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
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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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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12/30/2002 -   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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 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, March 11, 2005
11:52 - It's the little things that matter

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I was just doing some JavaScript/cookie code tweaking, and in order to track how cookies were being set by the browser, I had Safari's Preferences window open with the "Show Cookies" sheet visible.

After I loaded the page and executed the code to change the browser's cookies, I went back to that window, expecting to have to close and reopen the cookie viewer sheet to see the new values. But... no. They were already updated in real-time. Whereas most apps in my experience would have implemented such a feature by reading in all the cookies at the time you open the sheet, and then leaving them statically in memory, Safari keeps the hooks open so any cookie that changes while the sheet is open immediately updates in the sheet while it's being displayed.

It's these kinds of little surprises that make life good.


11:14 - This is an arm, drawn by nobody; it is worth nothing
http://yahoo.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_12/b3925608.htm

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Heh. Well, this BusinessWeek article (via Damien Del Russo) almost gets it right:

"Designed by Apple in Cupertino."

The words are printed in such small type on the back of Apple's (AAPL ) tiny new iPod Shuffle MP3 player that you have to squint to read them. But they speak volumes about why Apple is standing so far out from the crowd these days. At a time when rivals are outsourcing as much design as possible to cut costs, Apple remains at its core a product company -- one that would never give up control of how those products are created.

Well, yeah, except that Apple products all say "Designed by Apple in California", not Cupertino. But I guess he had to squint.

The rest of the article, though, is pretty solid. It remains to be determined whether Apple is just so weird and exceptional that it doesn't have to follow the trends that direct everyone else (their business model centers on an infinitely inelastic faithful customer base who'll buy the products Apple makes regardless of price considerations—no price hike or feature redesign would ever make one consider buying a Dell), or whether it's a living and breathing illustration of a nervous industry that doesn't have to be outsourcing all its design and tech support or putting purple blinky lights on everything to get it to sell. But at least one ingredient of the secret sauce has to be this idea that just as all your gear comes in a single factory-controlled box (enabling such technologies as ColorSync, which just aren't feasible on the commodity PC platform), all the thinking that goes into creating the box itself is all under one roof, right in our backyards. It's as much psychological as it is practical, but one can hardly deny its success.

(It also ought to help explain to some brow-furrowed outsiders the aggression with which Apple pursues rumor leakers. Once you realize the importance—to Apple and to the Mac community—of the showmanship and suspense and secrecy that is every bit a part of the whole design package as is the little "Designed by Apple in Cuperfornia" label, it ought to follow that that secrecy is something that Apple has to defend every bit as vigorously as it does the design itself. The showmanship is the product, and it can't be allowed to be compromised any more than blueprints for the the plastic boxes or the bits on their hard drives can.)

Of course, some companies know success when they see it, and the trend they choose to follow is Apple's own. (Via J Greely, who has a tale of shuffle joy to share.) Heh... remember when Creative's CEO called the iPod shuffle "worse than the cheapest Chinese player"? Somehow I don't think this is quite what he had in mind...

UPDATE: Seems Judge Kleinberg has given Apple the mantle of law in shutting down leakers; though not, as Chris points out, by agreeing with Apple that bloggers or rumor-site operators are not "real journalists". Which is a good thing, as Apple's argument to that effect would imply that journalists are a "blessed class" that have certain legal protections the rest of us don't—and I really don't think we want to be edging toward that kind of society. So Apple's won here, but not very prettily.

In fact, since this decision effectively rules that "blogging is journalism", this case might well become something of a landmark...

A great deal more analysis along these lines is provided by Jeff Harrell.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
01:03 - I'm extreeeeeeme
http://209.237.48.45/~btman/anewbunny.swf

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Huh boy, what Warner Brothers hath unleashed. I wonder if they're already regretting ever floating the Loonatics concept? I wonder if it's already gotten beyond the point where they could salvage their pride by pretending it was all a big hoax or New-Coke-type stunt all along?

Not Safe For Work, or for sensitive ears either. But worth it, if just to imagine some hapless Time-Warner exec watching it late at night, chin in hand, dreaming of his fading stock options and the vacation home he'll never own after all...

Via Marcus.


11:58 - Something that deserves attention
http://akcomics.com/

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AK Comics: "Middle East Heroes". A comic book company based in Egypt with an aim toward being "educational and a force for moderation". And you know—their site could use an editor, but the art is damn good, as are the stories they appear to be presenting. Quite a breath of fresh air indeed.

Via Dean, who was similarly pleasantly surprised.


11:30 - Scylla and Charybdis
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=15019_IKEA_Dhimmitude_Watch&only=yes

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Poor IKEA. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.


11:20 - There's always someone
http://www.flickrsucks.com

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Boy, nothing can exist, however cool, without some crank devoting his life to dissing it, can it?

(Hee hee...)


11:02 - Not Janey! She'll pack the Supreme Court with boys!

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So there's this issue about Bush resubmitting previously rejected judges for the Supreme Court and other high federal courts, and GOP Congressional leaders threatening to kill the filibuster to prevent dissenters from blocking their confirmation.

I haven't seen much discussion of this in the circles I usually tend to frequent, and I wonder how much that owes to misrepresentations of the issue in places where I'm seeing it, and how much it owes to partisanship. Since it seems there ought to be a good defense of the matter in high-profile places if it's the former, I'm thinking it must be the latter. Because this doesn't sound like fair play at all, and in the absence of good rebuttals as to why it's good pool to cram through judges that the Senate has already rejected—and to use what is apparently being called the "nuclear option", the Senate majority leader's privilege to kill filibusters (the only option a minority party has for preventing confirmation of a candidate favored by the majority), for the first time in over 200 years—I have to admit I'm rather sympathetic to MoveOn.org in its attempt to bring this matter wider attention. (Yeah. I just felt a tightening in my gut as I typed that. Meh.)

Now that the Republicans control Congress, they've certainly got the votes to confirm anyone they want to... but that doesn't mean it's not out of what I've come to think of as Bush's character to send up polarizing candidates, and when they're unsuccessful purely on a party-line basis, resubmit them and then stomp on Congressional tradition to make sure they get through, rather than to find more moderate candidates that everyone can be happy with.

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that the candidates being sent for confirmation right now actually are moderate, and the votes are coming down right along party lines simply out of spite. But Condi Rice's confirmation didn't seem to face much serious opposition beyond Kerry and Boxer, and Bush has apparently made it one of the points from the reelection campaign that he intends to stick to that he'll appoint "strict-constructionist" judges wherever possible. And that's fine—it's his right. But this business about the "nuclear option" seems like taking it too far, and those speaking out against it seem to be doing so from a position of sense.

Thus far, for all the bluster, there hasn't really been all that much about the internal politics of the Bush presidency that will resound through the annals of history. (Well, aside from him being Hitler and everything.) But is this really where he wants to draw the line for which he'll undoubtedly be remembered by U.S. government geeks for decades to come?

By the way—I can't help pointing out that on that People for the American Way site, a leftist action group, is the first and only occasion where I've seen actual "Talking Points" listed for readers' perusal. Is this what people mean by "marching orders"? I've heard friends mention that right-wing sites are fond of issuing "talking points" to their minions; but as many such sites as I've visited in the last few years, I've never yet seen the specimens listed as such before today, and that—apparently—only because I ventured across the aisle in search of a good stance to quote.

UPDATE: Aha, so that's what "cloture" is about. Kenny B.:

Well, I could understand the concern if those candidates had actually been rejected or filibustered.  As it stands now, most were just held up in committee for an indefinite amount of time which did not even allow for debate, much less a filibuster.  That's the problem the Democrats have.  If these people are actually voted out of committee, then the debate may go against them.  While the Republicans still have a bitter taste in their mouth from Bork, it is no where near as intense as the bitter taste the Dems have from the confirmation of Justice Thomas.

This is not the first time that the cloture rule has been changed to allow fewer votes either.  It used to take 67 Senators (2/3) to close debate and end a filibuster, but that was changed to 60.  Take wild guess as to which party affected that change.

Your unease is being felt by many and noted by the Republicans.  That is why it is taking them so long to change the cloture rule.  The strategy seems to be to hold at the current stalemate status while the Dems continue to spout vitriol.  The Reps are allowing the Dems to take the obstructionist role on this issue and are hoping the public takes note.  Certainly the Dems are not helping themselves by allowing Byrd to invoke Godwin's law (via Wizbang).  In the mean time, the Reps are flying as many bills under the radar while the attention is focused on the judicial nominations.

Ah, the second term: where all the irritating trivia of Civics class come out to shine!

Wednesday, March 9, 2005
17:06 - Oh, Napster. Will you ever learn?
http://marv.kordix.com/archives/000416.html

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Remember how quickly people figured out how to break Napster? Constrained only by the speed of real-time playback and re-encoding from a WinAmp output plugin, any Napster subscriber—or free trial user—could simply download as many songs as he wanted and convert them into DRM-less MP3s, and there was nothing Napster could do to stop him or even to determine that he was doing it.

Well, now even that one saving grace (the real-time playback step) is gone: a program called Virtuosa 5.0 allows users to convert DRM'd WMA files with nary a care as to their purported copy-protection. And now you can simply download all Napster's music for free.

What're ya waiting for?

(Via Bob, whose friend is now 15,000 free songs richer after his 2-week free Napster trial.)


15:29 - Shooting the messenger

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Either incompetent or lying. This kind of vocabulary sucks to have to use; but it's the only one that works.

I don't see any other way to attempt to explain the people who are trying to minimize or change the terms of discussion regarding the Rathergate memos. Like Tim Goodman of the estimable SF Chronicle, via Tim Blair:

The fetid amusement of killing Dan Rather ends tonight. And what a tired affair it was.

There’s no pride in watching the deconstruction of a man. You can take all your conservative pundits who rode down the warpaths of perceived biased and mute them forever now. You can take your navel-gazing journalists who believe Rather made A Big Mistake He Must Pay For and put them in a room, where their own self importance will choke them all to death. And you can take your CBS backstabbers who found in Rather’s last hours of weakness a chance to rise up and join the chorus of haters—becoming smaller themselves as the time of his career suicide drew near—and give them all a great big prize for bravery.

And yes, that includes Walter Cronkite.

Take them all away. Anybody who found joy in this deserves to rot in their own mean-spiritedness. Bravo, you threw stones at a 74-year-old careerist. You whispered sad stories about a weird man to a press corps all too willing to take him out. Dan Rather, who was by most accounts ambitious, polarizing, determined, a self-promoter, a tireless worker, a man who believed in his own ideals, a square peg in the proverbial round hole, the replacement for a myth, a flawed arbiter of history, a man less smooth than his peers and, lastly, a man complicit in a story that may have been inaccurate but not entirely wrong, is no longer the Dan Rather we knew …

And now his time is over—not merely part of an era ended, as when Brokaw retired, but a tortured anti-hero paying the price for indiscretions few can even remember.

It's times like this that all you can do is stare quizzically at the person spewing words like these, squint a little, see if they're joking... and if it's clear that they're not, flail your arms as wildly as you can and yell, at the top of your lungs, THEY WERE FREAKING FAKE!



Auto-centered address at the top. Times New Roman. Crumpled and smoothed out to look old. Etc, etc, etc.

This is what Dan Rather presented, uncritically and with great fanfare, to a credulous public that trusted him. That's a failure of basic journalism that would disgrace a freshman stringer. And yet Rather, senior anchorman, spiritual heir to the legacy of Cronkite and Murrow, whether because of intent to deceive or inability to detect obvious fraud went ahead and presented it anyway. And we're supposed to feel sorry for him? We're supposed to give him a break?

See LGF for all the rest of the damning analysis including lots of visual aids every bit as good as the one above. Incorrect abbreviations, date discrepancies, unauthentic military usage and style, badly forged signatures, testimonials from the people who knew Killian (including the secretary who would have typed the memos if they'd been real), and on and on.

But really, none of it should be necessary at all; because the docs are bloody WORD PRINTOUTS. They just are. Who seriously cannot tell that? Anyone who has used a computer at all in the last ten years knows a Word document when he or she sees it—there are just certain subtle but obvious elements to the way Word creates default documents, including the font, the margins, the tab stops, the word wrap, and the autocorrected features like the infamous superscript "th" that people are still trying to tell the public was a common feature on 1972-era desk typewriters in general use in Texas Air National Guard offices and used by colonels who hated typing.

You don't need to know the arcane details of typography to see these things for what they are. All you have to do is use Word on occasion. And considering that these are all reporters advancing these defensive stories, how likely is it that none of them have ever used Word? Of those who have, how many have even seen the memos in question and done any thinking on their own about what they rather seem to look like—let alone looked at the LGF/Power Line/INDC Journal images to see the evidence of their own eyes? Any of them?

Either they're ignoring material evidence or they're unable to interpret it in a professional manner. Does that make them incompetent, or outright liars? It's got to be one of the two.

They're trying to shift the discussion onto being some kind of "witch-hunt" where sinister conservative bloggers are given "marching orders" (I love how often that term comes up) by some "Buckhead" guy at The Free Republic (Karl Rove in disguise, perhaps?) to go forth and whip up a media frenzy over pointless little inanities of fonts and kerning and such, gnawing on it tenaciously until we have the precious, precious blood of our lifelong foe Dan Rather.

To me, though, and to LGF's readers and most of the sane sector of the blogosphere, it looks instead like there's a big ugly FACT sitting right here on our front lawn like the biggest dog turd you've ever seen, and Dan Rather's standing there smirking with his huge slobbery Great Dane at his side, and he's pointing innocently at himself and going, "What? Me? You think I did something wrong here?"

Seriously, it does not get much more cut-and-dried than this here. And yet it's apparently a sign of the times that even that isn't enough to generate a case any more conclusive than the O.J. trial. Now we have Rather retiring among accolades and retrospectives and sniffly defense editorials, rather than with the disgraced discretion anyone of his credentials should have the decency to assume after being so closely associated with such a scandal. Either Rather is incompetent or lying—or he's totally surrounded by assistants and deputies who are incompetent or lying, which is hardly any better.

That's what I don't get about this, and why I feel compelled to weigh in for what I hope is one last time (it's okay, Tim Goodman): this should be an open-and-shut case, where not just the evidence itself but plain common sense tells us a more unequivocal story than just about any since Watergate or Monicagate. And yet not only is there no real contrition among the affected parties for what happened, there's not even any consensus. It's like we've got a team of philosopher-poets all crouching around that big steaming pile on the lawn, all rubbing their chins and trying to come up with as many possible explanations as they can, some plausible and some not, for what else but what it looks like it might possibly be.

I'd love to put it behind us. It's a disgrace to all of us for it to have happened in our news media at all. But we can't do so if the way this incident goes into the history books is as a mean-spirited, blown-out-of-proportion smear job by a bunch of paid partisan hacks against an honorable and honest newsman at the end of his career. That's a grave insult to the very concepts of civil rational discourse, honest and well-researched news reporting, and careful scientific analysis, the very things we're supposed to be trying to have more of in this country. ...Right?

UPDATE: And now that Dan's history, it's on to more fertile territory, in which a new and potentially embarrassing account of Saddam's capture is debunked in detail by the technically savvy and first-handedly familiar before the news media even have time to put together their front-page treatments of it. SomethingAwful is mentioned.

UPDATE: Oh yes—and as Steve W. mentions, couldn't Rather have saved himself hundreds of thousands of dollars by simply firing up Word on his own computer (assuming he has such a device) and trying to reproduce the Killian documents on his own? If he has any conversance whatsoever with the basic modern tools of journalism, that little experiment ought to tell him all he ever needed to know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005
17:39 - Ouch
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/05/0305/030805.html

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Yeah, it hurts...



...And yet I have to admit, sheepishly, that I have something of a soft spot for these early Harman-Ising outings. Never mind that Foxy and Roxy were such blatant ripoffs of Disney's stars (and everyone knew it) as to reverberate through animation history, probably inspiring Simpsons episodes decades later and setting the tone for an animation industry rife with me-too-ism and mediocrity. Never mind the ridiculously inept mouth movements that can't even charitably be given the benefit of the doubt due a craft in its infancy. Never mind the near-unintelligibility of the sound and the bad lip-sync that belied the studio's self-aggrandizing name and its implied claims of sonic superiority. Never mind that the animation itself was asymmetrical and clumsy, a far cry from Disney or even the oft-underrated Fleischer.

Never mind all that. Because beneath all the mediocrity and cheapness, there was a certain spark of energy that Disney lacked: whereas Mickey and Minnie were squeaky-clean from the get-go, in the very title of "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile", the public got an earful of the smirking irreverent devilry lurking just beneath the surface of the medium, always ready to break forth if audiences ever showed themselves receptive to cartoons that weren't simply kids' pap. The early H-I spots may have sucked, and in ripping off even Disney's series name ("Silly Symphonies") to create "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" and "Happy Harmonies", they set a standard for plagiarism and unimaginativeness that enmires Hollywood into focus-group-tested terror of new ideas even to the present day. But their shorts did manage to lay the groundwork for a Warner Brothers that always delighted in breaking the rules and pushing the boundaries, in deriving humor from topicality and satire rather than homegrown stories in traditional formats. Small wonder that whereas when Disney reinvented itself in the '80s and '90s with their "Disney Afternoon" shows, they did so with adventurous reimaginings of their old properties, Warner Brothers did the same thing by buying Hanna-Barbera and then developing an entire revolutionary industry phenomenon around making fun of it. It's somehow right in character for them.

I've enjoyed the idea of cartoons like "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" ever since that song—with its teeth-clenched grin and its studious denial of the Depression and its firm and raucous dismissal of the tame bucolic themes Disney entertained in the same era—rose in chorus from all the assembled animated throngs at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Somehow nothing else would have been appropriate to that movie's weird hybridization of the disparate branches of Hollywood animation and their respective senses of humor, nothing more capable of recalling the past while tapping into the wry and ironic and yet wistful emotions with which we look back at the age when sound was new and color was science fiction.

Yes, everyone else did it better. But just by being their mediocre, dull selves, Harman-Ising somehow managed to found what has possibly become the healthiest and most self-sustaining philosophy in all of animation.


16:34 - Frabjous Day

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It should be noted that Google Maps works with Safari now.

And there was much rejoicing. (Are we still allowed to say that, like 1990's college freshmen?)


14:21 - With great power comes great responsibility
http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1110304808.shtml

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So, it seems, goes the thinking that underlies actions like the "several dozen European victims of Asia's tsunami disaster" who have decided to sue the Thai government, the French hotel chain Sofitel, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for criminal negligence in not being all-powerful—for not, in effect, preventing the tsunami.

It's not just that "there's money on the table", as with the case of these lawsuits against the iPod and iTunes Music Store for using technologies widely in use across a whole spectrum of devices and services—technically everyone from Microsoft to Creative to Napster should be targets too, but it's just that Apple is the big fish, and so they're the ones getting sued. No, in this case it appears to be something subtly more insidious: it's the belief that now that the U.S. is the world's most conspicuous superpower, it ought to be expected to behave as though it had superpowers. It's like, "Okay, you Americans: you want to act like you own the place? Fine, then—you get to take the blame for anything that goes wrong, even things that aren't remotely your fault. Even things that you do more to remedy after the fact than anyone else on the planet. Because, you see, anything that goes wrong, no matter how well you clean it up afterwards, still went wrong—and thus is your responsibility. You wanted this role, you get everything that comes with it. Including the most unreasonable demands ever made in an acolyte's desperate prayer. You're God now, so you'd better act the part."

To some, I'm sure, it must seem like the height of hubris for a country in the position of the U.S. to have sole superpower status—in other words, to refuse to voluntarily give up power until it's coequal with everyone else, whatever sense that would make—and yet to decline to be held responsible for Acts of God. (After all, we should be in the position to prevent Acts of God, shouldn't we?) If we're the world's policeman, we have to be the world's caretaker too, goes the logic. Seasoned as it is with sour grapes.

I'm reminded of a Star Trek: TNG episode, a particularly tedious one (though probably through no fault of its own) in which Clarke's hoary old "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" witticism is played to the hilt: "The Picard" is charged with the unenviable task of explaining to a preindustrial, hut-dwelling race that his starships and transporters are merely the historical expansion of bows and arrows, not superhuman magic. Of course, he can't get through to them that he doesn't possess the power to defeat death and is not there to pass moral judgment on them; they end up placing both the plaudits due a god, and the demands for favorable weather and restoration of loved ones' lives expected from one, at his feet.

Of course the episode ends with wisdom having been dispensed and understanding sown—but the Prime Directive has to hold sway, and The Picard refuses to be held responsible for bringing either supernatural good or supernatural evil to the planet; the price is that the Federation will keep its distance and not be seen. A god can't be seen, or else he's bound to be held responsible for anything that happens, regardless of how much in his power it is to affect it one way or the other.

So we're being tested, here on post-Cold-War Earth. Can America play a realistic role on the world stage—where we keep order and provide plenty and comfort where it's in our power to do so, and yet where it's acknowledged where our powers and responsibilities end? Or do we have to accept the mantle of omnipotence, with all that implies, through the very decision of refusing to withdraw from world affairs altogether?

As Michael Demmons, who comments on this story, says:

I'm a Canadian who has lived here for nearly 5.5 years. I really don't know how Americans put up with constantly being blamed for, well, everything.

I guess it comes with the territory.

Monday, March 7, 2005
15:43 - Flickring light

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I believe I'll be using Flickr to post photos from now on. A friend pointed it out to me, and I have to say that even though it's ostensibly in beta, the feature set is so well thought out that it deserves all kinds of kudos and recognition.

Besides, here's what it looks like when it's down for maintenance:



You just gotta love a site that has this much fun with the boilerplate. (Also: "I am over 13 years old, and have read the fascinating Terms of Use.")

When it's back up: http://www.flickr.com/photos/btman/

UPDATE: iPhoto users rejoice: a Flickr iPhoto plugin!

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© Brian Tiemann