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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12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, March 16, 2003
14:32 - Me and my iPod have a date

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Well, since this is the last weekend that I'll have before I take possession of the house (and begin spending every waking weekend hour working on improvements and construction and move-in stuff), and because there's an excellent post-rainstorm cloudburst in progress, I'm going to head up to the summit on Silver Creek Valley Road and do some heavy-duty nothing.


13:41 - I Can't Believe They Invented It
http://www.t-mobile.com/tzones/cameraphones/default.asp?loc=hme

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Oh, good. Now people can take pictures of the car wreck they were just in because they were talking on their cell phone.

And send it directly to the insurance company, who because they don't demand to know whether the insuree has a cell phone (hands-free or not), gets to bump up my premium to pay for these asshats' repair and hospital bills.

(And if I were to get out of my car and threateningly approach, for instance, the SUV-driving bimbo who a couple of weeks ago floored the gas pedal to launch her Escalade into the right lane just as I went past, oblivious to my presence because of her goddamn phone, missing me only because I leaped in a split-second movement into the next lane over, purely lucky that there wasn't a car there already-- I would be the one to get arrested.)

The Bay Area seems to be way behind the curve in adopting cell phones-- in the South, from my experience there, every single person has one and is talking on it more often than not. But that's one area in which I'm not particularly interested in this region catching up to the frontrunners.


12:32 - Thank You For Your Support
http://thelink.concordia.ca/article.pl?sid=03/03/11/1149203

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The latest to grace the fair walls of Montreal's Concordia University:


Let's run a little thought experiment, shall we? Let's say that on September 11, 2001, oh, I don't know, the CN Tower got knocked down by a terrorist-piloted airliner. (Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there were 3,000 people eating in the revolving restaurant at the time.) Let's say Canada launched its own War on Terror in response. Let's say they tore into Afghanistan and rooted out the immediate threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban; let's say they developed a long-view plan to nullify Islamic terrorism at its source, including eliminating the threat of an armed Iraq, culminating in an invasion a year after the Afghanistan action.

Would students in American universities be painting things like this on their public walls? Would we see murals of Canadian public figures waving CN-Tower-shaped phalli around while wearing Napoleon hats or Mountie uniforms?

Come to think of it, considering recent events around here, we probably would-- and that's what's really pissing me off.


12:09 - One Of Those Weekends

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Yeah, it's just another of those same-old, same-old weekends where I find myself just muddling through assorted and sundry tasks-- house things, taxes, mountains of e-mail, hammering on code at work, Homestar Runner toons-- instead of feeling any desire whatsoever to blog.

I don't seem to be alone in this; most of my friends appear to be lost in a miasma of video games, far more so than usual-- perhaps to blot out the outside world? Who knows. I'm beginning to think that the reason why so many people in the circles I travel in are so vehemently anti-war and anti-American is that they live entirely within this whole Virtual Universe, where national boundaries and cultural identities and acts of terrorism and brutality and war truly are irrelevant. As long as the VR environment of the day remains intact, who cares what goes on outside the door or what flag waves over the street? As long as the power keeps flowing and the DSL line stays up, what more to life need there be?

Anyway-- I'm now in the final week of escrow. I signed the vesting form on Friday; the title company had managed to dig up the only piece of documentation in the entire pile of paper that had an incorrect mailing address for me: my deposit check, which was written on the last check in the checkbook which had my old (previous) address on it; and they mailed the express packet to the old Pepper Tree house. (I'm sure the current residents were taken somewhat by surprise.) So after a flurry of faxes, and a series of epithets from the loan officer directed at the general incompetence of the title company (the representative of whom never, ever picked up her phone or returned calls), the title form is signed and the loan company has sent out the documentation for me to sign and UPS back up to them on Monday, so they can fund on Thursday and we can record on Friday.

And then I can take the rest of Friday off (after running a tour of our software lab in which the Navy is coming by to see if we're a company that takes software development seriously-- apparently they've been unimpressed with other companies in our segment that they've checked out. And a contract with the Navy is not something to be tossed aside lighly), hurl myself into the new sunken living room, and shout out to the high heavens: NO MORE SPOOOOOORTS!

So yesterday I went in to work to get started on the multitude of infrastructural projects we've all been queueing up to work on as soon as this third in a series of marathon software release cycles is completed; since we just on Thursday blessed the limited release build, we're now freee for the first time in about a year. The trouble is that we've actually been in overdrive for a year, running these three development cycles simultaneousy, which is about twice our normal workload. But it's been going on for so long now that the rest of the company has gotten accustomed to it, and now they are totally unused to the idea of letting us have a few weeks of time to ourselves-- to do the infrastructural stuff, to take care of those "quadrant 2" tasks that we can't do when "urgent and important" tasks suck up all our time and manpower. But we managed to wrangle ourselves a bit of a time refund, so it's now time to take as much advantage of that as possible. Because there's no way I'm going to get all the work I need to do into the eight weeks we've been allotted. It's more like a year's worth of work. Plus there's still going to be a development cycle in the background. Oh, joy.

But in three hours of pounding yesterday, I hammered out the editing module for the new service table that I've been working on. Now we have user authentication and different views for engineering vs. marketing/sales (a good thing, believe you me), and a real editing function on a real database back-end. It even looks pretty hot, if I do say so.

Today it's been mostly an e-mail day thus far. But now that I think about it, it's just been an e-mail morning-- and I haven't even left my room yet. If you don't mind terribly, I'm going to go wake myself up now.

Friday, March 14, 2003
12:20 - Not All Rock Stars are Clueless

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Greg Kihn is the morning DJ at KFOX, the classic-rock station that wakes me up each morning. He's not exactly what you'd call a household name; but as aging rockers go, he's one of the most respectable I know of. The Greg Kihn Band only ever had maybe two hits back in the 80s (one of which, "Jeopardy", was spoofed by Weird Al), but nowadays he's parlayed his one-hit-wonder-ness into a fine running gag. The man who's had almost as many hit records as he has ex-wives!

And his band still plays, from time to time. Plus you oughtta hear his son Ry play.

Anyway, Greg is particularly interesting to listen to in the mornings because he's unabashedly pro-WoT and patriotic, and he fields irate e-mails on the air every morning, tearing them down as best he can. He's not the best public orator in the world, quite frankly; some of his on-air ranting is more comic bluster than eloquent rhetoric. He'll put on a big Pomp & Circumstance-esqe fanfare to play behind him when he gets going; it rises to a triumphant fever pitch as he builds up more and more steam. It's camp, and he knows it. It's why we like him.

(He's also a big Mac fan. Apple has often sent the station various products to play with, in exchange for Greg's unsolicited shilling for them on-air. His co-anchors put up with it from him-- you can almost hear them snickering in the background whenever he starts talking about his Macs. But they defer to him and give him the stage.)

Anyway, Greg was giving an on-air response to an e-mail he'd received that shrilly condemned Bush for setting out to kill "innocent Iraqi civilians", as is such a common refrain. In his response, Greg explained in a very measured manner that we'll be specifically going out of our way to avoid harming civilians. He said, "It's just not our style".

I fired off the following e-mail to him:

        "We go out of our way to avoid targeting civilians".

        It's not just "not our style", it's the reason why we've been spending
billions and *billions* of dollars over the past decades to develop
weapons which take out not just the target *building*, but the target
*person*. We have missiles that can fly into an individual person's
house's *window* and leave the adjoining buildings on either side
completely intact. We have Predator drones that target terrorists in
their cars where they're as isolated as possible from innocent
civilians. We even have EMP weapons designed to disable electronics so
enemy weapons systems become useless, without even a single *military*
life having to be lost.

        Why the heck would a country that has nuclear weapons capable of
leveling cities devote all its attention to creating weapons that cause
*less and less* damage, with more and more specific and targeted
results? It's because minimizing civilian casualties is the paramount
goal of American military development, and we've achieved more toward
that goal than any other country in history.

        People who whine about "killing innocent civilians is wrong" will get
no argument whatsoever from US military leaders; however, they *might*
get a frustrated punch in the mouth.

Within minutes, he responded (though not on the air), "Those people that whine about killing civilians will whine anyway no matter what we do. . . Of course Saddam wants as many as possible to die on both sides.  I expect him to pull every cowardly, cheap trick in the book."

I know he's not a Chrissie Hynde or a Peter Gabriel-- but these days, that's no bad thing at all.

Thursday, March 13, 2003
10:01 - Q228001: Network Adapter Does Not Work if Unplugged
http://dybka.home.mindspring.com/jill/qarticles.html

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Marcus sends me what should make for a happy morning's clicking and giggling: a collection of Microsoft Knowledge Base articles with absurd, ironic, or just plain stupid content.

Q253912: Out of Memory Error Messages with Large Amounts of RAM Installed
"WORKAROUND: Reduce the amount of memory that is installed in your computer to 512 MB or less."

Q149525: Poor Performance May Occur During FTP File Transfers
"If a send request occurs that is less than one segment, Silly Window Syndrome (SWS) can occur."

Q175362: January 1 May Appear as February 1 in a Date
"When you enter or fill dates in a worksheet in Microsoft Excel 97, a date that should appear as January 1 may instead appear as February." Hope you, like, didn't need that date for anything.

It's a long list, too. Someone's had themselves a grand old time compiling all this stuff.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
02:18 - Inching forward
http://www.apple.com/powermac/

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Well, we're up to 1.42 GHz now.

It's not too bad a package, for what it's worth; the innards have been re-architected based on the Xserve plumbing, hopefully with the result that data throughput is no longer as bottlenecked at the system controller as it was. (There's still the CPU bandwidth bottleneck, which won't be solved until the 970 is here, so things could still be plenty better.) But the PCI bus, the ATA/100 controller, FireWire 400/800, and gigabit Ethernet are all directly addressed by the system controller without any bridging, so that might be quite nice.

There's still the cost issue-- $1500 for the base 1GHz single through $2700 for the dual 1.42 GHz (or more with the RAM and Bluetooth and such tricked out more fully), prices that require some creative thinking and/or drugs in order to place them in the same ballpark as comparable Pentium-class machines. (It's worth noting, though, that these are the lowest price points that PowerMacs have ever had.) But there are still the usual tradeoffs and justifications (system integration, ColorSync, short pipelines, FireWire 800, at least comparable performance); that much hasn't changed. Apple's got benchmarks posted which claim superiority in Photoshop 7 tests over the 3GHz P4-based Dell, which we've all learned to treat with some skepticism-- but which at least show that Apple is confident enough in its machines' competence to make such claims in the full knowledge that independent testing labs will run their own numbers.

And in any case, the machines aren't devoid of new goodies. There's FireWire 800, again; there's integrated Bluetooth; there's 802.11g; there's the 4X SuperDrive. The site shills for M-Audio's up-to-7.1 professional sound cards, which ought to legitimize Macs further on the modern audio front (up till a short time ago, Mac owners were out of luck if they wanted 5.1-capable audio). And, of course, those displays have all come down a whole bunch in price; co-workers are telling me that all the other LCD monitor makers are having to scramble all of a sudden to lower their prices in order to match the offerings of what they continue to perceive as the leader in display technology and quality.

So they're scraping that butter over too much bread. They're at least metering things so as to reach that 970 milestone just in the nick of time, so it would seem.


01:52 - Hot Damme
http://www.thewavemag.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=23130

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Seanbaby has done a lavish filmography of every Jean-Claude Van Damme movie ever made. And you know what that means.

Universal Soldier receives a near perfect Van Dammeter score because of its massive clash of JCVD clichés where a sassy female reporter shows up during the splits-filled muddy fight scene in the rain. During the fight she's hit by an exploding grenade, but through what must have been the filmmakers' lack of knowledge of what a grenade is, she gets right up a few minutes later.

If I could write even a single sentence that's in the ballpark of what Seanbaby cranks out by the bucketful in every page like this he's ever written, I'd die a happy man.


09:24 - Our World-Historical Gamble
http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-0311

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Everybody's read this by now, right?

Good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
18:29 - Here's why we're gonna make it after all
http://www.whitehouse.org/

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Any country which allows a site like whitehouse.org to exist-- as a barefaced and scathing parody of the real White House site-- is in no danger whatsoever of providing the "Bush=Hitler" types a hint of a leg to stand on. The Presidency allows this kind of thing to float around on the Net, lurking just outside the government's very door, luring Web visitors in who are a misfired domain suffix away from reaching the President's official site; the only legal notice the White House serves is to politely request them to stop the direct defamation of persons such as Lynne Cheney. Companies like Disney and Paramount are apparently a lot more aggressive about this sort of thing than our evil government is.

I especially love the NUKE DISSENT banners. The site owners are undoubtedly aware of the delicious irony.

(Thanks to Damian Del Russo for letting me know of something I should have known about long ago.)


15:15 - Dork fries
http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/03/11/sprj.irq.fries/index.html

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I'm with Corsair: the House of Representatives changing "french fries" to "freedom fries" is tacky and juvenile in the extreme.

However, at least in this case we can have the comfort of historical precedent. In WWII, according to NPR, sauerkraut was renamed to liberty cabbage, "frankfurters" were solidified in their new identity as "hot dogs", and-- unbelievably-- German measles became known as liberty measles.

This doesn't, however, absolve today's newspeak perpetrators from their persistence in not realizing that the "french" in "french fries" refers to frenching, a preparation method. They didn't originate in France.


UPDATE: CapLion is considerably less put out by "freedom fries" than I am. (I'm trying to come up with a pun that involves "put out" and "put in" or perhaps "poutine", but failing.) But J Greely suggests a better name for them would be New York fries. It's not terribly inaccurate, considering that New York has always been such a hotbed of newly imported foods brought by immigrants or cultural exchange; and besides it's got plenty of WoT cachet. (Whoah-- perhaps I should avoid using French words like cachet... much as the British deliberately pronounced words like fillet and ballet with a hard T and the emphasis on the first syllable, so as to de-Francify such words.)

Well, either way, I like the sound of New York fries... pending legal clearance with the food-court restaurant of the same name. Somehow I doubt they'd mind much.



14:49 - So... very... tired...
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/mwny03.html

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No matter which way you read this article on the impending retooling of Macworld New York, the subtext is unmistakable: it's just not doing as well as the San Francisco event, and it's time to see if a fresh coat of paint can salvage it-- because the alternative is to scuttle it altogether.

At the heart of the decision, and of the dissolution of the tight binding Apple itself had with the event, seems to be the fact that Steve Jobs is well and truly tired of pulling biannual miracles out of his ass.

The decision to break with tradition and not have a Jobs keynote reportedly was made by Jobs himself. When exhibitors asked why he wouldn't be doing a keynote, many were told it was because Jobs felt it was getting tougher every year to produce the same amount of innovative products and excitement for a keynote. "Apple feels they have to pull a rabbit out of a hat at every keynote and it was getting tough for Jobs to live up to the hype," said one exhibitor.

I guess it was bound to happen; the kind of energy Jobs has kept up since his return to Apple in 1998 hasn't been the kind of thing the company can sustain forever. It's been reinventing itself at a breakneck pace, hitting all kinds of homeruns with new products and astonishingly few failures by comparison to their performance throughout the 90's. But they've been living on borrowed time. Now comes the sugar crash. Once they make it to the plateau of the 970 and a stable OS X with Quark Xpress native at last, I imagine the company will heave a deep sigh of exhaustion and zonk out for a long nap.

I don't expect they'll stop coming up with cool stuff; I just think Jobs doesn't have it in him to keep the company inventing on a timetable like they have been. It's time to let Apple get back to a more sane schedule, bringing out products when they're ready, rather than timing everything according to the keynotes and trying to live up to ever-increasing pre-keynote rumors and hype. Many of their most successful products over the past year or two-- the iBook, the iPod, the new displays-- have been released at surprise press meetings; and keynote introductions like the iMac, Safari, the TiBooks, and so on have frequently been slow to market (the 17" RealUltimatePowerBook still isn't shipping in quantity-- and word is that Apple knew all along that this would be the case). Apple's playing a losing game, trying to outsmart the user base when the user base is paying such close attention to the company that Jobs can't fart without the rumor sites picking up the news.

So it's back to a less glamorous but (hopefully) more sustainable product development model. There'll still be MWSF, but now we'll have half the opportunities to have our greatest dreams fulfilled as scheduled on the event program-- or, if you prefer, half the opportunities to be irrationally disappointed.


13:54 - Where the hell is La Habra?
http://www.whittierdailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,207~12026~1234836,00.html

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...Because I'm of half a mind to drive down there (aha, it's in the southeast LA/Anaheim area) and stand in front of that 9/11 memorial with whatever other Californians still exist that haven't gone completely bugfuck, and tell any more protesters that might care to show up that they'll further deface that memorial over my bloody, peace-riddled corpse.

Haven't these people realized just how far off the deep end they've gone? Do they have no understanding of that most human of all our pretensions, perspective? It's when I read stuff like this, from Andrew Sullivan, that I find myself deeply ashamed to be sharing a country with people so addled and yet so determined to prove how political they are:

On a more minor front, I was walking the beagle on Saturday in my local D.C. park and stumbled across the pretty-in-pink "Women For Peace" demo. The demonization of the president was far more evident than any criticism of Saddam Hussein. In the few conversations I managed to have without losing my cool, I asked some of the demonstrators whether they were aware of how many people Saddam Hussein had killed in his short time on earth. "Not as many as Bush," came one reply. "America is the true terrorist nation," another opined. Now I am second to no-one in defending these people's right to say whatever they believe, and it was a beautiful day for a feisty demonstration. But what can one make of the arguments one hears? Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by these sentiments, but it's hard not to wonder what these people will say or do once this particular phase of the war actually gets under way.

I'm as willing as anybody to concede-- quite happily, in fact-- that the anti-war position has some good points in favor of it. There is an intelligent debate to be had. Reasonable people can disagree over whether the pro-war points outnumber the anti-war points.

But this... this is America? "Not as many as Bush!" This is the considered opinion of the man-on-the-street? Do I have to open myself to the possibility that this country, far from being populated with clear-eyed resolute idealists with a real understanding of what humanity is and what it means to be free, is in fact full of eager participants in the Nigerian E-mail Scam and people who forward chain letters and stay indoors for a month because their moon is in Gemini?

The postmodern bohemians speak of a time when we'll all be enlightened and free, with instant access to all human knowledge. Well, we're seeing a glimpse of that today already, as interconnected as we all are and as well-published as so much information is; and if anything, it's demonstrating the reverse to be true. I've never heard of a people in history with so much intellectual freedom and access to information, that is so wilfully misinformed and self-destructive.

I'm instead put in mind of a friend's quip that we once thought that if you had a million monkeys at a million typewriters, you'd eventually produce the greatest intellectual works of all time; but instead, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not the case.

Monday, March 10, 2003
02:08 - That's not very nice
http://www.canoe.ca/WinnipegNews/ws.ws-03-10-0005.html/

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CapLion sends me this link: a pizza delivery-person in Winnipeg stopped her route to help a gunshot victim. When she got back to the pizza place, her boss fired her.

When RCMP and paramedics arrived, McAulay learned she was going to be held up for another few hours because she had to give police a statement. She called Frank's Pizza and asked a co-worker to phone her supervisor and fill him in.

When McAulay finished with investigators and returned to the restaurant about 10:30 p.m., Boyd was there to deliver the bad news.

"He said, 'What the hell were you doing there?'" she said. "He told me I was fired because I was a threat to the business."

McAulay said she tried to explain, but Boyd told her he "didn't care."

"I was shocked. Actually, disgusted," she said. "I'm not an EMT and I know that, but ... I wouldn't want anyone to turn away from me. It's a person's life that's at stake."

Boyd told The Selkirk Journal he didn't fire McAulay because she helped the gunshot victim.

"She wasn't dismissed because she was at the shooting scene," he said. "She was away from her job for no good reason."

Imagine what would have happened if she'd had a gun and used it to stop the suspect. She'd be strung up from a lamppost by now.


15:59 - Bride of Whiteboard of DOOM

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The latest banner ad to grace Chris' cubicle whiteboard:



11:59 - Uh... heh heh
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0303/031003.html

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In reading Lileks' review of We Were Soldiers:

It reminds you that a truth, repeated enough times, becomes a cliché. Once the smart set identifies something as a cliché, it?s stripped of its truth and regarded simply as a trick - regardless of how true the cliché may actually be.

... I realize that when I wrote about Black Hawk Down fourteen months ago, I fell into precisely the same too-smart-for-this-movie trap that he's describing. I saw the overt blood-and-gore as a directorial Can You Top This? ...instead of the real-life hell that the situation actually was. I assumed I was watching the War Movie To End All War Movies. I should have known that it was just sincerity making a desperate last stand.

I've been talking lately about how "sincerity is dead"... expressions of naked patriotism seem like anachronisms, and the only political statements my age group seems capable of respecting are those that enclose a wry, ironic, and usually totally bogus insight. I have friends who would roll their eyes at a Victor David Hanson article and go watch a Flash animation instead just because it has Kanji and a googly-eyed drippy-fanged Bush in it.

But for all its recent moronic pomp, Hollywood appears to have an undercurrent of sanity and integrity; unerneath the loud posturing of the stars, it seems the producers and directors and writers are yearning for a time when the emotions and values they choose to portray on screen could be taken at face value. Maybe it's a triple-layers-of-indirection self-effacing commentary on entertainment as a phenomenon, holding up the audience's very tendency to expect searing irony instead of honest heartfelt sentiments as the subject of artistic scrutiny. Maybe the filmmakers are so far removed from sincerity that even they don't know when they're being sincere.

But I'm inclined to think that maybe, just maybe, the irony bubble's about to burst just like the dot-com one did.


11:11 - Geeks are such smartasses
http://www.freshports.org

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Someone checked in some files to the FreeBSD ports tree the other day; if I'm reading the tea leaves aright, the effect was to resolve a file conflict in several various ports. And the comment entered by the committer was:

Clear moonlight beckons.
Requiem mors pacem pkg-comment,
And be calm ports tree.

A Latin haiku. Good God.

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© Brian Tiemann