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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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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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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 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, January 21, 2005
18:16 - What a difference half a century makes
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20050121

(top)
Aha! So this is the new angle: World War II as the Paragon of All Honorable Wars!



Of course. Obviously. Everybody knows nothing bad ever was done by American soldiers during WWII. The Nazis were just as lawless as the Islamists; they weren't a modern society that had been hijacked by extremists that kept their people blind to their leaders' atrocities or anything. But we can rest assured that the Americans tiptoed around sleeping families of field mice on their way to taking out main battle tanks, killed no Nazi without being fired upon first, and certainly never resorted to such barbarities as depriving prisoners of sleep or telling them they were ugly and their Führer dressed them funny.

Or could it be, maybe, that back then we understood that war was a bad, dirty, ugly thing, that required many sacrifices of conscience on both sides—and that restraint, while a thing we strive for on the battlefield, is a luxury we sometimes cannot afford? Maybe the reason why we're able to think of WWII as the peak of American honorability is that the media of the time whitewashed it—a concept so horrifying to today's media that they've committed to doing the exact opposite?

Surely neither is ideal.... because fifty years hence, either is going to give us a pretty darned twisted view back over our shoulders.


15:47 - Mine eyes... ow, mine eyes... they hath seen the glory, and it hurts
http://www.obdev.at/products/launchbar/

(top)
The world is changed.

LaunchBar. Go. See. Download. Try it. Seriously.

See how long it takes before you start pressing Command+Space on even your Windows computers, and cursing and starting to shake when nothing happens...

UPDATE: LaunchBar is old... and, naturally, it started life as a NeXT thing.

What NeXT-head ever imagined a future this bright?

UPDATE: Okay, a few tweaky tricks to get started with...

saf — Safari
ab — Address Book
[any acronym] — application with that acronym
imdb [movie name]
ebay [search string]
google [search string]
[contact name, or any substring] — right arrow for all Address Book details in a list of launchers, or Return to open in Address Book
itunes [right arrow] — browse your iTunes Library
/ (or root) [right arrow] — browse your disk
Command+Space repeatedly — cycle through running apps
. — auto-URL

It also compensates for typos; I typed "widows" and it found a bunch of Windows links. You can also set up new URL-based launch shortcuts in the Configuration screen, or enable/disable apps with sub-searchability like Watson. Pretty much anything with an acronym abbreviation can be matched using that acronym, too.

From now on, I'm just going to type Command+Space, "pizza", then hit the right arrow, to get the Round Table number. And that's just the beginning.

Now if only they'll take my dang credit card...

UPDATE: As several people have noted, LaunchBar has competitors—QuickSilver in particular. There's apparently some history here, and a rivalry with enthusiasm befitting any such earth-shattering matter...

I'll take this over Watson/Sherlock any day.


11:30 - Oh... my... God...
http://www.blackfive.net/main/2005/01/vw_polo_one_in_.html

(top)
If it isn't a spoof of some kind, or a "viral marketing" thing (like the SportKa ads), this VW Polo ad has to be high in the running for Best Ad Evar.

Yeesh! How does something like this get made? One would think it would be even harder in Europe than here to do stuff like this... but then, something tells me that the European advertising industry, and particularly the British one, sort of operates apart from the system, and the normal laws of physics don't apply to them.

Check out this campaign slyly by IKEA in England... be sure to check out the commercials. Why can't we have stuff like this?

...Well, okay, we have Jack in the Box, so I'm not complaining. Okay, yes I am, because Jack doesn't put his ads online. Damn him. Maybe only because there are so many great ones by now?

They should release a DVD.

Via JMH.

UPDATE: I'm informed by a British friend that this ad was produced under contract for VW, but was rejected (gasp!) and never broadcast.

Too bad. (I wonder if it was the same agency that did the SportKa spots.) I was all set to be forever in awe of the British advertising agency as one of those cultural treasures that must at all costs be preserved for posterity.

Thursday, January 20, 2005
20:27 - Tnurnb
http://www.midwinter.com/~koreth/chopstlcks.html

(top)
Kris handed me this chopstick wrapper he'd picked up at lunch. I was going to scan it (Janet!), but I had the nagging feeling that I'd seen this particular piece of quintessential Engrish somewhere before...

Lo and behold, Google knows all!

(In fact, there are so many hits for scans and transcriptions of this wrapper that it must be an extremely widely-sold brand. I may, in fact, have seen it in a Bill Bryson book. But in any case, Kris' wrapper has much better typeset text, but all the misspellings are faithfully preserved—and while some of the scans show the word on the back as "thurnb", on the one I have in front of me it's clearly "tnurnb". Now that's a word that needs more widespread usage.)

I find it especially interesting in this case because it was clearly transcribed into text by someone who not only didn't know English, but whose only familiarity with the Roman alphabet consists of hunting and pecking on the keyboard for matching shapes.

Welcome to Chinese Restaurant!


19:24 - Eat some chips for freedom
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/news/39884.html

(top)
So how long before they ban eating junk food in public places, indoors, or in sight of young impressionable children?

The European Union has warned the food industry it has a year to stop advertising junk food to children and improve its product labeling, or it may face legislation, the Financial Times reported in its online edition.

Markos Kyprianou, EU health and consumer affairs commissioner, told the newspaper that urgent action was needed to tackle a growing obesity problem in Europe, particularly among the young.

Kyprianou said self-regulation in the food industry was preferred, but he warned that the European commission would legislate if progress proved disappointing.

"The signs from the industry are very encouraging, very positive," Kyprianou said.

"But if this doesn't produce satisfactory results, we will proceed to legislation."

Good thing they won't be around long. Whether because of economic collapse or enraged revolution, though, remains to be seen.

Via Kris, who arrived munching on a bag of Fritos in solidarity with our European brethren so diligently forging their own chains.


16:56 - Dude! Sweet!

(top)
Ever have one of those moments where you see something and your hand flies up off the desk of its own accord and smacks you nervelessly across the forehead?


Mouseposé is a new, unique and free tool that is essential for everyone doing demos at tradeshows, presentations, trainings or those individuals with huge and high resolution displays. If turned on, Mouseposé dims the screen and puts a spotlight on the area around the mouse pointer, easily guiding the audiences attention or to quickly locate the mouse pointer.

Hitting a user definable hot key turns on the Mouseposé effect, dimming the screen and putting the mouse pointer into a spotlight that makes it easy to locate. The desktop behind it remains functional, so that applications can be used while Mouseposé is turned on.

Mouseposé is a free download but requires a free license key to operate.

Like lightning to the temples. Brilliant!


15:35 - Sim Wong Who?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/01/20/creative_results_q2_05/

(top)
Looks like the iPod isn't feeling all that much of a pinch from a crowded market, hip Zen billboards notwithstanding.

Apple last week said it had sold 4.5m iPods in the three months to 31 December 2004 more than double the 2m Creative today admitted it sold during the period, which equates to the second quarter of its FY2005.

Clearly, Creative is not winning the war it declared against its rival last November. Back then, Creative chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo bullishly said: "It's our target to beat iPod in this quarter."

"The MP3 war has started and I am the one who has declared war," he thundered at the time, adding that the company was on track to sell 3m MP3 players during the Christmas quarter. He also pledged to spend $100m to out-market Apple.

The Reg notes that Creative is doing well financially and growing, though; by Apply-snarky tech pundit standards, that means they're "beleaguered".

Also via Kris.


15:29 - Wingots
http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/39826.html

(top)
Via Kris; I've never heard that term used before, but it has an interesting way of rolling off the tongue, in the same way that "Macolytes" does.

It appears to have been coined by Paul Murphy, a Linux veteran and columnist with a tale of a hapless friend and precisely where Windows has got him. If "Bernie" doesn't have a Ballmer haircut, I'll buy a hat and eat it.

Also some good observations about the deceptiveness of Mac market share numbers, and the nature of the justifications used to defend a Windows installation. It veers uncomfortably near a couple of fallacies of its own—for example, that a Linux server is more predictably stable than a Windows daily-use laptop because of Linux versus Windows, rather than because one is a server and one is a daily-use laptop, which is a real factor—but overall it's a valuable read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
03:59 - In all seriousness

(top)
So in the space of a couple of days, we hear this:

The Democrats need to offer an alternative agenda over the next four years. It won't be enacted, so they can shoot for the moon. The hell with good policy, make proposals that sound great.

(Daily Kos, the Left's most illustrious and widely-read blogger—as well he ought to be, having been paid handsomely by the Dean campaign. Emitting a statement which, as M. Simon says, amounts to: "It is not about governing. It is about winning. With promises that cannot be kept.")

And then this:

If you care about restoring our credibility around the world and our credibility with our troops on the ground in Iraq, you’ve got to start by removing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. That’s why I am joining Senator John Kerry and hundreds of thousands of Americans in adding my name to the johnkerry.com petition calling for Rumsfeld’s immediate removal from office.

I urge you to act without delay. We can’t afford any more auto-penned letters of condolences and shifting stories about what kind of armor we have to protect our troops.

(John Kerry, who almost became President of the United States, repeating tired, debunked accusations of the pettiest caliber—whining about "autopens" and only 810 out of 830 armored vehicles being sufficiently armored—under the guise of "protecting the troops". Oh, I'll bet he's just sick at heart.)

And then this:

Since our leaders don’t have the moral courage to speak out against the war in Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is “Not One Damn Dime Day” in America.

On “Not One Damn Dime Day” those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During “Not One Damn Dime Day” please don’t spend money, and don’t use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On “Not One Damn Dime Day,” please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don’t go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don’t buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

“Not One Damn Dime Day” is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

“Not One Damn Dime Day” is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm’s way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan — a way to come home.

(Support the troops—by destroying the economy! It's pure genius!)

And let's not forget this:

Boxer pointed out what she said were inconsistencies in Rice’s statements about the imminent threat of nuclear weapons in Iraq. “This is a pattern here of what I see from you,” Boxer said. “It’s very troubling. ... It’s hard for me to let go of this war because people are still dying.”

She said Rice has not acknowledged those deaths, has not laid out an exit strategy for Iraq and has been unwilling to admit mistakes — including going to war over weapons of mass destruction found later not to exist.

Rice insisted the war in Iraq was not launched solely over WMD. Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, she said, welcomed terrorists, attacked his own neighbors and paid suicide bombers in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

But Boxer said the bill passed by Congress authorizing the war in Iraq was, “WMD, period.”

“Let’s not rewrite history, it’s too soon for that,” Boxer said.


And then of course there's my erstwhile Correspondent, who formulated long and detailed ripostes to my arguments that consisted of accusing the Republicans of reinstating the draft because the military "needs fresh blood", calling the invasion of Iraq an atrocity that overshadowed Hitler's invasion of Poland, expressing intense skepticism about the honesty of our stated motivation of spreading democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan (because these countries "don't want democracy"), and fabricating Ann Coulter quotes (mangled from glib but defensible real ones) purporting to be in favor of converting all non-Western nations to "Christianity and democracy" as well as the summary execution of "anyone disagreeing with Bush". I'm sure that deep down, somewhere in the pit of whatever his postmodern, pseudo-Native-American spirituality uses in place of a soul, he realizes that what he's saying is complete bullcrap that he has made up from whole cloth or absorbed from highly intellectually disreputable sources, and that he's resorting to such material because the actual facts simply don't back him up. But he can't just admit that, or won't. Somehow, he just knows he's right, and will believe thus all the more stubbornly the clearer it's made to him the logical fragility of the positions he espouses. Logic itself becomes the enemy, and must be defeated rather than embraced.

And it just goes on. The more stuff like this I hear, the more I think Tom DeLay had it right:

The Democrats’ problem is not a lack of patriotism.  It’s a lack of seriousness.  

They don’t hate their country, they just refuse to lead it.

I will never call the Democrat Party unpatriotic, but I will call their current leadership unfit to face the serious challenges of the 21st century.

I mean, what better response is there to all these bizarre displays than, simply, You can't possibly be serious, can you?

I don't know, honestly, what these people see as the foremost goal before them. It's not defending their country; otherwise they'd be proposing viable alternative ways to do so. It's not spreading freedom throughout the world; otherwise they wouldn't be acting horrified at the arrogance of our presuming to "foist" democracy on people who "don't want it" (like the Afghans who lined up for a whole day, sometimes avoiding bomb blasts and then getting back in line, just for the chance to vote). It's not making America stronger on the world stage, otherwise they wouldn't be doing their level best to neuter and marginalize American self-interest in favor of the UN, horrifyingly corrupt though it might be. It's not any of these things. And what else is there? Only warmed-over, hardly-relevant perennial favorites like race relations and the economy and health care. And meanwhile there's a huge hole in Lower Manhattan where there used to be two giant buildings full of many thousands of people. The best way to honor the victims' sacrifice, it seems to these illustrious voices of the Left, appears to be to render them invisible, to keep us from talking about them so that the right people can get back into power.

We need seriousness. It's the only single thing without which we cannot govern ourselves during this trying time in our history. We cannot give ourselves over to the agendas of those who won't even acknowledge that we're at war, who won't consider any plan that doesn't involve instant gratification, and who won't even go along with any proposal for anything that might possibly have been dreamed up by a Republican, just out of foot-stamping principle.

I'm not saying the Democrats are inherently a problem. We need them. We need a nation divided as evenly in two as possible, because any system in which a single party enjoys a clear and unassailable majority turns rapidly into a subversion of democracy. But I am saying that for the Democrats' own sake, they're going to have to learn all over again what it means to be serious about governing the country and the world. Otherwise, all the rest of us will be able to say is that we simply do not have the time for this crap.

We don't.


16:32 - Building an Empire of Cool

(top)
It can be frustrating, talking to a friend in England and trading links to good tracks we've each found in the iTunes Music Store, only to be confronted with error messages saying "The item you've requested is not currently available in the US store" (or "UK store", depending). iTunes may not bet a full "Amazon.com for music" yet, but sometimes its inventory holes are provincial in nature—reminding us all of the labyrinthine morass of legal exceptions and compromises underlying every single track in the store, individually wrangled by the labels for maximum profit and exposure and by Apple for maximum catalog content.

And yet it's getting there. This site is where UK music fans go when they hear a cool song in a TV ad (like I wish I had for tracks like this one for those Garnier Fructis shampoo ads); note that all the tracks they list feature handy purchasing links at both Amazon and iTunes.

Steve said that the iTMS has maintained an unmoving 65%-or-so hold on the digital music download market for the whole past year, even in the face of all the upstart competitors. It seems to be sinking in that Apple's not about to be driven out of this chunk of the pie anytime soon, so everybody may as well move past the "ignore them" and "ridicule them" and "fight them" phases and skip straight to the "win" phase.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
04:05 - Boy, I sure hope Adult Swim doesn't give me ten million dollars right now!

(top)
So, what—all I have to do is complain about the loss to the ages of the old Cartoon Planet, the progenitor of today's Adult Swim... and they release a Brak Show DVD set that contains all the classic Brak material including (selected) Cartoon Planet segments?

This network isn't just a Godsend, it's a genie! I'd better use the rest of my wishes wisely.

Monday, January 17, 2005
15:18 - I call it the Happy Helmet
http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.html

(top)
There's an ad for the newly-running show on Spike TV, "Untold: The Greatest Sports Stories Never Told", that features Terry Bradshaw standing in what looks like a gymnasium-sized courtroom, or at least some venue where he's holding forth to a large assembled group; he spreads his arms expansively and strides about, chin jutting, and demands of the unseen crowd: "I thought this was supposed to be so great. How come I'm not happy?"

All I could do, watching this little excerpt and not even knowing what context it was from, was curl my lip in disgust. What, it's MY responsibility to make you happy? To bring about the fulfillment you expected out of sports retirement? It's YOUR job to be happy, bucko. Maybe you should learn from people who are somehow happy WITHOUT being big sports heroes on prime-time TV, huh?

This has been sitting in my brain and bugging me for a while. What does it say about our society, to have such expectations of an entitlement to happiness—rather than to its pursuit? Is this just Bradshaw's own personality (every time I've ever seen him in an interview, it's shown him invoking some self-aggrandizing anecdote or other)? I've never watched the show he appeared in, so I don't know what the context was; but could this just be a microcosmic illustration of how we've come to view life—as a series of prizes to be won, or more accurately, to be awarded us?

Theodore Dalrymple, author of the now-famous "Barbarians at the Gates" article and many others along similar lines, now has a critique of the British welfare state that tackles this very point:

A single case can be illuminating, especially when it is statistically banal—in other words, not at all exceptional. Yesterday, for example, a 21-year-old woman consulted me, claiming to be depressed. She had swallowed an overdose of her antidepressants and then called an ambulance.

There is something to be said here about the word "depression," which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one's state of mind, or one's mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one's life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct.

A ridiculous pas de deux between doctor and patient ensues: the patient pretends to be ill, and the doctor pretends to cure him. In the process, the patient is willfully blinded to the conduct that inevitably causes his misery in the first place. I have therefore come to see that one of the most important tasks of the doctor today is the disavowal of his own power and responsibility. The patient's notion that he is ill stands in the way of his understanding of the situation, without which moral change cannot take place. The doctor who pretends to treat is an obstacle to this change, blinding rather than enlightening.

I've known an awful lot of people who describe themselves as "depressed", but—as in the article—precious few who would call themselves "unhappy". When one is depressed, I guess, it's a case of being acted on by an external depressing force, not a state of mind arising from within; whatever that external force is, it has to be removed or exorcised, so one's rightful happiness can be restored, and life can be "so great" after all.

Of course this implies a "right" to good mental and physical health, and thus raises universal health care to the level of a "civil right" that must be guaranteed by the state. But Dalrymple's piece is a critique of this very mental path, the seductive call of what seems at the time to be the Right Thing, the way of overt compassion and mercy and pity made policy, which in the long run merely creates more of the same original problem while trying to treat the superficial symptoms that appear at any given time.

It's also about evil. He believes in it. The evidence, admittedly, is pretty overwhelming; but what's alarming isn't so much its continuing existence, but its existence in a world that is so determined to deny any knowledge of it. That kind of thing never ends well.

UPDATE: On the other hand, this fisking by Tim Blair of a D.C. columnist wandering in bewilderment through Red-State America and hearing the impossibly sensible warm tales of life in the land of responsibility—and concluding, of course, that such a thing can only exist in association with intense racism and bigotry—is worth reading too. I sure hope that this reassurance that the journalist musingly gives himself makes his city life seem less, well, unhappy.

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© Brian Tiemann