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
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, August 8, 2003
12:47 - Why don't I ever learn?

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I really should know better by now. I really ought to. My hand has been burned at least a dozen times by this, and yet I keep reaching for that protruding handle.

I upgraded ImageMagick again.

<moist towel to the forehead; steaming cup of cocoa held to my lips by concerned friends>

I don't know what possessed me to do it. Maybe the promise that the newest version contains better options to strip out IPTC and XML headers from JPEGs, so Internet Explorer doesn't choke and die upon trying to read images created by obscure software like Adobe Photoshop 7. (Magic command: mogrify +profile \* blah.jpg) Maybe it was the simple fact that my installed copy was a full minor version older than the current release, which always nags at me; no matter how well something is working right now, no matter how little poking and/or prodding it requires, I just can't leave well enough alone if there's a new and better version available. (About the only thing I've been able to prevent myself from upgrading is my scanner software, because even my must-upgrade-everything reflexes can't overcome the lessons I've so painfully learned on that front.)

Some years ago, I upgraded ImageMagick, only to find that all my server-side code-- which automatically generated thumbnails from uploaded images-- had started spewing all over itself, chewing up CPU, and creating some of the most hideously deformed thumbnail images ever. See, I was used to using the following command:

# mogrify -geometry 60x999 blah.s.jpg

...to scale the thumbnail proportionally to 60 pixels wide, with the height being whatever is consistent with the same aspect ratio and 60 pixels wide. A 600x400 picture would become a 60x40 thumbnail. The "999" was a special key number, you see-- it told ImageMagick to scale proportionally. Apparently they'd never bothered to code a proper option for only specifying one dimension, so this hack was the best they could do.

So I upgraded, and found that my thumnails were now... 60 pixels wide, and 999 pixels tall. They'd removed the special handling.

Now I use "9999" for that command. It's still an awful hack, but at least it isn't chewing up my CPU as it tries to blow everything up to a thousand vertical pixels every time someone uploads something. At least, until they change something else and I have to make it "99999".

So now I install the new version, mentally silencing my inner voice and its dire warnings against I-have-no-idea-what, and my script tries to resize a thumbnail. What should happen, but:

mogrify: No decode delegate for this image format (blah.jpg).


...Really?

I spent about half an hour on the phone with Chris, a fellow warrior in the image-archives trenches. We do numerous experiments, trying to see whether it was GIF support that had broken (the thumbnail was actually a GIF that I'd renamed to .jpg, for reasons that are too complex to get into here), or if my JPEG library had been eaten by disk moths, or if it required X11 and KDE now in order to run its command-line tools, or whatever stupid-ass thing they'd decided to change about the program this time.

Turned out, though, it wasn't ImageMagick's fault. Sort of. Rather, it was the fault of whoever's in charge of its FreeBSD port, or (to go to the Root Causes), the spate of lawsuits that keep spewing out from every popular image format every time the company that holds the patents on it goes out of business and releases its spore-lawyers in a last-ditch Samson maneuver to rake in whatever money might possibly be in the property. Unisys did it, with GIF (though now they have a powerful new friend; the weird holding company that has the IP for JPEG did it.

And now, apparently so as to cover their ass, the ImageMagick porters have ifdef'd out the support for all the popular image formats, the ones ImageMagick is ostensibly designed to handle. JPEG. TIFF. PNG. PDF. TTF. JPEG2000. LZW-based GIF. Never mind that formats like PNG are specifically designed to be patent-free. Someone commented them out anyway.

We discovered it, incidentally, here:

# convert -list format
Format Mode Description
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
...
JPC* rw- JPEG-2000 Code Stream Syntax
JPEG* --- Joint Photographic Experts Group JFIF format (62)
JPG* --- Joint Photographic Experts Group JFIF format
LABEL* r-- Image label

See that "---" where there's supposed to be read/writability? Ain't no JPEG support. And GIF says "LZW disabled", which I guess explains why a GIF I converted changed from 30K to 50K.

So here's what to do, if you're on FreeBSD and want to avoid pain. Before building your ImageMagick port, set up these environment variables:

# setenv WITH_JPEG yes
# setenv WITH_PNG yes
# setenv WITH_TIFF yes
# setenv WITH_HDF yes
# setenv WITH_FPX yes
# setenv WITH_JBIG yes
# setenv WITH_JPEG2000 yes
# setenv WITH_LCMS yes
# setenv WITH_TTF yes
# setenv WITH_WMF yes
# setenv WITH_SVG yes
# setenv WITH_DPS yes
# setenv WITH_PDF yes

Feel free to omit any of these if you don't need them. Also, to get LZW-based GIF:

# setenv USA_RESIDENT yes

Please don't set that variable if you're a terrorist.

Then recompile. And wait for the next version to get rolled into the ports, which will contain a new -strip option, which will replace the hacky old +profile \*. Then upgrade again, and prepare for a whole new generation of pain.


12:16 - Fey Unabomber
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/003686.php

(top)
Great Fisking over at Tim Blair's joint of that bizarre Mark Morford rant.

Because there is more meaning and content and depth and significance in a lover's moan and in a drop of wine and in a dog's wag than in anything you can conjure in your homophobic faux-cowboy Lynne Cheney-thick dream, honey. Get over yourself. We are on to you. We know you are made of nothing but spin and frantic gesticulations and scowls. Poke a finger into you and out pours only sawdust and sighs.

Poke a finger in Morford (wear gloves) and out pours this stuff. Lucky weíve got some sawdust.

Here is my porn collection. Here are my divine sex toys and my lubricants and my leather strappy things and my collection of happy open-minded perversions and my active account at Blowfish.com and my tattoos and piercings and love of massage oil and vibrators and things that go ooooh in the night. Come on over, Mr. Ashcroft, I have something to show you.

If I was reading this in 1973, and if I was an elderly woman, I might be mildly startled by that paragraph.

Hear, hear. You know, I hope Bush read Morford's column, because I'm sure he would have laughed his ass off.

I get enough of people simpering about how they're in favor of happiness (emphasis on the last two syllables) and The Man is for Christianity and Dour Evil in my non-blog life, thank you. How come some people just never, ever grow up?

Thursday, August 7, 2003
11:43 - Bleataaaahhhje
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0803/080703.html

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Today's Bleat is one of the longer and more uproarious ones I've seen in a while. Nice and chewy. Plus he found that Terminator font.

I guess this is what happens when he's prevented from Bleating for a few days. There's always a silver lining!


10:41 - Taking it to heart
http://www.mac.com/1/iTour/tour_bookmarks.html

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Wow... someone at Apple really took those calls for bookmark synchronization seriously. Now, not only can you have iSync keep all your bookmarks current on all your machines at once, now there's this new .Mac Bookmarks deely, which lets you access your same set of bookmarks no matter how you access the Net-- even from, say, an Internet cafe.

It's actually one of those Web pages that's disguised as a standalone app. The idea is that you go to the .Mac website, no matter what machine you're on, log in, go to the Bookmarks link, and this little palette pops up. It's got a Preferences pane and everything, where you can set options like opening in a new window or remembering your password. The bookmarks are all listed in hierarchical List View.

And it syncs back and forth with your Safari bookmarks and iSync, too; they're the other side of the architecture and continue to work as before. But now you can also add bookmarks via the .Mac Bookmarks thing, and they'll be propagated back to all your Safari browsers with their next syncs.


Kinda cool-- the first time you log in on the .Mac page, it prompts you in-browser for how you want to sync for the first time (replace the stock .Mac bookmarks entirely, merge them with your own, or turn off syncing on the .Mac side). The sync process happens right in the browser and doesn't pop up iSync or anything, which makes sense since it's all server-side.

I imagine the next step will be for the Safari team to add a ".Mac Bookmarks" item to the Bookmarks menu, so you can pop it up immediately from anywhere; all you have to do right now is type in "http://bookmarks.mac.com", so it shouldn't be more complex than just a go-to action.

I noticed some bugs-- slowness, mostly, and once there was a database connectivity error-- but then the iTunes Music Store was pretty glitchy the first day too.

I don't know if I'll use this myself (probably about as much as I use the webmail system, which is to say not at all); but for people who demand more flexibility and personalization from their login experience regardless of circumstances, this is a nice little feature-- very well executed, with as much attention to detail as though it were the next killer feature that Apple's future depended upon, rather than as though it's just some silly little afterthought. It's something they didn't by any means have to do; but they could, so they did.

Woo-hoo.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003
23:58 - I hate...
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Terrorism-Plea.html

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....The way this makes me feel.

Mike Silverman notes this development: brutally, wrongfully detained American Citizen (of Palestinian descent) Mike Hawash, who for months has been supported by a network of well-wishing friends convinced of his innocence, pleaded guilty today of trying to join the Taliban after 9/11 to fight against the US.

This is not the first time this has happened, either, and I hate when this kind of thing happens. I hate it because it leads me ever closer to a conclusion that I can't abide, a conclusion that I had thought I'd never find myself reaching regarding how we need to be acting toward a certain group of identifiable people.

It's a terrible, hateful feeling, one that I had thought unworthy of anyone more moral than a Nazi. But the more times things like this happen, the closer I get to thinking that our only prudent choice of action is to refuse to rule out that any Arab or Muslim-- regardless of his circumstances-- could be a "sleeper".

Our government can't do that. We as a people can't do that. We're supposed to be better than that. Freedom above security, after all. Internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII was a deplorable act, especially in the safety of retrospect. We can never allow ourselves to be tempted to let that happen again.

Even if it's warranted.

Our freedom, and our dedication to it, is our weakness. It must take precedence over security, because in this case the two are at odds. I hate the reality that represents; I hate the way it makes me feel about my own priorities. I hate having to decide between those two mutually exclusive-- but vital-- ideals.

And so we need help. We can't do this on our own.

The US Government needs the help of the Muslim community. Pledged, promised, and delivered. We need American Muslims' help in rooting out the terrorists, in reporting them and bringing them to justice instead of turning a blind eye. Our government can't be the one to keep tabs on those who are at high risk for being or harboring terrorists; neither can non-Muslim Americans, for either would result in massive outcry against civil liberties, and rightly so. Not only would it be shades of Japanese internment and renewed racist suspicion, it would recall the Big-Brotherism of totalitarian regimes the world over that encouraged neighbors to spy on neighbors, or the McCarthyists here at home who exhorted kids to rat out their Red parents. We can't do that, even if we agree with the ostensible goals of such methods, for the methods themselves are slimy. No... the only people we can rely on to help us eliminate the threat is the Arab-American and Muslim communities themselves. It's the only way we can find the terrorists and bring them to justice, without being decried by the Left for unfair profiling or discrimination. It's up to them to help us, because as Americans too, their interests are ours. We must have their friendship, their cooperation, their understanding of our country's needs and ideals and their willingness to act in accordance with them.

I don't know what kind of cooperation we can expect, but it's my hope-- however uncertain-- that the grass roots will speak up and give us the help we badly need.


16:52 - 1000 words
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/8/6/105528.shtml

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That there be a post-Gulf-War MiG-25 Foxbat, that there be.

Just look at all that desert.

All those dunes.


13:35 - Well, that's a relief

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Apparently, Diane Feinstein has decided not to run in the California recall election. This is doubly satisfying in that a) she would have been more popular than Davis, and thus garnered more Democratic votes; and b) now that Davis is running alone, there's virtually no chance that he'll win.

Not that I'm particularly enthused by any of the challengers. It's not exactly shaping up to be a very dignified affair, what with the Dems suing left and right over petty operational details, and with people like Gallagher and Larry Flynt taking up positions on the stump. I'm just as glad Ah-nuld isn't running after all, because in this motley crew nobody would have given him the time of day. "But I aaahm sehrious!" "Yeah, right."

But at least Feinstein won't be running things, for which I am profoundly glad. If Davis has one distinguishing characteristic, it's that he's gotten absolutely nothing done; he always claims to be too busy to appear on interviews, but somehow I doubt he's drowning in paperwork that only the Governor is capable of handling. (Or maybe he is, which would be damning.) But Feinstein wouldn't share that trait.

Aside from being criminally careless with guns in public demonstrations of why she's so firmly against them, she's all in favor of her own right to arm herself. Just not anybody else. When she was mayor of San Francisco, she sponsored a gun buyback program, whereby citizens could voluntarily turn in their weapons for cash. Posing for the cameras, she smugly handed over her own gun. But then a reporter had the audacity to ask her that didn't she have two guns registered to her name? What about the other one?

She had the reporter followed and beaten.

Afterwards, she sponsored a state measure to deny the use of "assault rifles" to anybody but law enforcement bodies and their legal deputies. Guess what she did next? She deputized herself.

I'm not able to find much online about these events, but then Feinstein backs things like making it a felony to discuss drugs on the Internet, so who knows to what lengths she's gone.

It's bad enough that she's in the Senate, but at least there she's got 99 other individuals to help drown her out. In the California Governor's Mansion she'd have the means to do quite a lot more damage.


11:22 - How times change

(top)
Tim Blair links to this interesting Nicholas Kristof piece that paints the 1945 atomic bombs as a great boon to the Japanese-- identified as such by Japanese voices of the time.

Wartime records and memoirs show that the emperor and some of his aides wanted to end the war by summer 1945. But they were vacillating and couldn't prevail over a military that was determined to keep going even if that meant, as a navy official urged at one meeting, "sacrificing 20 million Japanese lives."

The atomic bombings broke this political stalemate and were thus described by Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the time, as a "gift from heaven."

Without the atomic bombings, Japan would have continued fighting by inertia. This would have meant more firebombing of Japanese cities and a ground invasion, planned for November 1945, of the main Japanese islands. The fighting over the small, sparsely populated islands of Okinawa had killed 14,000 Americans and 200,000 Japanese, and in the main islands the toll would have run into the millions.

"The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war," Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief cabinet secretary in 1945, said later.

Some argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated the bomb on an uninhabited island, or could have encouraged surrender by promising that Japan could keep its emperor. Yes, perhaps, and we should have tried. We could also have waited longer before dropping the second bomb, on Nagasaki.

But, sadly, the record suggests that restraint would not have worked. The Japanese military ferociously resisted surrender even after two atomic bombings on major cities, even after Soviet entry into the war, even when it expected another atomic bomb ó on Tokyo.

One of the great tales of World War II concerns an American fighter pilot named Marcus McDilda who was shot down on Aug. 8 and brutally interrogated about the atomic bombs. He knew nothing, but under torture he "confessed" that the U.S. had 100 more nuclear weapons and planned to destroy Tokyo "in the next few days." The war minister informed the cabinet of this grim news ó but still adamantly opposed surrender. In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, the emperor and peace faction finally insisted on surrender and were able to prevail.

One of Tim's commenters, Scott H., quotes a Farker named Thale who summarizes the malleable historical opinions thus:

"While American scholarship has undercut the U.S. moral position, Japanese historical research has bolstered it."

And goes on:

American scholars: The use of atomic bombs by the U.S. on Japan was a wholly unnecessary thing.

Japanese scholars: No, we wouldnt have surrendered otherwise.

American scholars: Yes you would have. All we had to do was drop Fat Man on a small Pacific island to show you we had it.

Japanese scholars: No, really the military wasnt going to stop fighting.

American scholars: Well if wed allowed surrender with the provision that Japan could keep the Emperor.

Japanese scholars: Look even after you guys dropped both bombs the military didnt want to surrender. It took us beating a downed pilot into saying you had hundreds more Atomic bombs and Tokyo was next for them to even start to budge.

American scholars: Well we were still wrong.

And another commenter, Tokyo Taro, notes:

Scholarship is one thing but politics another. No positive adjective should ever be attached to the use of the bomb. The question is why or why not. Good strategy or bad? The revisionists will always have the advantage of the fact that no one in their right mind would allow themselves to praise an atomic bombing. It automatically results in disqualification from the debate. YOu think WHAT?! On the other hand, the revisionists have the disadvantage of the fact that the bombings ended a war in which the suffering of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was just a drop in the bucket and the fact that things have turned out pretty well for both countries since then.

That disadvantage, however, has to be carefully explained to them, while their advantage is right out in the open. Nobody has to educate anybody about how an A-bomb is bad for children and other living things, but if you want someone to understand the concept of the bomb ending much greater bloodshed and preventing more huge numbers of casualties, you have to sit him down in one of those tiny little chair-desk arrangements and whack him with a ruler.

If Iraq has taught us nothing else, it's that. It's all about 3000 inadvertent civilian casualties-- surely we all agree that civilian casualties are bad-- but let none mention the 3000 intentional murders per month that Saddam has had to stop committing because of those civilians' sacrifice. And how do we know history happened in the first place? How do we know there was ever a World Trade Center? Maybe it was all just an illusion-- and therefore what right do we have to go mucking around in the Middle East?

It's not so much "revisionism" as deliberately ignoring crucial cause and effect. Because, hey, that always works.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003
13:25 - "Always trust content from Microsoft Corporation?" "No."
http://diveintomark.org/archives/2003/08/04/xp

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It's unexpectedly refreshing to read about someone else going through this kind of thing, so I know it's not just me. I wouldn't call if schadenfreude; it's more simply a reality check to make sure there are others in my boat.

7. Search control panels in vain for a window, dialog, tab, or pane that displays my current product key.

8. Search Google for "windows xp get current product key".

9. Find a utility on a cracker web page in Russia that displays the current product key. This is one of the more lame utilities, since most of the good ones allow you to change it. I donít wish to change it; I actually have a perfectly good product key, I just donít know what it is.

I wouldn't have been able to keep it so civil.

Via Mike Silverman.
Monday, August 4, 2003
19:10 - Hate is okay...
http://bushflash.com/ihr.html

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... if the targets are Republicans.


Waaaait a minute. Eric Blumrich? Is this what that creep's doing these days?

Somehow it doesn't surprise me, I guess.


18:56 - This defies parody
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20030804

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16:27 - Exactly
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/08/Snippetsandcomments.shtml

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Den Beste has a post on Harley-Davidson's efforts to appeal to a broader market with the V-Rod and a decidedly "un-Harley" image makeover.

...But what price victory if you lose your soul? Harley Davidson is changing everything that makes Harley Davidson what it is...

European men everywhere [will] take pleasure in riding on a castrated American bike.

And they'll never know what they're really missing.

Yeah, but Steven, if you were a Harley rider and you said this, you'd be accused of arrogance and chauvinism, of being blind to Harleys' faults, of ignoring economic realities, of having more dollars than sense, of sentimentalizing an arbitrary corporation that's just as faceless and dispassionate and cutthroat as any other, and so on.

Or even of "drinking the Kool-aid".

I wonder if John Dvorak is listening?

In any case, the V-Rod is hardly what I'd think of as "effeminate".

"Liquid-cooled and therefore antithetical to H-D", maybe, but not effete. But if it's what'll sell in Amsterdam and Paris, what the hell...

UPDATE: CapLion has more on just how non-wimpy the V-Rod is.


15:52 - We Love the Leader!

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Yesterday, the reporters on KCBS were running as their topmost story a breathless, bowled-over commentary on the latest e-mail worm to travel through all our inboxes-- the "admin@yourhost.com" one-- and how Microsoft has so amazingly quickly "nipped it in the bud".

The worm in question is the one that goes like this:

From: admin@grotto11.com
Date: Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:19:05 PM US/Pacific
To: Btman
Subject: your account eioeofao
Reply-To: admin@grotto11.com
Attachments: There is 1 attachment



Hello there,

I would like to inform you about important information regarding your
email address. This email address will be expiring.
Please read attachment for details.

---
Best regards, Administrator
eioeofao


And of course there's a bright, shiny, candy-like attachment for you to double-click on, thereby infecting your computer and sending out another few thousand copies of itself to anybody your machine has ever had contact with.

The news said that Microsoft had posted a fix "within an hour" of the exploit being reported. They ran interviews with "technology consultants" and "security experts" who professed to being astonished by Microsoft's response, hailing it as a clear demonstration of how far they've leaped forward in embracing security as a prime business concern.

Nary a word about how they plan to apply the fix to all the millions of Outlook installations in the world, or address the fact that my inbox is still filling with about twenty of these a day.

This story, by the way, was a major turnaround from how KCBS normally covers such news. Usually they point out how posting a fix is not the same thing as stopping the spread of a virus or worm, and how the real indicator of increased commitment to security is when fewer of these vulnerabilities appear in Microsoft software in the first place. Usually they get someone to phone in a few sound-bites about "genies" and "bottles" and "monopolies that don't have any incentive to provide secure software, because what are you gonna do-- not run Windows?"

So why the sudden change? Did their whole news staff suddenly forget what security is about? Or did someone drop a suspiciously heavy brown paper bag in an alley behind the station?

I'd be interested in knowing if they'll follow this up with a story about how quickly Microsoft posted fixes for the Code Red and Nimda vulnerabilities.

"Why, they were so foresighted, they posted fixes six months before the exploits started to break out!"

Tireless warriors on the wrong front.


10:20 - What a difference crown molding makes

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I'm almost done with the upstairs bathroom! Whee!



Okay, granted, it doesn't look like much in these pictures. But trust me-- if you're actually in the bathroom, it looks awesome.

(<BRENDON SMALL>I know what I need: a fisheye lens!</BRENDON>)

The crown molding is what really did it. It's like, you paint the walls some bright primary color, and it looks like a preschool or-- in the case of the other bathroom that we painted deep currant red-- an abbatoir. (Especially if the upper edge is all ragged.) But add some crown molding, and it's like you just raised the room three social-class notches. And so much the better when you finish taping off the caulk line and repainting the edge, and adding the bright gloss white finish to the molding. Which takes a long bloody time. (I really despise standard bristle brushes-- but it's the only way.) And that blue masking tape-- that stuff is expensive! Five bucks a roll? $30 for an economy pack? Ye gods. I hate having to reuse that stuff, but I'm going to have to once we do the molding in my bedroom, with its 16-foot walls.

So, yeah-- then there's the front yard. Here are the pictures I promised:



(Those of you who live in places where real estate is not so precious that you have to shoo the gold panners out of your driveway every morning, feel free to mock the size of the frontage.)

Once everything's planted, it'll look niiice. Azaleas along the back of the gravel area, another line of them along the house, two cypresses framing the picture window, and mock riverbed (made out of largish flat rocks) leading from the gravel up to the wall, just left of the window. And maybe one of those little Japanese wood bridges over it.

And then lighting.

Yes, this is fun. Especially after the fact.

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© Brian Tiemann