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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, March 9, 2003
22:44 - That's just sad
http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/news/page.cfm?objectid=12715943&method=full&sitei

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The Mirror's summary of what happened this morning in Kuwait:

A British Army source in Kuwait contacted me to explain how the extraordinary surrender bid unfolded. The source said: "The British guys on the front-line could not believe what was happening. They were on pre-war exercises when all of a sudden these Iraqis turned up out of nowhere, with their hands in the air, saying they wanted to surrender.

"They had heard firing and thought it was the start of the war.

"The Paras are a tough, battle-hardened lot but were moved by the plight of the Iraqis. There was nothing they could do other than send them back.

"They were a motley bunch and you could barely describe them as soldiers - they were poorly equipped and didn't even have proper boots. Their physical condition was dreadful and they had obviously not had a square meal for ages. No one has ever known a group of so-called soldiers surrender before a shot has been fired in anger."

What the Brits should have done, it seems to me, is given them all some nice field rations before sending them back. Let them at least eat well for once. Send the signal that all we want is your leader. We do not want to kill you soldiers, let alone your country's civilians. The last thing on our minds is causing unnecessary death or suffering. That's what we're here to prevent.

Either way, though, those Iraqi soldiers will have a lot of explaining to do when they get back to wherever they were posted.


UPDATE: Then again, the British troops may not be the best-equipped force in the world either:

Not all the Challenger II tanks, which broke down on exercised in Oman last year, have been adapted for desert use.

And the replacement of the SA80 rifle, which showed a tendency to jam in dusty conditions, is not complete so some troops are likely to still be armed with it.

But what is less well known is that soldiers are also short of even the most basic of kit - their boots.

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Paul Keetch is in Kuwait where some British troops are already stationed.

He says he has been shocked to learn how short of equipment the British are.

They have acquired, he says, the nickname "The Borrowers" because the borrow so much from the Americans.

Yikes.


Saturday, March 8, 2003
23:06 - I think I like Automobile Magazine

(top)



22:15 - You put that damn thing down right now
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/030305/168/3fgvq.html

(top)

No, not that damn thing. The other damn thing.

...Okay, upon closer examination, that doesn't seem to be an iPod the nutcake is holding in his right hand. The cable/cord is coming out of the wrong end. Looks more like it's a digital camera, now that I take its color and apparent thickness into account.

I'd hate to see an iPod fall into such a person's hands.

Random note, though: how many incidences of violence and vandalism and dissent-crushing have we heard about at peace demonstrations lately, or even in recent decades? And how many were associated with those supposedly violent and immoral pro-war demonstrators?


17:28 - A Hometown Boy on the Front Lines
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,57961,00.html

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There aren't too many Macs out in the combat zone these days-- but the few there are, or indeed the only one that this article claims exists, aren't there lightly.

"It is the only one out here in the desert," said Weed. "The problem with computers in the Army is they are bought by the gross and not necessarily purchased to accomplish certain functions. The Army doles out laptops in the same way we dole out boots, tents or any other class of supply."

According to Weed, he was issued the rugged Panasonic Toughbook, but it didn't work fast enough. Weed declined to specify what he does exactly, but said he works with giant satellite and reconnaissance images, presumably for battlefield planning. When he opened these giant image files on the Toughbook, it would slow to an excruciating crawl, he said.

"Frankly, lives are in the balance here, so the quicker I can get stuff done accurately, the better," Weed said. "The Mac makes this work simple, quick and efficient. The other laptops either can't open the files or lock up halfway through, losing whatever I was working on at the time, and then (I have) to restart the computer and start over."

Weed's PowerBook has a 1-GHz chip and runs Mac OS X. He had to write a special requisition order to get it, he said.

We salute you, brave Mac. Oh, and Major Weed too. (Damn, I hope that isn't a prank name.)


13:39 - Every Switch Ad Parody EVAR
http://eshop.macsales.com/Reviews/Framework.cfm?page=/hardwareandnews/switchparodies

(top)

... Or, if not, at least a pretty good collection of them nonetheless. It's got all the best parodies, and all the stupid ones too.

I could do without the little emoticons in the captions, but...


13:34 - Goebbels Lives
http://www.radioislam.org/islam/english/iraq/blix.htm

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Boy, Blix just can't win, can he?

The UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, currently the man who has a great deal of saying wether there should be an "American" invasion of Iraq - judging to if he believes Iraq has "satisfied" his inquires or not - is a man of Jewish ancestry and has a background in Zionist circles of his native country, Sweden.

Where have we seen this kind of thing before...

G'wan... tell me again how Bush is the one who, if you added a moustache, would be indistinguishable from Hitler.


13:06 - Home of the free, indeed!
http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=113433&category=REGION&newsda

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So the security officer of the Crossgates Mall who signed the trespassing complaint against the belligerent mallgoer-accosting peace-proponents... has been fired.

Williams, who has worked in security at the mall for more than nine years, said he signed the complaint on the orders of his boss, assistant director of security Fred Tallman. Those orders came after Tallman told the Guilderland police officer working the case that he (Tallman) was too busy to come to the police station and that Williams represented the company and should sign.

"I just followed directions of management of that mall to the letter," Williams said Friday evening. "And I get fired for doing my job."

I guess we live in a land where everybody's so free to express their dissenting opinions that property owners have no right to protect their own property from them.

The mall cracked under nationwide pressure from people who had no frickin' clue what the incident was actually about. Lovely. I hope Mr. Williams sues the living hell out of them. The mall and the t-shirt dorks.

You want to talk about thought police? I've got your thought police right here.

(Via InstaPundit.)


04:36 - The War Room, 2015
http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=peepslayer&itemid=4839#cutid1

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You know, I miss a lot of good stuff by not usually reading much of the reactive takes on current events that occur in people's LiveJournals. And since I have friends who use LJ, I'm starting to get glimpses into the presence of some real gems that deserve commemoration.

Like this one: Dark Age of Camelot arms for war on Iraq.

France: Hey all, what's up?
US: Putting together an RvR raid, hitting Iraq.
France: No frikking way, dood. Look, I'm part of Alliance leadership, and I say no way do we go in there. I'm using Alliance veto.
US: WTF? Alliance Veto?
France: Yeah, it's in Alliance charter. Me, Germany, US, Russia, and China can all cancel any Alliance raid event.
Bulgaria: Hey, me and the other Eastern Europeans wanna go...
France: STFU, n00b. Your guild got no say in this.
Bulgaria: ,,!,,
Germany: I don't really want to go either.
US: ...
France: Yeah, we veto. No guildies go to Iraq.
US: What about you, Russia.
Russia: Well, if everyone else goes, it's ok, but if France and Germany say no, then that's cool.
US: Jeezus. Dood, show some balls. You used to love going on raids.
Russia: Yeah, but that Afghanistan raid a while back was a disaster. Total group wipe-out.
US: Yeah, but you were in different alliance, man. This is different. Besides, we pwn3d last time we went on Iraq raid.
France: Doesn't matter. I say no.

It takes a bit of proficiency in MMORPG vocabulary (I had to have an interpreter handy), but it's worth it.

Friday, March 7, 2003
17:11 - How clean is your computer?
http://www.windows-sucks.com/content/ms-hidden-files.shtml

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Granted, this is rather old-- 2001, with applicability to the Win9x series. But it may still be valid, so heads up.

There are folders on your computer that Microsoft has tried hard to keep secret. Within these folders you will find two major things: Microsoft Internet Explorer has not been clearing your browsing history after you have instructed it to do so, and Microsoft's Outlook Express has not been deleting your e-mail correspondence after you've erased them from your Deleted Items bin. (This also includes all incoming and outgoing file attachments.) And believe me, that's not even the half of it.

When I say these files are hidden well, I really mean it. If you don't have any knowledge of DOS then don't plan on finding these files on your own. I say this because these files/folders won't be displayed in Windows Explorer at all -- only DOS. (Even after you have enabled Windows Explorer to "show all files.") And to top it off, the only way to find them in DOS is if you knew the exact location of them. Basically, what I'm saying is if you didn't know the files existed then the chances of you running across them is slim to slimmer.

. . .

"I've been reading your article as I have a problem with an employee of mine. He has been using the work's PC for the internet and using it to chat and look at porn sites. He was then deleting the cookies and history in order to cover his tracks. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this site and your article. I have found it to be incredibly useful . . ."

-- Concerned Boss, 8/24/01

One more thing. They contain your browsing history at ALL times. Even after you have instructed Microsoft Internet Explorer to clear your history/cache. And so the saying goes, "seeing is believing."

Malice? Incompetence? Who can say? Small comfort either answer will be to someone who gets bitten by this-- because nefarious uses of this little back-door are not limited to busting employees for looking at porn sites.

Investigation on Chris' Win98 PC shows that the behavior is a result of Windows trying to speed up file access in certain "special" folders by creating really hidden index files, so Windows Explorer can give you a speedy representation of the folder's contents; but that means it's not an accurate view anymore, and Windows Explorer ceases to be a "file browser" in strict terms. If the goal is to prevent users from screwing up the inner workings of the OS, well then, that's what permissions are for.

Which is why I'd be curious to see whether this same kind of thing happens in the NT/2000/XP line. Chris has a sneaking suspicion that it does-- too much of the UI is already written with those hacks in mind. And besides, there are still plenty of Win9x-line machines out there...


16:57 - A bucket of ice water
http://www.gamespy.com/gdc2003/top10mmog/

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Got an itch to write a brand-new Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game? Have a brilliant idea for a virtual world, and stars in your eyes over the possibility of your new upstart basement company becoming the Next Big Thing?

Well, here's a sobering interview with Gordon Walton, veteran of Ultima Online and The Sims Online, telling it like it is. It ain't all pizza and Super Soakers. Not hardly.

Sounds like the kind of stuff that should convince people not to start up any kind of late-90s-style Virtua Company. But since these MMORPG-type games look like they're going to be the future of technology, I guess it's best for the industry to face up to the difficulties with both eyes open.


15:33 - Fascinating

(top)
I'm sure this is not at all representative of what true Islamic thought has to say on this subject, but... well, considering the lack of counterargument that I've seen on the Ar-Rahman list, it stands to reason that it's accepted wisdom for some people.

being a woman of islam, ill answer q's 2,3 and 4.
i am not sure about q1.

2) Why is a woman's testimony only worth half a
man's?

this is true because women tend to work more from
emotions. they have a softer heart and relent to
temptation faster
.

3) How come Islam allows men to beat their wives?

Islam doesnt allow men to beat wives just for
fun. a man can not hit me unless ive gone against
the path of Allah or adultery. Even then he can
not hit me right away. there are steps leading
upto it. first he tells me its wrong. then he
separates his bed. and if even then i dont
listen, he can hit me with a miswak (wooden stick
used to cleanse teeth) no longer than his thumb.

this intends to attain two things...
1) if the woman has any haya in her, she'd stop
by the time the man separates the bed. if not,
she really s evil.

2) the length of the miswak... the length of a
thumb... it can never hurt u. the intention is to
reprimand not to injure.

also remember to judge a religion by its
scripture not its people. what muslims do today
is not what they are taught... just as christians
or jews or believers of any other faith. just
becoz a person does something doesnt mean the
whole faith does it.

q4... the lashing... and stoning... im still not
sure about this and i know there are conditions
that apply. i had it in a book which i cant place
right now.

however... even if the conditions are same...
lets remember that a woman is built less inclined
towards sex than man. it is tougher for her to
succumb to temptation
. also, by her indulging in
fornication, she puts her lineage into threat.
especially if she's maried and i think stoning is
for married women only. it is also a way for men
and woen to be punished in this world rather than
facing it in the hereafter... which would be a
tougher and more brutal punishment.

salamoalaikum... all errs are mine and mine
alone... Allah is free of All errs.

Well, I'm glad that's cleared up.


13:56 - Watching the Worms Squirm
http://www.instapundit.com/archives/007997.php#007997

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Well, well. If this turns out to be true, someone ought to offer Den Beste a position as a White House advisor.

A French company has been selling spare parts to Iraq for its fighter jets and military helicopters during the past several months, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The unidentified company sold the parts to a trading company in the United Arab Emirates, which then shipped the parts through a third country into Iraq by truck.

The spare parts included goods for Iraq's French-made Mirage F-1 jets and Gazelle attack helicopters. . . .

Granted, it's possible (I suppose) that the French company might not even have known it was selling to Iraq-- maybe it only thought it was dealing with the Al Tamoor Trading Company, and never suspected the parts were headed illicitly for Iraq. Maybe this is all just a big misunderstanding.

But somehow I'm inclined to call Occam's Razor, at least on the data we have so far.

Thursday, March 6, 2003
03:08 - Ya have to be so... critical?
http://www.suntimes.com/output/eb-feature/cst-edt-ebert05.html

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A reader sends this surprising editorial: a rant on public-school prayer and the "Under God" clause in the Pledge of Allegiance, from... Roger Ebert.

We started every day with classroom prayer at St. Mary's School, of course, but Sister Rosanne said there was a difference between voluntary prayer in a private religious school and prayer in a school paid for by every taxpayer--a distinction so obvious that Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are forced to willfully ignore it.

. . .

This is really an argument between two kinds of prayer--vertical and horizontal. I don't have the slightest problem with vertical prayer. It is horizontal prayer that frightens me. Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven. It need not be spoken aloud, because God is a spirit and has no ears. Horizontal prayer must always be audible, because its purpose is not to be heard by God, but to be heard by fellow men standing within earshot.

. . .

This simple insight about two kinds of prayer, which is beyond theological question, should bring a dead halt to the obsession with prayer in public places. It doesn't, because the purpose of its supporters is political, not spiritual. Their faith is like Dial soap: Now that they use it, they wish everyone would. I grew up in an America where people of good breeding did not impose their religious convictions upon those they did not know very well. Now those manners have been discarded.

Not bad. The guy seems to have his head screwed on straight. I don't normally pay attention to his movie reviews; but on other matters I might want to keep an ear out for more like this.


02:39 - Is this a trend yet?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/29617.html

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Is it just me, or does this seem to be happening more lately? Or is it just getting reported more?

A bar and restaurant owner from Lafayette, Colorado was jailed earlier this week after pumping four rounds into his Dell laptop, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

George Doughty, 48, announced to patrons of his Sportsman's Inn Bar and Restaurant that he intended to execute the portable. He then disappeared into his office, returning after thirty minutes with said machine and revolver. Warning punters in the bar to cover their ears, he let the Dell have it with four rounds at close range. Doughty allegedly celebrated this orgy of violence by hanging the grisly remains over the bar like a hunting trophy.

Before long someone'll have to set up a rescue organization for battered Dells...


02:32 - The Gestapo is upon us
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/crossgates1.html

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So there's been this flap over the Crossgates Mall incident over the past couple of days, even making it onto The Daily Show-- which as anybody who's seen it lately means that the show's ridicule was aimed squarely at the incompetence of the mall security guards and the oppression of the Peaceful T-shirt Wearers for Peace by the iron boot of The Man. It's all about the silencing of unpopular opinions-- and isn't that funny? Isn't that hilarious?

And that's what's been going on throughout the Net, too, apparently-- not many people have bothered to read further into the story than the "Mallgoers Arrested For Wearing Anti-War T-Shirts" headlines-- certainly not so far as to read the actual police complaint filed, which describes what really went on: a couple of guys were accosting shoppers and passers-by, getting into loud arguments, and generally causing a disturbance in what was effectively private property. Their t-shirts were just a part of the equation; they were seen as an "attractive nuisance", and when the guards asked the guys to leave or to change shirts, they refused to do either. At which point they became trespassers on private property. And isn't it convenient how nobody seems to recall that mall owners and patrons have rights too?

I swear, looking over some of what's happened with this case, you'd think people were unable to distinguish between the Big Faceless Mall Owners and the Totalitarian Police-State Government. It's all the Man, one way or another.

The natural knee-jerk response is to think, "Oh no! The forcible suppression of dissident ideas has begun! Let's all run for the border!" I'm put in mind of the scourge that runs through classic 70s rock, an otherwise musically very admirable genre, and possibly the last great one we've seen: the simpering and repetitive whine, from members of the richest and freest society the world has ever known, about needing to be "free". The sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply! Much as I enjoy the music, I swear the number of times I've wanted to reach through the speakers and strangle the songwriters through a nexus of time and space has neared my threshold of tolerance for idiocy.

And in that vein, my friend Zjonni ("batratblue" in the comments to this post) came up with a nice list of the things we are free to do in this country-- a list that no other country, quite frankly, can match; and it's not even as complete as it can be, either.

If Nazi-style fascism is a 1 and total libertarianism is a 10, we're floating around a 6 or 7; yet these dorks see an incident that even just looks like a drop to a 5, and they all scream out invocations of Godwin's Law. It's like someone rubbed off all their skin. It's like if you put them in the middle of the desert for a week and then sprinkled water on them, they'd wail about drowning.

And we're so terrified of offending them, or of resembling their accusations even in the slightest, that we let them win. Notice how the charges against these guys have been dropped? Notice how they became the victims in all this? Notice how all it took was a hundred protesters to come out and get in the cops' faces and tell them "No, you'll have to arrest us before we stop our illegal trespassing", before everybody caved in and started shoveling on the appeasement?

I hope the rest of us don't forget any of this, so that once it's all over they can't simply quiet down and slink away and thereby absolve themselves of this kind of thoughtless reactionary horsecrap.

Getting caught up in the heat of the moment is no excuse for failing to educate oneself, when one has unfettered access to the largest store of knowledge and facts ever assembled by mankind.


11:32 - Xtending a hand
http://www.mac.com/1/idiskutility.html

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Hey, look-- Apple's just released an "iDisk Utility", a tool which gives users lots more direct control and visibility of their iDisks. And-- in a surprise move-- it's available for Windows XP too.

So now there's a public cross-platform file-sharing system for resumes, media files, documents... you can share your iDisk (which you can password-protect) and your Public folder, which can now be accessed in a number of ways from operating systems from WinXP to MacOS 9 to anything with Web access.

I guess this means iDisk is really proving useful to people; presumably Apple wouldn't be sinking all this effort into stuff like this if nobody were using it. If I were to hazard a wild guess, and to bolster it with observations of silly movies and photo albums and web pages that people have posted using .Mac lately, I'd say that significant numbers of people are finding .Mac to be a genuinely useful service, and they're asking for it to be expanded.

Neato.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003
15:53 - Whatta country

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I picked up a windshield crack over in the Central Valley on Sunday; while on a country road on the way to the dog show in Hanford, the wide-hipped pickup truck in front of me put a rock right in the edge next to my eyes, and a crack rapidly grew across my field of vision.

So I called the insurance guys, and they told me my mechanical breakdown coverage would take care of it, with a $50 deductible. Not only that, they set up an appointment for me with a local auto glass shop that sends out a van to do the repair right in your workplace's parking lot. Two days after you call it in. The guy drives from car to car all day, fixing cracks; the owners of the vehicles in question only need to take five minutes to sign the form, then go back to work while it gets taken care of.

Not bad.


14:55 - Gordon Moore, we hardly knew ya
http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_11/tuomi/

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Capt J.M. Heinrichs sends me the link to this thesis by Ilkka Tuomi upon Moore's Law and its applicability-- or increasing lack thereof-- to the modern directions of chip design.

Moore's Law has been an important benchmark for developments in microelectronics and information processing for over three decades. During this time, its applications and interpretations have proliferated and expanded, often far beyond the validity of the original assumptions made by Moore. Technical considerations of optimal chip manufacturing costs have been expanded to processor performance, economics of computing, and social development. It is therefore useful to review the various interpretations of Moore's Law and empirical evidence that could support them.

Such an analysis reveals that semiconductor technology has evolved during the last four decades under very special economic conditions. In particular, the rapid development of microelectronics implies that economic and social demand has played a limited role in this industry. Contrary to popular claims, it appears that the common versions of Moore's Law have not been valid during the last decades. As semiconductors are becoming important in economy and society, Moore's Law is now becoming an increasingly misleading predictor of future developments.

I suppose it was only a matter of time; after all, every indication seems to be that traditional methods of measuring CPU performance are becoming less and less useful. AMD had joined Motorola/IBM a couple of years ago in abandoning raw clock frequency as the benchmark for a chip's speed; and recently, even Intel joined the exodus from its own philosophy, lowering its chips' clock speed in favor of better parallelism and integration. Moore's Law can't be far from suffering the same fate-- the realization that there are better ways to enhance speed and usefulness than simply cranking up the clock speed and the number of transistors.

What does this mean for companies like Apple? I suppose it'll mean a bit less of that irritating PR pressure to focus on clock speed, now that nobody will really be paying attention to it anymore, even Intel. But it means that Intel is still forging ahead with a sound plan for increasing usefulness, which means the race continues to be a tough one to run.

But I'm not at all surprised to see Moore's Law cease to be a part of it.


14:29 - The Spandex no longer flatters

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I just finished reading The Watchmen. I'd given some early impressions last Monday, but it's taken me until now to get all the way through it. Late nights. Bah.

Anyway-- multiple people mailed me to tell me that I should register my final thoughts on it after I finished it, and now I see why. I have to give away the ending in order to comment on it: Ozymandias, the playboy-superhero-turned-messianic-supergenius decides to save the 1985 Nixonian world portrayed in the book from certain nuclear annihilation, via an ingenious plan to-- to... eliminate all the superheroes (er, masked adventurers) capable of stopping him, and then to conjure up a gigantic, city-sized alien life form which he would teleport to New York City, upon which it would die, its brain in its death-throes broadcasting chaotic imagery throughout the city, causing three million citizens to go insane and die in the cataclysm.

...Upon which, the aggressive Soviets would halt their march through Afghanistan, draw back their weaponry, disarm, and enter into a sympathetic accord with the thunderstruck America. Leading to a new world order of peace and prosperity, Soviet and American harmony.

All I can say is: Osamandias didn't quite get it right, did he?

As I said before, The Watchmen is a fascinating time-capsule of a piece, set in a pre-fall-of-communism world in which the writers (how come the best comic writers are all British?) couldn't seem to find plausible the peaceful end to the Cold War. (Odd how exactly that happened not four years after the book's publication.) It's full of the political vocabulary of the times, back when conservatives were the conspiracy-theorists and the word "lesbian" hadn't really entered common discourse. The book is written from a complex perspective, portraying the many-term President Nixon as a gruff but sympathetic figure, and ascribing to his heroes-- Nite Owl, Rorschach, Sally and Laurie Jupiter, and Doc Manhattan-- a decidedly black-and-white, good-and-evil outlook, while at the same time giving them all the humanity-- while placing Ozymandias at the bohemian Left, remaking the world in his postmodern image, secure in the perfection of his intricate plans. The "happy ending" the book gets is one in which the bad guy wins, and the world is safe and peaceful-- at least until someone figures out the truth.

The politics of the book are neatly summed up in the internal basement rag The New Frontiersman, which is both a parody of conservative thinking (1980s-style) and a validation of it. An excerpt from it toward the end, while it espouses a completely reasonable and well-intentioned rebuttal to fabricated accusations leveled by a rival leftist magazine (a proto-Fisking!), and seems to be founded on solid principles to which it adheres fanatically, it nonetheless betrays the writer and editor of the magazine as a classic Red-fearing conspiracy-monger, pointing fingers everywhere and demonizing blacks and Jews and the like, while saying things like "Might I point out that despite what some might view as their later excesses, the Klan originally came into being because decent people had perfectly reasonable fears for the safety of their persons and belongings when forced into proximity with people from a culture far less morally advanced." A synthetic political cartoon, in the lost old 40s style, shows a square-jawed American superhero in a boxing ring menaced by towering caricatures of Big Biz (complete with Star of David), Juvenile Delinquency, Pop Culture, Hippies, and Crime, while John Q. Public dozes and Lady Liberty weeps.

And here we are in 2003, where the conservatives are pro-Israel, pro-black, pro-gay, pro-end-of-War-on-Drugs, pro-miscegenation, play mean electric guitars, and get up in arms over the suppression of ideas opposite their own.

As to the storytelling itself-- it's quaint, I must say. I'm sure it must have been revolutionary in its time, being as it was the forerunner of all of today's accustomed Vertigo titles, the first of the genre of edgy adult comics. And it's extremely well-written. But I find myself grating a little at the forced cleverness of the writer, juxtaposing the storylines of the main plot and an unrelated pirate/horror story throughout common panels just to drive home the irony and magnitude of the characters' lines and the scenes they're in. Each episode ends with a literary excerpt from some in-story text or other, further fleshing out the realism of the gritty New York setting and providing character context. Now, while this is all extremely clever, and in 1986 it must have seemed ingenious, from today's perspective-- where storytelling of this type has matured a bit-- it looks pretentious. I suppose I can't fault it for that, but I did find myself going, "Yeah, yeah" once or twice as I saw the castaway on his corpse raft reappear next to the newsstand owner's dialogue, or Doc Manhattan's time-shifted lines pull themselves together from the far corners of the scene and resolve into a coherent internally-consistent narrative. Yes, you're very smart. Now shut up.

But that said, it's an outstanding piece, superbly written; I called it "prescient" last week, but until I got to the end I didn't realize just how prescient it was. I have to wonder how the writers feel about current events, and how they would have written The Watchmen in 2003 or even in 1996. This world really has changed a lot lately, hasn't it?

Tuesday, March 4, 2003
03:08 - A journey of discovery

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This is pretty neat: in Safari, if you right-click on a link to an MP3 file, you get an "Open in iTunes" menu option.



Selecting it streams the MP3 file straight into iTunes. (If only I had the bandwidth to keep up with it. Ah well-- in the new house for sure.) And it changes to whatever app you've set as the default for MP3 files, too.

Sort of a side benefit of the ugliness of filename extensions, I must admit; it's an accessible, flat piece of meta-data that's available to any parser without need for the underlying application to support any kind of "deep discovery" (such as the Content-type associated by the server with various file types, which normally you don't see until you actually request the file-- whereas with file-typing done in the extension, it's readily available just by looking at the link URL). It's still an ugly solution, but I've gotta admit it's versatile.

Anyway, the MP3s in question, pictured above, are from the Belmont Playboys' home site-- that's Mike Hendrix' band. And boy, can they wail. Right-wing bloggers certainly are a multi-talented bunch, aren't they?

02:45 - Candy Bars Make You Illiterate

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Nestlé has a new candy bar with an ad campaign whose architect I want to punch. It's a chocolate confection that, according to the youthful-sounding announcer, is infused with a substance called "carmel".

I don't know what this "carmel" stuff is, but from the look of it it bears a striking resemblance to caramel-- same color, same thick sticky consistency. One might be forgiven for thinking they might be the same thing.

Subtext: I cannot stand the mispronunciation of "caramel". Ever since my early youth it's driven me up the wall. (Likewise with hapless tour guides at candy factories unlucky enough to have me visit.)

What's worse, though, is that one of the ads in this campaign actually plays on this mispronunciation tendency-- and while giving lip service to the fact that these multiple pronunciations of the word "caramel" exist, it concludes with the same announcer referring to the stuff as carmel.

To wit: two guys are sitting on some steps in front of a city apartment block, eating one of these candy bars. The one guy, who can read, calls it caramel. He's fairly adamant about it, too; but his compatriot, seemingly oblivious to the repetition of the letter A in the word, or to the evidence presented in any reliable online dictionary, or to the etymological information to be found therein (calamellus mellitus, or sugar cane), persists in calling it carmel. He even pummels his buddy over the head for insisting upon the three-syllable variant, right before handing over control of the meme to his disembodied announcer friend.

Let's review, then:
  • Caramel is a "burnt-sugar" confectionary material frequently used in candy bars.
  • Carmel is a town on the California coast frequented by tourists.

Got that, Nestléee?


02:34 - Blessed are the Paecemakers
http://www.rightwingnews.com/humor/save.php

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Wow. I don't know what to make of this one either. Too funny to be real, too good to be fake. I have no other basis than its own face value upon which to guess as to its legitimacy, but-- either way, it's damned entertaining.

Doug: THE USA TRY TO ENTER HEAR FOR OUR WATER. WE DONT WANTH AMERICANS HERE!! I AM A BRAZILAN RESERVE SOLDIER AND I WIL FIGHT IS ANY AMREICAN ENTER ON MY COUNTRY!

HolyWarrior: I used to say that sort of thing too before the Gulf War -- then next thing you know, they show up with their planes, tanks, deathrays, robot monkeys, deathstars, all sorts of stuff and you say forget about it -- might as well watch "Baywatch" and chant USA USA!

Doug: i understand.... the americans is the modern rome!!

If only the Romans'd had ICQ.


19:27 - First they came for the pigs...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2818809.stm

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I try to be understanding of these things; I really do.

But it just rises, unbidden, from the depths of my stomach, and bursts forth from my lips before I have a chance to curb it or quell it:

Fuck you!

A West Yorkshire head teacher has banned books containing stories about pigs from the classroom in case they offend Muslim children.

. . .

Mrs Harris said in a statement: "Recently I have been aware of an occasion where young Muslim children in class were read stories about pigs.

"We try to be sensitive to the fact that for Muslims talk of pigs is offensive."

The head teacher sent a memo to staff saying fiction books containing stories about pigs should be removed from early years and key stage one classrooms.

Mrs Harris added: "The books remain in the school library and there is nothing to stop our younger children having stories such as 'The Three Little Pigs' in small groups."

Next to go will be The Lion King, because it has a warthog in it. Mark my words. (It's always been banned in places like Saudi Arabia, and that's fine with me. But France, and now England, will be hopping on the Do Not Offend bandwagon.) And that's to say nothing of Charlotte's Web.

And after that, dogs. Dogs are unclean in Islam too, aren't they? So long, Old Yeller. Bye bye, Poky Little Puppy. Ain't gonna be no more Red Fern growing in the hearts of these kids, even though up till now it's been a part of (gasp!) Western Culture. Which, of course, must always defer to the vastly superior (or at least more dangerous to ignore) culture that non-Western immigrants bring with them.

How ever do you suppose it was that Jewish populations managed to reconcile the need to keep Kosher with a prevailing culture that likes to eat pork and cheeseburgers? What about vegetarian Hindus in a land dotted with aromatic Outback Steakhouses? Hell, I've even stopped complaining about smokers out of a respect for coexistence and a willingness to accept a bit of discomfort and inconvenience for the sake of greater overall happiness. I'd thought the big modern moral lesson we'd all learned was that tolerance is a two-way street. So whence this steadfast refusal to adapt, and this terrified ideological cowering? Has 9/11 created the double standard of the century?

C'mon, England. Time to show some backbone. Just because you are hobbled by cultural hypersensitivity doesn't mean you have to bend over backwards to appease people who aren't.

(Via Sullivan.)


UPDATE: The school's decision has come as a surprise to local Muslims, as Aziz forwards me:

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "This is bizarre. There is nothing to stop children reading about pigs. The ban is simply on the consumption of pork and pig products." ... Trying not to be too harsh in the face of a rare sensitivity to Muslims, the Muslim Council of Britain asked the school district to quietly repeal the edict. Continued Bunglawala, "There can be a cultural misunderstanding and it is good for everyone to discuss it and clear it up."

Well, good. I certainly hope Mrs. Harris takes them up on that offer.



18:06 - Mind the Gap
http://www.nwc.navy.mil/newrulesets/ThePentagonsNewMap.htm

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Via LGF-- here's a perspective from Thomas P.M. Barnett of the US Naval War College, which appeared in this month's Esquire. It's billed as "The Pentagon's new Map of the World". Very frank and to-the-point. I don't know how "authoritative" it is, but it certainly seems to be the closest thing to the horse's mouth that I've seen when it comes to the Long View on where the WoT is taking us.

IF WE STEP BACK for a minute and consider the broader implications of this new global map, then U.S. national-security strategy would seem to be:  1) Increase the Core's immune system capabilities for responding to September 11-like system perturbations; 2) Work the seam states to firewall the Core from the Gap's worst exports, such as terror, drugs, and pandemics; and, most important,  3) Shrink the Gap.  Notice I did not just say Mind the Gap.  The knee-jerk reaction of many Americans to September 11 is to say, "Let's get off our dependency on foreign oil, and then we won't have to deal with those people."  The most naïve assumption underlying that dream is that reducing what little connectivity the Gap has with the Core will render it less dangerous to us over the long haul.  Turning the Middle East into Central Africa will not build a better world for my kids.  We cannot simply will those people away.

Indeed. If it's a choice between America's seceding from the world so we don't offend (or assist) any other country, and rolling up our sleeves for a long and extraordinarily ambitious-- but potentially world-altering-for-the-better-- reconstruction project, I'm on board for the latter.

Nice maps, too.


16:29 - You've got to be kidding me.
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/5311076.htm

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Apple has apparently just pulled something out of their ass that has hit the music industry like a Martin Sheen speech at an anti-war rally: a digital-music downloading service that's easy, reliable, lucrative, and works.

Top executives at the major record companies have finally found an online music service that makes them excited about the digital future, sources said Monday.

The new service, developed by Apple Computer, offers Macintosh users many of the same capabilities that are already available from services previously endorsed by the labels. But the Apple offering won over music executives because it makes buying and downloading music as simple and nontechnical as buying a book from Amazon.com, one source said.

"This is exactly what the music industry has been waiting for,'' said one person familiar with the negotiations between the Cupertino computer maker and the labels. "It's hip. It's quick. It's easy. If people on the Internet are actually interested in buying music, not just stealing it, this is the answer.''

Boy-howdy. Where did this come from, exactly? Have I really been that far out of the loop? True, I've been preoccupied lately-- what with the house, code-monkeying, and malaise over the last few days before we go into Iraq-- but can this really be true?

If it's for real, I can tell you I'm going to be quite well pleased.

The new service would only be available to users of Apple's Macintosh line computers and iPod portable music players, who have been largely overlooked by the legitimate online music services. Although no licensing deals have been announced, sources close to the situation say at least four of the five major record companies have committed their music. The service could be launched as early as next month.

Quite well pleased indeed.

The Register has an additional take:

Eschewing the MP3 format, Apple's service will be based on Dolby's AAC (Advanced Audio Coding not Codec, as the LA Times report mistakenly states) in order to tie each track to a specific Mac and thus prevent unauthorised duplication. Users will be able to copy tracks to an iPod, suggesting that an update to the music player's software is in the works too.

Apple's spin, relayed by the LA Times' over-enthusiastic and, we suspect, quasi-official deep throat, is that music executives are excited over how easy to use the new service is. The irony is that Apple has had such a move forced on it by an industry increasingly employing copy protection schemes, almost all of which support only PC playback. The major labels' online music sales sites are Windows only.

I've been inwardly (okay, outwardly too) happy at Apple's firm stance against copy-protection schemes, with Steve Jobs using his acceptance of the Grammy that Apple won for FireWire as an opportunity to speak out in favor of free and open file formats, like MP3 as used in iTunes; I guess this means a bit of an about-face, and my knee-jerk satisfaction at this news is tempered a bit by the knowledge that what I'm doing here is welcoming a DRM-enabled proprietary format just because it's Mac-only, whereas under other circumstances I'd be jeering at DRM-enabled proprietary formats that are Windows-only.

But AAC, at least, is an open part of MPEG-4; there won't be anything stopping Apple (or even a third party) from extending this service to Windows users if it proves financially viable to do so. And that's a decision that can wait; as with the iPod itself, I'd guess that Apple will be milking the political capital it's apparently gained with the record company execs as long as it can. Whatever they did to convince the labels that the Apple service will be where it's at for digital downloads at a dollar a pop, they're going to want to squeeze it for all it's worth before they crack open the floodgates and let everybody in.

Wouldn't that be something, though, if this ends up driving Mac sales? "Come to the Mac-- where every song in the history of the world can be had at perfect quality for a dollar and a click!"

(Via Mike Silverman.)

Monday, March 3, 2003
19:15 - When Symbols Attack
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030303-104.htm

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I must say, I'm having a hard time absorbing this one. I'm not (yet) prepared to believe that the terrorists are this disconnected from reality (and/or this stupid).

Terrorists linked to al Qaeda have targeted U.S. military facilities in Pearl Harbor, including nuclear-powered submarines and ships, The Washington Times has learned.

According to officials familiar with the reports, al Qaeda is planning an attack on Pearl Harbor because of its symbolic value and because its military facilities are open from the air.

The attacks would be carried out by hijacked airliners from nearby Honolulu International Airport that would be flown into submarines or ships docked at Pearl Harbor in suicide missions, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Because of its symbolic value?

Look, guys: if you're going to pick a target for its symbolic value, you bomb the Super Bowl. You bomb Times Square at New Year's. You gas an airport on the Fourth of July.

You don't recreate an event which steeled the entire US for implacable battle against those who attacked it.

What are they thinking? If this report is for real, it means either that a) al Qaeda really doesn't have a damned clue what this country does when it's attacked, even after Afghanistan; or b) they're ingeniously actively working to redefine this war on their own terms, making all sides think of it as a Holy WarTM with all its thirteenth-century trappings-- perhaps knowing full well that their civilizations are doomed as they know it, and they'd rather go out under a nuke and jet straight to Paradise as martyrs, than win. Maybe they've decided that this world is irreparable, that salvation for earth's people is impossible, that American hegemony is impossible to fight-- and so "winning" by hobbling America is really concession to America's vision of the world, and the only way to really win is to die in the service of Allah.

The fact that the latter possibility seems the more plausible to me really screws with my head.

Well, then, bring it on, Chinpokomon Toy Company. Try to bomb da Hahbah. We'll be happy to oblige.

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© Brian Tiemann