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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Saturday, February 14, 2004
01:58 - I dood a Photoshop!

(top)
I know I'll never be a real SomethingAwful goon, but I'm the next worst thing. I'm a blogger.



11:02 - Happy Valentine's to you too

(top)
The Ar-Rahman list has sent out a long article explaining why Muslims aren't allowed to celebrate the kufr festival of Valentine's Day.

Most of it has to do with the fact that it's a pagan Roman holiday (replete with animal sacrifices and weird processions), and celebrating it is tantamount to emulating the Romans, which is a no-no. Okay, fine.

This just brought me up short, though:

Among the ugly rituals of the Romans on this day was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat, the daubing of their blood onto two youths then washing the blood off with milk, etc… This is something that would cause revulsion in anyone of a sound nature, and it is unacceptable to the sound mind. 

....Rrrrright. Animal sacrifice and blood rituals are bad. Uh huh. Got it.

I won't forget it, either.


10:44 - Understanding the American Empire
http://www.aei.org/news/newsID.19912,filter./news_detail.asp

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Looks like Charles Krauthammer's been reading both Steven Den Beste and Bill Whittle; this essay of his seems to take the essences of both guys' arguments (Whittle's Empire, specifically; and he talks about transnational progressivism without using that name) and synthesize them into an excellent and readable essay.

It's well worth a read, for anyone confused about what the Bush Doctrine is all about, and how (rather than in paranoia or vengefulness) Americans really look at the world post-9/11.


10:34 - Let it go
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/14/politics/14MILI.html?ex=1077426000&en=2ba3eb6c124c

(top)
Here's what those incriminating National Guard records have to say about the lying, cheating, coasting, drug-abusing AWOL/MIA/REMF/KP (or some damn military acronym) Lt. Bush:

In November 1970, the commander of the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called Mr. Bush, then 24, "a dynamic outstanding young officer" who stood out as "a top-notch fighter interceptor pilot" mature beyond his age.

"Lt. Bush's skills far exceed his contemporaries," Colonel Killian wrote in recommending that Mr. Bush be promoted to first lieutenant. "He is a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership. Lt. Bush is also a good follower with outstanding disciplinary traits and an impeccable military bearing."

A little free advice to Garry Trudeau and company: Start a new storyline. This one ain't going anywhere.

Unless you want to try making a scandal out of his hemorrhoids. That oughtta be good for a belly-laugh.

Friday, February 13, 2004
13:36 - The dangers of drawing a strip a week in advance
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20040213

(top)
He's still at it. But one would think he hasn't been paying attention to the news:



Danger! Danger! Pull up! Pull up!

... You know, on second thought, just crash. I'll even laugh. And that's a promise.

Thursday, February 12, 2004
13:23 - Cheap G5s! Only slightly used!
http://www.macmall.com/macmall/families/powermac_g5/

(top)
Virginia Tech is selling off all the dual-CPU G5s in its "Big Mac" supercomputer cluster, and trading them in for new G5 Xserves. Who wins out of this deal? Why, everybody-- including us!

Now's the time to go get a somewhat discounted dual G5, through MacMall (who seems to have landed the resale deal with Virginia Tech). Give a trusty workhorse a good home! It's still the fastest G5 you can buy...

Via J Greely.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
15:59 - "Sorry about all the dead people, Saddam-- we shoulda left that to the professionals"
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20040211

(top)
I hadn't thought it was possible for Garry Trudeau to find a way to cram this many pieces of misleading and morally and logically sprained dogma into a single daily strip... but I was wrong.



Astounding, isn't it?

Talking about Saddam's "tyranny" is changing the subject. Yeah, they're demanding The Truth on the streets of Baghdad, aren't they?

"No WMD means no rationale for war". Uh, no, no WMD means now there's at least one fewer insane dictator in the Middle East with the history and capability of making them. God, I'm sick of explaining this-- but I'm even sicker of the fact that it needs to be explained.

"What do you say after you invade another country by mistake? ...It's like a blooper invasion!" Boy, Garry sure came up with a heap of one-liners late last night, huh?

"Oops, my bad. Sorry about all the dead people." Yeah, sorry about those mass graves being opened. Sure is a shame the world had to see that. It would have been so much easier to just leave them lie, huh?

Normally I tell myself that Trudeau is just a humorist making his way in the world, and he has a right to his opinion just as I have a right to mine.

But dammit, I am really starting to loathe the man.

Accusations like this, and the "Bush AWOL" thing... well, I often have to explain to friends that I'm really not a big Bush booster, not by nature. His spending habits aren't thrilling me, and I certainly don't like his stand on the FMA. But you know, I have this thing about bullshit. I don't like it, no matter who it's directed at. I didn't like it when people giggled over Gore "inventing the Internet", because I knew that was a bald misrepresentation of what he said; and I don't like it now, when people accuse Bush of flying to Baghdad so he could pose with a "plastic turkey" on Thanksgiving. Bullshit. I call it when I see it. When someone's undertaking an unprecedented world-changing burden, and he's being sniped at from all directions, and the content of the sniping consists of bullshit, I'm going to call it that. I see what's going on in Kerry's speeches and Moore's movies and Trudeau's strips, and you know what I see? Bullshit. I will not put up with it, and I will not remain quiet on the subject just so people can "have their fun". This is serious business, and I'm goddamned sick of people who can't deal with it and prefer to cower under this carapace of "humor" to maintain their illusion of intellectual superiority. It's not funny, Garry, you pinhead. You're being disingenuous and you know it, yet the glow you get from feeling like a "rebel" is worth more to you than taking a principled stand for some values that aren't very popular in the highbrow academic/entertainment world. So stuff it so far up your ass you can taste it.

Hhhh. Okay. I'm better now.


14:57 - "I don't care how it feels, look at the numbers"
http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/longhorn_hillel_tjeerd_2.asp

(top)
Bee-autiful. Here's a cute little circle-jerk at WinSuperSite between two or three Windows UI guys congratulating each other about how much better the Windows XP interface is than Mac OS X.
Hillel: The difficulty for us is that the more [information] goes on the screen, the less simple it feels. We can prove to people that we're easier to use in many cases than anyone else, but yet it doesn't always feel that way. It's a very difficult trade-off to make. For Microsoft, it's in our DNA to say, look, I don't care how it feels, look at the numbers. We're getting 9 out of 10 users [completing tasks successfully] and they're getting 5 out of 10 users. Who's better? That said, we gotta be a little more... We gotta do both. It's not good enough for us to say "We're 9 out of 10 and you're 5 out of 10." We gotta be able to say that we're 9 out of 10 or we're 10 out of 10, and by the way, you know what else, our users feel great about using it.

Tjeerd: That gets back a little bit to what you were mentioning earlier. When you use a wizard, you make it really easy for the people who are unfamiliar with something. Whereas if people are completely familiar with something, and they do this thing every single day, [you want to get out of the way]. In the past, we had often bogged down the latter folks with the easy-to-use UI that steps you through it, and guides you and tells you all about it. People are saying, "I know this, I know this ... I burn CDs every day; don't keep telling me how to do it." And so we're trying to do a better job now.

Paul: This is the Mac myth. The Mac is supposedly easier to use, but in reality it's only easy to use when you already know how to do everything.

[Laughter]

Hillel: Well, everything is easier when you know how to do it!

Tjeerd: [Apple is] great at enabling the optimal scenario, enabling the optimal path. But as soon as you deviate or you have some problems, it gets a little harder. You start seeing people fail.

Paul: Right.

Tjeerd: We've done usability testing and we know, for example, that, yes, [Apple's] UI is very clean and simple, but even the most basic things sometimes are really hard for people to actually discover. It's almost like a game, you know?

Paul: Yep. There is no discoverability in Mac OS X at all. That's just a fact.

Hillel: No.

Sure. I guess it must be that all-important lack of "discoverability" that's behind this story of an "extreme Christian juggling act" that switched to a Mac for making their promotional videos.

Why do we use Macs? About three years ago, my teammate, Bill, and I set out to buy a computer specifically for video editing so that we could make demo videos to promote our ministry/business. We chose a Sony digital editing studio that came with Windows ME. It had an incredibly unstable OS that crashed frequently, but having spent years working on a PC, I accepted that PCs do that. I then had to buy a video-editing program, as the program that came with my computer was more of a toy than a tool for getting real work done.

What happened next was a nightmare. After months of working on the video, I tried to export the video to DV. I toiled endlessly, trying to trouble-shoot the video program, but I could never get the video to export correctly. I upgraded my RAM and spent countless hours on the phone with tech support—all to no avail. It turned out that my Firewire was defective. To add insult to injury, I discovered this one-month after my computer was no longer under warranty, so Sony’s technical support operator would not even talk to me without charging me a fee.

Then God brought a friend named Mark into my life. Mark teaches Linux at the University of San Diego and is a Mac user. He told me about a program called Final Cut Pro 3. I checked it out and was quite intrigued, but as I am quite stubborn, it took another year before my teammate and I finally made the switch to Mac. My teammate used a new PC for his daily computer needs, so when we bought the Mac, our intent was to use it for video editing only. Bill had been an avid PC user for 15 years, but sold his PC a week after buying his Mac, stating, “I hope I never have to use a PC again.”

But... but... don't you guys see? Are you blind? The Dock has icons that jump up and down like a Jack Russell f%$%ing terrier!!! Aaaauugh!

Oh yes, and it also must be the reason why Microsoft's own graphic arts department uses Macs to create stuff like these silly security-consciousness posters (I'm quite sure that the fact that the text they pasted onto the signs isn't properly aligned or proportioned has more to do with the lack of skill of the people who made them, than with the choice of platform).

You know, I'm glad the Longhorn guys have seemingly taken seriously the idea that they might want to rework their UI a little bit to pander a little more heavily to the way the user actually wants to work. But the longer these guys sit in little interview rooms and pat each other on the back over "facts" about nebulous buzzwords like "discoverability" and the unassailability of "wizards" and explanations of why it's better for an IP address to have to be entered in four separate little input areas that you have to click or tab moronically between if you have octets with only one or two digits, in a dialog buried six levels deep, the less progress they're going to make.

Meanwhile, I've clocked the fifth friend just in the past six months to have bought a brand-new 12" PowerBook, and who has gone from "never touched a Mac before" to setting up custom TCP/IP locations and multi-monitor rotating backgrounds in the space of a week, without any more prompting from me than a brief tutorial the first day. I've yet to hear him complain about the bouncing Dock icons.

(Which, by the way, you can turn off. Dock Preferences. Durpy-durpy-durpy-durp.)

UPDATE: J Greely notes:

Oddly enough, the thing those quotes from WinSuperSite most remind me
of are Tog's rants on why OS X sucks rocks compared to the old Mac OS.
Of course, his idea of UI perfection is one of the reasons people like
me were driven away from the Mac platform in the first place...

If Microsoft isn't careful, they'll end up with their own cadre of purists and foot-stamping tantrum-throwers, exactly the kind of people Apple has been so assiduous in brushing aside in the ongoing experiment that is OS X. If they're really trying to rework things for the better, it means really letting go of the old nuggets of received wisdom that have so often caused way more trouble than they've solved.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
16:56 - What's this? Proof?
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,110956,00.html

(top)
I get it. The Left has no trouble throwing its weight behind draft-dodgers like Clinton and Dean. But it doesn't hesitate to latch on to a flimsy claim of Bush being AWOL in 1972-73 from his National Air Guard assignment, pointing to it as evidence that Bush is somehow less dedicated to this country than the abovementioned.

And they even made these claims without a full reckoning of the facts. Apparently they assumed that if the official records were ever made public, they'd prove Bush was a deserter, just like Michael Moore says. They've been building up the story for so long now that it's become almost conventional wisdom.

Well, now the records are public, and they're all squeaky-clean.

What was that people have been saying about the importance of a good poker face? I think Bush was just biding his time, letting these guys overplay their hand so far that when the time came to call, he'd leave with all their pants.

When the arguments are as ludicrous as the ones the Left has been using, demolishing them over the next several months is going to be child's play.


13:28 - Giving it a name
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/SciTech/SiliconInsider/SiliconInsider-1.html

(top)
Here's a fascinating little angle, forwarded by Brian D., on what the Internet has become, illustrated in the schism between two factions: the "Worknet" and the "Playnet", a divide that's becoming clearer as the digital culture matures, and may well be the defining conceptualization of cyberspace that actually ends up reinventing our real-world existence.

The Worknet is instrumentalist, goal-oriented and largely characterized by commercial and retail sites, but also news sites, information portals, and even political posting sites.

One senses that the inhabitants of the Worknet (as opposed to those who just drop by to shop) are typically older, less educated but more experienced, and politically centrist, liberal or conservative.

Most of all, the Worknet is thoughtful — it is about learning things, getting stuff done, staying on top of what’s happening. In the Internet landscape, the Worknet is suburbia and the city downtown by day.

The other Internet might be called the “Playnet,” because it is the Internet we largely use when are just having fun — and because it reflects a distinctly emotional view of cyberspace. The Playnet is experiential, self-directed and largely characterized by chat rooms, .alt sites, games of all kinds and the cult of celebrity.

One senses that the inhabitants of the Playnet (as opposed to those who just drop by to play) are typically younger, more educated but less experienced, and tend towards libertarianism, political extremism and anarchism.

The Playnet is emotional — it is about breaking the rules, experiencing the novel and taboo, becoming viscerally engaged, and even about killing time. It is about feeling. In the Internet landscape, the Playnet is rural districts, college towns, and the city downtown by night.

In other words, this isn't just your standard "Left vs. Right" or "old vs. young" or "elite vs. the masses" or any of the usual classifications that we're used to. It's not even about the technologically empowered vs. the powerless and clueless, because both the Worknet and the Playnet have representatives from both.

In other words, the divide isn't about what we are, it's about what we do. It hinges on whether we prefer to spend our time doing serious work, or relaxing in worlds of our own creation.

Some sites and phenomena immediately sprung to mind as I read this. Something Awful and bash.org and MMORPGs are all Playnet things. And you can't get much more Worknet than USS Clueless or Slashdot.

We all spend time in both worlds, some leaning more toward one than the other. (I run large sites that represent both Worknet and Playnet communities.) Yet it's not clear that this divide will factionalize people the way that politics or race or education traditionally have done; this is a divide that doesn't prevent anyone from slipping effortlessly from one side to the other on nearly a moment's notice. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if people start thinking along these lines more and more in coming years; after all, the Internet ain't going away.


11:32 - The benefits of having an outside camera
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2004/rover.armspin.mov

(top)
Mark sends this one too: Recent leaked video showing the real reason why NASA lost contact with Spirit as soon as it started drilling into that rock.




11:05 - Selective Amnesia
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0204/021004.html

(top)
Lileks today has one of those Bleats that occasionally pops up out of nowhere and answers a lot of questions that we all knew had answers, but until then just sort of existed in a formless miasma of vague assumptions and half-remembered statistics. Many of us knew of stuff like this, for example, but I certainly couldn't have pulled together all the data points like this.

Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn’t acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer,' Clinton said, “but sometimes it’s the only answer.” “If Saddam isn’t stopped now,” the AP story said, quoting Clinton,“’He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.’” Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam’s arsenal, because A) they didn’t know where everything was, and B) they didn’t want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan – Desert Thunder – had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.

Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton – he gave them a sweet no-bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.

Anyway: it's deja vu all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41’s reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.

And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.

Wonderful stuff, microfilm. I hope the various mechanisms we have for archiving the Internet remain as accessible over time.

(And this is right after James says "No politics tonight". Geez. I'd hate to see what he's got under the broiler. ...No, wait. I wouldn't hate it. What the hell?)

A friend of mine noted that after reading Lileks' piece, he now remembers Clinton saying and doing these things-- but it had slipped his mind before. Somehow I don't think this is an uncommon thing. Dean Esmay noted a few days ago that despite all the rhetoric from Left and Right, if you were actually to compare Bush's governing profile to Clinton's, including spending proposals, things signed and vetoed, corporate backers kicked-back-to, and political positions held (and even level of religious fervor in speeches), the two are nearly indistinguishable. I guess this applies to Iraq, too, but who remembers that now? Who wants to remember?

As I mentioned a while back, I was listening to the Henry Rollins comedy CD that I bought off iTunes; his routines were as anti-Republican as you expect from any comic, with the usual offhand jibes and guffaws at unquestioned and accepted caricatures of Reaganites and Robertsonians. But when Rollins started talking about Clinton and Monica, his take was as follows: Don't we have more important things to worry about than whether the President got a BJ at work? Like, say, this Saddam Hussein guy? This dictator who's got all kinds of chemical and biological weapons, and is probably lining 'em all up to fire at us any day now? Can't we get some troops in there and finish him off before it's too late? Thunderous applause all around.

You'd almost think he wanted us to take out Saddam.

But what's happened all of a sudden that's made the Left so deathly afraid of the US actually doing the things they themselves have wanted for so many years?

9/11?

Is it that 9/11 has made the Left that much less willing to take care of problems in the world, now that it's clear that these problems actually can cause us damage? I wonder who in America really was the most frightened by the events of that day.

And for that matter, I wonder what exactly it is that people like Kerry think they're going to do when they start getting asked the hard questions later this year? (Or whoever else; but if Kerry's it, then I'll pick on him.) Like, say, If you oppose the war in Iraq, why did you vote in favor of it? And If you hate the Patriot Act so much, why did you vote for it, and even speak so eloquently in support of it during debate? I wonder if he'll plead temporary insanity. Temporary insanity brought on by 9/11. Like the whole rest of the country! We were all spooked! We were all insane! We've all gotten better now. 9/11? C'mon, what, are you guys still on about that silly 9/11 thing?

It's been this country's goal for a lot longer than Bush has been President to reform the Middle East, eradicate terrorism, solve the Israel/Palestinian problem, and get rid of dictators with illusions of WMD-fueled superpowerdom. There's something that's changed between 1991 and now, though, and it's not that Bush is in office. It's 9/11. That's the moment at which we realized as a nation that we had to pick up the pace, because our current efforts were getting nowhere. And that evidently scared the bejeezus out of the Left. Because it meant we were actually doing something.

Apparently their most powerful, and most insidious, weapon these days is selective amnesia. Convincing us that everything was just peachy all over the world before the 2000 elections; that the Fourth Reich began on that November day, and whatever happened the following September was just something to gawk at on the roadside from the safety of our handbasket on its way to Hell.

The nice thing about selective amnesia, though, is that it's pretty easy to counter, as long as you've got history on your side.

UPDATE: Maybe Kerry can blame it all on typos. Good God, this is funny.

UPDATE: One source for anyone who wants to see more where the Clinton stuff came from is Snopes. A whole blinkin' page full of "Democrats in favor of taking out Saddam" quotations from 1998 on. It's as comprehensive a list as I've seen. (Thanks to Tim Blair.)

Monday, February 9, 2004
19:17 - More useful than a flower in the barrel
http://news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,8626936%5E13762,00.html

(top)
Mark sends this delightful little story.

A BRITISH-based company is selling MP3 players which can be attached to an assault rifle.

The "AK-MP3" player is built into the ammunition clip of a Kalashnikov and can be swapped with the real magazine.

The device is being advertised on the internet by a Buckinghamshire-based company set up by a group of Russian businessmen who sell audio books.

It comes with enough storage space to hold 3000 audio books or 9000 songs.

Wow! Apple's really missed the boat on this marketing opportunity. Where's the AK-Pod? Can't Steve hold a keynote introducing it along with a new satellite-based iTunes Music Store that lets soldiers download the entire soundtracks of their favorite Vietnam war epics, so they can blare Paint it Black into their headsets as they blast through civilian villages?

It's so brilliant, one might almost think these guys had an agenda or something:

Former Russian rock star Andrey Koltakov, a partner in the dotcom company offering the AK-MP3 for sale, said: "This is our bit for world peace - hopefully, from now on many militants and terrorists will use their AK-47s to listen to music and audio books."

Dare to dream, Andrey. Dare to dream.

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© Brian Tiemann