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:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
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10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, December 1, 2002
03:16 - Sore Thumb
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/12/EuropeanDecline.shtml

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Where is Europe's Intel? Where is Europe's Microsoft? Where is their IBM? Their Dell? Their Applied Material?

It's tunnel vision on my part, it's nit-picking; I know it is. But I just couldn't help-- couldn't help but notice the conspicuous absence of a particular company whose mention would only have helped bolster the overall point of this article.

Guess this is what Apple gets for placing a high value, throughout its life, on internationalization, separable text strings and multi-forked apps and files for easy localization, and a unified text input system extensible to pretty much all the world's languages, years and years ago. That's what disqualifies them from being exemplary of ingenious innovative American companies: they're not Ameri-centric enough.

Yes, yes, I'm being facetious. But c'mon. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders where Europe's Apple is, in the same context.

Anyway, I note that some companies that aren't mentioned by Den Beste are the Content Czars: AT&T, Verizon, Bertelsmann, Amazon, Disney. They're truly entities which know nor respect no national bounds-- they are nations unto themselves, operating under rules they write for themselves, using technology developed by others (or for other purposes). Microsoft wants to be in among these, but Apple doesn't-- it sees the value of front-loading the cost of a product or service so the customer doesn't have to contend with it on a daily basis. The price of entry is high so the price of usage is low, monetarily as well as in terms of annoyance. Apple gets this, and Lileks gets that:

Five: launching too soon. I admire the idea; I will welcome it, some day. I like to take pictures. I like to take movies, listen to music while mobile, make calls, play games. But I am utterly certain that the devices they are offering, and the service on which they depend, is inferior in every way to the tools I have now. My iPod: more capacity, no bandwidth charges. My camcorder: high-quality video, and reasonable quality stills. My camera: high quality pictures. My cellphone: it’ll do. I would rather tote four devices that perform separate functions extremely well than carry one device that does everything poorly.

Yup. True, this leads to utility-belt-ism; but for some, that's not a problem (the more gadgets, the merrier); and for others, like me, you don't need all your gadgets at once, nor does a single person need to own every gadget and its functionality. I rely on my iPod to regulate my heartbeat and breathing, but I only carry my camera when I'm going somewhere where I'll want to take pictures-- and it'll be a dark, windy, rainy day in Hell before I'm caught in one of those clinics where for a paltry few thousand simoleons they take a few inches out of your head (possibly by removing the middle section) so a three-inch cell phone can reach from your ear to your mouth without your having to shout for everyone else in the line at Taco Bell to absorb every word of your side of the conversation.

Anyway, I don't mean to pick nits or appear as though there's only one issue that I ever think about, be it appropriate or not. But hey-- it's 3:15 AM, and vacation's over-- I gotta get up in a few hours to trudge back into the bit mines. What am I supposed to do-- sleep, or something?

22:44 - Just a random note

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There's one nice thing about motorcycles, I have to say.

It's that when you're sitting on a motorcycle, you're sitting up high enough off the ground that your rear-view mirrors don't blind you when some SUV-driving fuckbucket RIDES YOUR BUMPER ALL THE WAY BACK HOME FROM THE PIZZA PLACE WITH HIS HIGH BEAMS ON, COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS TO THE FACT EVEN THOUGH I'M WAVING MY ARMS IN FRONT OF MY EYES IN THE FULL BROAD BEAM OF THE LIGHTS SO I KNOW HE CAN SEE THEM...

... Right. Yeah.

19:25 - Sunset on Mt. Hamilton

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Whether it's a long holiday weekend or not, Sunday seems to be turning out to be the day almost every week when I get to go out and do something visually satisfying-- sometimes it's taking in the latest movies with friends, but more often it's just me doing something on my own, something I can enjoy by myself and absorb the visuals (or take pictures) so I can repackage them and publish the results so anybody who happens to be interested (hey, it could happen) can take some kind of third-hand part in it.

Sure, it'd be nicer to do these things with somebody. But if I did, then somehow the visual record wouldn't seem to me like something I should multiplex out to the world, or try to frame as some kind of Greetings From Sunny California pamphlet to showcase why I live here. It's this way with movies too, though-- I like to see things on my own, and then I can tell everybody at once what I thought. The alternative is to share it with someone at the time, and then not have anything left to talk about after discussing and absorbing it face-to-face.


So if you take Quimby Road up into the mountains from behind my house, drop down over the crest into the Grant Lake valley, and then follow the road as it rises back up the other side again, you'll find yourself aimed squarely at Mt. Hamilton, home of Lick Observatory. The road is a favorite of motorcyclists, but while this was the first day in months that I've had the opportunity to just head out into the hills while the sun was still up (one reason I'm not wild about winter), for most other bikers this is way far into the off-season. So I had very little company on the road for most of the fifteen miles of hairpin turns and switchbacks filled with little piles of rubble that had fallen from the cliffs that the road winds around.

(By the way-- no, I didn't have my iPod with me this time. It would've been kinda neat to get a photo for the iPodLounge.com "iPods Around the World" gallery, but there's not a lot of room in a motorcycle helmet for headphones or earbuds. Nor would such a thing be very safe.)


Today wasn't the greatest day for picture-taking, unfortunately. (Hey, we can't be choosers, we who wake up so late we get four hours of sunlight on weekend days during winter.) There was a big inversion layer over the whole Bay Area, the kind that completely blankets the region and makes any kind of long-distance panorama viewing an exercise in glum futility. (The clearest air happens in spring and summer-- and oh, such air it is.) But all was not lost! If you're facing away from the sinking sun, up into the hills, the quality of the light is something to behold in and of itself. I've always been a sucker for sunlit hills against a dark cloudy backdrop; somehow it just seems so cool. And today was no exception, inversion layer or no inversion layer. The sun streamed in between the little knobby foothills and made dusty visible rays through the oak branches; it lit up the dry grass covering the hills and turned them bright gold against the dull dark gray of the sky behind. And for most of the way up, there weren't any other road warriors-- either on two wheels or four-- pushing me up the hill, their engines grumbling at my pathetic slowness. (Hey, c'mon, guys... I'm still getting my legs back.)





So I got to the top, and I pulled into the observatory parking lot just in time for the sunset. I parked next to a couple named Mike and Christine who were a lot of fun to talk to; they apparently come up to the peak fairly often, and they were well equipped with digital geek toys that they were all too willing to talk shop about. (They appreciated my tales of digital photography and wireless picture-posting from the line in Emeryville.) We spent a good half hour talking about random stuff-- motorcycles, Silicon Valley, DSL availability, home mortgages, and the fact that Mt. Hamilton was the spot where John Muir once stood and, facing east, saw the setting sun lighting up the whole line of the Sierra Nevada, whereupon he named it the Range of Light. (You can still see the Sierras from the peak, on good days. Today was not a good day.) And they had me take a couple of pictures, with their camera, of them posing with my motorcycle.

The trip was not to be without its technical hurdles, however. After the sun had just about vanished behind the large western cloud bank and I knew I'd be riding back down the mountain in a thick dusky haze, I decided to start 'er back up and head down-- except the bike wouldn't start. The starter chugged, and chugged, a-n-d c-h-u-g-g-e-d... ho boy. My battery has been fairly temperamental lately; I have to keep it hooked up to a battery tender to make sure it starts up on command. And on top of a mountain is not a good place to lose warp plasma containment. Several increasingly nervous minutes went by, many of which were spent in trying to raise a human at the other end of Christine's cellphone, which seemed strangely unable to accurately report whether it had any signal or not. (It would say it had full signal strength, dial, ring-- and suddenly say "No Service". Rinse, repeat.) So I never was able to get a call through to anybody with jumper cables. And anybody who's about to seize on this opportunity to point out that ha-haah, cellphones are useful after all... hey, shut up, at least it didn't work.

So anyway, I went back to the bike, thinking that surely the battery was drained by now-- when the starter-motor chugs start getting slower, it's not an encouraging sign, especially if you have those ultra-retina-searing carbon-arc lights that flicker while the bike is starting, presumably sucking down the equivalent of a couple of minutes in a metal vaporator every time I turn the key. But much to my surprise and then delight, when I hit the trigger again, it started right up, instantly. Whew!


I took this picture on the way down the mountain. Whether it's smog, an inversion layer, the Smokes of the Spirits, or whatever euphemism you might care to ascribe to it-- it certainly can make for some interesting sunsets. I don't much mind that I couldn't see Half Dome or Mt. Tamalpais this time up; I will, some other day. But I won't be able to get pictures like these.


But I mentioned another technical nuisance that reared its head. That would be my stupidity in pulling in behind this guy and his girlfriend in a BMW-- who had been riding my rear bumper all the way down the mountain, pushing me way faster than I was hoping to go, until I pulled over and let them by, only to catch up with them again at this infamous switchback on Quimby Road. They were pulled over, engine and lights off, obviously enjoying the romantic view-- and along I had to come, parking right behind them on a downhill slope with my kickstand in a pile of sand, so I could take this picture.

When you're aimed off the road with only a couple of feet between you and the rear bumper of a BMW, with your rear wheel higher up a curved slope and your kickstand in a pile of sand, you're kinda screwed. I spent about ten minutes frantically hurling my weight from front to back, desperately trying to back the five hundred pounds of bike up the hill so I could get myself some turning room and escape the trap. The couple in the car were blissfully unaware-- though they turned back to glare balefully at me once or twice as my light flooded past their windows rhythmically with my undulating exertions. I'd discarded my glasses-- they were fogging up under my panting breath in the cold air-- and finally I gave up, went to the driver's window, and asked him to please scoot forward just a few feet so I could get out. He seemed quite happy and accommodating, once it became obvious what my pathetic problem was. And all ended well, as I puttered my way down the rest of the hill.

But that could have happened anywhere. Quimby Road itself, however, and Mt. Hamilton, can't.

04:50 - Missed Opportunity
http://www.apriliausa.com/ridezone/ing/models/ridefr.htm

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Why do I get the feeling that I missed out on being able to get an Aprilia SL1000 Falco in one of those solid colors it came in when it was introduced-- blue, or silver, or black, or yellow, or that lustrous deep red?

Nowadays, two years later, it seems that there's only the "R" model, which is distinguished from its non-R predecessor by being decalled all to hell. What's become of the thick silvery double-bar frame member that stood out from the body-color panels like a pair of epaulettes (or like that sash thing Mayor Quimby wears)? What's happened to the shiny symmetrical exhausts? what's happened to the sense of unity and purpose and red-haired Italian supermodel flair? It's all been broken up like the side of a naval cruiser under jagged camouflage paint. Every piece of exposed metal-- which used to be what gave the design so much style-- has now been powder-coated to a dull blackish gray, and now the only motorcycle that has ever really captured my eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door shut... seems to have melted into sportbike anonymity.

Ah well-- maybe this means I have to look in the used market for a 2000-01 model, which could save me some good money. But who'd be willing to part with one of these specimens?
Saturday, November 30, 2002
23:22 - Revisions
http://www.wtc2002.com

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Two new refined proposals have been posted at the WTC2002 site. These new ones are even taller than the original (2000 feet), and one has a dome-- which I'm sure would, if built, end the Washington Monument's long reign as the Nation's Most Phallic Symbol.

It's still gigantic and ostentatious, but oddly graceful... and though I seriously doubt that it will get built as-is (especially because the guy running the site, while proficient at Flash, is undeniably kind of a nutcase), I do hope that at least some people whose designs are being considered are looking at it and using it as an anchor point for one end of the design spectrum. Whatever does end up rising in Lower Manhattan, I wouldn't at all mind it being reminiscent of this.

22:57 - Movie Day

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I saw the Bond movie today; it was big, loud, dumb, and fun-- just the way a Bond movie should be. Lots of horrifically huge situations with potentially world-shattering consequences, with eerie allusions to current events lurking around every corner, but eventually just leading back in on itself to a self-referential resolution illustrating every regular human's essential decency and the monstrous megalomania of one central fictitious villain. Countries may have their disagreements, but everything would hum along nicely if it weren't for these evil geniuses popping up here and there, setting up secret labs and hideouts and weapons foundries and DNA clinics in impoverished third-world countries, using immaculate technology that the "civilized" world won't see for another twenty years. (The US always seems to turn out to be dumber and more primitive, if stronger of will, than all the rest of the countries in a given Bond film-- Cuba and North Korea, in this case.) But keep the madmen from going to the Evil Pet Store to trade suitcases of diamonds for long-haired white cats to stroke, and it'll be a happy planet. Ah, if only the real world were so neat and tidy.

John Cleese is turning out to be awfully fun in his Q role; he certainly seems to be able to wring a lot more fun out of the ubiquitous "gadget" scenes than his predecessor did. But then, facial crags aside, he is still John Cleese. Brosnan, I think, just looks more like James Bond should look than any of the previous Bonds; but maybe that's just me. And the Moneypenny scene at the end was a gem. (I'm told I was supposed to be watching Halle Berry's curvatures more closely than those of the Aston Martin, but I seem to have failed that particular test of Bond-watching Basics.)

Having just seen a week-long marathon of the classic Bond films on TNN, including Dr. No (the first one), I can at the very least say that these things have gotten a good deal more fun to watch over the years.

Anyway, then I retired to a friend's place to see Reign of Fire. This one, I have to say, was pretty aggressively stupid, but it wasn't as bad as I'd been led to believe. Sure, the worldbuilding was nonexistent, the practicalities of dragon biology and military weaponry and all that were inconsistent and flawed to put it as charitably as possible, and the whole plot felt chopped-up from a much longer screenplay, and left full of throwaway elements that in any other movie would have swung back around later in the story to close a circle-- in The Iron Giant, to take a random example, everything from the dent in the giant's head to the playing Superman to the reassembling-himself-from-component-parts comes back around to tie up dozens of loose story arcs; but in Reign of Fire you never see another mention of the capture method with the skydivers and the nets, the crop harvest, the horse, or anything. The "prayer" with the children reappears in a throw-and-catch that's pretty effective, but that's about it.

But it wasn't bad, or not as much so as I was expecting. Although I am curious as to why so many of these post-apocalyptic movies take place in non-US English-speaking countries. What is it in the British or Australian psyche that revels in fantasies of futuristic self-immolation? (Kevin Costner aside.) I don't know whether to make anything significant out of the role of Van Zan and his American soldiers in the movie; the first line we hear from the defenders when the Kentucky Regiment comes over the hill in their marauder tanks (hey, at least they weren't jetskis) is "There's only one thing worse than dragons... Americans." Van Zan arrives as a messianic figure, arms spread, rallying the dying Northumbrian fortress to action, bringing hi-tech new battle techniques and an uncompromising and joyless single-mindedness to his dedication to the cause. But he eventually gets his ass kicked by his own overconfidence, and when the final attack on the London nest takes place, it's just the three of them on foot-- Van Zan telling Quinn, pointedly, "You lead. We follow."

I dunno... maybe I'm reading far too much into this. It's just another big, dumb movie with lots of explosions. But hey-- what's the use of living in a decadent, doomed nation if you can't while away holiday weekend afternoons musing over the deep sociological significance of dubious pieces of popular fiction?



Oh-- and there's a new Chow Yun Fat movie coming out called Bulletproof Monk. My reaction was: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Matrix."


Friday, November 29, 2002
19:38 - "We Got It Right This Time, We Swear"
http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=443

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This week's Photoshop Phriday at Something Awful is the best one they've had in a while, following a long streak of mediocre concepts with less-than-stellar execution. This one is "Rejected Software", and it's got some very choice bits.

It starts out kinda slow, but things pick up in the later pages. Particularly amusing are "Microsoft BackAlley", "Windows Type R", and the Ellen Feiss one (which is a masterful piece of Photoshoppery).

Oh, and don't forget the "hidden" Eleventh Page, which consists of something that may be a first: Photoshop jobs whose humor content and/or execution are so inept that the SA admins who put it together felt it was worth breaking the fourth wall of editorialism and posting them just to ridicule them and their creators. CapLion refers to this as the "Photoshop for Windows page".

"phoenix_r" gets the credit for this messy image. I think this is intended to be an OS-movie hybrid, which is a concept that can be funny, but only in the capable hands of someone with capable hands. This just ends up looking like another “Macs are for Nazis” joke, which is neither funny nor fair to Nazis. The curbjob scene from “American History X” isn’t quite known for eliciting laughter either. Bonus negative points go to the fact that phoenix_r must have gotten his front “Mac OS X” text from a tiny 100x96 sized thumbnail image he pulled out of a dead robot’s ass and enlarged to the point it looks like a mangled mess of gigantic blurry pixels.

This is only minorly and tongue-in-cheekily a swipe at Apple, and it's more obviously an example of OS X and other such products having gained widespread acceptance and respect. I like.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
23:29 - Beneath The Dome

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Okay-- if you have the 2-disc DVD set of Star Wars: Episode II, go look at the "Dex's Kitchen" section, and the little documentaries in it. Right now I'm watching the one on R2-D2, which covers his whole life and career (including the dark period when he was on drugs and let his hair grow). Yeah, cute. Good stuff (beach obstacle on Saving Private Ryan? Holding a cell phone? Screwing up the other actors' work?)... yeah, well, let's see what it'll take in Episode III to make him forget he had those rocket-jets. (Must be the same mental wipe technology that makes C-3PO and Owen Lars forget the latter's ownership of the former, eh?)

The "Films Are Not Released, They Escape" sequence is all about sound, though, and it's cool from a Mac-watching standpoint; from the look of these behind-the-scenes scenes, the whole of Skywalker Sound is done on Macs. Macs are everywhere... in voice replacement, effects editing, effects mixing, language creation. In pretty much every role you'll see either a top-mounted toolbar, a clear optical mouse, that wide flat telltale classic Mac keyboard, or the glow of the Apple on a TiBook screen. I don't think I saw a single PC, as a matter of fact.

Lots of other fun stuff on the disc, too. Though maybe it's the tryptophan talking, but I'd love to know why in the hell Natalie Portman turns in a better acting performance in the bloody interviews than she did in the movie. What, does she forget there is such a thing as inflection as soon as the real cameras start rolling?

10:30 - Wassail, wassail

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So I'm going to be spending the day walking from door to door, singing Thanksgiving carols and being invited in for a heaping plate of cranberry sauce and turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce at every house from here to Petaluma.

...Okay, well, not quite... but I'll be on the road a lot, heading up to my grandma's apartment in Larkspur for the midday meal with my family, and then scooting on back down here to San Jose for the early-evening one that Lance is putting together for all our local social circle. Hopefully by that time the football will be over with. (I can dream, can't I?)

Which means I'd better load up my iPod and get a move on. See you all this evening.

Wait a minute. Did Leonard Cohen's voice change that much between 1968 and 1974?! Good lord. What'd he do, install a tar filter in his throat?
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
02:55 - It's Christmas in Heaven, all the children sing

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De Anza Boulevard is the main north-south thoroughfare through Cupertino. It's what branches off into Mariani and Infinite Loop right at the intersection with I-280; and for almost its entire length, from El Camino Real in Sunnyvale up to Saratoga in the foothills, across three name changes reflecting historical hegemonies of communities (and a sign indicating the boundary of a sliver of San Jose itself, showing the date of founding as 1777), it has a neat, clean, smooth, landscaped median between the lanes.

Up in Apple's neighborhood, the median is adorned with decorative wooden ivy-covered bowers, and the vegetation is strung throughout with Christmas lights. And starting Thanksgiving week, those lights get turned on at night.



All it's missing is snow.

(Which isn't to say I mind the fact that I still have to have my window open a few inches and my arm hanging out at night. Looks like the arrival of winter a few weeks ago was sort of a false alarm...)

01:47 - Kumbaya
http://www.mikeoverbeck.com/osama/

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Here's what I'm thankful for:

That gifted animators like Mike Overbeck, creator of such delectable bizarritudes as Atlas Gets a Drink, have not had their senses of just and ironic vengeance dulled by time, success, and no more home-soil terrorist attacks. No way-- not him.

These are his "Osama-Rama" cartoons, and there are four of them. I'm hard pressed to come up with which one is best-- "Anthrax: The Invisible Victim" seems to be the one that speaks most eloquently to my heart of hearts, however. You be the judge, though. I think they all kick ass.


On the subject of Osama-themed Flash cartoons, On the Run Again is pretty good too.


22:38 - Wheeere's the Wahhabism?
http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/interrogatory111802.asp

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In Saudi Arabia, East Africa, the political veneers of Iraq, various mosque leaderships here and there throughout the Muslim world-- and the US. And not many other places, says Stephen Schwartz in NRO, via UNMEDIA. Stephen Schwartz, that is, a Sufi Muslim convert with a very sane viewpoint, a retained Western name, and a refreshingly tolerant attitude toward the rest of the world's faiths-- something I wish we could see more of.

He methodically lists the countries where Wahhabism is prevalent, and the countries where it has an influence-- and the nature of that influence.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced, although this does not mean that 80 percent of the people who attend them are Wahhabis. Mosque attendance is different from church or synagogue membership in that prayer in the mosque does not imply acceptance of the particular dispensation in the mosque. However, Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all attendees in mosques they control.

I hope those in charge of the WOT have this kind of filter to look through at the Muslim world, because this does exactly what we've been hoping for for a long time: it identifies who should be (and who should not be) the targets of the WOT, in a religious, political, economic, and national sense. And it tells us where we should be able to find sympathy, and why; and who in the Muslim world we should consider long-term allies and assets, once we've established that Wahhabism, specifically, is what needs to die.

I'm comforted to think that leaders like George Bush, Tony Blair, and John Howard have all made public statements that establish that they realize exactly what the score is, as Schwartz lays it out. They know what path the WOT will have to take as soon as the roadblock of Iraq is out of the way. (In a way, Iraq probably is going to turn out to be about ooooiiil as much as the other reasons, largely because we'll need it from the Iraqi fields in order to take on Saudi Arabia when the time comes.)

Anyway, there's lots of good stuff in this article, including admonishments against the media (for oversimplifying Islamic sects into a single entity, and for failing to present any kind of respected Muslim figureheads and their viewpoints to the Western public), and a reality-check about where our attention should be when looking for pan-Islamic sentiments that condemn terrorism (hint: it's not going to come from the Arab Street, but the Arab Street is not and never has been strategically important).

Of course, for much of the media, the primitive and simplistic image of Muslims as uniformly extremist and terrorist is easier to report, more popular, and "better TV" than that of a complex conflict inside a world religion. It also supports the left-wing claim that it's all our fault, or Israel's. It's so much easier to say they all hate us because of our hegemony and Zionism than to say, as I do, that they don't all hate us, and that the real issue is the battle for the soul of Islam.

Maybe there are some holes in what Schwartz is saying; it may not even be based in facts. But at first blush, it appears to be just what I've been waiting to hear for a very long time.

20:40 - Can't argue with that
http://www.penny-arcade.com/news.php3?date=2002-11-27

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Seems Gabe of Penny Arcade has himself a new Tablet PC, and he likes it.

Today's comic strip was done from start to finish on the Tablet PC. I started out by sketching the characters in Alias Sketchbook. It blows me away that a piece of software this good is free. One of the big problems with the Tablet PC is that there just isn't much space there to work with. Most art programs would take up the majority of your screen with tools and windows. However Sketchbook was designed for the tablet PC and so roughly 90 percent of the screen is pure white digital paper. The tools and options have been placed in an almost Sims like radial menu that sits unobtrusively in the corner. I picked a 2B pencil and started sketching. After a bit of screwing with the pressure sensitivity settings I was in heaven. I was able to sketch just as I would on paper and with the same results. In no time I had all the sketches I would need for today's comic. I think that for artists, the Alias Sketchbook software is the killer app that the Tablet PC needed.

I guess it's downright silly to begrudge anybody the development of a successful new platform, especially if it's sparking genuine innovation and a new class of well-designed software that serves the user's needs-- "delights the customer", as the marketeers have it.

It remains to be seen whether anybody will end up finding the Tablet PC's handwriting-recognition stuff to be useful-- after all, even a patently superior handwriting-recognition system (the one in the Newton and now in OS X) doesn't lend itself to much practical application. But as a drawing pad, a cheaper and more portable (and better integrated) form of the Wacom LCD tablets that have been around for a while-- which you'd attach as a second monitor on your desktop machine and draw on the pad/screen in Photoshop or Painter-- it might well have a niche to grow into.

In which case I'll have to give Microsoft points for behaving like a real, genuine innovative company for once.

17:52 - Give a think! Don't delink!
http://wilde.poetweb.net/archives/00000282.htm

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Via InstaPundit-- well, anybody reading this has probably already run across this item already anyway, but if you have read it, you'll understand why I'm adding this little stitch into the vast Riemann-surface-looking piece of fabric that is the blogosphere.

It involves two blogs/bloggers that I'd never heard of before today, but it could as well be a fable dropped from on high out of the blue: if you come at this from a perspective of certain types of bloggers fitting certain molds and behaving certain ways, this one sort of turns those preconceptions right on their heads. Or it doesn't, depending on how you look at it.

The synopsis is: a self-described conservative Democrat posts some perfectly civil thoughts in the comments section of an arch-conservative's blog; and even though the two are of similar minds in a lot of issues, the arch-conservative responds to the mere fact that he is a Democrat by delinking and IP-blocking him.

Read the whole exchange, and the comments too. I don't know how much more of this Rittenhouse/LGF-ian delinking nonsense is going to take place-- if it's going to become the next fad of the Web or something. (Censor dissenting opinions for fun and profit!) But I for one would like to see it stop, right quick.

Every blogger has the right to not link to whatever site he or she feels like not linking to, and that includes the right to remove links that the blogger decides are no longer worth endorsing for one reason or another. These links are courtesies that blogs extend one another. Unless one person is paying another to have his name in lights, nobody's beholden to any other site for referral traffic. It's all about individual choice. That's the whole point of the Internet in its purest original conception, and it's what makes the blog world what it is.

But there's such a thing as being mature about it. And more important to me than whether delinking amounts to "censorship" or not is the attitude that someone takes when declaring someone else unworthy of endorsement.

These characters sure show their respective true colors, eh?

13:42 - Inspectors on the scene
http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/11/27/iraq.inspectors/index.html

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Well, after a day of activity, evidently nothing obvious has been unearthed by the Blix team.

I must admit, I'm more nervous about these proceedings at this stage than I've been about anything in a while. There's so much riding on the inspectors' ability to turn up damning evidence of WMDs-- if they find any, it would cause the long-awaited meltdown of the credibility of Saddam and all his higher-ups who have been claiming all along that they have no such weapons and any claims that they do are evil lies. Not only that, but it would force pretty much everyone who's been seizing every opportunity to side with the UN and European leaders and take Saddam's official claims at their word-- to admit that they were on crack. It would be the clearest case of US vindication on record since 9/11; even Afghanistan continues to have its detractors, and its present political situation remains in doubt (riding primarily on whether we choose to stay and rebuild). But Iraq is another story.

Because if for whatever reason the inspectors are not able to turn up any compelling evidence by December 9th... well, the PR consequences would be just about as bad against the US. It's one thing to be Iraq, historic bully and enemy-of-all-that-is-right, who in the absence of incriminating evidence seems to have recently turned over a new leaf and become all benign and happy (and no doubt all kinds of people would come to accept his 100% victory in the recent election as genuine and legitimate). But it's quite another to be America, up till now more or less a "good guy" as far as First World countries are concerned, but with lots of intangible, semi-Washington-endorsed imperialistic aims consisting of Golden Arches and oil tankers, bombing lots of innocent civilians in what is undoubtedly a long series of war-crime atrocities that have been masterfully covered up, so nobody can prove anything for sure-- suddenly turning out to be unequivocally the evil lying oppressor that Iraq makes us out to be. Everybody's worst dread would be realized. We'd be "proven" to have fabricated this whole set of allegations about Iraq's nonexistent weapons and trumped up the war so the Republicans could seize power. The US would become in everybody's eyes the Enemy of the World, by the stroke of a pen in the hand of the Inspector General.

I have to imagine the inspectors will take a bit of a different approach this time, though. I have to believe this is going to be a different kind of "inspection" than the "Make sure such-and-such destroyed factory was really destroyed" checklisting of the post-Gulf-War inspections. Interviews I've heard on NPR talk about how some of the inspectors (who are back there again now) were endlessly frustrated by the crap they had to put up with from the uncooperative Iraqis and the things they were obviously hiding, and they were clearly gung-ho about having a chance to get some real progress made this time around. And judging by this, there's all kinds of crap we know about that even local Iraqis don't realize is there.

So I guess I'm pretty confident that something will arise, though I'm going to be on edge and pondering all that time they've had to methodically hide and smuggle away any contraband that they'd been developing, ever since we started making the noises about our inevitable return to the trail. How many months now have they known that we'd end up back in the country, the only variable being how long they could stall us? How much could they have hidden or spirited away in that time?
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
09:30 - It's not what you think
http://applecrap.com/

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Here's another unusual take on the Mac-fan-site genre... you know, the "double" kind, or maybe "spit".

It's a site called "AppleCrap", and it's run by some unapologetic Mac fans whose stated goal is to poke fun at the moronic and/or misguided things Apple does-- of which there are indeed many-- while at the same time exhibiting a clear deep-seated fondness for the company itself and the good things it does.

We don't hate Apple or Macs, we are not anti-Apple or anti-Mac. We own Macs and have been Mac users for years. We love Apple, but that doesn't mean that they, and others, have not done boneheaded things. We think it is our job to remember and mock that crap, and that is what this site is for.

We could be MicrosoftCrap, but that's too much crap even for us. Besides, why restate the obvious?

This site uses PHP and MySQL to store, format, and display data. PHP stands for Photon Hypermega Phasor-thingy and MySQL stands for MIGHTy Super Quantum Light-storing-thingy. It's really technical stuff.

Looks like another entry into the "Informative Humor" category, already populated with the likes of As the Apple Turns and Crazy Apple Rumors.

Ees fun.
Monday, November 25, 2002
20:11 - Tule Fog a-go-go
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/shownh.php3?img_id=5266

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Good gawd. I wasn't kidding about the tule fog in the Central Valley last weekend.

(Via InstaPundit, via Jerry Pournelle.)

20:03 - "My name is S. Claus, and I'm a Switcher."
http://www.apple.com/switch/ads/will/

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I love a company that laughs at itself.

Apple has just posted two Switcher ad parodies starring Will Ferrell in a Santa suit. Yes, ad parodies. Right on Apple's site.

Granted, Microsoft did commission those Clippy parodies starring Gilbert Gottfried, for the introduction of the supposedly Clippy-free Office XP. And they, too, were funny. (Though parts of them, like the IT droid burbling "Office XP is a great upgrade!" in that overenunciated glottal-nasal marketing whine, are unbearably smarmy.)

But-- well, there's just something warm and fuzzy about this.

Maybe it's the beard.

19:33 - Reverse Taqiyeh
http://www.southknoxbubba.com/skblog/archive_2002_11.html#597

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Someone should disseminate this amongst the Wahhabi clerics worldwide. Maybe they'll fall for it.

That'd be entertaining.

13:51 - Switch to the Dark Side
http://sterlinganderson.net/sw_switch.htm

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Seriously-- no kidding on this one, folks.

These Switch parodies just keep getting better and better. Are they going to be opening up "Make Your Own Switcher Video" booths at Six Flags soon?
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© Brian Tiemann