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:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
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 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, July 4, 2004
14:01 - Free Speech over Free Beer

Paul Denton's comments, this Independence Day and Canada Day, are of the type I wouldn't presume to make—but I'm glad someone would.

UPDATE: Also don't miss his observations on the (dare I say it) quagmire into which any state-funded medical care system will eventually stumble.

Recently, in a discussion over the perennial question of whether or not "most people are idiots", a friend argued for the affirmative thus: People [in Canada] want health care, welfare and so on to be there for them when they need them. They want roads to be in good repair and good public transit and a strong military. They also want lower taxes.

You know, there is a solution...

12:28 - Obviously some strange new usage of the word "bipartisan" that I wasn't previously aware of

On this, what will no doubt soon be known as Dependence Day, Baldilocks has uncovered a list of the ten members of the House of Representatives who want to turn over the sovereignty of our election process to impartial observers from the UN.

Joseph Crowley (D-NY-07)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-07)
Danny Davis (D-IL-07)
Corrine Brown (D-FL-03)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14)
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-08)
Michael Honda (D-CA-15)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07)
Julia Carson (D-IN-07)
Edolphus Towns (D-NY-10)

From the original story:

The bipartisan commission, they stressed, determined "that the 'disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters' and in poor counties." Both groups vote predominantly Democratic in US elections.

Since this is a bipartisan committee, citizens from both parties should be equally incensed by this travesty, and should act to—

Wait. What?

Oh. Never mind then.

Saturday, July 3, 2004
01:14 - Movie-watching season

By the way—don't forget to watch the streaming video of the Stevenote from earlier this week, where he introduced the new displays (it's impossible to watch this segment without grinning ear-to-ear), apologized for not meeting his promise of 3GHz G5s, and unveiled all the new Tiger features.

Some of these demos just have to be seen to be believed. And you know—it suddenly occurred to me, the other day, that reviewers and pundits often use the word "stagnation" when talking about technologies such as Windows, the Web, MSIE, and so on. And I was thinking—when was the last time you heard anyone use the word "stagnation" in connection with Apple?

During the OS 7.5.1 days, yeah. But not since this guy came back up on stage.

What with the iTunes/iPod revolution, the G5 bulldozer, and these wild quantum leaps with every sequiannual OS release, it's a pretty damned difficult charge to lay.

21:03 - For refreshment of the spirit

Since it's so badly needed right about now. From Mike Silverman:

1. The American people are sane and intelligent. We are not stupid or ignorant. Extremists on the left, and the right, as well as opinion leaders overseas seem to think Americans are fat, somnolent, and base. Anyone who actually lives in America, really lives in America, knows that isn't true. We have something to celebrate today.

Happy 4th of July!

Read the whole thing; but this is the part I wanted to echo.

20:00 - Plain hobbit-sense

The more time goes by, the more faith I have in Middle America/the Midwest/the average Joe/flyover country. Lord knows I once dismissed it as the land of superstitious, hateful Bible-thumpers who thought France was somewhere in the vicinity of Topeka. But you know... city living might not be quite the intellectual fast-track that I once assumed it to be.

Via CapLion:

DECORAH, Iowa - The president of a company that owns movie theaters in Iowa and Nebraska is refusing to show director Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

R.L. Fridley, owner of Des Moines-based Fridley Theatres, says the controversial documentary incites terrorism.

Fridley said in an e-mail message to company managers that the company does not "play political propaganda films from either the right or the left."

"Our country is in a war against an enemy who would destroy our way of life, our culture and kill our people," Fridley wrote. "These barbarians have shown through (the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001) and the recent beheadings that they will stop at nothing. I believe this film emboldens them and divides our country even more."

Yes. Yes it does.

What gets me about Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't the blatant lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, and flippant and irresponsible conjecture—sure, they're bad, but even Michael Moore's fans know they're there.

What gets me, instead, is the whole premise of the movie—the implicit purpose behind it. What's Moore trying to do here? Not to entertain; not to titillate; but to defeat Bush. This is a higher calling for him than addressing the concern of Islamic terrorism. Bush is a bigger threat to America than bin Laden.

After all, said friend from last night led off his "argument" with the statement that "We could absorb an attack like the World Trade Center every month without really being crippled as a country". Which, I guess, meant that we should. Forget terrorism—don't try to prepare for it or keep a watchful eye out or even talk about it. Do not speak of the snares.

Which is Moore's position too: there's nothing in this world of greater importance than making Bush look bad.

You could have made a movie just like Fahrenheit 9/11 about Churchill, or about Roosevelt. Absolutely you could. Even people who didn't like FDR got behind him for the greater good, out of respect for the office of the Presidency and out of understanding of the country's needs. Neither of these leaders were saints; both had unpopular policies, both were the subjects of plenty of pieces of potentially embarrassing film clips that could, especially if taken out of context, or their audio played on top of particularly horrifying imagery, be used to drive said characters from office even in the middle of a war. You could have released a bombshell documentary in 1944 about FDR's allegedly knowing about the Pearl Harbor attacks before they happened, for instance. But nobody did. It would have been unthinkable.

So why do it now? Just because Moore can? Just because any dickhead with a Canon ZR20 and a copy of iMovie can now make a feature film?

This country needs unity more now than ever but a few exceptional times in its history. Moore must know this, deep down in his heart. He must realize how much our enemies crave seeing us divided and fighting among ourselves. He must be able to conclude something from the fact that Hezbollah wants to distribute the film, and that China will be gleefully importing it as the first Western documentary they've ever allowed in. He must realize that Saddam's obstinacy throughout the 1990s was because once the dust settled after Desert Storm, he was still in power and Bush wasn't—which, as far as he was concerned, made him the winner. Moore isn't a stupid man—he has to understand what our wavering and our turning on our President looks like to the Islamists whom we're fighting. (Hint: It looks like they're winning.) But nonetheless, it's more important to him to throw gasoline on the fire, to drive a wedge quite purposefully through the nation's public consciousness. No, uniformity of opinion is no good thing—but intentionally dividing the country, and undermining the American people's ability to intelligently prioritize the issues we see before us (for example, being destroyed by terrorism before gay marriage or President who once had more than a passing interest in the oil industry), is contemptible in the extreme. It's petty and small-minded in a way that little else in history has ever been petty and small-minded. People could have done what Moore's doing, at any time in history; but until now, they had the decorum and decency not to. They had common sense.

The kind that Mr. Fridley of Decorah, Iowa still seems to exhibit.

Must be something in the water.

UPDATE: CapLion updates his post with a counterexample to Midwesterners being any more sensible than anyone else. His point is well taken, though—check it out.

What makes people refuse to see the scale of the conflict of our times, and to concentrate all their fury on one man who deserves so little ire by comparison? It's just tunnel vision, I guess... it's easier for people to lash out against the problem that's closest to home for them, that requires the smallest expansion of their attention span. It's way easier to believe that "the economy is in the toilet" or "Bush runs the USA based on his own personal religious beliefs" than to have to face up to the possibility that maybe Bush is in fact doing some things right, things for which he deserves to remain in office.

UPDATE: Via LGF, Michael Niewodowski (a chef at the Windows on the World restaurant in the WTC) has similar sentiments:

Moore’s film is the first major motion picture about Sept. 11, 2001. This bears repeating. When future generations look back on the Sept. 11 massacre, their first impression, through the medium of film, will be a work in which the president and the government are blamed for the attacks, and the soldiers who are protecting this country are defamed. Instead of a film version of Lisa Beamer’s book, “Let’s Roll,” or Richard Picciotto’s “Last Man Down,” we are presented with this fallacy. How could this happen?

It would be a colossal insult to insinuate that Franklin D. Roosevelt or the U.S. government were in any way responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine the indignation of the men and women who lived during that period?

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is indicative of a nation that has become too apathetic, ignorant or deceived to face the enemy at the gate. America, where is your fury?

I'm drowning in it.

Friday, July 2, 2004
23:01 - So how 'bout that local sports team?

So you're having a Friday night dinner party; and over steaks, one friend pointedly makes the remark that one can't help but admire the ballsiness of "Bush and friends" for always keeping America in a state of fear and uncertainty with the terror alert levels. You and other friends set about explaining, for the ensuing half-hour, what the shadow war against terror is like, how many terror attacks are being thwarted worldwide daily, how al Qaeda terrorists view their victims (as "animals"), how much weaponry has been found in Iraq and who possibly has it now, and how pointless it would be to try to pretend that there isn't any terror war at all; and through it all, he nods at each point, making agreeing noises, acting like he comprehends your position, even sounds like he's willing to accept your point of view and come back from just-saw-F911-and-I'm-all-full-of-righteous-fury land.

Then he smiles, looks you in the eye, and says, "Yeah, I guess you're right... al Qaeda is pretty bad. Almost as bad as the fundamentalist Christians and Israeli lobby that control Bush."

There's just not much you can do at that point, is there? Other than turn on The Simpsons (and hope it isn't one of those annoying preachy ones from this year)?

15:37 - Please tell me this is a joke

This is the end. Really it is.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Several members of the House of Representatives have requested the United Nations (news - web sites) to send observers to monitor the November 2 US presidential election to avoid a contentious vote like in 2000, when the outcome was decided by Florida.

Recalling the long, drawn out process in the southern state, nine lawmakers, including four blacks and one Hispanic, sent a letter Thursday to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) asking that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America," according to a statement issued by Florida representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who spearheaded the effort.

"As lawmakers, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election," she said in the letter.

"This is the first step in making sure that history does not repeat itself," she added after requesting that the UN "deploy election observers across the United States" to monitor the November, 2004 election.

UN observers. To watch our elections.

This is the faith the Democrats have in our system. This is the regard they have for their opponents. They don't trust Republicans any more than they do Iran or Saddam.

And they're willing to use the same kinds of tactics against their own countrymen as they once did against brutal, genocidal dictators.

I can't wait to see blue-helmeted Jordanians and Cubans standing armed outside polling places in Miami, to make sure Bush doesn't steal the election again.

Holy ^&%$^$%%@@. This makes me too furious to even type.

Thursday, July 1, 2004
23:09 - Who's the web-monkey?

Egad! Check out the iMac page at Apple:
iMac Availability
Apple has stopped taking orders for the current iMac as we begin the transition from the current iMac line to an all-new iMac line which will be announced and available in September. We planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously less than perfect. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers.

"Our planning was obviously less than perfect"?! Ye gods—what kind of marketing fluff is this? "Will be announced... in September"? They're talking about products that have yet to even be announced? Does Steve know about this?

I don't know if I've ever seen this kind of folksy honesty from a company Apple's size.

22:44 - The stripéd cow

I've had my first look at Tiger; there is much to be excited about, and much to rub one's chin about.

The biggest change about this new OS, the thing that's going to make the biggest difference in how we all work with our files and data, is Spotlight. This shouldn't be confused with the soft-focus-highlighting of items within System Preferences, though it's easy to do so; rather, Spotlight is a hugely ambitious database infrastructure that overlays the existing HFS+ filesystem (leaving all files intact in their original state), which lets the system add all kinds of new pieces of metadata to all files, folders, e-mails, and other groupings of data. This system is extensible, so developers can add new genres of criteria to their data as they go; the metadata fields are all data-type-specific. So, for instance, when you look at a digital photo in the Finder, you now see stuff like this:

Check out all those data fields. Now... here's where things get squirmy. Yeah, it's cool... but with regards to technological prima nocte, this ain't an Apple coup. Windows XP has had this for years.

In fact, all of Spotlight can easily be seen to be a me-too-ism of what Microsoft has touted as its vision for Longhorn, currently slated for completion in 2006. Both systems involve databases that add huge amounts of contextual information to the pieces of data in the computer; Longhorn plans to use an SQL database to store all your data as well as just the metadata, dispensing altogether with the traditional filesystem we've all been used to, whereas Spotlight is just a separate layer on top of the existing legacy substrate. But different though the technical approaches may be, the end result is strikingly similar: tons more ways in which we can search, view, and group our files.

Think: Smart Folders.


That's what this is all about: a new way of thinking about your data, in a metaphor other than simply "files" and "folders". I wrote about the potential for this a long time ago; the idea is that just as iTunes turns "MP3 files" in "folders" into songs in albums with artists, and iPhoto changes "JPEG files" to pictures in rolls and albums, the operating system should allow you to group your miscellaneous files just as flexibly. For instance, what if you wanted a "folder" that would always contain all documents—of whatever type—that contained the word "Apple" in them somewhere? With the addition of the Spotlight database, with its deep indexing of everything from movie files to PDFs to Word documents, you can now do that with what amounts to a single-line SQL query. And that query is now packaged as a "folder": a Smart Folder.

Not only that, but Spotlight adds all kinds of new fields of metadata that are filled out programmatically: Last Viewed being the most obviously useful. This field gets stamped whenever you open any document; then, you can tune your query to show you all documents with the word "Apple" in them that you've seen recently, or that you've never read; or you can add arbitrary query criteria, iTunes-style, to further fine-tune the search to only certain types of data (Word documents or PDFs, for instance), certain creation dates, and so on. You do your search, then click Save, and a new Smart Folder appears in your sidebar. Aha!

This is what they were rumoring about with those "Piles" that were supposed to be in Panther. As implemented in Tiger, they look like folders (they get stored in "Saved Searches" in your home folder), but they act like database queries—the same way playlists and Smart Playlists in iTunes work. And, indeed, this is what Microsoft has been trumpeting as the future of computing for some time now.

Has Apple copied Microsoft? I rather doubt it; this technology is quite well advanced, even in this early beta. They've obviously been working on this for some time now—years at the least. Indeed, it was about three years ago that Apple hired Dominic Giampaolo and Pavel Cisler, the filesystem gurus fleeing the sinking ship of Be, home of the awesomely flexible and extensible BeFS; we all expected great things to be immediately forthcoming, such as extended metadata within UFS, the return of Type/Creator codes, journaling, and so on. Journaling did show up, but nothing else; we figured that this was an effort that had fizzled. But now, it seems, they were just waiting to get it right before they folded in this new system that's big enough to Change Everything™.

Here's what happens when you do a global search now, using the magnifying-glass icon in the upper right of the menu bar (and click the first option in the type-sorted list, Show All Results):

You can sort your results in a number of ways using the new criteria: two levels of sort ordering, using fields such as Person (the Author field gleaned from Word documents, for example), and with various view options for types such as Images. Clicking the "i" icon on any result shows you all the criteria that Spotlight knows about for that file: ID3 tags for music, image dimensions for pictures, and all that rot.

Alert viewers will notice that these screenshots show an interface whose designers have tried reeeally hard to keep it from looking too much like Windows XP, let alone alphas of Longhorn. Just put the sidebar over on the left, and you'll have a hard time convincing anybody that this wasn't a direct crib. But really, it's only the surface layout and presentation that are similar (and hey, Microsoft has a fairly good implementation where this kind of paradigm appears); the underlying technologies are mature enough to indicate that this is a case of parallel development. Microsoft has crowed about Longhorn more, but Apple has quietly got there first.

I certainly can't blame either company for wanting to go this route. Clearly someone in the development teams of both companies is database-happy; I know what that's like. Once you've done database programming, everything starts to look like a database problem. Surely there were plenty of developers in both companies with enough experience doing web apps and working on sexy things like iTunes that there was a groundswell of desire to see the whole computing experience driven by the elegant concept of the query, backed by as rich a data store as possible.

This is not, however, to suggest that this is entirely the work of seasoned, greybearded UI designers with a grand master plan. It's probably quite the opposite. The database concept is a fairly new thing to see married to UI; and the youth and energy that's present in Apple right now seems to have been manifested in Dashboard, another of the new flashy features in Tiger.

Dashboard, which is rightly identified as a Konfabulator clone, is nonetheless implemented in such a way as to be immediately more useful than Konfabulator—and to solve a problem as old as the computer. Namely: where the hell do tiny little meta-meta-apps, like the calculator, the floating analog clock, and the day-planning calendar, go?

There's never been an elegant answer to this. When I want to use the calculator, on Windows I have to dig down into the spooky depths of the Accessories branch of the Programs menu. Mac OS 9 and earlier put it in the Apple menu; but when that was cleaned up for Mac OS X, Apple needed a new paradigm. "I know!" they said. "We'll put it in the Dock!" Or, in the case of the Clock, "We'll just have it floating around all the time!" Bzzzt. Bad ideas. People don't want floaters, more than absolutely necessary; and things like calculators shouldn't be floaters. We don't want to have to launch individual apps to get such piddling little things done. I've never used Stickies in Mac OS X, though it was indispensable to me in OS 9, because it seems absurd to have to keep it in my Dock and treat it as another application to run during my session. Furthermore, one of my shameful secrets is that when I want to do some calendar planning, for instance when I want to see what the date is of next Friday so I can put it on a schedule, I scoot over to my Windows machine and pop up the calendar from the systray. That's the quickest software calendar available to me; the only way I can do anything like that on the Mac is to have iCal running all the time (which is teh suck on a 15" iMac), or to use "cal" on the command line.

Finally we have our answer. Just as Exposé finally solved the age-old problem of how to pick a window from a z-layered stack, Dashboard solves the problem of where to put the friggin' Desk Accessories. Just press F12 and they all swoop into view, using a Quartz effect that's only the beginning of the roller-coaster ride your eyes are about to be taken on. You get a floating dark gray toolbar with the names of "gadgets" (or "widgets"—they haven't yet made up their minds); click on one, and the gadget in question leaps into being. On a G3 iBook, the applet simply appears; but on a G5, the following startling effect announces the arrival of the new tool:

It splats onto the screen, creating a water-ripple effect that spreads out from the point of impact, lasting for several seconds as the applet gathers its content (from the net or from other running apps). This is where one starts to feel that Dashboard is in its adolescent demoware phase; as one continues to use it, and more such effects make their presence known (the "suck" effect is back, for when you close an applet—and when you access the preferences on one, it smoothly flips around in 3D space and shows you the controls on its backside), one starts to hope Dashboard will pass through puberty quickly and silently.

What it'll have to grow out of is this:

The iTunes control. This is quite obviously the child of somebody a little too big for his graphic-designing britches. Sure, it looks damned cool; but look closer. What's this designed to resemble? The iPod. There's the thumbwheel. There's the ring. There's the LCD-like green color. What do you suppose lies behind the design of this item? Why, it's our good old friend Software... that looks like THINGS! Long ridiculed by the Interface Hall of Shame (seems no longer to exist, fooey) back in the days of QuickTime 4, this interface aspiration attempts to make the controls of pieces of software resemble the controls of actual, physical devices. The QuickTime 4 player, in the classic example, had a thumb-wheel for the volume control. A perfectly usable piece of interface in the real world... but not in software. Why try to recreate in software a patently physical interface element that's designed to cope with the constraints of physicality, when in the virtual world your constraints have to do with the mechanism of interaction with screen elements rather than the construction of the elements themselves? To adjust the volume in QT4, you had to click in the vicinity of the scroll wheel and drag up or down to "rotate" the wheel. You had to make several "drags" to get the volume to move through its whole scope of travel. This was ridiculously clumsy and limiting, and the QT developers sensibly replaced the volume control with a simple slider in QT5.

But now we have this iTunes controller in Dashboard, with iPod-style Play/Back/Forward buttons, and... look at that ring around them. See those little radial lines, that look like a knurl? They appear when you mouse over the controls, while iTunes is running. Know what the ring is? That's right: A volume control. you have to click, hold, and then drag around in a circle to control the volume. A more retarded thing to ask a mouse user to do I simply cannot imagine—not when iTunes itself has such a sensibly designed, software-native, human-friendly, intuitively obvious interface, built right into its existing floater.

I can fully understand the need to flesh out the list of Dashboard widgets so as to present a breathtaking demo. However, this iTunes controller is ill-conceived and a giant leap backward in the heretofore sterling career of the iTunes/iPod duo, whose popularity is owed in no small part to their user-interface paradigms that, while entirely unlike each other, are natively intuitive to their respective media: iTunes using well-understood software motifs, iPod using revolutionary real-world finger controls. There's no need to muck with success; let's limit Dashboard to what is genuinely useful, and let's give all of the Apple-supplied widgets the proper design attention, instead of delivering flashy but perfunctory demoware. (Put an AM/PM indicator on the World Clock, for Pete's sake.) After all, once Konfabulator's widgets start being ported, there will be no shortage of things to put up there in F12-space.

Needless to say, the poor G3 iBook couldn't handle the eye-candy effects of Dashboard (with the exception of the magnify-in/out and the "suck" close effect), so Tiger doesn't even try. I don't know whether those effects, which clearly require Quartz Extreme (the iBook also showed some very bad layering problems, with bounding boxes flickering into view as I moved the widgets around—unheard-of in the world of Quartz compositing), are present on G4 machines. This is obviously a feature designed to sell G5s, and to start ramping up the hardware requirements of upcoming operating systems. The OS X versions from 10.1 on have showed a remarkably exceptional behavior: each successive one has been less demanding, as a result of ongoing optimization, of hardware; so Panther (10.3) can run much more comfortably on modest G3 hardware than 10.0 (Cheetah) or 10.1 (Puma) ever could. But Tiger seems determined to reverse that trend; and while G3-based machines are still listed as eligible in the requirements box, it's clear that they're about to be dropped off the lower rung before too long. While the G5-stroking Dashboard effects are definitely the kind of things that make my leg start to shake involuntarily, I'm not so sure they're worth making the OS run so slowly on my iBook. But then, there's an awful lot of debug code in this very early developer preview, and it's bound to get faster; besides, as mentioned, they've carefully omitted the special effects that the G3 can't handle, and Dashboard is just as usable, if presently not very responsive, without them.

So: Tiger is Apple setting out in a few new directions, not all of which I'm entirely at ease with just yet. This is the kind of OS put out by a company feeling its oats; it's a very confident sort of system, one that's not afraid to start hacking at the jungle vines defining the borders so as to make some serious aggressive inroads against any potential customers likely to be wowed by eye-candy. Now that Apple can get away with it, with the G5, they're starting to squeeze and see how much juice drips out. At the same time, Spotlight is likely the biggest change we've seen in how we're to think of navigating our computers since the advent of the files-and-folders metaphor; it provides for full backward compatibility in users' hearts and minds, but it takes no prisoners in its bid to expand iTunes-style querying and organizing beyond mere apps and into generalized data. It's going to take some getting used to, but an awful lot of people are going to discover that the functionality it provides is the kind of stuff that we won't be able to imagine ever doing without.

UPDATE: Also, interestingly, the Tiger installer comes on a DVD, and thus requires a DVD-capable drive. This can mean either that a) Apple is planning to exclude all non-DVD-drive Macs from Tiger compatibility for some inadequately clear reason, or b) this is just for the beta program, so they can discourage people from downloading and burning ISO images of the installer, as DVD blanks are still much more expensive than CDs. My guess is that it's the latter...

UPDATE: John Gruber of Daring Fireball preemptively lashes out against Dashboard/Konfabulator "ripoff" complaints:

A sliding puzzle. A calculator. A clock. A little notepad. Tiny little applets — little pieces of software that are something less than full applications themselves, but which run alongside real apps and are easily accessed at any time.

Obviously, Apple ripped off the idea for Dashboard. Stolen wholesale, without even the decency to mention where they took the original idea.

Which, of course, would be the desk accessories from the original 1984 Macintosh — conceived by Bud Tribble and engineered (mostly) by Andy Hertzfeld.

It also sounds, from his description of the Dashboard panel at WWDC, that there'll be no shortage of excellent widgets in the shipping version of Tiger and immediately available third-party. These ain't the final ones—not remotely.

15:37 - Zut! Ze war'eads!

I think VodkaPundit has the best reaction today to France and Germany pleading on behalf of Saddam not getting the death penalty.

How would you react to that little tidbit if you were an Iraqi? What would you say to a couple of governments who'd (a) armed and supported Saddam for decades, and (b) made every effort to prevent him from losing his grip on your country, your family, and your hide--and then presumed to tell you how you ought to deal with him?

Unless you were one of Saddam's former henchmen, I imagine you'd go find the nearest Frenchman or German, and start quoting Dick Cheney. Repeatedly.

Especially in light of all the new WMDs being found in Iraq.

I'd think this would be an excellent opportunity for France to keep quiet.

11:51 - That's a lotta digits

And what to my wondering eyes should appear...

Neato. And check out this most excellent video, too.

I could use a 17" PowerBook.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
17:06 - Right back at'cha

I'll just say this: I've got Canadian friends too.

There. All buddy-buddy-like.

(Via Paul Denton.)

15:22 - Nice stops at midnight

Remember when we were all schoolkids?

I do. It wasn't all that very long ago. I remember more about those days than, perhaps, I expected to at age twenty-eight. Certainly more than I imagined I would after all the stuff that's happened in my life that I never would have predicted when my world consisted of the rust-stained drinking fountains and the painted-out lower panes of windows at my shabby middle school in Redwood Valley.

Remember what was important about school? Maybe I'm just projecting—maybe this is just my oddball experience, but I did have classmates, and I did pay attention to how they thought and acted. What was important in school, aside from our own internecine loyalties and pop-cultural interests, was the teachers. Which teacher did you get?

Is the teacher nice?

I remember niceness in teachers being paramount on the radar of third-graders. Would you get one of the teachers with the glowing reputations—a two-syllable, easily memorized name? A sunny smile? Someone who talked to the kids in a musical singsong, who gave us breaks and treats unexpectedly? Someone who was lenient on misbehavior, who encouraged the kids to operate in the class on their own terms? Someone who made sure everyone in the class was learning at the same pace, and would slow things down in order to let everyone catch up? ...Or would you get a teacher who wasn't nice? Someone who ran the classroom according to strict rules, who would send you to the principal's office as soon as look at you (or wave a yardstick at you while shouting)? Someone who snarled gruffly and was hard to please, who demanded punctuality and obedience and never offered up a pleasant surprise? Someone who graded harshly, but insisted that students excel on their own merits and held up the top-achieving students as trophies to the school?

We always wanted niceness in our authority figures. It was safer; it meant less work; it meant less hassle; it meant things were more pleasant.

Small wonder that we should look for the same qualities in the people we elect to lead us, then, once we grow up, eh?

If that's what we can call what we do. After all, what can one say about a society that values the same characteristics in its leadership as it did in its elementary-school teachers? Lenience on crime. Folksy language and bearing. A sunny smile. A sense of humor. A two-syllable, easily memorized name. Unexpected treats and breaks. Holding back the achievers so the slower kids can catch up. Talking down to us like we're children under the care of a nanny.

Some schoolkids eventually do seem to grow up, and recognize the value of a hands-off, withdrawn leadership who outlines a vision and a goal, but demands that we all get there under our own steam; who is unforgiving of shortcomings, but greatly honors those who manage to make it to greatness. More of us, we come to realize, have the power to make it in this world than we did to be the smart kids in school; and we react with revulsion when, instead of being forced to read and decipher Shakespeare as we were while growing up, today's public-school pupils are fed poems by Tupac Shakur:

One poem is "Dedicated 2 Me." Another is "Dedicated 2 My Heart." There's one "4 Nelson Mandela" and another "2 Marilyn Monroe," which laments: "They could never understand what u set out 2 do instead they chose 2 ridicule u." Another Shakur opus is titled "When Ure Hero Falls." Still another muses: "What Is It That I (insert pictograph of an eyeball) Search 4."

 A dictionary, perhaps?

 In riveting prose that presumably rivals Frost or Longfellow, Shakur brags that he is "more than u can handle" and "hotter than the wax from a candle." Edgar Allan Poe had Annabel Lee. Shakur had Renee ("u were the one 2 reach into my heart"), April ("I want 2 c u"), Elizabeth ("the seas of our friendship R calm"), Michelle ("u and I have perfect hearts"), Carmen ("I wanted u more than I wanted me"), Marquita ("u were pure woman 2 me"), Irene ("I knew from the First glance that u would be hard 2 4get"), and Jada.

 Proclaiming his love "4 Jada," Shakur pays gallant literary tribute to the object of his desire: "u bring me 2 climax without sex."

 Lord Byron, he wasn't.

It's a nice teacher who'll play Pokémon with his or her students. But that's not a characteristic that, when we from our adult perspectives see it in our government, our public school officials, or our President, we treat with a great deal of respect.

This isn't the place for nice. This is the world of grown-ups, and demanding that our leaders be as nice as the teachers who used to declare jumprope days and hand out candy is a sure recipe for ensuring that we remain a nation of children forever.

(Horrifying link via Cold Fury.)

14:17 - Damn mask won't come off

Tom Brokaw appears to be so convinced that Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi is a witless, bought-and-paid-for puppet that he's taking it upon himself to try to show everybody the strings. Even when there aren't any. (Via LGF.)

Brokaw: As long as the United States military remains a conspicuous presence in your country working hand in glove with the new Iraqi government, won’t you always be seen really as an instrument of the U.S. military and therefore of America?

Allawi: Iraq, as everybody knows, is the front state now — as the main theater to oppose and fight terrorism.  And, with the help of international community and with the help of the region and with the help of the Iraqi people, we are going to win.  We are going to prevail.

Brokaw: I know that you and others like you are grateful for the liberation of Iraq.  But can’t you understand why many Americans feel that so many young men and women have died here for purposes other than protecting the United States?

Allawi: We know that this is an extension to what has happened in New York.  And — the war have been taken out to Iraq by the same terrorists.  Saddam was a potential friend and partner and natural ally of terrorism.

Brokaw: Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  The 9/11 commission in America says there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and those terrorists of al-Qaida.

Allawi: No.  I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida.  And these relations started in Sudan.  We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism.  Now, whether he is directly connected to the September — atrocities or not,  I can’t — vouch for this.  But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists.

"But... but... can't you understand? We invaded you under false pretenses so we could steal your oil and torture your people! Saddam? Screw Saddam! Come on, you primitive third-world simpleton, can't you see what's happening?"

Methinks Mr. Brokaw is losing what little grip he had left.


11:00 - Why They Hate Us

Joshua sends along this very worthwhile (and long) article by Bruce Bawer that delves into the very heart of European anti-Americanism.

That this was, in fact, a crucial question was brought home to me when a travel piece I wrote for the New York Times about a weekend in rural Telemark received front-page coverage in Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record. Not that my article’s contents were remotely newsworthy; its sole news value lay in the fact that Norway had been mentioned in the New York Times. It was astonishing. And even more astonishing was what happened next: the owner of the farm hotel at which I’d stayed, irked that I’d made a point of his want of hospitality, got his revenge by telling reporters that I’d demanded McDonald’s hamburgers for dinner instead of that most Norwegian of delicacies, reindeer steak. Though this was a transparent fabrication (his establishment was located atop a remote mountain, far from the nearest golden arches), the press lapped it up. The story received prominent coverage all over Norway and dragged on for days. My inhospitable host became a folk hero; my irksome weekend trip was transformed into a morality play about the threat posed by vulgar, fast-food-eating American urbanites to cherished native folk traditions. I was flabbergasted. But my erstwhile host obviously wasn’t: he knew his country; he knew its media; and he’d known, accordingly, that all he needed to do to spin events to his advantage was to breathe that talismanic word, McDonald’s.

For me, this startling episode raised a few questions. Why had the Norwegian press given such prominent attention in the first place to a mere travel article? Why had it then been so eager to repeat a cartoonish lie? Were these actions reflective of a society more serious, more thoughtful, than the one I’d left? Or did they reveal a culture, or at least a media class, that was so awed by America as to be flattered by even its slightest attentions but that was also reflexively, irrationally belligerent toward it?

I don't know who would benefit more from reading this: Americans oblivious to just how much adolescent ire is directed towards this country from people we think of as "allies", or Europeans who might be chastened to see themselves in the mirror?

I have a friend who, though born in Michigan, travels the world and lives in Scandinavia as often as he can, where I know he spends much of his time guffawing in Swedish with his tall, ponytailed friends over how awful America is. I think he might be an excellent candidate for having this forwarded his way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
22:57 - Sir yes sir

You bet I'll vote.

Monday, June 28, 2004
20:56 - Olé

I may be wrong about this, but it seems as though Taco Bell is taking a different tactic during these heady days of diet-revolutions and fat-people lawsuits than all the other fast food restaurants have done. Whereas McDonald's and Arby's are developing healthy salads with bottled water and Subway and Carl's Jr. have their Atkins-friendly menus, it seems that what Taco Bell is doing is to go in a completely different direction.

Namely: is this the first time a fast-food chain in a rich nation with no serious "hunger" problem has introduced a menu full of items specifically designed to fill you up, for cheap? Like burritos with potatoes in them, tacos with two tortillas and extra beans, apple pies in big thick crusts, and cheese-covered potatoes in a bowl?

Seems like this is the opposite of what you'd do if you were beholden to none but the bottom line. Normally you'd make items that are as expensive as you can get away with, that are as un-filling as possible, so you feel the need to buy lots of them. If this is Taco Bell's contribution to the collective health of the nation—to convince people to eat to make themselves full rather than to eat what's yummy—then it seems to me to be rather an innovative answer to the sudden turning upon the fast-food industry that this country has undertaken.

And on the outright-backlash front, there's always KFC's "The Only Carb That Matters is Under My Hood" NASCAR promo, and of course this book...

18:48 - Curmudgeon in training

You know, I'm really starting to worry that I'm gradually becoming incapable of enjoying certain things that I always used to find very pleasant. Listening to most comedians, just to take one example that happens to be topmost in my mind just now.

I mean, am I the only one who used to find George Carlin just a bit funnier once upon a time than I do now? I just finished listening to his "You're All Diseased" routine from 1999, and while I can certainly appreciate the agility of his wit and the skill of his shiny sparkly delivery, I find myself unable to ignore just how determinedly shallow it is. Ten minutes at the beginning of the routine all about how airport security is just a big sham designed to keep white people scared and submissive to authority, and how terrorism is, to him, an "entertainment opportunity". Protracted rants about how men are either weak-willed and pussified or macho and pretentious, how God must be a man because no woman could possibly have screwed the world up this badly, how much white people suck and shouldn't attempt to be cool (the whole routine, indeed, seems to be designed to tickle the self-loathing reflex of the nearly-all-white audience), and how America as a concept and a people is inextricably imbued with "bullshit" from the Declaration of Independence through to the present day—the rationale being, naturally, that the country was founded by "white males" who held slaves and didn't give the vote to women.

Understanding some historical context behind the issues he discusses with such rampant fervor, as much as I would love to laugh at what are indeed very funny jokes, I find that I just can't anymore. All I can think about is writing annoyed blog posts about them.


I don't know what worries me more—the idea that so many comedians, even the true greats like Carlin, are so studiously shallow in their material (they can't, after all, really believe the stuff they're saying... can they? It's all just silly jokes intended to get a laugh through cognitive dissonance... right?)... or the exuberance of the audience, who shriek with laughter and applause at every suitably turned sarcastic witticism, no matter how silly the premise, just because it's delivered with the stresses and the punches just in the right place to make you feel like it's time to erupt with noises of massed approval. "'Have your bags been in your possession the whole time?' 'No! Every time I travel, just as the moon is rising, I take my suitcases out on the streetcorner and leave them there, unattended, for several hours. Just for good luck. Next question!'" Cue uproarious laughter from people who now, if you were to interview them, would be thoroughly convinced that the security questions at the ticket counter are wholly pointless exercises that prove what an incompetent and intentionally backward system we live in. You then get people who use these very comedy routines—lest you think I'm joking—as the basis for entire worldviews and philosophies, such as that there is no God because George Carlin said so and he was really funny. Somehow, knowing that this is the purpose that such routines serve for so many people kinda prevents me from consuming them with the lighthearted abandon I always used to.

Friends tell me that I've now found excuses to dismiss so many actors and comedians for the views they disseminate that there's nothing left that's safe to talk to me about. That worries me too, because it seems a valid concern. I can't enjoy a Johnny Depp movie as much these days, or something with Martin Sheen or George Clooney or Madonna (good thing I wasn't ever a fan of Barbra Streisand). Even Robin Williams is, sadly, on the list of people who I can't properly enjoy anymore—because I fear that if I were to listen to any routine he or his compatriots deliver, I'm going to find it studded throughout with little land-mines of stupidity—jokes that are intended to get an ingeniously engineered laugh out of the audience, but that if anybody knows the facts behind what he's mocking, will come across to that person as a direct affront against truth and intelligence and common sense.

Or is that just me?

UPDATE: Chris says:

I think it's something to do with fearing that some people will take Carlin's word as 'a funny truth' rather than 'funny ridiculous' .... Ie, things will be a lot funnier if you knew that NOONE actually believed it to be truth... but knowing, or suspecting, that some people out there will actually think that's is true takes a LOT of the humour out of it.

Good point. You know, there's something to be said for comedy that doesn't attempt to divide or exclude or define loyalties. That's why Lewis Black's recent show seemed so much less fun than his earlier material—everybody can enjoy the "candy corn" routine; but once he starts playing to a particular audience, even if you agree with what he's saying, you can feel the vibe having suddenly narrowed. It's now about furtively giggling behind other people's backs; and that's just not as fun and fancy free.

Which is why I enjoy the redneck comics of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour so much: Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White. It's all so positive. It's all jokes about being unsophisticated, being fat, being ugly, being dumb, being poor, being drunk—but it's all tongue-in-cheek. It's not mean-spirited. It's not critical. It's just fun. When I see someone like Ron White come on-screen with his drunken-master-storyteller face, I heave a sigh of gratitude—because you know what? It feels like Cosby. And that's about the highest praise I can think of.

15:18 - Toys

It won't be ready until April. That's a nice long time from now. (Which is good, because I'm going to have to rewrite pretty much everything.)

The biggest new thing in Tiger, aside from some subtle cosmetic tweaks (like the shiny blue menu hotspots in the corners of the menu bar), appears to be Spotlight. This is the new search infrastructure, whose aim appears to be "Do what Longhorn is doing, but do it right." To wit, whereas Longhorn professes to move the entire filesystem—including file data—into an SQL database, Spotlight is built on top of a database that only contains the new extended metadata that allows instant searching through all files' contents and attendant properties. The files themselves remain in the HFS+ filesystem, which preserves compatibility with the UNIX layer. Meanwhile, you now can type any search text in the global search bar, and you get matched results progressively with each letter you type, categorized by the kinds of items where the results are found: documents (of all kinds of types, including PDFs, Word files, Photoshop files, even applications), Address Book contacts, Mail messages, iCal appointments, and probably lots more.

Beyond that, the soft-focus highlighting in the System Preferences is for real; and the spotlight effect gets brighter on items that match your search with more confidence. Now that's neat. And for everything else, such as Mail, Address Book, and the Finder, there are more fine-tuned, modal kinds of search views—plus implementations of what can only be described as "Smart Playlists" for all the rest of your data. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this integrates with Mail; you can set up folders such as "Unread", "Viewed Today", and so on—the kind of views I'm accustomed to in iTunes. I spent much of the weekend going through my "Never Listened" Smart Playlist and listening to the various (some unlistenable) songs through force of will, getting the play count of everything up above zero; then doing the same with my "Unrated" SP—so every song in the database can be categorized by its star rating and play count/last-played date.As I watched the playlist slowly deplete itself, I honestly did think to myself, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could do this in e-mail too?"

In other words, I think Apple is trying to turn Mail.app into Gmail.

This is exactly the kind of search/discovery technology Microsoft has been talking about in Longhorn; Steve today said that Apple has got searching all figured out in iTunes, and the big hurdle has been in figuring out how to extend that to the rest of the system, rather than just abstracting all kinds of data into a big amorphous mass the way Longhorn seems to want to do it. So now, just as he did by announcing .Mac right in the middle of Microsoft's blue-sky imaginings of .NET and Passport, Steve seems to have stolen Longhorn's thunder by actually putting it into practice, quicker and better. (Or so we will determine.)

Then there's iChat AV, which has now officially made the leap to "insane". My God. Look at the reflections in the "table". My brain 'urts.

And this is all made prettier by H.264/AVC, which the QuickTime group says increases the efficiency of video throughput fourfold. That's a pretty bold claim, but those images sure look nice. "Windows Media? Bring it," he said during the keynote. Fightin' words...

Then there's Dashboard, which no doubt has the Konfabulator guys e-mailing each other messages that look like: *#$@**!%$#^!*^%@)_)@!!!(*%&!!!!! (Paraphrased.) In practice it's pretty much exactly what Konfabulator is (they even seem to have gone with the "Widgets" term, instead of "Gadgets" as they were evidently playing with); but the thing that Dashboard has over Konfabulator is the way you summon it, Exposé-style. Press a function key, and the widgets all zoom in from behind you; press it again to dismiss them, and they whoosh away in the direction they came from. That is one slick-ass effect. Konfabulator, on the other hand, makes you place all your widgets either on the top of all other windows, below all other windows, embedded into the Desktop (foregoing all controls), or using standard window layering. This means that as cool as the various widgets all are, after I've spent the initial minute or two playing with them, I always find them getting in the way of what I'm doing; and none of the Z-ordering options seem to be ideal. What I really want, I guess, is the ability to whoosh all the widgets into view, and then dismiss them again just as quickly—which is precisely what Dashboard does. This could be just as much a masterstroke as Exposé was; and it might be what finally gets the concept of "widgets" to take off, as much as they've floundered at the edge of public favor, bobbing up here and there as "Dock Extras" or "Docklings" or "floaters" or "System Menus" or third-party doodads. Finally they may have found a home. And since there will be an open SDK, Konfabulator widgets can probably be ported in pretty easily.

Safari now has RSS feed functionality. Take that, Longhorn Sidebar.

Then there's this thing—Automator. This is going to weird people out... but if it's as much fun to play with as it looks, people are going to pick it up right away. You get to define workflows using applications' scriptable actions, or tools like the newly built-in Core Image/Video libraries—essentially, OS-level implementations of all the popular image filters that make up the feature set of Photoshop, now available in scriptable form outside any particular app. (I wonder if Photoshop would be significantly faster if it were recoded to use these routines instead of its own...) I also wonder how you go about running your saved workflows after you've defined them. Do you pick them from a menu? Add them like AppleScript droplets to your toolbar? I hope you don't have to launch Automator to run any given workflow, because the whole point of this appears to be to eliminate app launches from your daily grind. I'm sure they've thought this one through.

And these are only a few of the 150 features they claim to be in Tiger. I imagine the rest are largely sort of uninteresting and esoteric; but just these few are head-turners indeed.

We've got a whole year now to get accustomed to these things and cynically find them unimpressive when they're finally released. A Steve's work is never done...

UPDATE: Oh yeah:

Is that beautiful or what?

11:26 - Keynote playing

The Mac Observer has live coverage of the WWDC keynote speech.

Notables so far: new lineup of displays (including that long-awaited 30-inch model); Safari 2.0, with RSS aggregator; new Tiger filesystem with extended metadata (whoah!) and some kind of uber-search functionality.

There's no video feed, so I guess there won't be public betas. Blast! Ah well—there'll surely be more to come yet.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE: The Tiger page is now up, as is the Displays page. Gentlemen, start your drooling.

09:47 - Hey! Stick to the script!

Well, this should screw up a few people's plans.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 28 — In a surprise, secret ceremony that was hastily convened to decrease the chances of more violence, United States officials today handed over sovereignty to Iraqi leaders, formally ending the American occupation two days earlier than scheduled.

In a tightly guarded room behind high walls, L. Paul Bremer III, the top United States administrator, presented a formal letter recognizing Iraq's sovereignty to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Just 30 or so people were present for what Dr. Allawi described as the "historic" handover.

A few hours later, Mr. Bremer flew off on a military plane, leaving behind a country stunned by the sudden transfer of authority. Shortly afterward, Dr. Allawi was formally sworn in as Prime Minister.

"This is a historic day," said the Iraqi interim president, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar . "We want a free, democratic Iraq that will be a source of peace and stability for the region and the whole world. We would like to express our thanks to our friends in the Coalition for the efforts and dedication they have spent."

Early by two days: enough to screw up attacks planned for the 30th, but not early enough to look like "cutting and running". And if the terrorists are anywhere near as taken by surprise by this as Allawi sounds, they're in for a rough bit of rethinking of strategy.

Especially if Allawi declares martial law, as he suggests he might. In which case he'll have need of our troops still helping out. Yet something tells me that if it's him in charge, and Iraqis handling the bulk of the peacekeeping, the terrorists will have a helluva time blaming us. Even if the crackdowns become way more brutal than we've been yet. Which they probably would.

I dunno... there's a lot of variables yet. People will no doubt criticize us for not making a complete military withdrawal immediately following today, or for planning all along to have "scripted" a situation whereby Allawi would invite our troops to stay past the deadline. And an Iraqi PM who declares martial law? Every time you see someone in the next forty-eight hours who says he sees Allawi becoming "another Saddam", take a drink.

But, well, you know, whatever. This is a huge step in the right direction, and anyone who criticizes it doesn't know how to do anything but criticize.

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© Brian Tiemann