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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Thursday, May 22, 2003
01:15 - Into the Breach

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Well, it's that time of year again: Memorial Day Weekend, time for a bunch of ex-Moles to gather together from the far corners of the Earth and drive up into the redwood forests for the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Arcata, California.

The alert among you will know Arcata as the very epitome of Hippie Central; it's on the coast, on the northern shore of the bay containing Eureka, in the heart of fabled Humboldt County. It's a foggy little commune with a neighborhood co-op as its primary grocery store, a communal wireless Internet link from the top of the three-story building in the main town square, and little bohemian coffee shops everywhere. It's the home of the very Northtown Books that (as Lileks screeded about a couple of years ago) Michael Moore visited in triumphal solidarity; it's the place that last month decided to fine any government officials who tried to enforce the Patriot Act:

This little city (pop.: 16,000) has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws voluntary compliance with the Patriot Act.

"I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack," said David Meserve, the freshman City Council member who drafted the ordinance with the help of the Arcata city attorney, city manager and police chief.

. . .

The fine for breaking the new law, which goes into effect May 2, is $57. It applies only to the top nine managers of the city, telling them they have to refer any Patriot Act request to the City Council.

Wish me luck, guys.

(Note that this means no blogging until Tuesday. That is, unless I have the time and inclination to blog via wireless from the communal mind-beam. I doubt I will, though; somehow I imagine I'll be having fun despite myself.)


Wednesday, May 21, 2003
20:12 - Drive-By Politics

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Yesterday, as I was driving home through downtown San Jose on I-280 eastward, I passed under an overpass, as I always do. Except this time, from some distance away, I saw that someone had hung a large American flag on the fence.

I thought, hmm-- haven't seen one of those since late 2001. Wonder what the occasion is?

Then I got closer, and saw that to the left of the flag was a smaller sign, which someone was in the very process of hanging up. It said: PEACEFUL DIALOGUE WITH CUBA.

I thought, huh? What brought that on?

And then, today, both the flag and the sign were gone.

I don't know what to make of this one. The street in question was the one you end up on if you take the Bascom exit, and it fronts right along San Jose City College, so maybe there are some one-issue firebrands at work... but geez.

Freeway overpass sloganeering: pioneered in the wake of 9/11, and so quickly cheapened.


16:36 - Boondocks Meltdown
http://www.ucomics.com/boondocks/2003/05/21/

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You have my pity, Mr. McGruder, but not my respect.



Hey Charles-- mind if I borrow this?

16:31 - That's the stuff
http://www.pvponline.com/archive.php3?archive=20030520

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I'm sure this counts as schadenfreude, somehow:




Looks like this is going to be an ongoing thread. Most excellent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
18:25 - One wallet at a time
http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110003517

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J.M. sends me this OpinionJournal article, in which James Kerrigan places his cloth cap over his heart, stands at the edge of a pool of lamplight, and to the soaring tones of a classic big-band combo, croons a doleful paean to his new cruel mistress: the iTunes Music Store.

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? So did crack cocaine. The analogies are eerie--both involve a pipe (in Apple's case, a broadband pipe), both are cheap, and both offer instant gratification. And both, unfortunately, can cause seemingly normal people to become unhinged.

The first night after Apple unleashed this monster, I strolled (virtually) onto the site and did what I do in any CD store: I browsed around and listened to a couple of songs. No problems so far . . . but then I stumbled across the cheesy old Tom Jones hit "What's New Pussycat?" and figured it could be useful in chasing away unwanted party guests. I clicked the "Buy Now" button. Zap. Onto my hard drive it went, in less time than it took me to consider whether I really needed any Tom Jones. Too late--I owned it, like it or not. I could put it on my iPod, or start a "When Lounge Lizards Walked the Earth" CD compilation. It was too easy. I had to have more. I was hooked.

So as the hours whizzed by, all non-iTunes reality faded away. I had been sucked into a Jobsian Vortex of Doom. Unlike a regular record store, this accursed thing never closes. It's open all night. "Open All Night" . . . wasn't that a Georgia Satellites song? (Click-zap.) Sleep? Who needs sleep? I can sleep when I'm dead, I thought. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" . . . Warren Zevon! (Click-zap.)

By the time my wife shoved me out of my chair and started downloading Dolly Parton classics, I knew we were on our way to being the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love of the iTunes set: descending into madness and wrestling for control of the mouse while the "Complete Works of The Troggs" wings its way through cyberspace and onto my hard drive. I started having visions of my formerly happy family living under a bridge while I sat by the road with a "Will Work for Downloads" sign made out of six months of unpaid Visa bills.

There, there. It'll be all right. Soon the bitter naysayers will find enough things wrong with it that Apple will be forced to shut it down, and then you'll be free of your addiction.


11:53 - Lima lima mike foxtrot
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.06/battlefield_pr.html

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Via The Command Post-- here's a fascinating and very entertaining Wired article on Rumsfeld's Great Experiment: the digital war. It's all about "swarm theory", the high-speed deployment tactic that swooshed past the Iraqi defenses like the Blitz past the Maginot Line. On the ground, it doesn't look much like the grand hype suggests; but that's okay, because it's even cooler. This war, apparently, was won with store-bought GPS units, consumer walkie-talkies, and Microsoft Chat.

Swarm theory is also moving online - into chat rooms, an application Mims is pioneering for military purposes. When a problem develops on the battlefield, a soldier radios a Tactical Operations Center. The TOC intelligence guy types the problem into a chat session - Mims and his colleagues use Microsoft Chat - and the problem is "swarmed" by experts from the Pentagon to Centcom. Not only is the technology changing the way we maneuver, Mims notes, it's changing the way we think.

But the system is not without problems. Because anyone on Siprnet who wanted to could set up a chat, 50 rooms sprang up in the months before the war. The result: information overload. "We've started throwing people out of the rooms who don't belong there," Mims says.

"What's funny about using Microsoft Chat," he adds with a sly smile, "is that everybody has to choosean icon to represent themselves. Some of these guys haven't bothered, so the program assigns them one. We'll be in the middle of a battle and a bunch of field artillery colonels will come online in the form of these big-breasted blondes. We've got a few space aliens, too."

Great stuff.

(And from the sound of this, ours is the most informal, fast-and-loose armed force in the history of the world.)

Monday, May 19, 2003
15:32 - Oh yeah, that's useful
ftp://ftp.extremetech.com/pub/extremetech/news/winhec/WaveWindows.MOV

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Gee, look. It's Microsoft's insightful, user-experience-enhancing answer to OS X, Quartz, and the Genie Effect. 3.8MB QuickTime movie, and no, don't adjust your set.

From AtAT:

One important distinction: once again, Microsoft reveals a certain cluelessness about form following function. The Genie Effect doesn't just look nifty; it gives the user valuable visual feedback about where a window goes when it's minimized. In stark contrast, as far as we can make out from this short video clip, Microsoft's flapping windows don't do anything except drive the sale of hardware upgrades.

Does any part of Microsoft's UI design team not operate on the principle of "Do whatever Apple did, only make it flashier and ignore the reason why Apple did it," like some kind of benighted technological Cargo Cult?


14:58 - My heart's cockles are warmed
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/3034177.stm

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It's the LegoMac!

Daniele Procida could not bear to see a dead Mac thrown away - so he reconstructed it using Lego bricks pinched from his sons.

Rather than bin the Powerbook laptop, he refurbished it using hundreds of colourful pieces, set on mottled artificial green grass.

. . .

"It took a long time to come up with a design that met both aesthetic and technical requirements," Daniele added.

"Once I finally had it built, my girlfriend used it to write her doctoral thesis on feminist metaphysics."

Many computer enthusiasts design their own base units, but a complete re-build from a different material is a rarity, underlining typical Mac eccentricity.

The build took a month - time devoted every evening after work - and proved a perfect gift for Daniele's partner Carol.

It is a fully working 100MHz, 32Mb multi-coloured bundle of bricks running MacOS 8.1.

I don't know about you, but I'd really hate for the computing world to be devoid of stories like this. That's what would happen without Apple.

For instance, the Bizarro World version of this story is, of course, this one.

UPDATE: Stephen informs me that this LegoMac is not a unique idea, but rather the latest in a long line of Macs that have crawled like upwardly mobile hermit crabs into cases made of popsicle sticks, old radios, Mars rovers, floppy-disk organizers, and (yes) Legos. Ahh, the joy.



14:45 - How To Beat Pirates
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030516/tc_nm/media_disney_dvds_d

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Use copy-protection technology that has nothing to do with computers, is the answer. Or Disney's, anyway.

Disney home video unit Buena Vista Home Entertainment will launch a pilot movie "rental" program in August that uses the self-destruction technology, the company said on Friday.

The discs stop working after a change in color renders them unreadable. They start off red, but when they are taken out of the package, exposure to oxygen turns the coating black and makes it impenetrable by a DVD laser.

Buena Vista hopes the technology will let it crack a wider rental market, since it can sell the DVDs in stores or almost anywhere without setting up a system to get the discs back.

The discs work perfectly for the two-day viewing window, said Flexplay Technologies, Inc., the private company which developed the technology using material from General Electric Co.

Chemical reactions can't be hacked. Cute.

I'm sure Disney is still miffed over the failure of Circuit City's pay-for-play DiVX disc format; I guess this shows they're not daunted by such things as massive market rejection. But for what it's worth, as long as these self-destructing discs are for rental only, I suppose there's not much to get alarmed about; they're real DVDs, not some crippled format, and the benefits of rental stores being able to turn into one-way retail stores are certainly good for that industry. It's actually a pretty clever solution.

It's almost a shame that Disney withdrew their pledged support for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911. I was all set to make jokes about how appropriate it would be to release that movie using this format; just like these discs, Michael Moore's head starts out red, and then as it gets exposed to more and more oxygen, it gradually becomes less and less susceptible to facts and reason until it turns completely impenetrable and useless.

12:01 - That's the woman; I'd recognize her anywhere
http://www.local6.com/orlpn/news/stories/news-221118920030517-170526.html

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Tell me: why is it that religion can ever be given precedence over common sense?

Namely, that the purpose of a photo ID card is so that the person can be IDENTIFIED?

I'd heard about this sort of thing being taken seriously in France (and considering that the French government has been sponsoring Islamic councils and French supermarket chains have recently stopped carrying pork so as not to offend Muslims, it didn't exactly surprise me); but I honestly didn't think anybody would try it here. More fool me.

Ah well. At least the online survey on the site has 91% of the respondents saying that Muslim women shouldn't be able to disguise themselves in front of the DMV's camera any more than anybody else should.

I mean, geez. Why not just draw a stick figure on the ID card, or use a photo of a Lego guy or something? Either that or drop the BS and dispense with the whole concept of "photo ID".

Via LGF, which makes me an intolerant racist bastard.


11:45 - Weekend Wars

(top)
I promised photos last time, so here they are.



Neat, huh? The larger area (on the near side of the first photo) will have a large entertainment-center area, with a couch (ohhh, that couch) and matched chair and a coffee table, and my computer desk off to the right (over the Ethernet jack we strung into the wall). That area of the room will be done in a marigold-pumpkin color with sponged-on lighter yellow accents, and vertical-slat wainscoting all around the room. The arch wall will be drywalled smooth, and given a sort of sandy finish (in the same color as the walls), and deep currant red curtains in each of the arch windows and the doorway.

The bed area on the other side will have walls done in the same currant red as the curtains. We just redid the new doorway into the bathroom; since it's a plumbing wall, it's thicker than usual, so we built a new door frame out of 1x8's and set it flush, and now the door actually hangs straight. It stays at whatever position you put it and doesn't swing open or shut anymore. I'd even go to far as to say it's well-hung.

The big vertical enclosed box thing has ductwork in it; it obscures one of the archways from one side, but when the curtains are closed, nobody on the big-room side will be any the wiser. And it lends some interest to the shape of the room anyway; my animation desk will go across from it. There won't be much in the smaller part of the room other than the bed, the desk, and the dresser; but that's just fine with me. All the cool stuff goes in the big room.

The drywall guy will come out tonight to see the finished, cleaned-up product, and give me the final estimate. Then we'll get that done this week, and meanwhile we'll get to work painting everything else.

This arch wall was the single biggest unique piece of character we're adding to this house; and while it was fun to do, and successful, we're very glad it's done.

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© Brian Tiemann