisp, new sidewalks in the dusky air; it was oddly comforting. I noticed more hints of 2002 on Monterey Road, too, including a coffee shop with a pointed cupola on a gazebo that matched up whimsically with the profile of the Hill behind it. I'll definitely have to bring my camera next time.

So, back up Monterey, then up Silver Creek Valley Road, and so back home. And the motorcycling season has officially begun.

14:33 - Another Olympic Perspective

This one is from David Carr on Samizdata:

Short of that I think I'll pass because former footsoldiers of the East German secret police dressed in sequin jumpsuits and doing triple-salkos is the very antithesis of my idea of entertainment and is it just me or is there something disturbingly reminiscent of the Nuremburg Rallies in those torchlit opening ceremonies? For sure the sight of all those glowing hopefuls being paraded around in their humiliating 'national costumes' with a 'Strength-Through-Joy' grin on their faces has a jumper-over-the-head factor of about 50. Those about to die of embarrassment, salute you!

I suppose it would be extravagantly churlish of me not to mention the transformation of Olympic events from taxpayer boondoggle to corporate sponsor-fest which, at least, has put a stop to the bankrupting of cities in which the spandex-circus was unfortunate enough to land. In those days they were not so much athletes as locusts in lycra, devastating a whole landscape before buggering off and leaving behind grand white-elephant stadia like monuments of a long lost race.

But corporatisation has had the unfortunate side-effect of morphing the games from dull and condescending expressions of post-war aspiration to multi-culti clappy-happy jamborees in which we are all supposed to enthusiastically join in North Korean style.

I suppose this one's noteworthy because it takes a about as dim a view of the Olympic ideal as I do of football, though of course this one is better written than my football rant was. Still, I don't find the Olympics quite as objectionable as football, if only because without them, most Americans wouldn't know that other countries existed.

That's another fun point: The only way in which most Americans see other countries as meaningful is when they're treated as sports teams.

"Yeah, man, I'd like to see Russia go up against the Sharks!" Am I the only one who sees just how ridiculous is the concept underlying that statement? And yet we hear it all the time during the Olympics.

Good thing? Bad thing? I'm not prepared to say.

14:24 - Cat Haiku - a chestnut for us all

This is only one URL of thousands for this same list of Cat Haiku... it's been traveling the Internet for some time, but it deserves to have attention drawn back to it on occasion. Especially for readers such as Hiker and my parents who will undoubtedly find it riotously satisfying.

The rule for today.
Touch my tail, I shred your hand.
New rule tomorrow.

Grace personified
I leap into the window;
I meant to do that

Wanna go outside.
Oh, crap! Help! I got outside!
Let me back inside!

04:42 - More Sage Words from Up North

Rex Murphy of The Globe and Mail-- a Toronto paper-- shoos away whatever impressions might be lingering that we're under any moral obligation to treat the Guantanamo prisoners as anything other than virulent protozoa:

As dear Osama has spelled it out, the women and the children, the armed and unarmed, adult or embryo -- all are agents of the "great Satan" and therefore legitimate targets.

We can summarize these "rules" succinctly. Al-Qaeda can kill whom it likes, when it likes, for whatever reasons it likes, by any means and in any number it likes, while operating in stealth and secrecy among its target populations.

Given that this is a fair accounting of the group's modus operandi,on what grounds will anyone argue that these people are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions or any other convention? They have no entitlements. They forfeited, by their actions, such entitlements. If they are being treated by those protocols, it is by the moral largesse of the U.S. military.

Saturday, February 9, 2002
19:29 - Software Piracy-- of course! It's actually good for us!

Unciaa says:

Suppose we're talking about software that is really good and people would be willing to purchase. What then? Well, see, another problem appears- people have limited budgets. A lot of people cannot afford to live by almighty rules that essentially say "I would rather use nothing than a stolen program". If you live by those rules, I have a sneaky suspicions you're also one of the people that can afford all their software, but I can assure you that a lot, nay, most people aren't that lucky. They have a limited budget and they don't want to suffer needlessly just because they don't have enough income to pay for all their software. And sometimes it's also the case of the product registration and payement being too much damn trouble to be worth it. Your average computer user, one that uses their computer for more than that one Office copy that is, is between 15 and 25 and less than half of those have credit cards or the ability to send checks.

Of course... how could I be so short-sighted? Some people can't afford sophisticated software. So of course they're going to pirate it! How dare you be shocked? After all, everybody has a right to own the best software, but only the rich should be required to pay for it. Hey Ferrari! I'm suffering needlessly because I can't afford a 360 Spyder, you heartless bastards!

I tell you, I am getting reeeeeeally sick of hearing people come up with ways to justify their breaking the law. "Oh, if g4m3rZ are made to stop pirating games, they won't buy them, and the hardware manufacturers will stop innovating, and the hardware and gaming industries will collapse!" Uh-huh, and remember when Bill Gates said that the US government had better not punish Microsoft, or the American export economy would collapse-- because Microsoft is such an integral part of the country's financial well-being?

What this all is code for is that people are using software that they couldn't in their lives afford to buy, all because they found a cracked version somewhere; and because the cops aren't actually knocking on their doors, it's much easier to sit and poke at a straw-man argument and preen about how they're really the moral majority, than to stop using the software that they have stolen. I'm sure their tune would change if the cops did come knocking; but until then, using pirated software isn't "stealing"-- it's just a natural material welfare system! Yeah, that's right! It gives people the tools they need and want, but you only have to pay for it if you're rich and too stupid to see the light!

It'll certainly be a beautiful world when the whole free-market economy has converted over to the rules of software, won't it? High-school kids will own Mercedes and Ferraris, street bums will be able to have houses if they want, and companies will be able to refuse to pay corporate taxes if they don't feel like it-- as long as they're too small or poor to pay what the government says they owe. Oh, glory to the future! Bring on the Golden Age! Hail the insight of the Free Thinkers of the Internet Revolution!


19:06 - Ouch!

A Slashdot reader comments upon the state of Linux, and damn it's funny. I can just picture this dialogue in the mouths of the guys from Penny Arcade.

What's even funnier is the shrieking responses. The truth hurts, don't it?

18:51 - Macs are Good, Wintel is Evil-- so says "24"!

A Mac Observer article on Fox's new show "24"-- in which the good guys use Macs and the bad guys use Wintel machines. Even down to the viewer being able to tell who the traitor is among the good guys, or the undercover person is among the bad guys.

Cute... very cute.

18:23 - Quimby Road

It's the price I pay for getting up late on weekends: by the time I was out and looking for lunch, the sun was past the middle of the sky and was starting to back-light the western hills, the ones that form the backdrop to the great panorama you get from Quimby Road. But it was still a better sky than I'd seen all winter (the clearest skies around here tend to come during the summer; winter tends to be smoggy and gross), and so I grabbed my camera and headed up the mountain. Lance and I had gone up there a number of times on our motorcycles, but I'd never before remembered to bring my camera.

I had to park at the very summit of the pass, the only place where the road straightens out and where a car can be parked-- except, of course, they've put up "NO PARKING ANY TIME" signs all along that stretch just to annoy people like me. So I put my car on the shoulder of the driveway of a ranch that sits at the summit, and walked back down to the corkscrew. I hadn't counted on the distance from the corkscrew to the summit being about half a mile of very steep ground. By the time I got back to my car, the bicyclist who I'd passed laboring his way up the mountain had passed me again while I was taking pictures, and again on his way back down. I passed him a fourth time in my car as I engine-braked my way back down to the valley floor.

My only regret now is that I didn't have a bigger memory card in my camera. I oughtta pick one up.

16:18 - Ah, I knew there was a reason...


Dave brought up an interesting point last night, that he'd read about somewhere: The iMac's ports are all arranged along the back as part of a conscious design decision, so that if a six-year-old grabs the machine and decides to carry it across the room without unplugging the cords, the base will swivel and the cords will all pull out. It couldn't do that if the ports were on the front, as many pundits have suggested would be a better idea.

Anyway, it's a gorgeous day in the Bay Area, and I'm going up into the hills to take a walk and some pictures.

15:06 - There's nothing to worry about...


I was in Elite Computers yesterday over lunch, oogling over the one display iMac they have until they start shipping in quantity (around the end of the month) and I can take one across the street for my new desk machine.

They did, however, have one of the dual-1GHz PowerMacs on display, with a Cinema Display and all the trimmings; I thought I'd fiddle around with it and see how well it trotted. Forget Quake frame-rates and so on, I want to know how fast it loads apps and switches windows and stuff.

Well, DDR RAM or no DDR RAM, this thing is a monster. I didn't have a stopwatch or anything, but I got a good subjective idea of how it moves-- I'm used to my single-450 G4 at home, where in order to launch IE, it goes "click"... 2 seconds, then "title card", then two seconds, then full browser up and ready. Not unusably slow, but I've certainly seen better. (A fair comparison on Windows, by the way, would be launching Netscape from a cold start-- because IE is now effectively a kernel process, meaning that it launches as instantly as a folder window.)

So on the dual-1GHz box, from click to title card to ready, takes about as much time as it takes to say "click-titlecard-ready" as fast as intelligibly possible.

Launching QuickTime? "click...up". Launching Sherlock? "click...up". Launching iTunes? "click....up."

This thing's a frickin' beast, and it will definitely hold its own until the G5s are here-- at which time the 400MHz system bus will make even DDR seem slow. (Imagine, DDR RAM on a 400MHz bus-- 800MHz RAM...)

05:01 - Some Olympic Thoughts From den Beste


It's been a long time since anyone with breasts actually competed in "Women's" gymnastics. In what is essentially a strength sport, women lose out in strength-to-weight ratio to girls and men. A man is stronger per weight than a boy, but a girl is stronger per weight than a woman. As a result, when you see the pictures of the Olympic gymnastic teams, it looks like a crime is being committed. You've got a whole lot of 13 and 14 year old girls with narrow hips and flat chests running around with men aged between 19 and 25 who are, leave us face it, quite virile. If they were out on the town together they'd all be arrested.

Interesting points...
Friday, February 8, 2002
02:44 - Well, that's one attack-free day down...

I watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies with a bunch of the usual Friday-night friends; aside from the to-be-expected cuts-away to hockey games whenever the Olympics cut to a commercial (and sometimes when it didn't), it was a really enjoyable show. Sure, it's ostentatious and scripted way beyond any hope of being ascribed any spontaneous energy; but oddly enough I didn't much mind.

After the Parade of Nations, the long stage/rink show got underway, and it was awfully impressive. It was an artistic interpretation of the history of the American West, with a ceremony by the Five Tribes of local Indians blessing the games, followed by the involved musical extravaganza with skater puppeteers operating huge (20-foot-tall) puppets that had been designed by Michael Curry, the man responsible for the animals in the Broadway production of The Lion King. These ones looked every bit as cool, especially the giant ghostly moose and the bear. Awesomely effective.

The sports announcers have got to go, though. I don't need Bob Costas telling me "Oh, and here we have the two Eastern and Western railroads coming down the aisles, to come together in a symbolic gesture commemorating the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point", or to hear Copland's "Rodeo" come on as part of the musical production only for one of the announcers to quip, "Well! Now it's suddenly become a 'Beef: it's What's For Dinner' commercial," just reinforcing the dismal fact that those ads are now the first thing we think of when we hear that piece. How very American of us to ruin the performance by barging in during a well-choreographed number set to a musical classic and tying it to a TV commercial.

I'm always vaguely embarrassed by the Parade of Nations, especially when the Olympics are being held within the US, because first you have a couple hundred nations following their flags with maybe two or three athletes each; and then, at the end of the procession, along comes the USA-- just another team, right? Well, no, they've got approximately 25,000 athletes so as to make sure that these other countries that worked so hard to field one athlete to compete in one event won't have a ghost of a chance. The Olympics are supposed to be seen as impartial and non-nationality-specific, but it always comes across as a showcase for America-- our only outlet for condoned overkill, unchanged since the fall of the USSR, the catalyst for us developing that tradition of overkill in the first place. It's not something we're really prepared to scale back, evidently.

But on another note, I had to do a double-take at Bush's little speech declaring the Games open-- because he was standing in among a huge crowd, no Secret Service agents in sight, right down on the field. Usually, as the commentators noted, heads of state are always seated in a heavily-secured box of some sort, and they speak from there. This may be the first time since Kennedy that a President has put himself so ostentatiously out in the open and among the crowd. I guess the security at the stadium was really that tight, that his handlers allowed this to happen. Since the cameras picked up no obtrusive displays of security (like the tanks at the Super Bowl), the reassurance of the image was genuine.

So, all in all, an exhilarating show. The jingoism was kept to a minimum (the US didn't march in behind the WTC flag, having been told not to by the IOC-- they had a low-key ceremony with it earlier), though the symbolism of all the rituals (and the commentators explaining how it should all be interpreted) did get a little bit old. Remember back when people could put on a show, and the spectators were supposed to be able to watch it and figure out what it meant for themselves? I guess that's not a luxury we have these days. But all things considered, it was great fun, and a very impressive show. Kudos to all involved.

Now let's just hope we can make it through the next two weeks without an "incident".

13:00 - Hey, he said it...

On NPR last night, between the store and home, I heard a snippet of the "Remembering Jim Crow" segment they were doing-- talking to people who had lived through it, what it was like, and how things have changed.

They mentioned, almost in passing, that many whites in the South are still bitter over the loss of plantation fortunes in the Civil War. They had one guy saying, "I inherited enough to buy my wife's Oldsmobile when my folks finally died... but my grandfather's grandfather had three huge plantations on the Mississippi-- I don't know how many slaves he had. [wistful pause] I coulda just imagined those days, goin' out huntin' on the grounds... clean them ducks... skin that deer... yeah, I coulda done with that. ...And I think you could too."

I don't know if there's anything I can say in response to that that can draw to it any more ridicule than it already must have.

Is killing things all these people know how to do?

Then again, this is NPR we're talking about, so I'm sure that if they wanted a good line to quote from somebody who missed the antebellum days, this one was just too good to pass up.
Thursday, February 7, 2002
02:14 - To Return to Seanbaby...

Now, while I had myself a good hearty set of guffaws over the Seanbaby article I posted earlier today, there's something about it that I wanted to bring up and point out.

It's not about how it's right on the money. It is. Security is pretty much moot when compared to the initiative of passengers who realize that the plane they're on isn't simply being diverted to Havana, that if they just sit and let the terrorists do their thing it won't be a matter of avoiding a few box-cutter papercuts or black eyes, it'll be a matter of life or death for themselves and thousands of people on the ground. Hence the first three flights on 9/11 that crashed into their targets because the passengers thought it was just a "routine" hijacking, and the fourth-- after the passengers heard what had happened-- that did not, because the passengers stood up and started kicking nads.

See Hiker's post on the subject for more on that.

No, what I want to talk about is the fact that airport security is a joke, a joke worthy of Seanbaby-- and you know what? Everybody knows it. Even the government. Especially the government.

Here's the thing, see. Airport security is an illusion, a very carefully crafted illusion. X-ray machines and metal detectors are placed at a security checkpoint in order to convey that YOU ARE ENTERING A SECURE AREA. The purpose of this is to make the passengers feel safe. The purpose is not, or is only secondarily, to make the passengers be safe.

Hence Argenbright. Argenbright is cheap. They can run the X-ray machines; not perfectly well, true, but hiring people who can run them perfectly well would cost a helluva lot more. Ticket prices would be about twice as high, at least. And so the balance that is currently struck means that passengers get a certain amount of reassurance for a certain amount of cash outlay, and it's stable and satisfies the laws of supply and demand.

I don't mean to put this into such playing-cards-with-lives terms. I'm not trying to justify or condemn the way security is. Just to describe what's going on.

The FAA needs to meet a budget just like everybody else; the airlines have to meet their revenue numbers. We've seen what happens if they're grounded for even one day: whole airlines go out of business. It's that expensive. And an airline going under, or even missing its numbers, hits the stock market hard. It's in the entire country's interest to make sure the machinery of the airline industry moves along smoothly, and in order for that to happen, security has to match a certain features-for-price point. The three-hour lines for the X-ray machines won't last much longer, because the FAA won't pay for that level of work by security personnel for any longer than it absolutely has to-- and how long it has to is determined by how safe people feel, which is measurable by how many tickets they buy.

That's another interesting point, by the way. I've flown several times since 9/11, and frankly I've never noticed that security is that noticeably tighter. All I've noticed is that the X-ray machine line is a few minutes longer, they make you take out your laptop and send it through the machine separately and sort a few more things into different-sized bins, there are guys in fatigues with rifles standing around and looking uncertain, and people without tickets aren't allowed to go past the security checkpoint.

It's that last point that presents the only real inconvenience I've noticed about the airports. We now have to say good-bye to our loved ones before we go through the metal detector, then trundle through the long and winding terminals to our gate, there to wait for hours reading newspapers that other people have left behind, instead of spending those last few moments together and saying good-bye only at the last possible moment. Likewise, you can't meet whoever is greeting you until you've exited the baggage area-- not as soon as you get off the plane, like before. No more very-best-of-humanity exchanges between family or friends or lovers just outside the gate. Loki from Dogma would be so disappointed.

I'm told that this is a feature peculiar to American airports; in Canada and elsewhere, people without tickets have never been allowed into the secure area. Now we're just doing what everyone else does. This got me thinking: What exactly does such a measure protect against? Screening out people without tickets wouldn't keep terrorists out; they can buy tickets just as easily as anyone else can, and they can't very well get on a plane without a ticket (and a hijacked airport doesn't travel dangerously fast). I guess it might help keep the crowds from getting too thick in the secure area, and there might indeed be some merit in having people be quiet and introspective and pass the time with newspaper fragments while waiting for their flights to board instead of talking and laughing with their friends. Maybe it means they don't have to staff as many security guards throughout the terminals.

In any case, American airports really aren't set up for good-byes and greetings to occur near the screening area. There are no restaurants outside the secure area; before a recent flight, a friend and I had to eat plastic-wrapped sandwiches from a portable snack stand while sitting on luggage containers before saying good-bye. The old way will come back, and probably soon. You know why? Because the only reason it's gone now is that it's a quick, cheap way to provide more illusory security-- the passengers will think, "Hey! They're not allowing non-ticketed-passengers into the secure area. That's got to mean we're safer!" And they won't think about it too deeply, they'll walk forward with more of a spring in their step, and they'll buy tickets more readily. That's the goal.

The FAA might just as well have banned the use of laptops in the terminal. Not for any true security reason, but because it's cheap and easy to implement, and it's visible and easy to whip up a justification for it. People would quite readily think, "Well, yeah, maybe terrorists are known to use laptops to plan their operations beforehand or something," and they would absorb the inconvenience and feel more reassured that somebody is doing something. And the ticket sales would flow.

So to bring this point full circle, Seanbaby's article is spot-on, yes... but it's pointing out foibles that the FAA knows all too well, but it would just as soon people not draw attention to it. It's shouting about the emperor's lack of clothes. I want to be very clear here: I'm not advocating censorship of satire or exposure like Seanbaby's... but what's it trying to accomplish? If millions of people read it, would they all demand real security instead of illusory security? Well, if that's what people decide they want, sure-- but it'll cost a lot more, in the form of sharply hiked ticket prices. And it probably wouldn't catch all that many more perps than Argenbright does already. Argenbright can catch 90% of what federal employees would catch, for 40% of the pay.

It's not just a simple matter of "We need more real security". Richard Reid would have gotten through regardless of whether the X-ray machines were being manned by feds or by contractors-- he kept his bombs in a place where they weren't equipped to check. The guy who arrived in Buenos Aires today with an axe in his head would have set off no additional sirens at the security checkpoint. Real security in air travel, ever since about 9:00AM on September 11, has been handled with great and deadly efficiency by the flight crews and the passengers themselves on the planes.

We know now that any threat made on a plane has the potential to be something we should stand up and fight with immediate and deadly force, and we also know that hijackers will not be armed with anything more dangerous than boxcutters or shoes with plastique in them. We know we can take them out very easily if we just stand up and start punching as soon as we notice something's wrong.

And so security at the airports will recede back to pre-9/11 levels, or something very like it; but the people on the planes won't let down their guard. Thus we have both real security and illusory security, handled most efficiently by those who are best able to perform the respective tasks according to their natural capacities.

I'll be flying in about a week. I'll be one of the most effective pieces of airline security in the airline industry that day. I plan to do my job to the best of my ability.

21:13 - Somebody please listen to this man.

"It's a fair cop, but society's to blame."
"Oh, all right, we'll arrest them then."

Steven den Beste on the subject of Columbine, Lindh, and other cases of "Oh, it can't possibly be the individual's fault-- it must have been those violent video games or those alternative lifestyles that sent him round the bend!":

Why did Klebold and Harris shoot up Columbine high school? It's because they decided to do so. It's as simple as that. Who is responsible? They are. Since they're both dead, it's an unsatisfying answer. We want someone to blame, someone we can punish. But sometimes you can't get what you want.

Is it possible to prevent that kind of thing from happening again? Yes, but the price is too high. Klebold and Harris and John Walker Lindh are statistical outliers, and when a society is as big and varied as ours is, one in a million is damned well a long way from the center of the bell curve. The only way to prevent that kind of thing is by completely regimenting society in ways I could never accept. Millions of people play violent video games and then go about their lives as normal people; violent games do not make people violent. Millions of people listen to heavy rock music; there are many people whose parents break up or come out, or who adopt strange religions. Nearly everyone's parents screw up one way or another. Ultimately each of us has to play the hand that life deals us, and do the best we can with it. If we screw up, we have to accept responsibility for ourselves. And when others screw up, we have to let them, or force them, to take responsibility for themselves.

Ever since Beavis was banned from using the word "fire" because some rattly-headed youngster set his house ablaze, I've been deeply, deeply bitter about this phenomenon. Oddly enough, I used to blame the kid: "Gee, thanks for ruining it for all of us!" ...But the fact is that nothing would ever have been ruined for everybody if the kid's parents hadn't been so good at deflecting any accusations that, well, maybe it was their fault for letting the kid watch Beavis & Butt-head despite the "parental guidance" warning, or maybe the kid's fault for being a goddamn idiot, regardless of his age. No, it can't be the poor innocent kid's fault! And it can't be the poor distraught parents' fault! No, it's gotta be society that caused this to happen. So it's society that we'll punish.

In the absence of being able to blame bad things on Satan or the vapors like we used to, we desperately want there to be some big, oppressive, menacing force that's just lurking in wait to put worms in our brains and make us shoot up schoolyards. Way back when, we dealt with these kinds of problems by burning the perpetrators at the stake-- but if they were already dead or beyond reach, we reacted by going to church a lot and burning everybody at the stake who might turn out to be a problem. Suspicion was all that was needed. The people want to go home happy; they want to sleep well in their beds. And they can't do that while thinking that the kid next door could be the next to go nuts, when we could have prevented it by locking him up in a box with pillows and teddy bears.

I'm sick of having the good things in life ruined for me. We've already had nature itself do that with sex and with food that tastes good; let's not contribute to the problem by demonizing things that most humans understand how to handle properly. This isn't Salem anymore. We're better than that. Aren't we?

20:41 - See, this is the honey-pot that Microsoft saw the Xbox could be.


Touché, indeed.

14:05 - Almost... there...

I'm almost ready to resume my normal life of work, after yet another day of fighting and kicking and pleading with Windows 2000 to pleeeeease be nice to me. I gave up on the server machine and nuked-n-paved it, and now I'm trudging through the reboot-after-reboot phase of Windows Update, bringing it into sync with all the current service packs.

I have to do them in a very specific order, according to all the Win2K gurus who have been offering me helpful advice lately, both within the company and otherwise. If, for instance, I install the "Critical Updates Pack" (at the top of the list) before installing "Service Pack 2", I'm told it will install about 500 files before suddenly realizing "Hey! SP2 isn't installed! I shouldn't actually be doing this!" and run away.

I get this image of Snake, the on-the-run ex-con from the Simpsons, saying "Ho! Try using this system, pig! Bye!" and jumping out the window.

Book 'im, Lou.

13:46 - Seanbaby Smacks Up some Stupids

Well, it's about time: Seanbaby has weighed in on terrorism, and more specifically, on Americans' reactions in the months following the day on which we all suddenly started paying attention to it again.

Because this is Seanbaby we're talking about, be warned of coarse language. But much more importantly, be aware that the coarse language is all part and parcel to the fact that this is an article that anyone who's tired of all the tiptoe-around-the-touchy-issues BS that's been wafting through the air over the past several months will find very, very refreshing. He tackles airport security ("The only problem with security is that it's based around pretending to be an idiot. A clerk asking me if I packed my own bag isn't going to foil anyone's smuggling operation, but the two of us have to pretend to be stupid enough to think we're keeping the world safe. Airport security quadrupled after September 11th, which meant that security personnel had to pretend to be idiots four times as hard."), Anthrax ("At the end of it all, Anthrax finished neck and neck with domesticated duck attacks for total kills."), racial profiling ("While airport security agents are pretending that tweezers are deadly weapons, they're also pretending not to notice that slightly over one hundred percent of terrorists are of middle eastern descent."), and our obsession with erasing any mention of terrorism or the World Trade Center from all of our pop culture and media, including the upcoming E.T. release, which will apparently not contain the line "You can't be a terrorist for Halloween!" ...I didn't realize that. Here I'd thought we had gotten over that already.

In short, shelve your propriety and read. I have some commentary to offer about it, but it'll wait until another post.

13:19 - "A TiBøøk once bit my sister..."

Several weeks ago, someone at Reviewboard Magazine published an online review of the TiBook. It was a very negative review-- hardly the kind of thing we'd expect even from a confirmed PC magazine, especially since almost every other review had been glowingly positive.

Well, it turns out that the editor in question's boss just got back from vacation, and he noticed that the first review had been full of glaring factual errors and was in general just wrong. He's done his own review of the TiBook, and it's much more complimentary.

Let's touch base on each of the items and why they are cool. The G4 Processor (which can be had up to the 667Mhz speed now and that model has a 133Mhz bus speed to compliment it farther) is pretty fast for a 550. Being a PC person for the last ten years I have to say I was thinking to myself... 550Mhz? What are they thinking, I have a 2 Gigahert PC.

When I fired it up and tried things out it wasn't slow at all. In fact the 1 Megabyte of L2 Cache, which runs at the speed of the processor provides a huge buffer of high speed, short term memory to the CPU. It makes a world of difference when you are doing things and the benchmarks where off the chart when I compared it to an INTEL 550Mhz Processor or an ATHLON 550Mhz Processor.

In fact I had to compare it to a 1Ghz PC Processor to get a good comparison. That impressed the heck out of me.


3/3 stars. Apple does make a better mousetrap.

Oh, and those responsible for the previous review have been sacked.
Wednesday, February 6, 2002
23:08 - On the Subject of Stupid People...

The movie I saw last night was Le Pacte des Loups-- that is, The Brotherhood of the Wolf. A French movie, as if that weren't seriously obvious from the title and the fact that the actors all had French names.

It was really fun, all things considered. Well, maybe not fun per se-- maybe impressive is a better word. This movie had everything! French kung-fu, werewolf drama, gothic creepiness, period costumery and idiom, big swords in designs I've never seen before (a thwacky one that slings into a barbed chain like a Chinese yo-yo), sex, historical context-- yeah, everything. Even bullet-time and Matrix effects.

It's those bullet-time effects that I think are nearing the end of their popularity, now that I mention it. Lots of the fighting scenes in Loups cuts fairly gratuitously to slow-motion camera rotations, sometimes with a smooth transition, usually sharply. Yeah, it looks pretty cool, it gives you a better idea of what's going on, and it means you don't have to shoot quite so much actual fighting to fill up the footage-- but darn it, it's getting old. I didn't mind seeing the spoofs of the Matrix bullet-dodging scene in that Atari-retrospective QuickTime movie and Conker's Bad Fur Day, or the bullet-time spoofery in Shrek or the genuine uses of it in every Jet Li film since 1998, but now that Kung Pow is coming out (and telegraphing the fact that it's going to be doing Yet Another Matrix Spoof Scene in the trailers), I think it means the era is ending. We'll look back and consider Crouching Tiger to be the pinnacle of the use of the technique: subtle, effective, smooth.

But at any rate-- about half an hour into Loups, I had my shoulder tapped. I turned around to find a large guy in a t-shirt; big, angry-looking, thick-moustached, like the guy playing Barliman Butterbur in Lord of the Rings-- except looking considerably more put out.

"'Scuse me," he growls. "Do you know if the whole movie's gonna be this way?" Meaning, I understood, the French dialogue with subtitles.

"Well, yeah," I say. "It's French."

He sits back in his seat with a harrumph. About one minute later, I hear his seat creaking, and he sidles out and trundles down the stadium-seating stairs, grumbling and swearing to himself.

I'd love it if I could be the type of person with the mental powers to feel sympathy for these kinds of people, I really do. But when it becomes so obvious that the things they get angry about are so trivial and easy to work around, as with this guy or Hiker's bus lady or the couple in the taqueria, and that they're getting angry purely because they're unwilling to admit that they made an error in judgment or just a slight wrong turn and it is not the world's fault for not turning on its heels to cater to the actions they happen to have taken... well, I just don't have it in me to do anything but extend my tongue, hold up my nose so my nostrils are visible, and go "Thhppbbtllltlttpppt!"

When Kris and Chris and I were walking back from lunch one day a few weeks ago, down the left-hand side of De Anza Blvd., we were passed by a college-age kid on a bike. He was barreling down the bike lane on the wrong side of the road, right under sign after sign saying "BIKES USE OTHER SIDE". He came very close to colliding with us from behind on the sidewalk. We'd barely had time to realize what had happened before the guy, now in front of us, shot out from behind a hedge just where a car was pulling out onto De Anza. He swerved in behind the car, regained his balance, turned and started yelling and swearing at the car.

Chris, an avid bicyclist, had regained his presence of mind by now: "Try riding on the right side of the road!"

And the guy responds, still shakily getting his balance, with a middle finger tossed over his shoulder. Chris cheerfully replies, "Yeah, same to you!"

It's that end bit that I wish I'd been able to punctuate with something really stinging. Because watching that idiot pedaling off into the distance, head still shaking with unheard oaths, we all wished simultaneously for there to be some kind of cosmic come-uppance for pure willful idiocy. Not some kind of pansy best-revenge-is-living-well garbage. We're talking about lightning bolts from heaven, or light poles falling across the bike lane at just the right time, or just one blessed moment of Jhonen Vasquez-style head-explodey power.

11:46 - Such Hardships We Face

I was in a taqueria in Fremont last night; as I was finishing up, the clock was winding towards 9:00, closing time. As I took the last few bites, the proprietors turned off the OPEN sign and started stacking chairs on the tables, and the light behind the counter went out.

Just then, a couple entered the store. The guy had sort of curly puffy hair, a baseball cap, and a tank top-- sort of like Carrot Top if he went to the gym and had a Camaro. The female was sort of dumpy and frizzy and in her rapidly progressing 20s, with that haughty sort of I-was-once-a-cheerleader-dammit air about her. They came into the store and went up to the darkened counter.

The surprised proprietor, sweeping up, said, "Oh, we're closed now-- sorry," with an apologetic look. Now, most normal people would take this at its face value, right? You walk into a mostly darkened restaurant at 8:59:59 where the OPEN sign has been turned off and the chairs are stacked on the tables, and you pretty much expect that they won't be eager to serve another customer, right? And even if they were by some miracle of customer service, you'd understand their hesitation, right? You'd maybe cut them a little slack, even show some astonished gratitude?

But no, these people decided to stand there and argue for at least a couple of incredulous sentences. I couldn't hear much of it, but it took a good half-minute for the employee with the broom to convince them that the "Store Hours" sign outside wasn't blatantly lying. Finally they swung around and stomped out the door; but just before disappearing into the night, the woman turned back towards the interior of the store and in that nasal, petulant voice that causes a little ganglion at the back of any hearer's brain to fire off the "heave a large sharp rock immediately" instinct, she said, "Whatever."

Then they were gone. And the excellent burrito I'd just finished suddenly tasted like mud.

Like the woman on Hiker's bus, this little incident burned itself into my mind and could easily have ruined my night if I hadn't been on my way to see a movie that completely took my mind off of desperately stupid examples of humanity. Who the hell-- no, never mind. I'm not going to go off on this tangent. I have peace of mind for the first time this week, and I'm going to cherish it.

04:39 - Feel the Power of the Dark Side...!


It's sort of hard to imagine David Coursey's month of Mac slumming going much better than it has. The ZDNet editor whose avowed Windows loyalty has resulted in quite a number of sneering Mac-condescending columns in the past is enjoying the hell out of his new iMac, to the point where he's now recommending it almost without qualification.

None of the photos I've seen do the new iMac justice. It's hard to take a picture of a white computer with a clear frame around the screen and make it look good. It is especially difficult to do this against a white background, as Apple is prone to do. They had the same problem with the iPod, which people thought was much larger than it is because they had seen it only on a billboard. Now, they didn't think it was that big, but...

If you are trying to show off the iMac base--about the size of a big salad bowl turned upside down--it's hard to have the monitor in a normal position. This is probably why the best pictures of the new iMac, such as they are, have been taken from the side. That shows off the arm that connects the screen to the base rather nicely.

Of course, this hasn't stopped him from taking "Before" and "After" photos of his desk-- Before, with XP, and After, with the iMac. He's almost apologizing for the fact that the photo of the iMac isn't more spectacular by muttering over how it really, really looks better in person. The guy is rooting for this machine. And he apparently can't get enough of iPhoto, either.

This, coupled with the nicely platform-agnostic attitude of our corporate IT department and my horrific experiences with Windows 2000 (they're not over yet-- I still haven't gotten the server machine to behave to my satisfaction), I'm wondering what luck I might have in req'ing a new iMac for my desk machine. If only for the ergonomic advantage! I mean, hey-- just think, companies would no longer have to hire consultants to come in and tell each employee how many books to stack under their monitors to prop them up to the proper level. Everyone could just glide them to the right place. I don't think we'll come anywhere near grasping just how groundbreaking and this-will-change-everything the movable screen idea is, until everyone has at least tried it and seen it in action. This is the Next Big Thing in PC design, no fooling. It's only a matter of time before it hits everyone else like a ton of sharpened marbles and the clones start marching on us. (Apple's got patent pending on that neck design, though!)

By the way, The Mac Observer has a meta-article covering Coursey's findings. It's worth a read in itself.

04:21 - Lord of the Rings -- if written by...

Tolkien fans new and old, follow the link and chortle: "Alternative authors' versions of Lord of the Rings". Ian Fleming, P.G. Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling, Meatloaf... yep, it's all here. Lots of it is quite funny, too.

However, it touches on something that's vaguely bugged me ever since Whose Line Is It Anyway? came to America. In the British version of the show, they could have an entire recurring improv game of "Writing Styles"-- you know, like "Film & Theater Styles", but about authors instead. The comedians would narrate a scene in the voices of Shakespeare, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Tom Clancy, James Joyce... and the audience would get it! They would know these styles! To the British wit, or even to the casual TV-watching Nielson family, knowing what Joseph Conrad or John Grisham wrote like was just as central a pillar to cultural awareness as knowing what Charlie's Angels or Beavis and Butt-head sound like is to Americans.

This is one of the improv games that was dropped rather unceremoniously as soon as Drew Carey got his greasy mitts on the show and started turning it into the current RyanColinWayne&Guest that it is today; gone are the days of a stream of unpredictably diverse comedians who can whip up an extemporaneous song in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan. Is this because Brits are as a rule more cultured and well-read than Americans? Or is their idea of pop culture just different? It certainly seems at first blush (at the very least) that it involves a whole lot more effort and literacy to appreciate the British version of the show than the American one. To say nothing of the fact that the dry rapier wit of Clive Anderson was what drove the whole show onward in the old days, and now Drew is a dead weight that forces Wayne and Ryan to be even more zany than usual just so as to keep the camera off him.

But then, by all accounts the show is much more popular and successful now than ever, so who am I to judge what parts of it were effective or not...?
Tuesday, February 5, 2002
18:34 - Windows Melted!


This is the state of my desktop machine at lunch today. I know, I couldn't believe it either. Yes, this is a CRT doing this, not an LCD doing really bad interpolation. This is how it froze.

Incidentally, this is another iPhoto Moment begging to be told. While I was clawing my cheeks in agony staring at the screen of my once-working computer, I came to the conclusion that I ought to take pictures. So I went upstairs and borrowed a digital camera from a co-worker. He gave me the camera and the USB cable, and held up a CD. "You want to install the software, or...?" I said, "No thanks-- I've got iPhoto!" We don't need no steenking drivers.

Take photos; plug in; press Import. Go to Share, press Export, save web page to my machine at home which is mounted via AppleTalk. Five minutes and I'm done.

Then I had to reboot my Windows 2000 machine 19 times in succession.
Monday, February 4, 2002
22:54 - Curse you, Bill! You'll never... break... my spirit!

It all started so innocently. I was going through my test plans, and saw that I should revisit Login functionality. The first few testcases involved web-user-interface testing through MSIE, so I fired it up.

"There is a new version of Internet Explorer available!" it crowed at me upon launch. Well, not surprising, I guess; I don't use the browser very much except when testing calls for it. So I click where it tells me to click, I wait about half an hour, and it tells me I'm upgraded to IE6. Okay, nifty. "Please reboot now," it says.

Well, fine. Par for the course when the OS thinks the browser is part of it. I reboot, and when the machine comes back up and tries to log onto the corporate network, the NT Logon Script goes nuts-- something crashes with an illegal operation, something else in a DOS box starts to spin out of control in an apparent infinite loop, and only repeated cancelings and oaths get it to stop. I hunt down Robin, our IT guy, and ask him what the problem might be.

"Oh-- you're using Windows 98," he says, upon seeing my machine. "That's your problem." Turns out the logon script no longer supports Win98. Okay, fine-- I'll upgrade to Windows 2000. Not a problem. ("Don't worry-- I won't make you run Windows XP. I don't know of any IT shop in the country that has allowed Windows XP in yet," he reassures me.)

So in goes the Win2K MSDN disc. "Would you like to upgrade to Windows 2000?" Why yes. It does its thing, I go through some bizarre BIOS-checking and hardware-compatibility-checking pseudo-web-presentation things, and it finally tells me that I've answered all the questions I'll need to. "The process will take approximately 40-55 minutes," it says confidently. "Your machine will reboot four times." (Four times? Okay, I'm sure that's all necessary for some bizarre black magic it does-- we can't expect it to do it all in one shot like most operating systems, right?) And then it goes to shut down.

"Windows 98 is shutting down," it tells me. That full-screen 320x200 splash screen sits there motionless for ten minutes before I decide that I'm not getting anywhere this way; it's already written to my boot blocks, I figure. It can't do any more damage if I just reboot it, right? Well, what the hell. Ctrl+Alt+Delete has no effect anyway, so I hit the reset button.

It does its 80x25 text-mode thing; oddly comforting to know that in the 21st Century, Wintel boxes still look like MS-DOS if you strip away the blankets of comfort that swath them during normal operation. It finishes that and automatically reboots a second time.

Ooh, now we're in graphics mode-- sort of, anyway. Sixteen colors of glory. "Windows will now attempt to detect hardware like your mouse and keyboard," it says. (Never mind that my mouse and keyboard both work fine-- see, there's the pointer moving around.) "Your screen may flicker for a few seconds during this process." Fine; no problem. I've done this about a bazillion times before. What could go wrong?

That's what my screen turned into after the progress bar got about halfway across the screen. It flips into text mode, and suddenly we've got a screen full of apostrophes (or backquotes, or whatever). And the system is frozen, of course; not even a Ctrl+Alt+Del can wake it. So in the middle of an installation or not, I hit Reset again.

Same process. Same detection screen. Same progress bar, and BOOM! Same screen full of backquotes.

I call some team members over. They've never seen anything like this before. I call Robin over. He's never seen anything like this before. Now, I can specifically recall seeing exactly this same thing happening about a year ago when I upgraded our entire VoIP lab to Win2K, but for the life of me I can't remember what the hell I did to solve it then, or whether I ever did. So I tell myself to just calmly take the CD out and put it into my NT4 server box, which I also need to upgrate to Win2K in order to test PolicyCenter, our centralized server product. Note that the server box has exactly the same hardware as the first machine.

"Would you like to upgrade to Windows 2000?" Why, yes. Thank you for asking. Of course, this time it's Win2K Server, not Professional; so they figure I don't need to see the pseudo-web-page things about BIOS compatibility or upgrade packs; instead, it's just something about Signed Applications or something-- aw, skip it. Off I go into the reboot cycle.

Text mode thing: fine. Conversion to NTFS: Not needed. Keyboard and mouse detection stage.... I brace myself, expecting a screen full of backquotes. But no... it actually completes this stage without incident. Took a bloody long time, but it worked.

Ah, now for the actual installation part. They said 40-55 minutes, right? Well, about 30 minutes into "Installing Distributed Transaction Manager" without the progress bar advancing by so much as one pixel, I start to get a little suspicious. By the time it has taken 15 additional minutes on "Installing COM+", I am downright perturbed. My eyes are starting to hurt. But-- wait! It's done! An hour has passed, but it's done! Just "a few final tasks", and I'm home free! Four simple check-box items!

"Installing Start Menu Items" goes by without incident. And then "Registering Components"... and the progress bar gets about 30% of the way through-- and then stops.

Thirty-five minutes later, the progress bar has not moved a micron. "What are you doing? WHAT are you DOING?!" I shout at it repeatedly; but of course there's no "console" or anything (like in Mac OS X and every UNIX installer) to give me a straight answer. The hard disk light isn't blinking. My mouse still works, though, so I use it to mark my place on the progress bar and take the CD out to try some more troubleshooting on the first machine, my desktop box-- the one with four years' worth of archived work data, all my e-mail, all my software, all my test tools and so on-- the one that is currently a screen full of apostrophes.

David gets back to me to tell me that he was able to find nothing about this problem on Microsoft's support site, which (in accordance with their annual custom) they have helpfully reorganized to take previously convenient and accessible information and seal it away in a vault so that the only way to find anything out is to know what you're looking for beforehand; so no luck there. He gives me four floppy disks-- "Just use the 'Repair Windows 2000 installation' option", he suggests. Floppies? Windows boxes still depend on floppies? Well, whatever. I go back to the box and load up the floppies, one after another, into the little DOS text-mode thing. Fifteen minutes, and the thing is finally loaded-- and meanwhile my server installation hasn't moved a muscle. The progress bar is still right where I marked it.

"Repair Windows 2000 Installation," I almost pleadingly select. It pops up a choice: "Press 'C' to use the 'Repair Console', or press 'R' to use the 'Emergency Repair Mode'." Mmmkay... with some trepidation, I press 'C'.

"Enter your Administrator password!" What? I don't HAVE one! I never got that far in the installation, dumbass! Well, okay, I try a blank password-- and it works. I know this because it gives me... a C:\WINDOWS\> prompt. Oh, goodie. I'm sure I can do a lot of good here. I look around, conclude that this isn't where I wanted to be. So I type "exit", and... the machine reboots.

AAaaaruuuugh! No, I am not spending another fifteen minutes putting in floppy after floppy and waiting for this damn thing to load "TOSHIBA Floppy Disk Driver for Laptop LT675A" and "Adaptec SCSI Adapter 29106 Ultra Fast Wide Deep Long SCSI-17b" just to try whatever the hell this 'Emergency Repair Mode' might be-- which clearly isn't going to help much on a system where nothing has even really been installed yet. I yank the last disk out of the drive, and it reboots right back into the keyboard/mouse check screen-- and back to the apostrophes.

But wait! The server installation suddenly moved! 55 minutes later and it's finally making progress on "Registering Components" once again! Ha ha ha haah! We get signal! Ooh, wait-- it's hung up again. But no, only five minutes later and it's finished! Now only "Saving Changes to Files", and then "Deleting Unnecessary Temporary Files", and we're done! Boom-- it's finished, and we reboot! Hip hip hooray!

Well, one more reboot, that is. After I log in to the Win2K desktop, it tells me some stuff about driver installation being complete, and (of course) "One or more drivers or services failed to start up". Nice-- sure am glad this thing installed so cleanly. I reboot as instructed, and back it comes.

...Or does it? This time, after I log in to the network, it takes fifteen minutes for it to give me mouse control. It's a nice normal mouse pointer in the desktop workspace, but it turns into an hourglass instantly if I put it over the taskbar... but I am equally prohibited from clicking whether in the taskbar or in the desktop area. I can't click on ANYthing. Whoah! Finally, the "Configure Your Server" thing comes up! ...Or maybe not; it's only painted partway, with the frame and title bar but no contents. Well, I usually just ignore this thing anyway; I click the X, and I instantly get a "Program not responding" window. What you say! OK, get the damn thing out of my face. Now maybe I can run something, right...? Well, no, I can click now-- but double-clicking on anything, like the shortcut to the builds server or the "Connect to Internet" thing that never dies, with the big colorful gaudy mouse-pointer-in-supernova icon, results in an icon that blinks dark for a second and then goes back to normal. Nothing ever launches. I can bring up the Task Manager, but as far as it's concerned, I'm running no applications at all. Of course not! The only one that seemed to be loading wasn't responding. (No CPU activity or memory usage is reported either, just for your edification.)

Finally there's an error message, about two minutes after I double-clicked on it, that the link to the network resource (with the builds directory) can't be reached. Aha! No TCP/IP settings. Something must have gotten munged. My Network Places (what, "Network Neighborhood" was too grammatical or clearly stated for you?), Properties-- oh, a window with stuff in it. How special. I've always thought TCP/IP settings should be treated as files, you know? Gawd. Anyway.. wait. The only thing in this window is "Make New Connection". Aren't there, like, supposed to be other configurations...? Like for my LAN connection?

Well, let's click on "Make New Connection". Hmm... a wizard. it appears to be asking me for my modem information and ZIP code. No-ho-hooo, I'm not running my Win2K server on a dial-up. "Cancel", I say.

A dialog pops up. "Blah blah need phone information blah blah. Are you sure you want to cancel?" I have two buttons available, Yes and No. "Yes", I click. The dialog goes away... but the wizard doesn't. Um... I said, "Yes, I want to cancel." So I hit Cancel again. "Are you sure you want to cancel?" "YES!" The dialog cancels, the wizard sits there happily.

One more time! "CANCEL!" "Are you sure you want to cancel?" "FORTHELASTFUCKINGTIMEYESIWANTTOCANCEL!" ... and lo! The wizard quits!

(Try this on your own Windows 2000. It's really quite sensational. They've built in an internal counter to force you to say "Yes, I am sure I want to cancel" three times before it believes you and does what you say. "First you must answer me these questions three, ere the other side you see!" the grizzled wizard cackles. No, Microsoft knows what we really want. They have our best interests at heart. These are the people who will be controlling our credit cards in the very near future. Warms your heart, doesn't it?)

So anyway. I clearly have no viable option for entering my TCP/IP settings, on this machine which has so faithfully been running NT4 for the past three years. Does Windows 2000 Server ship without the software necessary to run on a LAN by default? Hmm, maybe I need to "Install Additional Networking Components," like it suggests so helpfully over on the left. Whoo, another wizard! three options. I pick "Additional Networking Services" or something that looks equally likely to be useful. It asks for the CD-- I yank it out of the apostrophe box and cram it in. It seems happy; it installs files. The progress bar gets to about 90%... and then a dialog: "You must have Microsoft IIS installed to add these components." And then an error dialog citing some incomprehensible hex number in parentheses.

By now I am visibly shaken. Okay, I am shrieking with rage. Oh, look! The checkbox says these Additional Networking Components (whatever the flying fuck they are) were actually installed, IIS or no IIS! But still no LAN settings to set. Well, hmm-- let's go into Add/Remove Hardware! I always love this; "I'd like to install a new sound card, please!" "Yessir!" And big robot arms come out of the floppy drive, pull a sound card out from behind my ear, and retract it into the box and install it with clunking and whirring sounds. Well, okay, that only happened once. And it didn't work this time, because as I was disappointed to see, about five of my devices had big yellow DANGER signs on them. And my Ethernet card icon was a big yellow question mark. Windows 2000 has never heard of my so-called "Intel EtherExpress Pro" or my "Intel PCI Bridge" or my "Creative SoundBlaster 16".

God, I'm sure glad we have this great, modern new OS to "upgrade" to, and to remove support for this shoddy, useless old hardware that nobody in the world uses.

So I abandon Mr. Server to its little mind games. I look back with furor at the apostrophe box. I use Lynx on the new server I'm building to pull up Google. A quick search on the terms "windows 2000 installation detection text screen apostrophe backquote ` god damn bill gates fucking piece of microsoft shit" turns up no useful results. So after noting with some despair that Robin had gone home some two hours before, and the rest of my team had followed suit, I looked up at the clock and decided that I would leave my useless driver-less server and my desktop machine with its screen that says

and go the hell home.

Perhaps tomorrow will bring glorious insight and the resurrection of my machine with all its crucial data. Perhaps I will end up buying a new drive to install Win2K on and mount this drive on as a secondary, just like I had to when the Windows 98 installation botched my Windows 95 disk with its store of crucial data. In fact, the Win95 disk is still mounted in there. I foresee a pattern emerging here.

So in any case, for everybody for whom Windows 2000 is working really well, I'm really and truly glad to hear it. I don't know what it is you are able to do that makes the system acquiesce to your needs, but I clearly don't possess those faculties. I admire and applaud you. But mostly I'm just glad to be back home and away from Windows. For one more day.

17:11 - Well, yeah, there's that one downside...


14:13 - And a new day dawns...

Okay. I wasn't in any kind of shape last night to talk about this rationally, as any of my (very patient) friends who bore with me through my rantings and ravings can attest. But now that I'm a little calmer, I'll see if I can't explain just what it is about sports-- specifically organized professional team sports, and more specifically football-- that gets under my skin like a syringe the size of a turkey baster.

Hiker has a post which does a good job of explaining what's so slimy about pro football in a much calmer way than I could do-- to give you a hint, I would talk about double-Y-chromosome prison escapees and drug addicts being paid salaries the size of some countries' GDPs to ram their heads against each other in a gladiatorial arena and break each other's legs for the entertainment of millions of pot-bellied, bald, beer-stained couch primates who will go to bars and discuss pointless statistics with each other and drink till they pass out if their team wins, and go into furious rages and beat their wives and children and crash their cars if it loses. It's about the most quintessentially debasing thing that we as a country do, and it's held up as the Pinnacle of Twentieth-Centry American Culture and the advertisers' paradise, the start of the new sales fiscal year.

But I'm not going to do that. (Hah! See, I didn't really say anything in the preceding paragraph.) My problem with sports is rooted in academics. I spent my high school years trying to find a university to attend where my $30,000 tuition wasn't inflated to that level by athletic scholarships being handed out by scouts at the high-school football games, giving kids with single-digit IQs a free pass to go to Stanford or UCLA just because it would make their sports teams better. These universities have to staff remedial Geometry classes so the schools can pretend their athletes are students, while they're really just rewarding them for never having even bothered to go to classes in junior high with a free ticket to some of the most prestigious places on earth to learn, while kids with 1550s on their SATs can't go because the school won't pay their tuition, no way. Why foster a genius at your temple of learning when you can recruit a thug to help you get a trophy?

My high school didn't have much of a problem with the "jocks vs. nerds" mentality, but a lot of my friends did. They grew up in an environment where the jocks could do no wrong; a star quarterback could get away with date rape or breaking some math nerd's arm simply because he was going to take the school to the finals, and the coach ain't gon' have none o' that persecution happenin' to his boah, no way! So meanwhile, while the schools pretend to value education and academic excellence (silly me, that's what I thought a school was for), all they do is send signals to the kids that all being smart will do is get you beaten up, and if you were so smart, you shouldn't have provoked him, you whiny little geek. Only the Strong Survive.

I specifically went to a college where the only NCAA-level sports were badminton and fencing, and where I knew that my and my parents' $30,000 per year wasn't going to subsidize some gorilla who would lower the school's academic standards and turn the social atmosphere of the campus into just a bigger, less regulated version of high school. I seriously think more people should consider Jesse Ventura's proposal that colleges should-- not get rid of their athletic programs, keep those-- but stop pretending the athletes are there to be students. If the colleges want sports teams, let them hire one right out of high school, have 'em play in their stadium, feed 'em whatever drugs they need-- but don't conflate these two completely incompatible goals, of fostering academic excellence and of fielding a winning football team.

Then they go on to the pro leagues, and many will speak in proud, chest-puffed tones about how these are men at the top of their games, after a lifetime of achievement, that these are the less-than-one-percenters who have succeeded beyond all hope while the others are now pumping gas (a nicely quaint little statement, now that I think about it). Well, come on. These guys will leave their home team for the hated rival if offered a bigger contract. They'll steal your pen instead of giving you an autograph. They'll get caught over and over on drug charges, parole violations, and a hundred other scandals that traditionally ensnare the Rich and Dumb-- all because their teams and their fans are willing to support them taking home quarter-billion-dollar salaries to slay each other on the field in front of hundreds of thousands of live shrieking drunk spectators and millions more at home. You may call that "hero worship", but I have a different name for it: pornography for sadists. And I want no part of it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate all sports, not by a long shot. I certainly don't hate playing sports. I've always greatly admired baseball for its elegance-- you can memorize the rule book in an afternoon, and everything is based on "X occurs before Y, therefore Z". None of this ridiculous "3 seconds of man in motion, but if the ball touches the line 5 yards back from the line of scrimmage more than 3/100 seconds before the snap, three coxswains and a giant flying eyeball can be admitted to the field and the defensive mascot must open the Gatorade and plant a flag before crossing the Maginot Line" nonsense you get in football. Besides, in baseball it's all about skill and speed and the ability to execute a perfectly turned play-- not about who can break each other's skull open the most graphically for this year's Sports Illustrated video. I'll certainly watch the skiing at the Olympics, though I'd rather be doing it myself; I'll play squash for two or three hours on a Friday night, and if Chris is reading this, c'mon-- 2AM wasn't that late. But I just get very, very discouraged to find that no matter where I go, who I live with, or how long or horrible the movie is that I go to to try to escape from it, there is no getting away from the horrible brain-scraping squall of basketball buzzers, football whistles, the muffled abdominal impact grunts of hockey, the crowd roars, announcer patter, and the aforementioned choruses of "AAAAAOOOOOOOOWWWWWWHHH!" from the appreciative crowd in the living room whenever anybody gets their head ripped off and kicked through the goalposts on TV downstairs.

... Oh, right. Political relevance. Political relevance... Ah! I know.

See, I can sit here and fume about this Great American Institution, and anybody reading this will probably just shake their heads and cluck their tongue at my misguidedness. But dude, if this were 1955, I would probably lose my job and be tailed every day for the next five years by FBI spooks in black cars just for daring to mouth such opinions-- let alone to post them where just anybody can read them. (Imagine what would have happened if the Internet had been developed when McCarthyism was rampant! ...No, actually don't, unless you're a morbid sort.)

So that's why Super Bowl Sunday for me is like the Christmas season for a Jew-- the entire country going nuts over something that's actively hostile to me and that I can't escape. Now at least I know that next year I'll have to go for a nice, long motorcycle ride or something, long into the night, until the topics of discussion have moved on to something blessedly, mercifully quieter.
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© Brian Tiemann