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
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, June 13, 2003
15:50 - Getting it into words
http://www.amcgltd.com/archives/002713.html#002713

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What with all the refocusing of the world's attention on Israel ever since 9/11-- distracted, it seems, only temporarily by Afghanistan and Iraq-- a lot of people are finding themselves trying to come up with the ideal words with which to express how they feel about Israel, whether on the "pro" side or otherwise.

For many years it's been terribly easy to ignore the macabre docu-drama of Israel & the Palestinians-- as the news reports still describe it, even the less biased ones, it's just lumped together into the rubber-glove hazmat zone of "The Middle East". They seem to be conspicuously avoiding even using the name of Israel. "A fresh wave of violence erupted today in the Middle East," says the top-of-the-hour news, as though you can never quite tell where these things are going to happen next-- whether tomorrow's bus explosion will occur in Cairo or next week's missile strike on terrorist leaders will take place in Kirkuk or next month's pizzeria bombing will happen in Yemen.

Such terminology, to me, smacks of the alarmingly common tendency among Westerners to just put it all on a shelf somewhere and forget about it. "It's all just one big mess," I hear over and over. "Both sides are totally obsessed with death and violence. We should just build a big wall around it and lob in a nuke. Kill 'em all-- Israelis and Palestinians alike." Don't get me wrong-- there was a time when I might have said the same thing. But to hear it now, it rocks me back on my heels. It's a deeply, deeply troubling thing for me to hear-- an almost wilfully vicious refusal to take sides, to declare one side "good" and the other side "evil". When the planes hit the towers that morning, it was a gore point in the cognitive streams of all the world, but particularly of Americans; some of us saw the images on TV of the Palestinians dancing giddily in the streets, and we said, "All right, all sympathy I had for them-- and it was considerable-- has now officially evaporated." And the hole they've been digging under the doghouse they're in with me has only gotten deeper since then.

But others took that opportunity to cynically recuse themselves from the whole argument. "It's all just a big intractable mess. They're all equally bad." As though by saying so, the speaker bought anonymity, and a low profile, and a ticket out of identification with the hated evil West. Don't identify with Americans or with Israel, see, and you'll get a pass when the next Islamic atrocity comes. Oh, sure, I know most people don't actually think in these terms. Not out loud, anyway. But I have to wonder: isn't that exactly what thought process got Auschwitz built? A refusal to call evil by its name, and a denial of the existence of moral poles, even in this world of catastrophe and atrocity and achievement and human kindness?

So a lot of us have been trying to decide how best to express which side of the issue we're on. Some, like Charles Johnson of LGF, prefer to chip away at the edifice of the Israeli/Palestinian moral landscape, piece by piece, until a rough-hewn but towering sculpture remains, the expression on its face ugly but unmistakable and unignorable. Others, however, have sought to create the perfect encapsulation of the situation in a few succinct paragraphs. Few have shown a more effective combination of effectiveness and succinctness as Lileks-- but that, of course, is his unique gift. Others have to go into more detail.

Like this guy: Scott of AMCGLTD.com.

I say these things to Americans in the hope they will understand. Understand that even today when Israelis say they're fighting for their existence they aren't kidding. Understand that the Palestinians are not the helpless victims they so often claim to be. Understand that it's not radical Jewish terrorists who blow themselves up in the name of Jaweh. Understand that someone saying they're not against Jews, they're against Zionists is like someone saying they're not against Americans, they're against the United States.

I say these things to Israelis in the hope they, too, will understand. Understand that we realize one culture in the Middle East helped found ours, while the other wants to destroy it. Understand that we know we only got a taste of what it's like to live in your shoes. Understand that because of this the most powerful country the world has ever seen is working with all its might to ensure your nightmares, now ours, remain nothing more than dark wisps left behind on children's pillows.

I say these things to Israel's enemies even though I know they will never understand. Never understand that by destroying two buildings they succeeded only in transforming an ambiguous friend into a staunch ally. Never understand that by singing the praises of human detonators they merely dig a deeper hole in which to bury their own culture. Never understand their religion is no longer a force to be reckoned with, ceased being one six centuries ago, and their traditions are what got them in this mess in the first place.

I say these things to everyone so they may all understand. I am just one man among an ocean of men, a sea of women, living in a country of our own making with our own blood and treasure. I look across half the world and find in a region as old as time itself only one small nation that looks like mine. Unique in that region, its government is of its people, by its people, and for its people, and I am willing to do whatever I can to ensure it does not perish from this earth. True, I am just one man, standing up for what I believe in.

But I do not stand alone.

"These things" to which he refers need to be read, particularly by those who seek to hide from the problem and avoid the risk of (gasp!) offending anybody by throwing up their hands and referring dismissively and cynically to carnage on schoolbuses or ice cream parlors, and calculated tactical strikes on key terror leaders and the bulldozing of their homes, as all part of some symmetrical cycle-of-violence somewhere out on the part of the map that says This Way Be Dragons-- as, simply, "violence in the Middle East".

It's more than that; I know it is. There's a time to take sides, and that time was several months ago at the latest. If taking the side that I'm choosing makes me a target for ridicule and bile, well, so be it-- my life is comfortable enough that I can stand a few slings and arrows. It'll be good for me. It'll remind me that on that September day, when those plumes of smoke told the TV audience that War Was Coming, I decided that I wasn't going to hide or run away from it or pretend it didn't concern me. I wasn't going to respond to the spectre of America revving up its war machine by looking for a way to weasel out of being involved. I decided at that point that, ideologically at the very least, I wanted to be a part of the war, because I believed-- suddenly, and very strongly-- in the side I was on.

There are those for whom the world has become a video game, or a long cynical TV drama, the kind that Makes You Think About Who The Good Guys Really Are. Such people are wont to find solace and validation in the juicily ironic image of a bloodstained American flag with swastikas instead of stars, because hey-- it's all insightful and stuff! It's got levels of meaning! It has to be truer than something as simplistic and stark as the plain old flag draped over Saddam's face. Only someone of this mindset can say "Hmm-- the Jews want us to remove The Protocols of the Elders of Zion from Indymedia; surely that means it's something worth reading! What are they trying to hide?" while being unable to name Israel's current prime minister.

But as boring and cliché as it's become, I like the good ol' real world. It's amazing how many things snap into focus as soon as one commits to a moral stand. Suddenly history and the future truck at once into frame like that famous shot in Vertigo. I find myself saying things like, This is my planet, dammit-- and I refuse to let its bright future, full of freedom and reason and democracy and innovation and miracle upon human miracle, be stolen from it without a fight.

I run the risk, of course, of sounding like some kind of apocalyptic doomsayer, or worse, a florid swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel. But that's only because these issues we face today, I think, are too big to ignore. They're every bit as big as the world-changing clashes that we normally have to escape into fantasy to find. But they're here and they're real. And if dorky-sounding words are the best contribution I can make toward their ultimate successful resolution, then let the dorkage begin.


And just after I posted this, I went art-approving, and came across a couple of well-thought-out sentiments like "Ugh. All the stupid humans are letting thousands of forests and animals die every day because they're all too into a stupid war that never should've happened that killed innocent people who deserved to live", and "I'm just so tired of human stupidity. Pretty son I'll be driven off the deep end, give myself animatronic ears and tail and a new digestive sysytem, and live with wolves." Yeah, great idea. Let's kill each other for supremacy in the pack and a greater share of the raw meat; that's a lot more evolved.

Ah, to be young again.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
02:33 - Oh, the humanity
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0609_030609_tvbaghdadart.html

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See the hideous destruction of the merciless American onslaught on the innocent people of Iraq. Witness the indiscriminate bombing and destruction of infrastructure. Marvel at the slaying of civilians and the rape of local women. Behold the terror and outrage expressed by the Iraqis at their oppression under American military rule, where they pine for the halcyon days of Saddam and the benevolent plenty with which he blessed his sovereign nation's people.

The graffiti-marked pedestal bears a sign with the sculpture's title: NAJEEN, which means "survivor," and also happens to be the name of the group of young Iraqi artists who created the artwork.

"Freedom is not a gift from people with tanks," says sculptor Basim Hamad, a Najeen member and the driving force behind the new artwork.

Fardus Square, now also called Freedom Square, is in the city center. Traffic wheels around the square?unless protests clog the flow. The sidewalks teem with a minibazaar of currency exchange booths and men selling satellite telephone calls. The Paradise Hotel stands just off the square.

. . .

For the new plaster sculpture, 23 feet tall (7 meters), the Najeen created abstract figures of a mother, father, and child holding a crescent moon, symbol of Islam, around a sun, symbol of the Sumerian civilization. The Najeen dedicated the sculpture to "every person in Iraq and to freedom-loving people everywhere."

Once again, millions of people living within the borders of the US have less understanding of what it means to be free than do a people in a faraway land who have never been able to take such a luxury for granted.

Another image for the ages.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
16:15 - I'm such a philistine

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Apple's Music Store continues to flesh itself out, with new notable stuff appearing every Tuesday. There have definitely been a non-trivial number of annoyances about the service-- one of the foremost being that it lists albums by their CD release date, not by their original album release, so you get stuff like every Elvis album being listed as released between 1995 and 2001. I know he's still strumming away in some secluded retreat somewhere, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a recording studio there.

The other thing is that the selection just doesn't seem exactly... tailored to my tastes, I suppose. It's a tall order, asking any store to tailor to my tastes, since I don't buy music on the basis of genre or mood, but rather on the basis of whether I know the song. Hence my music library being filled with everything from the Space Ghost/Brak/Zorak CDs to Disney soundtracks to Mozart concertos to PowerPuff Girls music to David Arkenstone to Springsteen. The bulk of my music buying throughout the 90s was film scores; while some people got all squealy over Tori Amos or The Clash, I was clawing together John Barry and Basil Pouledoris and John Williams and Hans Zimmer soundtracks, not because I'd ever seen the movies, but because these guys were my rock stars. (A testament to this is one of the earliest websites I ever wrote, back in 1995, which I still keep around just to embarrass myself.)

The iTunes Music Store has a whole "Soundtracks" section. And what does it have? Little Nicky.

Oh, sure, there are hundreds of other albums in there too. But even now, it seems that the majority of them are scores that seem carefully designed not to be anything I want, or anything that matches the CDs I already own (so I can get new digital copies of the CDs that are rapidly deteriorating). No Jurassic Park. No Rescuers Down Under. Star Trek scores? Please. Not even for the love of cheesy recycled bitter Leonard Rosenman scores does the database offer up its cooperative hands to me.

It's gradually getting better, though, as I say. Every week there's something new that I'd looked for before, like late-80s REM or those albums from Jackson Browne or Jimmy Buffett that make me realize that I never knew more than the requisite two songs from any of them that KFOX uses on its Two-For-Tuesday lineups. (Some of these bands get frozen out of Triple-Shot-Weekends for lack of three airable hits.) And as fast as I'm able to earmark a couple of discretionary twenties, the database sidles up to me with new dainties with which to tempt me in the dark, furtive alleyway of the Buy Song button.

Lileks, as is so spookily often his wont, managed to put into words a vague feeling I'd been having lately: that I'd become a curmudgeon before my time. That I was denying myself the fruits of youth by not buying the He Got Game soundtrack and instead holding out for something with a hint of the symphonic. But then, this isn't a new feeling for me; ever since my teens I'd had the sense that I was acting like a crotchety old man in all my tastes and dealings, and with each passing day I've been "growing down" and losing-- well, if not age, at least maturity. Or something like that. I know I've loosened up dramatically in recent years, but at the same time I've become sharply more conservative in political thinking, more so every day I spend grousing here on this blog. How do those correlate? I can't help but think that maybe conservatives are plenty capable of having fun, all preconceptions to the contrary notwithstanding. Indeed, I'm certainly finding it a lot easier to do so now than back in high school when I was a Deeply Concerned Upstanding Youth deciding whether I should send money to Zero Population Growth or Negative Population Growth. Let's see now: How misanthropic do I feel today?

But with that comes a willingness to cross Lileks' "line", to admit that it's there and to clamp a foot down on it to keep it from moving. Whether it applies to smutty billboards or sax and violins on TV or moral relativism, I'm finding that the world does indeed stop rushing around my head quite so paralyzingly once I've committed to a set of boundaries. I'm a lot less likely to dismiss some whole genre of thought-- musical, moral, or political-- as a lost cause or unworthy of exploration. Things seem easier to tackle this way. When you leave yourself open to all possibilities, you risk leaving yourself with no possibilities; it's paradoxical, but I think that by defining a few fence-lines across the cognitive landscape, we create not just dividing lines but congregation points.

To distress the metaphor just a little further: it's been said here and there that the closer together humans live, the less "neighborly" they become. To wit, in densely packed urban dwelling environments, nobody knows their next-door neighbors. They're distrustful of each other, and competitive, and harbor long seething grudges at each other's habits with garbage day or mail pickup or cooking fumes. When they meet in the elevator in the morning, they avert their eyes, wondering whether they heard each other having sex the night before. Whereas in the burbs or the rural areas, neighbors meet at the back fence-- they chat for hours. They become friends. Their homes are sanctuaries, and the meeting grounds are thus all the more comfortable. I'm finding that out all the time with the new house; the cul-de-sac lends itself to conversation, and all the neighbors frequently come out to the asphalt to converse, usually until the usable painting daylight is long gone. Certainly, it's partly a function of the individual people. But there's something about the shape of the interface that invites dialogue just as it divides property.

Does any of this follow from any of the rest of it? I dunno. I've been scatterbrained at best for a good two days now, and I'm only just now bubbling up from having severely gutted and rewritten my old 1995-era guest-book code to be database-driven and moderatable. I'm in post-codal bliss.

Okay, on that note I'd better just back away slowly now.


15:35 - Aww, isn't that sweet

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10:01 - It looks different in here somehow

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So there wasn't much in the way of blogging yesterday, and it's all to the good-- the painting is down to the crunch, and I only get like an hour of daylight after work each day in which to work. This lets me do some touch-ups and make some minor progress, and yes, there's such a thing as incandescent lighting here in this modern world; but you try lighting your work surface when your outlets are taped over and your fixtures are disconnected. Plus I can't do all the hard stuff on my own, which involve holding ladders while I crawl up into the 20-foot ceiling cracks and hope my edging tool doesn't smudge.

But it's all good, because here's one more reason why I think I'll like living at the new place:



With sights like this on cool summer evenings, with banks of fog spilling down over the Santa Cruz mountains right at my back, I don't have much cause for complaint.

On the way home, though, unfortunately Mike turned out to be totally right: the BBC was positively gleeful over Israel's helicopter attack on Rantisi. "This Israeli attack deals a heavy blow to the roadmap for peace," the anchor said in her smooth, oily BBC voice that sounds like the radio equivalent of black ice. "It's unclear just how the government of Ariel Sharon thought it could get away with an assassination attempt at this sensitive time." Sure enough, it's the poor innocent Palestinians who are working in good faith toward peace, and any forthcoming failure of the roadmap will be all the Israelis' fault for striking at a target of opportunity-- someone who both sides were under no illusions as to being a major player in the terror network-- and striking at him in such a way as to absolutely minimize casualties other than Rantisi himself, by comparison to which our dropping four bunker-busters on that restaurant that we were pretty sure Saddam was in was unforgivably brutal and indiscriminate. But never mind, because that kind of attack is just as bad as a mother raising her child with exhortations to become a shaheed, filling his head with visions of sugarplums and exploding Jews and translucent-skinned virgins in heaven, so that he grows up to strap on a bomb belt and board a school bus and incinerate a dozen schoolchildren. It's all the same thing, see. That whole region needs to be walled off and nuked. No moral people left in there whatsoever.

Also via Mike, an LGFer's comment:

The Palistinians would kill every Jew, but can't. The Jews could kill every Palistinian, but won't. This is what's called "morals."

Anyway, then there's this massive coding project I suddenly discovered last night that I had to complete or else. You know how that can be.

Monday, June 9, 2003
16:50 - Grumble, grumble
http://slate.msn.com/id/2084046/

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A Slate article forwarded me by Chris.

How to do Wi-Fi networking:

Step 1. Get AirPort Extreme.
Step 2. Find the local insane snobby Mac-head and get him to install it using his Mac.
Step 3. Shelve said Mac-head, put base station in closet, and pretend happily that you aren't using inferior Apple technology after all.

Hey, we'll take whatever testimonials we can get, I guess.

14:32 - We wants it... we wants it!
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,1121736,00.asp

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Apparently the 970-based Power Macs are nearer release than anybody had guessed-- even to the point of clearing the tower before the software is even ready for them.

Sources said that the IBM chip will make its first appearance in a new Power Mac known internally as Q37. However, sources said, Q37 won't ship with a 64-bit version of Mac OS X, limiting OS performance gains in the initial release. Instead, Q37 will launch with a special build train of the current Mac OS X Version 10.2, a k a Jaguar.

This build, code-named Smeagol, will run on the new chip but won't take advantage of many of its key features, including 64-bit support. Sources said Apple's goal for Smeagol is to deliver Mac OS X performance at least "on par" with what Jaguar could achieve on Motorola G4 chips running at the same speed; the move will allow Apple to ship the new hardware before Mac OS X 10.3, a k a Panther, can take advantage of all the new processor's capabilities.

Even before Panther ships, early adopters of the new Mac system should also apparently be able to take advantage of the new processor's fast new front-side bus and cache.
Say what you will about Apple; but I just love their code-names. Marklar... Sméagol... and let's not forget the ever-popular BHA.

This could be interesting, in any case. People are used to new machines feeling faster than their old ones right out of the box, even if for no other reason than that they haven't installed any software on it yet to slow it down. But this time, it means people might go out, buy 970-based machines, get the modest performance boost you'd expect from any next-generation CPU... and then, in September, they can install an OS upgrade that kicks it all up another four or five more notches. BAM! Or something.

This could all still be smoke, naturally. But this week it seems all the tech rags have scoops on the G5 line, so it can't all be disinformation. At least, it'd better not be, or else there'll be a horde of angry Mac people out here in rumorville.


11:43 - Forhorklingads!
http://homestarrunner.com/sbemail76.html

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Hey, look: Strong Sad has an iPod.



Now all he needs is ears.
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© Brian Tiemann