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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, April 28, 2002
19:59 - Music for Context


Several years ago, when I was working part-time as an usher for the performances by various groups at Beckman Auditorium at Caltech, I ushed a show by San Jose Taiko. These guys are the premier Japanese Taiko troupe in the country, from what I can gather, and their show has only gotten better.

I saw them again today. One thing that I couldn't help but notice is how much fun the performers are obviously having. They time-keeping shouts they give to each other aren't just clinical cue markers; they're whoops of exhilaration. And I don't blame them a bit. After all, I mean-- can you imagine a performance art that's more fun than banging on drums in costume, moving in sync with eight or ten other people, the spotlights flashing off your sticks, your arms slashing off in various diagonals like a primal version of an N'Sync dance act? It's probably one of the most tiring things you can do on stage (well, that arts patrons will watch), but one of the most energizing ever.

It makes me think-- Taiko is a great example of a musical form that shares a lot of fundamental structural elements with Western music. I heard on NPR a little while ago from a Japanese jazz-group member that before Western influence came along, Japanese music didn't really have any concept of harmony; music was mostly just ascetic, simple melodies on a single instrument. Very Shinto. They weren't using the Dorian scale or anything weird that would be totally incompatible with Western music, preventing "fusion" stuff or anything. But when Western music came along, the Japanese found out with a shock the possibilities that are opened up just by allowing a concept like harmony-- the Beethoven, Mozart, and so on of the day-- and the result is that today, if you want to find the biggest source of Western-style pop music, all you have to do is look at the anime industry.

Heading off to see The Scorpion King. Back later.

15:45 - We got lucky this time...

...But it seems it's only a matter of time.

Let the bloody IDF do its job.

04:05 - And there's also this.

William Quick has a great little essay on the "honor-shame" nature of Islamic countries, and why they act the way they do toward Israel and the US.

Quick gist: It's because a) Everybody else is more successful than they are, even though b) God tells them that they're supposed to be the winners. And of course it's beyond question that God could be wrong.

Therefore, if anybody but them is winning, it must be because they're enemies of God and must be destroyed.

Quick's conclusion is exactly the same as Steven den Beste's was a while ago:

Honor-shame cultures are culturally incapable of renouncing war unless one of two things happens: Either every other state or culture submits to them ("Islam" means "submission"), or they are defeated so decisively the culture itself is destroyed.

Imperial Japan was an honor-shame culture - and history records how that turned out.

Yes. Now, nobody will win any Pulitzers by advocating cultural genocide. But you know, Japan's turned out pretty well in the long run, wouldn't you say?

Israel has more innovative networking-equipment companies than anybody outside Silicon Valley. Japan has raised consumerism to an art form. And you know, one may decry the evils of consumerism and reliance on technology and so on. But I'll take them any day against there being a large amorphous force in the world that wants my country and everything it stands for and every country and culture like it to die.

For a while they flew on, motionless against the starry sweep of the Galaxy, itself motionless against the infinite sweep of the Universe. And then they turned around.
"It'll have to go," the men of Krikkit said as they headed back for home.

On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms.

We can't seal off the Islamic world in an envelope of Slo-time, like they did with the planet Krikkit. We may just have to do the next best thing.

And anybody who disputes the statement that this is about self-defense hasn't been to lower Manhattan recently.
Saturday, April 27, 2002
03:53 - Oh, now that's charming.

So the Saudis on their way to visit Bush in Texas requested that no wimmin' be allowed to direct their flights.

Honestly, when they're getting this petty, and this brash-- they know as well as we do that this is a ridiculous, invasive, insensitive thing to ask of us-- it's as though they're doing it just to spite us. It's just swagger. One gets the impression that they think they're invincible, that we woudn't dare touch them. They have the infidels' oil. They walk on water.

And we, meanwhile, wring our hands over bombing during Ramadan and making sure the al Qaeda prisoners get ethnically appropriate meals.

Is it or is it not time to start acting a little bit less like such pussies? Can you imagine what kind of stuff we could be accomplishing right now if we didn't spend all our time being flustered over political correctness that even our opponents can't fathom appreciating?

But at least there's some small consolation:

As for Abdullah's departure from Texas, Pallone said no FAA facilities changed staffing and that in fact a female air traffic controller in Fort Worth directed the prince's flight.

So there.
Friday, April 26, 2002
19:24 - Turn On Your Mind

There's a lively discussion going on over at the Mac Observer Forums, over the prospect of Apple creating a set-top box for digital TV. (Think TiVo with MPEG-4, DVD burning, IP file sharing and broadcasting, and Mac-side control.)

Opinion is swaying back and forth-- there are the pros and the cons, and both have their merits. But there's one post out of the clamor that just leaped out at me, by the user "unpeople":

it won't happen, for one very simple reason: steve jobs doesn't like tv

if you understand the man, you understand the plan: jobs believes, rightly, that computers are for turning on the mind, while tv turns off the mind... that's why apple's digital hub is all about creative devices, like digital cameras and camcorders; passive devices, like game consoles and tv tuners don't fit the profile (one could argue that the ipod is a passive device, but music is the perfect background for the creative process)

i could be totally wrong, of course, and apple could announce tomorrow that it's jumping head-first into the "convergence" market, but i'd be willing to bet big money that
(a) they won't
(b) microsoft will
(c) time will show that apple made the right choice

I like that piece of insight. It certainly explains a lot.

Naturally, you'll never gain a 100% market share appealing to the creators instead of the consumers-- the latter account for a tiny percentage of the world at large. And come to think of it, that percentage is reflected pretty clearly in the market-share percentage of the Mac.

18:35 - Oh good, I'm not the only one.

John Manzione is apparently still seething with rage-- this article of his, in response to the revelation that Bill Gates had threatened to cancel development of Office for the Mac unless Apple bundled IE with new Macs, is a good deal more incoherent than I'd come to expect from him.

But I'd say he has a good reason.

I don't know about you but I know what I am going to do, both personally and professionally. On the personal side it's not much of a risk but on the business side I am about to take a stand against the largest technology company in the world. I don't care about the ramifications of this move either, sometimes you have to take a stand even if you risk losing your audience.

Personally I have removed every piece of Microsoft software on all my Macs. No more Office, no more IE, no more Microsoft of any kind.

Business wise I will no longer accept any Microsoft products for review. I will no longer take a neutral position when it comes to Microsoft. As a matter of fact, every time I get the opportunity to slam Microsoft for its business practices I will do so. I am even considering a new column which will expose the evil that is Microsoft. I'll be looking for writers that want to take this task on.

Sure, good idea. It'd be no skin off my nose to follow suit-- I've been doing so since about 1997. No Microsoft products get past my threshold.

Yeah, I know it wouldn't do a bit of good-- it probably wouldn't even be a blip on their radar if every concerned Mac user were to institute a comprehensive boycott of all Microsoft products. Even if everybody on the planet who had the guts to mothball their Xboxes and turn off their Asheron's Call machines and refuse to watch any show on TV that runs Microsoft ads and refuse to use AVI movies or Word files, they'd still never even notice. Because there are damned few people willing to do such things, even though there are perfectly serviceable alternatives for all of those things. The path of least resistance is just so very attractive. It's just so easy to express defeat-- y'know, ah well, whatreyagonnado?

But I don't care how much or how little it hurts Microsoft. I have no interest in falling prey to the Virtuous Defeatism that Lileks railed against ("No matter how hard we try, we won't have total and cost-free victory-- so we shouldn't even try to do what we can achieve!") when it was yet unclear what we were going to do in Afghanistan. I'm still going to take a stand, futile though it might be.

Who knows-- it might even spread.

13:43 - Canadian Snipers

I'd heard that the Canadian military had been traditionally known in particular for its proficiency with artillery. Apparently, Canadian artillerymen were always regarded as the ones you went to if you wanted something far away to die.

Well, now it seems that Canadian snipers are what are turning heads-- a similar sort of thing, but an interesting shift if it means anything.

"Their professionalism was amazing," Lieut. Overbaugh said. "The Canadians were a very large asset to the mission. I would have loved to have 12 Canadian sniper teams out there. I'd have no problems fighting alongside of them again."

He said the Canadian snipers had equipment far superior to theirs. Their rifles had longer range than the U.S. weapons and better high-tech sights. Lieut. Overbaugh said if another mission comes up, he will request the Canadian sniper teams be sent with his unit.

That's cool. But I couldn't help smiling at this paragraph:

Crawling up into a good position, they set up their .50-calibre rifle -- the MacMillan Tac-50, a weapon the corporal compares to having superhuman power in your hands. "Firing it feels like someone slashing you on the back of your hockey helmet with a hockey stick."

13:10 - Seems the G-Class is here.


On the way to work this morning, I passed two car-carriers headed to Mercedes dealerships. In both of their loads were new G-Class SUVs.

Now that even Jeep has gone yuppie and bulbous, I suppose it's good that at least somebody has taken up the torch of the "timeless-look" vehicle-- one that looks like it could have been built new in the 70s, 80s, 40s, or today.

One thing I noticed about the motorcycle world is that aside from the Gold Wings and the sportbikes with the ultra-involved fairings, motorcycle makers seem fairly immune to the styling trends of the automotive world. A new Honda Nighthawk looks pretty much the same today as it did in 1983. Harleys-- well, it goes without saying that they look the same as they ever did. But in the sportbike world, it's awfully hard to place the era of a bike's design.

This is nice in a way. It means bike design isn't susceptible to the wild swings of stylistic overcompensation that gives us our periodic infatuations with "retro" cars, and it means the makers are more free to concentrate on performance and quality than on style. But you know, I do like style. It's my primary field of interest, in fact, in things with wheels. So I do sort of find myself miffed at that lack of emphasis.

Ah well. There will always be car designs to comment upon.

12:54 - The Ghost of Technology Past

Lance used to work for a company called WorldTalk. Back in the mid-90s, WorldTalk had a killer app: an e-mail gateway server package that could translate between just about any of the dozens of proprietary e-mail formats that were in use at the time, in the pre-Web, pre-online-desktop Internet. Companies using cc:Mail could talk to companies using Lotus Notes could talk to companies using SMTP could talk to companies using MS Exchange. All you had to do was buy the WorldTalk gateway, which cost $70,000 and ran on an HP-UX machine which the company preconfigured for you and included in the deal.

It was ingenious, and it worked great. The software included translators for each of the mail systems that would preserve the maximum common formatting that both the sender and the recipient could handle, and it would translate everything in a bidirectional way so that nobody would ever know there was a middleman. To a cc:Mail sender, WorldTalk looked like a cc:Mail server. To an Exchange client, it looked like an Exchange server. They sold all kinds of copies and were making a killing.

Of course, this was in the days before good ol' SMTP mail grew to account for slightly over 100% of Internet e-mail traffic. This consolidation killed off cc:Mail, Lotus Notes, and all the little proprietary competitors one by one. And obviously WorldTalk's market was going to go away eventually.

But whether or not this consolidation would have ever really caused the destruction of WorldTalk through the complete deflation of their business plan is a side issue and now a moot point.

Because, you see, the WorldTalk execs made an odd decision back in about 1996: They figured, hey-- there's this new platform called Windows NT. It's cheap, it runs on any PC-- why don't we produce a cut-rate version of our software that runs on NT, includes only the most popular translators, and costs only $700? That's only one-hundredth the cost of the full standalone HP-UX package we sell right now. Sure, we'll lose some HP-UX customers, but the NT market will explode!

So they did. They sold an NT version of their gateway software that cost $700. And by God, they sold ten times as many copies.

WorldTalk was dead within a year.

This story is what I think of whenever anyone comes up with the brilliant suggestion that Apple should port Mac OS X to the off-the-shelf Intel platform. Hey, they say-- it already compiles for Intel. It wouldn't cost you anything, and it would increase your market share!

Yeah, well, that's just what WorldTalk thought. The instant they started selling the NT version, people stopped buying the $70,000 platform, which is where all their margins came from. Their profits went from astronomical to zero in months flat.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's smart to do it.

One of Microsoft's biggest unsung triumphs in Windows, one of the superhuman achievements that few people trumpet, is that it includes drivers and support for practically every piece of hardware in the world. Throw together any kind of running PC, and Windows will probably run on it. This is not an accident, and it's not because all PC hardware is inherently compatible. Nothing could be further from the truth (well, few things could, anyway). The Windows driver code structure is one of the hugest, most complex, and most rickety structures ever seen-- and the fact that Windows works as well as it does is a marvel. Microsoft doesn't even have to bother putting anything on the Windows box about what kind of hardware it's compatible with. It's an astonishing feat on their part.

Can you imagine what Apple would be letting themselves in for if they took on the task of building in support for all these thousands of vaguely-spec-compliant pieces of hardware?

Because that's what they would have to do. And not only that, they would have to devote their primary share of effort to it-- because in a choice between buying a Mac, priced to please shareholders who expect Apple to make 30% margins in an industry where Dell only makes 8%... or buying or building a cheap PC clone and a copy of Mac OS X to run on it-- which would you choose?

Apple would never sell a Mac again.

Totally aside from any application-compatibility questions, this is the biggest reason why Steve Jobs has repeatedly and bluntly told people (as in the Apple shareholders' meeting yesterday) that he has no plans to bring Mac OS X to the Intel platform. It sounds like a good idea to people who don't understand how the money flows and where the effort goes-- but once you see that "selling more copies" is not the only axis that determines whether a product is successful, it's clear that such a move would be suicide for Apple.

They're profitable right now; they're healthier than Gateway and selling more computers. They have no reason to gamble it all on a make-or-break land-grab whose success is anything but assured. Apple's best hopes are in staying the course. They've got a winning formula right here, and they'd be wise not to tamper with it.

04:00 - Stupid Error Messages


The Interface Hall of Shame is an outstanding site for anybody who values good user-interface design style and ideals. This page, showcasing shameful Error Messages, is one of the most revealing ones in the whole site. But don't forget to check out the rest of the site too; at the very least, it's good for a laugh.
Thursday, April 25, 2002
19:25 - Blog Clusters (Blusters?)

It would seem that Steven den Beste has just put up his Atlas of the Blogosphere-- a model that's at least, if not fully accurate or useful for navigation, conceptually pretty realistic. His point is that blogs have formed into clusters or knots based on common interests and common themes, and from what I've seen I'd say it's pretty much true.

He also talks about how blogs have grown out of Usenet; I'd say that this is about half the story. For a long time now, Usenet has been in decline-- especially in usefulness-- from its one-time height of all-inclusive freedom. Nowadays most groups are 90% spam, and the only way I've been able to get any good out of Usenet lately is with private little newsgroup trees hosted on private, password-protected, spam-filtered servers. Usenet has turned third-world on us; the only remnant of the Old Days now is the gated communities, the heavily guarded compounds dedicated to focused interests. Time was that each university and company had its own hierarchy of newsgroups, which didn't get much traffic compared the alt. groups; now, though, one hardly dares venture out of the private servers.

But there was a place for people to go: Web discussion boards. UltimateBB and VBulletin and Ikonboard and their ilk have provided a medium that's a lot more attractive especially to the young newcomers to the Internet-- those who may well not even be aware that Usenet exists. Columns at pro news sites have discussion boards. Static websites have discussion boards. Blogs have discussion boards. While this medium has certain advantages over Usenet ("avatar" images, a more visible and permanent topic-threading structure, the ability to edit and delete posts, and much tighter integration into websites whose content supports them), it obviously also has some major drawbacks. For one, Web servers aren't terribly well suited to this kind of thing. You have to have a database back-end of some type, you have to render HTML, you have to spew out large-content pages over limited amounts of bandwidth, and if people start role-playing, it chews up your CPU something fierce. Usenet was a beautiful example of the old military Internet, with its distributed, fail-safe network structure and its constant stream of update chatter which guaranteed widespread availability for only a small cost in latency. Now, we have extreme centralization and bandwidth-intensiveness-- which is what the Net seems to be gravitating towards. It's all about content and branding now, not performance and reliability. And for today's Web generation, that's all okay.

Blogs are the next step beyond discussion boards. They leverage discussion boards in order to promote community interaction, but the structure is all quite different-- there's now a "Star of the Show", an emcee who provides all the "real" content; the discussion boards are only there as a courtesy and an afterthought. Some blogs put comments inline and give them top billing. Some provide access to the boards through links off the posts. Some (like myself) don't have discussion boards at all. Cross-blog discussion from author to author, interestingly, seems to take place mostly in good ol' direct e-mail, rather than in the discussion forums anyway. So the blog model is a good deal less democratic and more of a potential power trip for the blog owner; but the good news is, starting one's own blog is pretty dang easy.

I had for a while intended to put up my own hierarchy of blog types, based on my own perfunctory observations-- from what I could tell, there were four basic types:
  1. The "daily journal" style blog. One post per day, in editorial-column style, with a good neatly-tied-up structure and a point to be made. You know who I'm talking about here.
  2. The link blog. Mostly links to articles, some commentary, but the real content is the links. Lots of 'em.
  3. The essay blog. Most posts are big, long, and thoughtful.
  4. The LiveJournal. I've found these mostly to be what (as den Beste notes) calls itself the A/N crowd-- mostly kids posting injokes, dishing with their friends, posting quiz-meme result graphics, and banging out stream-of-consciousness gibberish loudly trying to prove how weird they are.

I'm not sure where I fit in this-- somewhere between 2 and 4, with a little of each. Den Beste seems to have pegged me as exemplary of a postulated "Mac-lovers' Cluster", which I suppose shouldn't surprise me-- though it was by no means my intention when I first started this thing. (I figured I would spend most of my time talking about Tolkien, cars, motorcycles, and movies.) But I guess there's a lesson in that; blogs grow in the telling, as it were, and can take on a life of their own regardless of the author's intent.

What is it about blogs that has made them suddenly the medium of choice for airing one's views? I think it's that there is a major, fundamental difference between two kinds of people who post on the Net: those who have a need to dominate a forum, and those who are content merely to contribute to it. I'm not implying that there's anything wrong with this-- just that I'm sure it's true. Usenet and web-boards both provided the ability for one or two people to rise to the top of the lists and become known as THE poster, the Big Cheese of the forum. They would have single-digit member numbers and a post-frequency tag like "Honor Charter Big Kahuna Member" (as opposed to everybody else's "N00b Whiny Peon Junior Member"). The whole structure of the system would revolve around them-- but not de jure, just de facto.

Hence blogs: a way for opinionated people like me to guarantee their supremacy at the peak of the discussions, the control over the whole shebang. There's no way for someone in the forums to hijack it and take over. And that lets the blog owner do all kinds of fun stuff, which can be good or bad.

In fact, now that I think about it, it all reminds me rather uncomfortably of that classic Life of Brian scene with all the raving nutters standing on pedestals preaching about Armageddon and trying to attract crowds of onlookers like barkers at a midway. (In fact, I feel not unlike Brian in that scene: "Uhh... don't judge other people, or else you might get judged too!" "Who, me? Oh, thank you very much!") I'm also reminded of the loonies in the plaza up at Berkeley, like Paul of the Pillar-- I heard tales of him from my friends who went off to college a couple of years before I did, back in the early 90s; Paul had a sign and a pillar, and he would stand on it and yell, or smoke, or just stand there looking serene. It didn't matter to him, as long as people knew he was there: he was Paul of the Pillar. Dot com.

As for cross-linking-- I have no idea who links to me. I've never checked the logs. I'm totally in the dark as to how many people read this thing, and frankly I kinda like it that way. (Though I must admit it's sort of unnerving when I get e-mails from old high-school friends responding to some recent inflammatory post as though to imply that he had been reading it all along and I only just now went over the line, or when I get mail out of the blue from some "A-list" blogger who found his or her way here God only knows how.) I also don't know, therefore, how many people find other sites through the links on this page; but considering how much back-tracing exploration that emerges, startled, here, can only be happening as a result of people poring over referrer logs, I guess I can infer that traffic must be heavier than I'd thought.

I can also infer that the clusters den Beste talks about, while they're definitely a good illustration of how things tend to be structured, are extremely porous and malleable. And that's one thing about the blog world that I think is pretty cool.

15:57 - Whirring away into the night


An old Mac is being retired.

No, an old Mac. As in, a Mac SE from 1986. And it was still in full-time use, doing newsletters, writing, even networking.

But the venerable machine has been giving us a few problems in recent years.

The school group wanted to put the newsletter up on its Internet site, so we put the newsletter on a disk. But no one could open the disk — the conclusion was that our floppy drive was just a tiny bit off, making the disk unreadable except on our machine. We thought it would make a great encryption device, but the market for it would have been small.

It could no longer be used for even simple things like e-mail on the Internet. And when you turned it on, you got the unhappy Mac face, but if you turned it off and then on again quickly, the happy Mac face appeared.

So they got a new iMac. Mostly for the size, they say-- it fits so easily on the desktop. But, I mean, c'mon... this is a fifteen-year-old machine. And it still works most of the time, enough so that the owners aren't going to junk it. Who could? They're going to put it out to stud-- er, pasture, I mean. It'll graze happily in the out-of-the-workpath fields of pre-hard-drive nostalgia, its happy-Mac startup icon still smiling away.

As noted on The Mac Observer, who fusses this much over the retirement of a truly grizzled old warrior of a computer? Indeed, who writes a column about it? Mac users, that's who. Yeah, we know, it's "just a computer". Yeah, and the PCs I've used have shed parts and turned into dusty old hulks when they outlived their usefulness, donating vital organs toward the birth of new beige boxes. The old cases tend to sit around in closets or get flung into the dump once their still-valuable components have been salvaged. It's hard to tell where one computer ends and the next begins.

But Macs-- well, they have personalities. They're members of the family. And this old veteran is gonna be telling war stories for a long time yet to come.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
02:04 - The Sarge's History Lessons

Go check out Sgt. Stryker's last couple of days' worth of posts. He's got a flip historical perspective on the past couple of thousand years in the Holy Land that's probably about as accurate as anything we've heard out of Arab News or CNN lately.

And it's funny. And it's informative. I certainly know more than I did ten minutes ago. Go take a look through his "Yep, I'm Gonna Nitpick" and "I'm an Infidel, You're an Infidel" posts.

00:35 - A stray scrap of thought...

In heated discussions over the past few days, I've run across the claim many times that religion is inherently valuable in that it "promotes good morals and ethics". Well, in response to that, I say this:

If the only thing preventing you from lying, cheating, stealing, raping, and killing is the fear of going to Hell-- rather than any ability to discern consciously that these things are wrong in and of themselves-- then you're not the kind of person I can trust not to do any of those things.

In other words, if you need religion to tell you that these things are wrong, then you have my pity-- but you can't automatically expect me to need it too.

When it comes to providing incentive to do or not do something, I will always prefer reason rather than fear as the motivator.

20:22 - Skippy's List

I've been instructed by Lance to "spread this meme":


That is, things against which SPC Schwarz, the site's owner, has been specifically instructed not to do. In most cases, after doing them.

Just... go look. I'm not even going to try to quote any of it.

It doesn't appear to have been updated since late September, at least according to the note at the bottom-- but it's still worth a long, painful laugh.

20:19 - The "Gazelle Company" Sets Out

Hey, look... The Lion King Broadway Musical is actually traveling.

Who knew it could be done? The stationary shows tend to take up entire three-story theaters with all their machinery, scenery, and so on. The traveling show uses 19 trucks to cart all that stuff around; I wonder how much different it is from the previous ones (it would have to be at least a little less ambitious, I'm sure, by necessity).

Of course, Julie Taymor seems to have faith in the venture's success:

But Schumacher isn't worrying about whether the show's technical considerations will prove daunting on the road. "Julie has said that you could do The Lion King on the back of a flatbed truck — because what really transports you is the mythic nature of the story and its wonderful music," he says.

Indeed. And in any case it'd be silly not to try, after all-- to say that the existing shows have been successful would be to do them a grave disservice through impoverishedness of language.

Granted, I'm not the world's hugest fan of the show. But I'll certainly want to see it if it rolls through Silicon Valley.

15:52 - "Redmond Justice" plays on

This is probably news to none, at least conceptually, but here's what Bill Gates has been known to do:

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who handled the original liability case, found that Microsoft retaliated against other companies many times.

When Apple Computer chose a rival Web browser over Microsoft's, Gates called Apple's chief executive to ask him "how we should announce the cancellation of" Microsoft's translation of the Office business suite for Apple's Macintosh computers.

On paper, this doesn't sound that terrible. But picture yourself, for a moment, in Steve Jobs' shoes, circa 1997. You've just returned to Apple. You're sitting there in your office, you're more than a little bit on edge, your company is being widely ridiculed and yet you have a vision to uphold. You make a decision which is intended to please the idealistic core of your constituency-- bundling Netscape with new Macs. And then the phone rings.

It's Bill Gates, with a snide and smarmy tone, telling you that you've just fucked with the wrong people, boyo. Some people don't know what's good for 'em... such a shame. Well, now you're gonna get your just reward-- reap what you sow. So, would you prefer knife-in-the-back, or concrete shoes, or a good old-fashioned gangland sniper bullet? Perhaps poison? Maybe anthrax? What's your pleasure, friend? I'm all ears. I'm flexible. Let's hear it.

When you hang up the phone, trembling with mingled rage and terror, what do you do? Do you just roll over like a good little vassal to your Lord and Master?

Or do you veeerrry slllooooowwly and caaarefully declare war?

It takes a special kind of pettiness to be Bill Gates. Unfortunately, all that America sees of him is "Genius who made good", not "Jealous little cretin who throws tantrums whenever anyone doesn't do his bidding". And it's too bad that those tantrums leave smoking craters in their wake.

15:40 - Here, Penny Arcade-- take yourself a whack


The first thing I saw this morning was an ICQ message of Marcus predicting my imminent blogging of this Penny Arcade strip. Yeah, I was powerless to resist. Who am I to introduce instability into the timeline?

By the way, though Steven den Beste cautioned me the other day against declaring the Xbox out-for-the-count just yet (bearing in mind the iterative improvements over many years that have been part of every other Microsoft product, from Windows to WinCE to IE to Office, supported until it's viable by pure marketing clout and money), I have a counterargument that I forgot to mention in e-mail. And that's that Microsoft's previous iterative development efforts have all been software-- high-margin stuff they could make a profit on even if they only sold a measly few copies. This time, it's hardware... and sold-at-a-loss hardware at that. It's going to cut them a lot deeper if they plan to subsidize Xbox sales (with the new European price cut, they're now making what... -50% margins?) than it ever did to give away Windows in shady bundling deals. Their big gamble is that people will buy enough Xbox games to offset the hardware costs via the licensing deals; but if people rush out and buy Xboxes and then suddenly find that whoops! there aren't any games! ... well, even Microsoft won't be able to sustain that for very long.

Especially if even gamers ridicule it. After all, IE caught on even in its sucky early days because it was bundled with Windows. WinCE is winning on its shiny colors and the Maglite-like glow of the iPaq screen. And Office won because it was ubiquitous (nice little feedback-loop thing there). Not so the case here, where gamers (who are fickle) will rally around the PS2 and Gamecube if they've determined that the Xbox is a waste of money. The competition is strong and has widespread brand loyalty and all kinds of market advantages. That's never been the case before.

So all I'm saying is that the dynamic is going to be different here, because the Xbox is such a clear market loser and a loss leader. That's a bad combination, even for Microsoft.

12:08 - Look out, Itchy! He's Irish!

Have you noticed that some racial stereotypes seem to be inextricably with us and are widely regarded as "okay", even by their targets?

I call to witness the Irish stereotype. It just doesn't fit with the stereotypes we consider "bad" today-- the Irish are white, after all. When I was a little kid, I knew what "Black" was, and I knew what "Mexican" was. But I didn't know what "Irish" was, nor "Jewish". As far as I could tell, they were just more flavors of Miscellaneous.

The Irish stereotype survived well into this century, largely as the Irish Cop in WB cartoons and Broadway musicals. Go take a look at Cap'n Wacky's Unfortunate St. Patrick's Day Cards from earlier this century to see what it used to be like. But today, perhaps because immigration from Ireland is no longer a "problem", all we have left from it is the Lucky Charms leprechaun mascot, and self-conscious jocularity like what The Simpsons does on a regular basis. "Whacking Day was invented as an excuse to beat up the Irish!" "Oy, 'tis true! Oy took many a lump. But 'twas all in good fun!"

And the mockery is all in good fun, too, it seems. Somehow we've moved beyond that particular stereotype making fun of people, and instead it makes fun of itself. All the stereotype is targeting now is the Irish stereotype.

The same thing has happened, to a lesser extent, with Italians. We still have the Mafia-fascination that makes The Sopranos a hit, and Hollywood knows they'll never flop with a mob movie as long as they throw in Robert de Niro and Billy Crystal or something. (Yeah, yeah, I liked Analyze This.) There's still some general slicked-back pointedness about Italians as portrayed in the media, something of the old-style stereotyping that hasn't yet moved on to the recursive "meta-stereotyping" style. But I suppose time will bring that about just as it did with the Irish.

But what about blacks? Hell, we've come a long way. We've got stereotypes now, but they're squarely in the latter category-- almost over-the-top in that direction, as a matter of fact. The Black stereotype is such an overcompensation for past wrongs that it's a very flattering one. The contrast is astonishing. It's been decades since we've seen the "doan' hurt me, massah" kind of thing we can see in Jerry on the Job, an early-part-of-the-century daily strip thoughtfully archived for posterity by (who else?) Lileks. No, what we have now is sort of a Shaft/Samuel L. Jackson montage-- a self-assured, swaggering, pimpin' 70s sex machine. It's the Chef of South Park. It's the Green Lantern of Justice League. It's a stereotype that's about the diametric opposite of what it once was, and so it's even beyond being a parody of itself. It's a creation of the media. It's a product of our collective guilt. It's affirmative action for stereotypes.

This has happened because the lot of blacks in America has been particularly grievous, and so it's our immediate first choice when we decide we must do something about racial prejudice. But it seems to me that the "melting pot" is still working; multiculturalism is a fad, and miscegenation continues as our intra-cultural borders dissolve. One day we'll have a lot more meta-stereotypes like the current Irish, Scottish, and Australian ones that we toss about with such abandon today-- and a lot fewer of the direct ones that actually offend people.

11:19 - Anthems (uh, Antha?)

The latest in a series of observations by Glenn Reynolds. The last line of his commentary (while I wouldn't go so far as to say no, it's not too harsh) certainly twangs a sympathetic chord on my nerves.


It gets uglier. In the past when relations between the "two solitudes" have been tense, as happens from time to time, there are periodic episodes of hockey fans in English cities booing the French verses of "O Canada." There was one game in particular a few years ago, in Calgary I think, where some Canadiens players refused to go back out on the ice after. So Canadians boo their own national anthem too, though I'm not sure that excuses the Detroit fans I've been to a fair number of U.S.-Canada sporting events (baseball and hockey, on both sides of the border) over the years and can't remember it ever having happened, but I suspect it isn't that uncommon. Given that Detroit has a closer intimacy with Canada than any other American city (well, Buffalo), I suspect that there aren't any real hard feelings though. Imagine if individual cities in the U.S. had their own "civic anthems" that played before games. I suspect there would be plenty of booing then and nobody would think twice about; would that really be any better than doing it to another country, though?

I was brought up to believe that booing was generally rude. Of course, we didn't go to many hockey games, either.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Milway writes:

I'm in Montreal right now, and I am a huge hockey fan. Last night at the Molson Centre more than a few idiots booed the Star Spangled Banner. The same thing happened Sunday night in Vancouver, the same night that the Pistons fans booed O Canada. Classless behaviour in cities that benefit extraordinarily from American patronage.

Hmm. You think that sports fans are just idiots? No, that would be too harsh.

Oh yeah, and scroll down through the past several days to see plenty of bizarre observations of hockey-arena behavior along these lines.

Like this one:


I recently went to a Blackhawks game and some jerk behind us was constantly yelling "DETROIT SUCKS!"

Except the other team was Pittsburgh.

Don't think a lot of thought goes into this ...

I tell you what, my Canadian friends: Don't judge us by our hockey fans, and we won't judge you by yours. :)

Oh... and you know, I wrote this before I went over to USS Clueless and saw that den Beste had written almost exactly the same thing. I swear. Don't hurt me.
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
00:59 - The Season Begins

Today I rode the ZX-11 in for the first time this year. Now that Daylight Savings Time is here, and it's light enough in the evenings for me not to have to ride in the dark, it's time to come to work sheathed in leather once again and wipe the bugs off my visor every few days.

I'll probably be doing this two or three times a week. Well, maybe not that often; it does take up a fair amount of time before and afterwards, and it's a pain to try to walk anywhere in motorcycling boots for lunch. No, driving is still going to be the staple mode of transportation.

But still...

21:24 - Gateway's introduces... a TiBook


Kris and I can't find any consistent dimensions or specifications on these pages, but one thing's for sure: this is one big laptop.

Whether the 15.7" (in the "Product Tour" pop-up window) or the 15" (on the main page) figure for the screen is correct, it's a standard 4:3 screen, so it's massive. And judging by the thickness of the machine on the side views, it's got to be at least 1.5" thick-- maybe even 2". Talk about the Mother of All Laptops.

But what gets us is the motherboard layout. Go to the "Product Tour" and run your mouse around the various sides. Look-- every single side has ports and slots and controls. PCMCIA, optical drive, audio plugs, and FireWire are on the left; USB and "multimedia drive" are on the right; audio controls are on the front; and the back has video, network, parallel and serial ports. Plug everything in and this machine would look like a big cilia-encased paramecium.

That's for the bigger model, the 600L. Now look at the smaller one, the 450L. This one has ports and bays all over the place too-- but in all different places. It's a totally different motherboard layout. No wonder Gateway is hemorrhaging money, if they can't streamline their designs any better than this.

As if I needed to point this out: the Apple laptops cluster all their ports together in one place. The TiBook has all the ports in the back, the slot-loading optical drive in the front, and the PCMCIA slot on the left. The iBook has the drive bay and power on the right and everything else on the left. It may be a nightmare to put back together, but it's certainly a lot neater.

And I'm still not sure what the point is of all the PC makers insisting on having both a DVD drive and a CD-RW, or a DVD-RW and a CD-ROM, or just two optical drives of any kind. "Well, it's so you can rip... from one to another... easi..ly. Or something..."

Hey, good luck to 'em. The way things are looking, they're going to need it.

21:12 - So Episode I was just a warm-up?

The new Time cover story is on Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

It's an oddly astute and self-conscious article, smirking inwardly about how Time itself had joined the hype machine for Episode I before it hit theaters; indeed, considering that the magazine is now plumping for the second episode of the New Series with just as much vigor and an insistence that they were "just kidding" about the first one ("This time for sure!"), and considering Time's cover back in January of the new iMac that got mistakenly released before Jobs even unveiled the machine-- well, one might be forgiven for imagining that running ads disguised as journalism is all it does these days.

Well, it certainly makes Episode II sound like it has possibilities. I'm not going to say I'm really looking forward to it; it seems there's a scene where "Anakin and Obi-Wan drag-race the changeling Zam Wessel across Coruscant's wonderfully varied urban nightscape" (Chekov! Say nuclearr wessels!), and Jar Jar and Watto are back for encores, though who asked for them I'll never be able to guess. (Yeah, yeah, Lucas is a Slave to his Vision-- he listens to no man's plot criticism and no fan's derision! Hey, if that's true, how come the whole first movie was written around a bloody merchandising stunt-- a made-for-video-game racing scene replete with announcers straight out of ESPN-4-KiDz? "Whoah, now there's some Tusken Raiders on the course! Better watch out for those!" "AAOOOOOUUWWW! That's gotta hurt!")

Reportedly, this one's going after the Titanic audience with a tender love story. Oh, good. Yeah, that's the way to recapture the spirit of the first three movies. Oh, and Yoda is the real "action hero" of this movie, too. Cripes.

I don't know... I'll watch it, but I'll tell you where my hopes are not, and that is up.

20:29 - Oh:

...But don't let that stop you from taking in today's AtAT. While today's episode doesn't seem to take into account the latest hoax report, it does teeter back and forth across the "joke" threshold-- and it's plenty funny to boot.

But that's just the warm-up for further fun little factoids from Apple-land:

Meanwhile, if you took a lot of guff from Gateway fans back in 1997 or thereabouts because Apple was "going out of business," feel free to call them up and gloat unattractively; not only is Gateway still copying Apple's designs, but the company is also now losing money (while Apple's making a profit) and shipping fewer systems than Apple is. No joke; Apple says it sold 813,000 Macs last quarter, while Gateway only shipped 645,000 cowboxes. Of course, there's the fact that Apple's 813,000 Macs were sold worldwide, while Gateway's 645,000 number is for U.S. sales only-- but considering that Gateway pretty much shut down its overseas operations last August and claims that it's "no longer actively selling its products" in the UK, Australia, Japan, etc., we figure those 645,000 domestic systems basically do represent the company's total units sold worldwide.

In other words, yes, Apple appears to be kicking Gateway's flank steaks up one wall and down the other. Yeah, who's beleaguered now, punk?

Huh. I didn't see that one coming, but hey, we'll take it.

Who else suspects that in five years, Dell will be the only PC hardware maker left in the world?

20:15 - IHBT. IHL. HAND.

According to this AppleLinks article, the now-infamous "Macs are Satan's Computers" article from a couple of days ago was a troll after all. A very, very elaborate and well-done hoax.

As you will recall, I did express my suspicion that it was a troll before I even launched into my anti-religious tirade. After all, I'd recently been baited (unsuccessfully, but still) into falling for the "TruthMedia" review of The Fellowship of the Ring over at SomethingAwful.com, and I wasn't about to bite this time unless it really seemed genuine. And it did.

But apparently it's not. And this isn't even yet known for sure, because Applelinks' conclusion comes mostly from analysis and context and intuition, not from any well-hidden admission of guilt somewhere. After all, the site is huge for a hoax. It's extremely well put-together. And hey, what do I know about how to tell an actual religious zealot from a parody of one?

If it's a hoax, I doff my hat-- but you know, I'm still not going to retract the posts I put up in response to it. I've seen plenty of propaganda that's no less funky than this, produced by people every bit as wacked-out as the author of this one seemed to be, and my comments addressed to them remain. Frankly, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there were thousands of fundies who did write in about that page with shock and horror over the hellspawn computers they'd been suckered into buying.

Heh. I knew there had to be something of a clue in the fact that my e-mail to the guy bounced.

20:07 - The Press is Lovin' Apple

The Mac Observer corrals three recent articles, all linked to by Apple in their "Hot News" section, which disparage Windows XP and join the OS X hype bandwagon. This is certainly a welcome change from the doom-n-gloom we heard over and over back in 1997-- it seems that the tide has well and truly turned.

One of the articles mentioned is the one by Stewart Alsop from yesterday. As TMO comments:

You may remember Stewart Alsop as the man who ranted and raved with great gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair when Apple bought NeXT, Inc. in 1997. He wanted the company to buy Be, Inc. instead, a company in which his own venture capital company had a large interest. Later, he predicted the death of Apple, as so many other people have done from about 1982 until last week. In recent months, Mr. Also has changed his tune considerably, starting when he came back to the Mac platform in June of 2001. In any event, it's a very pleasant change to read Mr. Alsop speaking so highly of the Mac platform today, especially considering the heapin' helping of Humble Pie (mixed with a tasty side order of crow) he had to eat in order to do so.

Winnin' folks back to the flock, eh? Sounds good to me.

15:49 - Do they all do this?

I must say, this does kick up my respect for Bush a notch.

Under the watchful eyes of Secret Service experts, according to his spokesman, Mr Bush backed a 2002 Chevrolet Camaro down a practice track and spun 180 degrees at 65 kmh.

The car continued front-end-first in the same direction - an evasive manoeuvre known as the 'J turn' that Secret Service drivers might make if they came under attack.

Over lunch, we couldn't resist tossing back and forth images of Bush's motorcade barreling down a city block-- and inside the Presidential car, all the windows are tinted and rolled up except for the driver's... and Bush is driving, with his arm hanging out the window.

He snatches an intercom mike from the Secret Service guy (hmm, can't say "SS", can I?) and yells into it, "C'mon, see if you can keep up! Yeee-haaa!" And he guns it. (You gotta know the Presidential limo must have God's own engine in it.) And he goes rocketing off out in front of the motorcycles, down the boulevard, running red lights, and the Secret Service guys are pressed back into their seats and holding on for dear life. "Uh.... Mr. President..."
Monday, April 22, 2002
23:58 - Hey, everybody! Let's all take turns nailing the coffin shut!

Look, look! Seamus Blackley, the driving force behind the Xbox (as I discussed last week), now has one more high-profile, high-tech failure to add to his illustrious résumé.

The co-creator of the Xbox has resigned days after Microsoft conceded the unit was struggling internationally and would miss its initial sales targets.

Seamus Blackley, a physicist by training who also worked in Hollywood before joining Microsoft (MSFT), plans to start a new venture, the details of which he will begin discussing in the next few weeks, said his spokeswoman, Susan Lusty.

News of Blackley's departure comes just days after Microsoft said it would miss its fiscal year-end sales target for the Xbox by as much as 40 percent, a shortfall it blamed on weak international sales. Those weak sales led to price cuts in Europe and Australia last week.

The console has also struggled in Japan, selling just over 190,000 units in its first six weeks there, according to Japanese game magazine publisher Enterbrain. By comparison, the console sold nearly 1.5 million units in its first six weeks in the United States last year.
Pobrissimo. My tears doth stream.

Serves you $%#$% well right, you egotistical little sycophant.

This is possibly the best outcome I could ever have imagined. Rest in peace, Xbox, and may you be ridiculed in memory. And Seamus, may the shame of being behind the Xbox haunt your career for the rest of your life. May you be the John DeLorean of technology.

I'm going to sleep soundly and happily tonight.

23:04 - Feelin' Free... Classic Free...


My copy of Photoshop 7.0 came today. Woo-hoo!

I haven't had a chance yet to play with it much, but it looks like there's a lot of new stuff. I'm jumping straight from 5.5 to 7.0, so I don't know what I missed in the 6.x versions; but this one looks like they've polished up the UI experience one hell of a lot. Tools now have actual labels; palettes are dockable; there's a top toolbar with contextual controls for your current tool; so on and so forth. And all the old stuff that I've always liked about Photoshop-- the zoom behavior, the selection tools, the layering-- is all still there and better than before. Even having the drop-shadow from the top toolbar falling on the title bar of the open picture seems like a cool effect, the first useful application of the 3D depth of OS X that I've seen.

And it's OS X-native now. So no more memory allocation, no more crashing, no more counterintuitive menu organization... and no more Classic.

Ah yes, I am happy.

Now, if only for a scanner driver...

By the way-- I was over on Fark.com the other day, and one person posted a picture which he described as his "Photoshop 7 cherry-popping picture", the first one he'd done with the new version. Someone responded saying, "Wait, how did you get your copy of PS7 so early? Or are you one of those Macintosh people? Not that there's anything wrong with that..."

So do we get PS7 before Wintel people do? Like in the old days? Hey, if so, bonus...

13:32 - Prejudice and Survival

"The Infinite Mind" on NPR last night was about prejudice-- its roots in human behavior and how it works in today's world where "tolerance" is a very new concept.

I didn't hear most of the show, which from the website sounds like something funded by CAIR in order to avert anti-Muslim violence. But the opening essay, by Dr. Fred Goodwin, I did hear-- and it was really a fun listen. One of those flippant, full-of-perspective angles on historical and evolutionary behavior changes that really makes you feel like there are people in this world who "get it". Very refreshing after spending all evening fuming about the religious turd with the vendetta against Macs.

Go visit the page and grab the RealAudio stream.
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