|Friday, January 23, 2004
18:42 - A Visual Day
Most of the noteworthy things on the web today are best enjoyed through the visual medium enhanced by the clickthrough paradigm.
Frank J has this for us:
I got an e-mail from a friend of mine in Florida who is trying to find a home for a cat. Hopefully someone can help.
Picture of the Kitty
I'm trying to find our cat a new home. It is a nice cat, even likes baths, as you can see from the picture. Trouble is, my husband says the cat stares at him, and it freaks him out. Even though it is all in his head, I have find the cat a new home. Interested?
Who can resist?
(Frank better keep that katana close by his bedside, though, after this.)
Anyway, then Cox and Forkum weigh in on the Dean Scream, with one of the best interpretations I've seen. (Oh, and keep scrolling. They do their blogging visually, and it surely gets the point across. And here I sit typing thousand words after thousand words...)
17:03 - History Is Lies
Should I just stop reading comics altogether or something?
Terrorists? There ain't no stinkin' terrorists! Why, just look-- no attacks in two whole years! You people are all just paranoid!
Pardon me while I go bang my face repeatedly into my desk.
UPDATE: Of course, for some people-- the ones whose skin burns at the mere mention of the word "preemption"-- the problem of terrorism is a self-solving one. Terrorists commit horrible acts, yes, but they kill themselves in the process. Justice is served! Problem solved! Everybody go back to discussing Ben and J-Lo!
13:26 - Just-In-Time Software
Aziz found this amusing story: it appears that GarageBand hit the shelves just in time to be the tool of choice for remixing the Dean Scream. I doubt that this guy, whose remix made it to MSNBC, is the only one who put the new wood-grained software to work just days after its release.
I'm just amazed at how things have changed now that the tools for making every kind of media are in the hands of pretty much everyone. It won't ensure a glut of quality material, but it won't rule out a lot of quality either - a lot of people are capable of creating great things but lack the time or tools. Apple, in my case, just provided a quick way to realize the kind of thing that was running through my head the minute I realized that I could download a raw clip of Dean's actual speech. Robert Smigel has been doing this for years on SNL with his brilliant "Fun with Real Audio" cartoons, yet he has a budget.
For those who have asked, I made the clip in Garage Band. I sampled the crowd noise and had that going anywhere there would have been silence. I clipped out the 'yeaaargh' and inserted it several times into the course of the 15 second song, the last three times with an echo effect. Other than that, I ran the rest of his speech without interruption along with the music - that's why MSBNC was able to synch it up perfectly with the video of Dean's remarks. Clever move on their part, really. Besides GarageBand, I also used the tool made by Felt Tip Software - Sound Studio - to compress the song and then normalize to 100% of volume so it would sound good in lower quality files.
Yeah, but Lileks used Soundtrack! So nyah!
|Thursday, January 22, 2004
20:06 - The iTunes Monster Grows
And if you keep shooting it, it feeds on the rays and only gets bigger.
J Greely has been keeping a close eye on new features being added to the store, and of note lately are an RSS feed (which allows you to tune your music preferences with a bunch of checkboxes and menu options and then produces an XML/RSS feed for you to peruse in your favorite syndication receptacle), and a new "Imports" section (no URL available-- just wait until it fades in at the top of the Music Store page in iTunes). This latter features a page full of albums that are apparently exclusive to the iTMS, and which all come from exotic locales like the UK and Benelux and the UK and the UK and France and the UK. Chances are that this section will be doing a lot of expanding in days to come. (I want my Rammstein, dammit!)
Meanwhile, the grass roots continue to deepen and spread. Goombah, which is nearing final release, pairs you up with other iTunes users and matches you music collection up with theirs, producing lists of music you might like to buy. And for GarageBand (which, as Damien noted in e-mail, and which this article seems to confirm, reeeeeally prefers it if you're running a G5, wink, wink), songsmiths now have a centralized clearinghouse site to host their songs, much like iCalShare.com for iCal calendars: GBXchange, soon to be MacJukebox.net. Sure didn't take long.
This plus the Billboard charts feature added two weeks ago make it pretty clear that the iTMS has only barely begun to flesh out its offerings. Now that the first wave of competitors has hurled itself with all its force against Apple and drained back like the sea off the rocks, Apple's ready to concentrate on really inventing what this stuff's going to look like for the next five or ten years.
I, for one, can't wait.
|Wednesday, January 21, 2004
23:13 - Who actually buys this stuff?
I only have one thing to say about this (via Cold Fury):
You fucking peabrains.
(Okay, two things: Why is it that every fashion designer on the face of the planet has to have a freaky pretentious ethnically ambiguous name? Kean Etro. Are they trying to make us believe they're all space aliens come to Earth from the moon Europa to shower us with the latest intergalactic fashion trends?)
UPDATE: D'oh! I'm such a tool.
|Tuesday, January 20, 2004
03:26 - Deep... X?
JMH sends this interesting tale of Xserves in high society Down Under.
The South Australia-based Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) uses chess strategy and theory to evaluate command and control systems - the software, communications and decision support systems used by commanders to co-ordinate actions on the battlefield.
The DSTO's studies are conducted on a cluster of 16 Apple dual-processor XServe servers running Apple OS 10.2.4. The cluster, known as "Checkmate," runs Java-based simulations and analysis. DSTO credits the cluster with reducing the time to produce valid results.
"Previously, we could not produce scientifically valid test results in less than a year. With the cluster, we completed the chess analysis study in just four months," said DSTO Virtual Enterprises Group head Michael Webb.
"After playing tens of thousands of games on our XServe cluster, what we found is that tempo and material advantages are important, but skill level - as reflected by greater search depth, or the ability to think further ahead - provides the greatest source of strategic advantage," he said.
"This research helps guide millions of dollars worth of government spending by suggesting that we need systems that offer faster decision making backed by the deepest possible consideration of permutations."
The Apple cluster proved very reliable, running at 100 per cent CPU load for four months, Dr Webb said.
Get these blokes a few G5's!
01:11 - George W. Bush shot JFK!
Seriously. That's the reasoned opinion of at least one of the people whom Evan Coyne Maloney interviewed in the freezing cold outside the auditorium where Al Gore gave his speech on global warming the other day.
His goal was ostensibly to see whether "regular Democrats" bought into the Bush=Hitler nonsense peddled by the MoveOn.org crowd, and he sought to do so by interviewing regular attendees at the address. Now, granted, the circumstances rather selected for the kind of people willing to brave 1-degree weather in New York to sit in on a Democratic message, so there weren't going to be too many casual centrists in evidence. But still-- damn.
Watch it. And as you're doing so, repeat to yourself: It's conservatives whose thought processes are governed by fear, ignorance, and mad conspiracy theories. It's conservatives whose thought processes are governed by fear, ignorance, and mad conspiracy theories. It's conservatives...
01:04 - Help me out here
Why, why in the name of crap is this so $%^$^ funny?!?
Take three measures Lord of the Rings. Fold in two measures of cars. Mix thoroughly and roughly. Bake in a hot SomethingAwful for three hours.
|Monday, January 19, 2004
01:44 - Pass the controller
On the way up the backside ski lift at Sierra-at-Tahoe on Saturday, a friend and I looked down at the largest of the many terrain parks now strewn about the resort.
Kids from fifteen through thirty-five were hurling themselves twenty feet in the air, spinning around in space, grabbing the edges of their boards, turning graceful somersaults, even riding the grind rails on skis. By the dozen, one after another, they were swooshing down the hill as easily as though they were strolling through the park, dressed in baggy pants and drooping hoodie-sweatshirts, looking almost bored. Boarder after boarder turned perfectly executed pirouettes and soaring leaps and flashy displays of easy competence, tossed off with an air of complete low-key nonchalance. It could hardly have been choreographed better.
"Wait a minute," my friend said. "Weren't we supposed to be a nation of big, fat, klutzy couch-potatoes?"
Funny, yeah-- I'd heard the same thing.
Next time someone steps up to the mike to lecture about how America's youth is bloating itself to death in an anti-physical wasteland of virtual reality and fast food, I'll offer to take him to the backside of Sierra-at-Tahoe and show him what America's youth is doing in its spare time.
Hell, I'll even spring for the lift ticket.
21:28 - Ooh-ooh, I know this one
Our friends at TrueMajority.com (the Ben & Jerry's guys, if my memory serves) have helpfully provided a PDF file of a "report card" which we can use to score Bush's State of the Union speech tomorrow night. You can print it out, mark in your grades, and mail it in, all in the interest of Bush's stated commitment to "accountability, testing, and reporting".
In the absence of an actual speech to grade yet, we have to amuse ourselves somehow. What better way than to perform a little independent auditing of our standardized tests, hmm?
Give a high grade for clearly focusing on the big picture. Watch out for "The Spin" and subtract for only talking about side issues that make him look good. Give a failing grade for using lies or misleading statements. Extra credit should be awarded for offering up real solutions to our nation's problems and facing up to our most difficult problems.
Sure 'nuff; sounds fair to me. Well then. Let's get cracking, shall we?
The Big Picture: During the President's term the number of jobs in this country has actually declined by over 2 million. The poor have gotten poorer. Record deficits have kick-started growth, but recent gains in jobs aren't even enough to cover the number of new workers looking for jobs due to natural population growth.
The Spin: Recent economic growth is a sign of better things to come.
The Lies: Everyone got a tax cut and the rich and poor benefited equally.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that the rebound in the economy is being fueled by record deficits that will eventually choke the economy if we don't change things soon.
I don't know what these guys expect Bush to say about the economy and the tax cuts, but apparently it's something along the lines of "Every American got an equal amount of tax proportionate to his or her income back in the form of a check", or something equally specific and equally preposterous. No dice there. But when it comes to the recovery, why do you suppose it is that "the big picture" insists on placing an upward trend under a big "but" clause, ignoring the fact that even the most timid projections show an extremely positive outlook in coming weeks and months? Why is a Dow average of 10,600 not part of the "big picture"? If you want to step back and look at the "big picture" regarding the economy, I wonder how much more effectively you can do that than "Bush passed tax cuts, and now the economy is rebounding"?
I also wonder how-- and why-- Bush is expected to downplay his role in this achievement, and point out only the pessimistic view of the economy, so that he can stave off criticism that he is just "trying to make himself look good". Remove the identity of the man on the podium, and tell me that he's supposed to respond to a surging economy by issuing sobering warnings and admonishments that things aren't as good as they seem. Yeah, that's the way to bolster consumer confidence.
Or is the message here that the economy is only allowed to recover under a Democrat?
The Big Picture: After 9/11 everyone wanted to help us, now almost nobody does. Osama is still on the loose and our bullying overseas adventures are fueling Al Qaeda recruiting.
The Spin: The President is taking strong and decisive action. We haven't had an attack on our soil since 9/11 and unnamed evildoers have been thwarted.
The Lies: Iraq was involved in 9/11.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that last year's State of the Union was all about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist.
I entreat anybody to provide me proof-- or even convincing conjecture-- that Osama bin Laden is not dead. Any takers?
The Spin? Something tells me that if Bush wants to point out "evildoers" who have been thwarted, they need not be unnamed; he can point to many actual news stories. Unless we're meant to believe that all those Air France and British Airways jets were cancelled around New Year's purely as part of a conspiracy to fool Americans into thinking terrorists still exist. Who does he think we are? Some kinda morons? There ain't no terrorists and there never was!
Does the author of this thing actually expect Bush to implicate Iraq in 9/11, when he didn't even do so last SotU? In the absence of new overwhelming proof, I mean?
As for the extra credit, I hoped to see some attention paid to Logic class on this report card. For instance, explain to me the following: Given that Bush trumped up the case for war based on a lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Given further that Bush and his advisors knew that if we invaded on that false pretext, it would become known-- when we found no WMDs-- that it was false. Explain why the administration did not then plant WMDs for the troops to "find", or simply report that said WMDs had been found, thereby justifying the pretext. In other words: if the Bush administration is evil and ingenious enough to lie its way into war, why is it not competent enough to secure an alibi?
(For extra credit, convince me that if we do find WMDs in the near future, the Left will acknowledge that the pretext for war was correct, and will not accuse the administration of exactly the above subterfuge: planting weapons to retroactively justify the war.)
Next quarter we'll cover an advanced concept called "Occam's Razor".
The Big Picture: We do have a new Medicare benefit for prescription drugs. Unfortunately it was done in such a way only drug companies could love. Heck, the new law actually makes it illegal for states to join together and negotiate lower drug prices. Meanwhile, 44 million Americans don't have any health insurance. That's an increase of about 4 million since President Bush took office. The rest of us are paying more for the coverage we do have.
The Spin: The Medicare drug benefit is great.
The Lies: We can't afford to give everyone health insurance.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that we are the only wealthy nation in the world without universal health insurance.
Sure. "We" actually can afford to give everyone health insurance. "We" meaning the people with jobs and health coverage, naturally. "We" have too much money as it is. Why don't we all volunteer to give up a big chunk of it so we can have nice beautiful
prepaidfree health care? Why can't we be more like Canada?
That's the way to stimulate the economy, folks. More taxes and punishment of the rich for succeeding. Not Bush's stupid "tax cuts" which only look like they're working. Avert your eyes! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
The Big Picture: Changes by the Bush administration are making the air dirtier, the forests shrink, and the globe warmer.
The Spin: These changes won't really hurt us but will help the economy.
The Lies: Letting power plants pollute more leads to "clear skies," letting lumber companies cut down forests saves them, we don't know why the earth is warming.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit is he simply admits the planet is warming and we share some of the responsibility.
See, when your audience is people who get their political awareness through comic strips, you can get away with crap like referring to the Healthy Forest Initiative as "letting lumber companies cut down forests" in order to save them, and you'll never get called on it. See, because the truth is just too hard to fit on a 3x5 card.
Remember: even if a statement has been shown to be true through practical application and empirical observation, if it's positive and Bush says it it's a "lie".
The Three Rs
The Big Picture: The President gave the schools a whole bunch of expensive new requirements but didn't provide any way to pay for them.
The Spin: The President gave the schools a whole bunch of new requirements.
The Lies: Giving schools a whole bunch of expensive new requirements without any way to pay for them will make kids smarter.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he proposes money to pay for the new requirements.
Hey nimrod: "No Child Left Behind" was a bipartisan initiative. If it was a stupid idea, just wave your hands a lot and it becomes the fault of the other guy. Brilliant, tried-and-true tactics.
What kind of superhuman would Bush have to be in order to fund all his original campaign promises, and deal with 9/11 and its global aftermath? Can you picture it? "Sorry, America-- al Qaeda and Iraq will have to wait, because I promised to deliver on No Child Left Behind. Real sorry 'bout that hole in Manhattan; I'm sure you folks can handle it yourself, right?"
By the way, remember how we were supposed to mark Bush down if he actually claimed any of the things listed as "The Lie"? Can you see him saying this one? "Ah'm not gonna spend any more money on these edumacation programs, but kids are gonna git smarter any-ol-ways." Is that about the size of it? Sounds like you've set him up to wreck the bell curve.
Arts and Crafts
The Big Picture: So much of the State of the Union Address is about image. The President will be prepped by pros to read a speech written by a team of wordsmiths. All the while he'll try to come across as a regular guy, only smarter.
The Spin: No, really, he's just a regular guy, only smarter.
The Lies: He's a regular guy. He's smarter.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he doesn't cynically exploit someone who actually did something heroic by putting them in the visitor's gallery and pointing to them during the speech.
Okay, look. The writer is just getting lazy now. He seems to have nothing left but a tired "Bush is stooopid" joke, and he can't seem to figure out how to fit it into his neat little format. If he's not going to put the effort into finishing this thing properly, then I'm not going to bother either.
Except to note that this Extra Credit piece is evidently a reference to this:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this chamber to report on the state of the Union. Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American people.
We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground -- passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer. And would you please help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight. (Applause.)
That's right. Recognizing people like Todd Beamer is now "cynically exploiting heroism". Funny, I don't seem to recall anybody accusing Bush of that back in September of '01. What's the matter? Have enough people forgotten the horrors of 9/11 that it's now safe to turn it into an engine for political cheap-shots and sinister conspiracy theories about PR haymaking?
Remember this when someone who laps up this kind of stuff gets all offended about having his patriotism or sincerity questioned. This is what they giggle about to each other when they don't think anybody else is watching.
I'll be printing out my copy of this report and marking it in good faith. I might even make some marginal corrections to help out teacher.
Incidentally, here are transcripts of all the SotU speeches since Truman's in 1945. Fascinating... and very illuminating.
18:31 - Stand, Men of the West
John Rhys-Davies, just as he publicly said he was sure he would be, is now being thoroughly raked over the coals for daring to express that Western Civilization is worth defending.
In the interview, Rhys-Davies, who plays heroic dwarf Gimli and recorded the voice of computer-animated character Treebeard in the Hollywood blockbuster, interprets Tolkien's story of good versus evil as a metaphor for modern race relations.
He said: "There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren't bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well.
"By 2020, 50 per cent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent.
"I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilisation. That does have a real resonance with me."
"I am for dead, (traditional) white male culture," said Rhys-Davies, who divides his time between his homes in Los Angeles and the Isle of Man.
"Many do not understand how precarious Western civilisation is and what a joy it is.
"From it, we get real democracy. From it, we get the sort of intellectual tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you.
"I'm burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it's painful. But I think there are some questions that demand honest answers."
Note the elision of a quote from the earlier interview that makes the above statements sound even less like the ravings of a white supremacist (except insofar that expressing pride in your own culture is a monstrous thing, if you're European):
And don’t forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers. Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people.
There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss — because, [hang it all], I am for dead-white-male culture!”
Now there are leaflets being handed out at showings of Return of the King by the British Nationalist Party, which is portrayed as a completely loathsome group akin to the KKK. The leaflets, which were produced without Rhys-Davies' knowing (or endorsement after the fact), evidently go to great lengths to make clear that they are not trying to make racial judgments against Muslims (which doesn't even make sense, because Muslims aren't a race, remember? Rhys-Davies clearly understands this, but it seems to have been lost on the horrified guys responding to him and on the writer of the article), but rather trying to call attention to the notion that Western Civilization is not some unassailable edifice that can never be torn down, and indeed is a very precarious tapestry of human achievement that must be nurtured lest it fall into disrepair and ruin.
But those who are determined to make race-baiting hay out of this aren't going to be deterred by simple adamant denials of racial chauvinism.
"I condemn these comments as being racist and ill-informed," said Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr.
"It is obvious that this man who now lives in the lap of luxury in Hollywood is out of touch with realities of the nature of present day European society.
"His attack on Muslims and comments about the threat that they pose to Western society shows his ignorance of world events and the true teachings of Islam.
"Ammanford people will feel very let down by a man with such close connections to the town."
Last night Mohammed Javed, chairman of the Muslim Society for Wales, said: "We want an apology. This could stir up racial hatred in society. It's ignorance, he should learn more about Islam and the religions before he makes these comments.
"They are based on his ignorance and nothing else."
Chief executive of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) Naz Malik agreed.
He said: "I do not know why he has said these things. If 50 per cent of people in Holland under 18 are Muslims in 16 years time, so what? In Britain the fastest growing race is mixed race, people of dual heritage. It is a cause for great celebration that our cultures are mixed.
"We live in a global society - we celebrate what is good in cultures and challenge what is bad in civilisations.
"Does he ever listen to any music other than European? Does he eat Indian food? Does he ever appreciate art other than that from Europe?
"I feel sorry for this actor because he must feel very insecure about his future. I feel sorry for his close mindedness."
Hey, maybe he does, you turd. How do you know how the man likes his tabbouleh? How do you arrive at feeling "sorry" for him and painting him as a past-his-prime actor now grandstanding for a legacy, just as he's knowingly imploding the reputation he's earned these past three years in the biggest role he's ever played? How come you can't bring yourself even to acknowledge that Western Civilization has a few benefits that even you enjoy, and that there are things that you might even learn from it, instead of just stamping your foot and demanding apologies? Can you be just a tiny bit less arrogant when demanding that Rhys-Davies turn his own expressions of cultural pride down from 1.5 to 1?
Rhys-Davies has made his career on playing protagonistic roles both European and non-European, and he's making it as clear as day that his goal isn't to denigrate other races or religions wholesale. His entire point is to demonstrate that Islam, just as we've been repeatedly remonstrated about, ought to be able to inspire great positivity in the world. But, dare we make mention, it's not. In this day and age it's inspiring suicide murderers, car bombers, sexual slavemasters, religious nihilists, and a cult of victimhood that preys on the modern European welfare states that are so bound to their mantras of multiculturalism and refusal to confront "what is bad in civilisations" that the social upheaval that Rhys-Davies is warning about is continuing unchecked, without even so much as a hunted and guilt-laden glance in its direction.
Rhys-Davies is daring to stand up and point, and for that he's being crucified.
If someone wants to see a social upheaval waiting to happen, one that's currently held in check by the fragile scaffold-work of postmodern antiseptic decorum, one could do worse than to point to the seemingly huge contingent of Britons who are snapping up the BNP's leaflets. The more they're denied the ability to speak freely and "challenge what is bad in civilisations", the worse the cataclysm will be when it finally occurs.
The way we're going, we will one day see a new Crusade fought right on the fields of Europe.
UPDATE: Alan e-mails to point out that the portrayal of the BNP as a skinhead/KKK-like group is entirely accurate, and Rhys-Davies is well advised to keep from being associated with such a bunch of thugs. I suspected as much, but I had no context for knowing for sure what the story was. I stand clarified.
In any case, it sorta confirms my point: if a major cultural confrontation is coming, it'll be between the radicalized fringes of society. And if the BNP is having as much success handing out these leaflets as the article makes it sound, then that ugly day may not be too long in coming.
17:06 - Michael Rowe the boat ashore
No, the kid should have seen it coming.
Rowe, a 17-year-old high school senior and Web designer from Victoria, has angered the software giant by registering an Internet site with the address www.MikeRoweSoft.com.
"Since my name is Mike Rowe, I thought it would be funny to add 'soft' to the end of it," said Rowe.
Microsoft, however, is not amused.
It has demanded that he give up his domain name. In November, Rowe received a letter from Microsoft's Canadian lawyers informing him he was committing copyright infringement.
"I didn't think they would get all their high-priced lawyers to come after me," Rowe said.
He wrote back asking to be compensated for giving up his name. Microsoft's lawyers offered him $10 in U.S. funds. Then he asked for $10,000.
On Thursday, he received a 25-page letter accusing him of trying to force Microsoft into giving him a large settlement.
"I never even thought of getting anything out of them," he said, adding that he only asked for the $10,000 because he was "sort of mad at them for only offering 10 bucks."
Sorry, Mike, I ain't buying it. You knew full well what would happen. The fact that this story showed up on CNN is game/set/match for you, and don't bother denying it.
Shoulda taken the ten bucks and been glad to have it end there. Now you're going to have to deal with legal fees, which even if you win you'll never get back.
I have to wonder, though-- shouldn't his parents have seen something like this coming, like seventeen years ago? Like all those couples named "Cross" who think it's the height of wit to name their sons Christopher?