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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, February 29, 2004
03:24 - The Wall Wot Keeps Time

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Here... this should be good for a few Monster-House-esque geek points. I know I've been sorta slack lately in that regard.



This is my bedroom wall, facing the foot of my bed. It has a built-in atomic clock. Neat, huh?

...Actually, the deal is this: I bought one of those $30 radio clocks from OfficeMax; tore it apart; extracted the little box that houses the mechanism and the radio-syncing electronics; took off the hands, and attached longer hands made from strips of Bristol board; then I took a larger rectangle of Bristol board, sprayed it with the same drywall texture gunk they use on the walls, and painted it red to match; and then waited for like six months while I got the room all painted and trimmed and ready.

Then, today (finally), I got out the razor knife and cut a hole in the drywall just the right size to stick the box in, plus some finger holes so I can remove it later (to change the battery, etc). Then I used wood glue to tack down the paper patch so the edges are barely visible, unless the light is coming directly from the side (which it usually is-- bah). Then I used a compass and a plumb bob and little cutouts of Bristol to lay out the tick marks. I started the clock so it synchronized itself to the atomic time, then pressed the hands into place. And there you have it.

It's an NTP-enabled wall.

UPDATE: Okay, picky, it's not actually NTP... it's the weird analog ticker-radio thing astronomers and such use. Same concept.

Now, if I had wired up some kind of micro-PC in the wall, and written a port of ntpd to run on WallOS, then we'd be in business...

Maybe I'll get in touch with Larry Wall.


13:35 - Shared Hallucination

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Yesterday was a pretty full day. Lance and I went flying from San Jose down to Monterey to pick up my folks who were spending the day there; we coaxed them into the back seat of the Cessna and took off for Harris Ranch (near Coalinga in the Central Valley) around 3:30 PM. Had some awesome (of course) steaks there, and headed back, returning to Monterey at about 9:00. Then flew home and collapsed.

Largely because I was up early. Kris and I got up in the 6:00 hour to head up to San Francisco for the grand opening of the brand-new flagship store on Stockton and Market/Ellis, and it seems Apple has beaten me to the punch in posting cool photos. (They're a lot better than mine anyway. Except I did get to shake Steve's hand. I think he was freaked out by me. He scuttled away prettty quickly.)

Here's how the line went, in any case. Up Stockton one block, then down Ofarell one block, then down Powell (cable car operators kept giving us quizzical stares, wondering what the hell we could be lining up for-- and tourists just figured we were another bizarre San Francisco sight, possibly anti-war protesters of some kind), back down Ellis to the store's front door, around the California Savings flatiron building, and then down Market for a long block or so. It was really blinkin' impressive.

Inside the store, the bonhomie was palpable. The glass staircase is beyond cool. The large Genius Bar, with LCD panels showing video-ified tips on using OS X implanted into the board above the genii's heads, was a showpiece of engineering. I didn't get one of the $250 Lucky Bags-- they apparently sold out within about 20 minutes, and I was an hour back in the line. But one lady standing in line with us sneaked ahead, ducked into the store early, bought one, and came back to show it off to us. Lots of AirPort Base Stations in these bags (only 20% had iPod minis, I believe), but lots more cool stuff that most people wouldn't likely already have (though I do... heh heh).

A thoroughly surreal experience. We only got hassled by one cloth-cap-wearing enviro-hippie, and one extremely polite dude selling the Street Sheet; I figured that all the intelligent panhandlers ought to be working this line, because there's probably a higher concentration of rich people here with already-loose wallets than anywhere in the city outside the Orpheum.

So I was all over California yesterday. No wonder I slept so soundly.

Saturday, February 28, 2004
00:35 - It has come to be
http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=14407

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Well, well:

The big news to us is that the XBOX 2 SDK has been seeded to developers on dual Apple Power Mac G5 systems running a custom Windows NT Kernel.

The Apple Power Mac G5 is based upon two of IBM’s 64-bit Power PC processors and features ATi RADEON 9800 Pro (R350) graphics. However the R350 is believed to be an interim solution and will, in due course, be superseded by the forthcoming ATI R420.

Interestingly the SDK apparently also features an Apple logo on a side bar within the application.

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn't The Inquirer the site that always features all those snide anti-Apple editorials?


UPDATE: Is the above too "overjoyed" and "oversmug"? It wasn't intended to be either-- I was going for tongue-in-cheek and "isn't that veird?" The gaming market really doesn't interest me all that much; I wasn't prepared to presuppose any huge political shift as a result of this technical decision on Microsoft's part.

Maybe it's a sign that Apple's still dying. Eh, fine. Pass me another Lucky Bag...

(This is what breaks Den Beste's sabbatical? Yikes.)

UPDATE 2: I won't be adding any further factual rebuttals here, I don't think. Seems it would do more harm than good.

Friday, February 27, 2004
18:51 - Hack your own arms off
http://www.securityfocus.com/news/7959

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Wow, some people sure have long attention spans! Combustible Boy noticed that I'd posted almost two years ago (good God, has it been that long?) about a hacker by the name of Jerome Heckenkamp who was on trial for cracking eBay and Qualcomm, among other places. He was being a real prick about it, too, showing the kind of attitude in front of the judge that the term "contempt of court" was pretty much invented for:

The computer whiz then asked the court to identify the plaintiff in the case. Ware explained that the United States was the plaintiff, and was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Ross Nadel. Heckenkamp said he wanted to subpoena Nadel's "client" to appear in court, and Ware asked him who, exactly, he wanted to bring into the courtroom.

When Heckenkamp replied, "The United States of America," Ware ordered him taken into custody.

"The comments that you are making to the court lead me to suspect that either you are playing games with the court, or you're experiencing a serious lack of judgment," said Ware. The judge added that he was no longer satisfied that Heckenkamp would make his future court appearances.

Heckenkamp had been free on $50,000 bail, and living under electronic monitoring -- prohibited by court order from using cell phones, the Internet, computers, video games and fax machines.

Before two deputy U.S. marshals hauled Heckenkamp away, he threatened legal action against the judge. "I will hold you personally liable," he said. "I will seek damages for every hour that I'm in custody."

Two years is a lotta hours. Wonder if the court will bill him now? Because he's guilty.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than two years in prison, and not to seek restrictions on Heckenkamp's employment-related use of computers and the Internet in the period of court supervision likely to follow any prison term.

The hacker will get credit for approximately eight months of time that he spent in custody in 2002, after he fired his lawyer to clear the way for a series of unusual legal challenges that only served to perplex and anger federal judges in two jurisdictions.

Among other gambits, Heckenkamp had argued that the government lacked standing to prosecute anyone, and that the indictments in the case referred to a different defendant: they spelled his name in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized and subsequent letters in lower case. Angered by the arguments, federal judge James Ware declared Heckenkamp a flight risk and ordered him arrested in the courtroom. He was released on bail, months later, only after accepting legal representation again.

Two years ago I said:

This contemptible little turd needs to be put up on that bench and had his "guilty" sentence read loud and proud on national TV, with a nice close-up on his face, so everybody can see just what can happen if you think it's a game to go making life miserable for overworked site admins at high-profile commercial websites.

If only we could, wouldn't we throw the book at hurricanes and floods and earthquakes for all the damage they do? We have to budget for them and buy insurance policies to cover them, because we can't do a thing to control them. We also have to budget for and insure ourselves against hackers, and yet we can control them. They're not a natural disaster, they're people. And that means they can be caught and punished.

I just want to see one of these kids' cocky little asses worked over with a potato peeler and a bag of rock salt, and photos of the results posted to every newsgroup and mischief-making web forum on the net. The fear of God is a wonderful thing, especially when put into someone who has no concept of it.

Seems things have worked out pretty well accordingly, as widely read as SecurityFocus and other sites carrying this story are. As this article notes:

In a 2002 jailhouse interview with SecurityFocus, Heckenkamp claimed that hackers had penetrated his dorm-room computer and used it to crack other systems. "Some of these companies I had never even heard of before I was charged," said Heckenkamp. A similar theme dominated a website set up by supporters and maintained by Heckenkamp's father, coloring the hacker an "innocent scapegoat of a restless, unrelenting and desperate FBI, caught in the middle of a 21st century spin-off of McCarthyism."

That website could no longer be reached Monday.

I love it. On top of the implicit invincibility hackers feel in themselves, there's the careless bandying about of the word "McCarthyism" in which we've indulged more and more for the past couple of decades. Now it's gotten to the point where the term is so diluted that nobody can even conceive that someone they know might in fact merit investigation. Remember the "Free Mike Hawash" campaign?

Sometimes justice does indeed prevail, against all valiant efforts.


17:28 - Where censors fear to tread

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Regarding the recent Howard Stern flap, I don't have anything to add, really, never having heard his show. However, I did want to just mention one of my fondest memories: Back in the mid-90s, when Stern's movie "Private Parts" had just been released, CNN featured a review of it on their site. The headline link looked like this:

Howard Stern's Private Parts Surprisingly Sensitive

They'd changed it when I looked again a few hours later; I didn't think, at the time, to grab a screenshot. More's the pity.


17:13 - Just ask the Myrmidons
http://chiefwiggles.blog-city.com/read/508488.htm

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Chief Wiggles is back from Iraq and has some choice words for Bush's critics:

In the whirl wind of political debate that is circling around the president regarding his motives for going to war, I find it curiously strange that no one has asked the opinion of those of us who have put our lives on the line to carryout that vary decision. Who better than us to answer the question regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction as a premise for going to war? Do the self proclaimed political experts write us off, assuming we are like sheep blindly following a miss guided shepherd to the extent of putting our own life in jeopardy? Do they really think we have not thought about the reasons for and justifications behind leaving our families and putting ourselves in harms way?

The vast majority of the military unanimously support the president's decision to take preemptive action against Saddam Hussein. We agree it was necessary in order to eliminate a serious threat to the stabilization of this region of the world, to free a country of people from bondage and torture, to prevent a continuation of an anti-American sentiment, for that matter anti-Western world policy, with the real potential, if not actual, to create such weapons and aid our enemies in their terrorist activities.

Why is it that the people of the US armed forces have not and are not speaking out against the president's decision, if in fact the WMD issue was the only premise behind making such a decision to go to war? Yes, we believed all along that he had such weapons before, that he had such weapons now, or that he possessed the knowledge and the capability to use, share, or develop such weapons in the future to promote his own anti-American plans. I have said all along that Saddam's only real weapon against us was to hide everything so well that we would never find such evidence of their existence, in hopes that by doing so he would create a back lash of political opposition for the president.

Looks like the Chief has been one of the most prescient observers of all.

The Left won't ask for the opinions of the military because it's presumed that our armed forces are made up of those buffoonish, self-absorbed, thick-skulled, muscle-bound morons who made the lives of all us intellectuals such hell in high school. Let 'em rot, goes the self-satisfied shrug from the people who now enjoy such well-deserved prestige and power as they sit in college dorms or lecture halls, composing anti-war poetry to read at furious Russian immigrants. Anything we hear from soldiers' mouths is probably just propaganda anyway. Unless it's protest.

Clinton, a draft-dodger? Dean, a draft-dodger? Nooo problem-- that just shows a principled contempt for the military, like any good-hearted soul should have. But Bush... why, he must have been AWOL! Or at the very least he hid in F-102s in the National Air Guard instead of going to the front lines! Crucify him! And Kerry served honorably, then protested that awful war! Put him on a pedestal!

I'll bet the military would object to being used as such an opportunistic tool, if only anybody would ask their opinions.


16:31 - It's all the rage in Japan
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,62455,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_2

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Damien sends this odd little story. We're about to get our very own flagship Apple Store in San Francisco, to match the gigormous ones in New York and Chicago; and this opening-day ceremony appears to have something a little different in store for the faithful lined up thousands deep at Market and Stockton:

On Saturday morning, the first few hundred people through the door will have a chance to buy a $250 "lucky bag," which may or may not contain one of the company's popular, just-released miniature music players.

Lucky bags are a shopping craze imported from Japan where, on New Year's Day, many stores offer these bags full of surprise items, explained Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice president of retail, during a press tour of the store Thursday.

He said Apple sold them recently at its Tokyo store, and the concept proved so popular the company decided to bring the idea to San Francisco.

Priced at $250, nearly the same price as the iPod mini itself, the lucky bags contain seven or eight items worth a total of $600 to $1,000, Johnson said.

"We've got a really popular product that sells for $249," he said, referring to the new music player, which went on sale last weekend. "So some of them might have a nice surprise."

Holding up one of the mysterious black bags, which looked like a bank robber's swag sack, Johnson fielded more questions about the gimmick than even the store's magnificent glass staircase.

According to reports, lucky bags, or fukubukuro, attract tens of thousands of consumers to Japan's New Year's Day sales. One store alone claimed 25,000 lucky bag shoppers, and there are reports of injuries during lucky bag stampedes.

The Disinfotainment blog has video of a near riot as 16,000 young women storm a popular Tokyo clothes store, a scene described as "materialism run amok."

At the Apple store, Johnson failed to explain why anyone who wants an iPod mini would spend the exact purchase price on a grab bag that had a good chance of not containing one.

In Japan, a fukubukuro purchased at the Apple store by shopper Keita Suyama (report here: scroll down) contained six items, including an iSight camera, a Bluetooth USB adaptor, Bluetooth mouse, Apple's Keynote presentation software, a package for the .Mac online services and a 10 percent discount card for the store. The bag cost 27,000 yen (about $250) and Apple claimed the goods were worth 62,000 yen ($570).

Ye gods! So... what are the chances of winning, anyway? This is like a lottery without the low-cost-of-outlay attractiveness. It'd really, really suck to pay $250 for an empty bag...!

It'd be cool just to pose with one, though. I wonder if it's made of burlap and has a big "$" sign on it?

I'll be up there tomorrow morning, probably, just to take part in a little relaxing mass hysteria before Lance and I fly down to Monterey to pick up my parents, and thence to Harris Ranch for some more of those insanely good steaks with the private airstrip right next to the restaurant on I-5. No, I'm not going to attempt to be first in line. According to ifoAppleStore, people have been lining up since Thursday night.



UPDATE: Okay, I'm an idiot. The lucky bags aren't intended as a sustainable lottery kind of thing-- they're a big-ticket giveaway thing, just for tomorrow's one-time event. The goodies in the bags are costly, but they're in all the bags, with some random variation (average bag value $600). It's like a regular old grab-bag, but with much higher stakes.

Considering that the things they've quoted as being in the bags (iSights, iPod minis, copies of .Mac, copies of Keynote, BlueTooth stuff, etc) are things I already have, I probably won't be plunkin' down. But it's still pretty bloody cool. And there are no empty bags.


16:12 - "Beware of Lilliputians"
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12289

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Via CapLion.

Clearly understanding that I was heading toward an F in this class, I took off on a suicide mission. I approached the lit stage where these “poets” sat warmed by applause and proudly waiting for more compliments.

“Don’t you think,” I asked, “it is pathetic to perform in this anti-war circus now that Saddam has been captured? How do you feel about his capture?”

“It’s great that they got him,” one of the guys on the stage answered.

“But how,” I asked, “could it have happened without a war?”

The instructor flew at me like a vulture, “Tatiana! Stop this immediately!”

He already knew my ways; I had had a few words with him regarding his anti-American attitude.

“Don’t try to shut me up! You guys are such conformists. No courage to be dissidents even for a change. Go and study accounting! Your poetry sucks!”

Once again, it's the immigrant who has the most fervent love for America, the former slave who has the most vivid appreciation for freedom.

How galling it must be for the rest of her class, mustn't it, to have to sit there and watch a non-American, a former Soviet citizen, the very antithesis of the “Colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, exploitation of the working class” they hate so much-- looking them in the eyes and telling them what morons they are. "I lose my breath with fury," she says. "The attacks of these literary dwarfs on this country feel personal, against me and my safety. It was not without reason that the great American actress Bette Davis, upon being asked for major life advice, spat the answer, "Beware of Lilliputians!” She knew what they were capable of."

Don't accuse Americans of xenophobia. We love immigrants, because they more than anyone else know what it truly means to be American. By definition.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
01:16 - Here we go
http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/653662.html

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We can probably expect to see a bunch more stories like this...

A woman collapsed in an East Wichita theatre this morning, during a showing of "The Passion Of The Christ". Peggy Law apparently suffered a heart attack. She was pronounced dead a short time later at a Wichita medical center.

Peggy Law, also known to some by her married name Peggy Scott is a respected figure in the local broadcasting community. The tragedy has hit some here at KAKE especially hard. She was a former employee.

People viewing the movie at the Warren Theatre East say Law collapsed during the portion of the movie where the crucifixion of Christ was shown.

The attentive will also remember that during the filming of this movie, the assistant director and another crew member were struck by lightning-- twice-- as they shot the crucifixion scenes.


22:54 - "Wet Dog" is not a good perfume idea

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I'd like to know exactly who the hell came up with the idea that long walks in the rain are "romantic".

Funny, the word that would have leapt to my mind is "coldwetmiserable", or something similar.

A jacket soaked through with fat raindrops and a head full of hailstones do not put me in an amorous mood.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
19:28 - Someone's gonna get rich
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/bush_guard.html

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I hate it when I have to start off a post with these words, but sometimes it's necessary: Has the whole world gone insane?!

Here's Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau, seemingly unsatisfied still with the thorough debunking of the "Bush AWOL" claims-- unsatisfied enough to offer a $10,000 cash prize to anyone who can prove he saw Bush reporting for drills.

For the past twelve years, George W. Bush has had to endure charges that he didn't take the final two years of his Guard service as seriously as duty required. (For updated timeline, click here.) And the two witnesses who have come forward in support so far haven't exactly cleared things up. We at the Town Hall believe that with everything he has on his plate, Mr. Bush shouldn't have to contend with attacks on the National Guard, which is serving so bravely in Iraq. And we're willing to back up our support with cold, hard cash.

Granted, this has been tried before. In 2000, concerned veterans in both Texas and Alabama offered cash rewards to lure former guardmates of Mr. Bush into stepping forward, to no avail. The problem, in our view, was that these enticements weren't serious enough, that the sums offered were insulting. In contrast, we at the DTH&WP respect how inconvenient it can be to subject yourself to worldwide media scrutiny in general, and Fox News in particular, and are thus prepared to sweeten previous offers by a factor of five. That's right, we're offering $10,000 cash! Yours to either spend or invest in job creation. All you have to do is definitively prove that George W. Bush fulfilled his duty to country.

So don't let the smear artists define the president. If you personally witnessed George W. Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard Base between the months of May and November of 1972 we want to hear about it. Help Mr. Bush put this partisan assault on his character behind him, so he can focus on more serious issues like jobs, the deficit and the coming civil war in Iraq. Just contact us below with the salient details. If we think you're a possible winner, we'll get back to you pronto. Good luck to all contestants!

Sounds like some easy cash to me. But apparently Trudeau is so confident that Bush was actually "AWOL" (a term, by the way, that has no meaning in the National Guard, since you either show up for drills or you don't-- there is no "AWOL") that he's willing to put up $10K of his own personal scratch against it. Quite a bet.

It's also quite a lot of money to devote, in the subterfuge-laden name of defending Bush from "gutter politics", to keeping his campaign firmly entrenched in the gutter.

The snide contempt Trudeau shows for ... well, just about everybody in this little stunt is beyond my capacity to paint with adequate adjectives.


17:56 - Incidentally

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If I continue to support Bush even in the light of today's FMA remarks, I suppose the role I get to play is that of the guy in this story.

Stupid? Bold? Trying to make a subtle point? Trying to make a not-so-subtle point? Who knows?

All I know is that my mind isn't changed, even if everyone else's is. After all, this is precisely what I said would happen.

Thank you very much, Massachusetts State Supreme Court. Thank you very much, Mayor Newsom. I hope you're pleased with yourselves.

UPDATE: It should perhaps be pointed out that Bush's statement left open the possibility of state definitions of civil unions:

But Bush also said state legislatures should be left to define "legal arrangements other than marriage," suggesting that such an amendment would allow states to establish civil unions.

In other words, the FMA as currently worded (with its "and the legal incidents thereof" clause) is not what he's backing. You'd think that would make Sullivan happy. But no... this is war.

UPDATE: Nathan at Dean Esmay's blog said, the other day:

Has there ever been an issue in which the opposition has so patiently repeated exactly what it will take to convince them (opponents of SSM saying, "give it more time, don't push us")? And has there ever been an advocacy group who so completely ignored such advice?

No kidding. I feel like screaming, but I'm too tired.


16:28 - Smaller, cheaper, better
http://www.whatithinkiknow.com/Archive04/WIT20040223.html

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Here's Damien Del Russo's take on the iPod mini:

Dude, this this is SMOKIN'. Tiny, super light, a very clear screen, and a superb control wheel. I would note that everything except the capacity CRUSHES my 40 gig - my 40 gig has a difficult to read screen and a bass-ackward control setup. Being the tech pig I am, I want the Mini. I will skip scotch for 5 months to afford the mini. Well, 3. Anyway, the Mini ROCKS...and they are all sold out.

You know what I think the killer feature of the mini is? The anodized metal case. Yeah. The original iPod, with its Lucite front and its polished stainless-steel back, simply scratches too damn easily. Yeah, it stands up to huge punishment (it really got knocked around this weekend skiing, to say nothing of being so encrusted in snow and ice that the headphone cord became rigid), but I find I'm constantly worrying about getting the back scratched. I can't just toss it onto a table or slip it into my pocket. Yeah, the shininess is cool and all, and it adds to that all-important sense of weighty mystique that overwhelms anyone holding an iPod in his hand for the first time and thinking, Damn, so this is that five-hundred-dollar MP3 player, huh? ... But what really separates the big-brother iPod from the mini is that the latter won't scratch. It's the action iPod. It's the rough-and-tumble rugby player version. The regular iPod is the style piece, designed to sit in a Dock and glow its screen at you while you work. The mini is for taking to the beach and rolling over on it in your sleep, crushing it into the sand as you bake to a lobster red.

I don't want one. I like my 20GB. But the mini is the perfect addition to the lineup, expertly poised to capture the next fattest chunk of the market.


15:26 - "Finally, we have started swinging"
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/chitribts/20040224/ts_chicagotrib/bus

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Now's the time when all the bizarre accusations that have been leveled against Bush-- his AWOL thing, the WMD thing, the economy, all that-- are going to suddenly start blowing up in the Democrats' faces.

"The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions," Bush said. "They're for tax cuts and against them. They're for NAFTA and against NAFTA. They're for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. They're in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."

Not least among the unfounded accusations will be that Bush is a witless buffoon-monkey. If this is just the opening salvo against the likes of Kerry and the others who opposed war, they can look forward to a fun campaign full of one-liners like this:

"They now agree that it's better that Saddam Hussein is out of power. They just didn't support removing Saddam from power," Bush said, a smile growing across his face. "Maybe they were hoping he would lose the next Iraqi election."

I keep using the 1996 election as the model for this one. Only this time it's Bush who gets to be Clinton, with the amiable grin and the casual jibes and the ease of the incumbent with everything going his way. And it'll be Kerry running on Dole's dour old platform of "You're not as happy as you think you are!"


13:44 - Oh no, we've let the hoi polloi into the museum!
http://www.gamespy.com/comics/dorktower/archive.asp?nextform=viewcomic&id=843

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Steven sends me this interesting take on GarageBand:



This isn't a new sentiment. The concept of "MacDinking", I'm told, dates back to the very first days of the Mac, when people found they could create text documents full of different fonts and text styles if they wanted to, with pictures and fancy layouts and all kinds of stuff-- so they did. An English teacher could always tell which of his students had Macs, because they turned in papers in which every word was in a different font. They looked like ransom notes.

Later, things like WYSIWYG HTML editors took Web design out of the hands of the arcane HTML-savvy programmers and handed it to people with no more expertise than they needed for Word. Much grousing, naturally, ensued. Whenever power is taken from the elect few and bequeathed to the world at large, those who previously had been the elect few are left holding an empty bag, and are instantly transformed into relics. They might stand and wave their arms and point out that the new easy-to-use tools confer all the power of creation without any of the restraint and style that they themselves had had to learn out of the necessity created by the austerity of their tools; With great power comes great responsibility! they'd shout, but most people would simply smile and pat them on the head and push them gently aside. There's content to create, m'lad; no time for your bitter moralizing. Go back to typing angle brackets, HTML-boy.

I heard these same kinds of complaints about iMovie. Suddenly Dad could go out and videotape his son playing in the treehouse; he'd be standing under the tree, unable to see into it, but he'd keep filming anyway. Then he'd take it inside, hook it up, import all the video, and with a couple of clicks export the whole blinkin' hour of material that's guaranteed to be meaningful to nobody on the planet but himself. Then he'd send the resulting hundred-MB video to all his friends, who would have to watch it or his crestfallen face. Maybe if they were lucky he'd have added some lens-flare effects or cross-dissolve transitions or a soundtrack of The Cat's In the Cradle, but regardless, much nodding and smiling and praying for it to end was bound to follow. iMovie turned every backyard camcorder-operator into a wanna-be Kubrick, and there are only so many Kubricks in the world whose only reason for obscurity is a lack of iMovie.

But at least in iMovie's case, the real world had the decency to create original content for the camera to pick up. Dad's creative input is limited primarily to deciding what bits to edit out, where to put crossfades, and what background music to dig up. This was comparatively pretty benign... compared, after all, to GarageBand.

Now we've got what may be Apple's first genuinely creative consumer app. It's specifically designed to allow people with no musical talent to create their own original music. Oh, sure, people with oodles of talent will use it too, and they'll create great things. That guy that Steve pulled up on stage at MacWorld to demonstrate the soft guitar amps in GarageBand, if he chooses to sit down in his room and lay down a few ad-libbed tracks on top of unobtrusive acoustic loops, can release a brand-new album within a week. And sell it, too. But for those of us who lack the skills and the equipment to create our own musical themes and weave them into the composition, well... our only recourse seems to be the judicious application of the included Loops. Sure, there are a thousand or so of them, and the GarageBand Jam Pack gets you 2,000 more. But there are only a certain number of combinations of these loops that sound good together, and some of them are very distinctive-sounding indeed. If you find a piece on MacJukebox.net called "Hindi Techno", you can be pretty danged sure that "Exotic Sarod 01" will be involved, probably with a dance beat added behind it.

(I say this without contempt, because I've already produced some even more heinous examples. No, I'm not going to be uploading them anywhere.)

So, yeah. Like computer animation, GarageBand is a tool-- but it shouldn't be confused with actual creative vision. It can't provide that. It may come closer than anything else to simulating that vision, and it may well end up awakening a latent musical ability in millions of Mac users who heretofore had never thought of exploring it. But yes, the MacDinking danger is always there, lurking, ready to pounce. And the people whose careers have been built upon a mystical knowledge of the subtle interactions of various models of keyboards and synthesizers and amps, and who have mastered software like Logic and have access to giga-libraries of sampled synth instruments and rely on their connections in the industry to get their productions published and heard, are bound to be horrified by the flood of fully realized songs that now represent no more effort than a few near-random clicks and drags on the part of a curious user just screwing around.

Somehow it's encouraging to see how some things never change.

Monday, February 23, 2004
11:12 - Did I miss anything?

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So let's see... what happened in the world while I was up in the mountains getting blizzarded in the face at 30 mph?

Bush met with a Nashville blogger (and a few others) in Washington to talk turkey about the economy, and didn't invite the big press. Cute. And the blogger in question described the meeting in great, revealing detail. Memo to John Kerry: This is what a populist does. Take notes.

(Oh, and following the WaPO's whining about getting scooped by a blogger, check out how said blogger twists the knife.)

The Pentagon commissioned a report describing a science-fiction-esque hypothetical worst-case scenario, climatologically speaking, in which atmospheric conditions change so much-- in ways most climatologists think are nigh-impossible, but they want to know how bad it could conceivably get, so they can develop contingencies-- that whole zones of the Earth become uninhabitable, famines and floods abound, wars break out and cause nuclear winter, and so on. And, as Tim Blair has covered, The Guardian in London has found the report and-- like a kid finding one of those chocolate gold coins and thinking he's struck it rich-- concluded that it's a secret, "suppressed" Pentagon forecast for what it know is going to happen. The Guardian Observer then freaks out, screeching about how humiliating this is for the Bush administration and how this is America's just desserts for not ratifying the Kyoto treaty, only now the whole world has to pay for Bush's deep-rooted evil and unbelievable incompetence. We've got 'im now, lads! Uh, yeah, but you guys just fell for a War of the Worlds. Way to go!

We've apparently got Osama bin Laden boxed in, or something. The man's sleeping out in the cold in the mountains, without a dialysis machine. Has anybody confirmed whether he's alive, or if his followers are just carting around an extremely tall corpse on donkeyback?

Ralph Nadir has joined the Presidential race, which is both good and bad. Good because he'll be a spoiler just like before. Bad because now when Bush wins, the Left will blame it on Nader again, claim that if it weren't for him Bush would have been defeated, and then rally for the rules to be changed after the fact so we bow to their wishes when they stamp their little feet and wail about stolen elections and popular votes and electoral colleges and dimpled chads. We know it'll happen. Couldn't we have just had a nice, clean two-sided race for once?

And the Palestinians blew up another bus full of schoolchildren in an act of what, er, can only be considered "legitimate defense against oppression". Immediately followed by Noam Chomsky joining the New York Times, with an op-ed column describing Israel's security wall-- the last and only real option for defending against suicide bombers without actually going and killing anybody, and if I'm wrong about that I'd love to know what could possibly be a more humane solution-- as a "weapon" of aggression and apartheid. In other words, Israel, stop fuckin' defending yourself. Even the non-violent kind of defense is more defense than you Jews deserve. Suicide bombers? Suck it up, or abandon Israel and disperse back to the corners of the globe, like before WWII, like the Palestinians demand. I get it.

Just another weekend in Paradise, I see.

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© Brian Tiemann