g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   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
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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
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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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 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
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 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 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, June 24, 2005
18:46 - Hooray for technology
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/TECH/06/23/spark.goggle/index.html

(top)
Now this is cool: swimmer's goggles that keep track of how many laps you've done, and display the number in the lens.

Via JMH.


17:11 - Hold your horses

(top)
In what might be classed under "angry cheating", where maybe I'm trying to shame my Jetta into shaping up out of fear that I might leave it, I drove one of the new Mustangs today over lunch.



No dealer within driving distance has any of the V8-based GT models in stock—reportedly nobody ever test-drives them, they just buy them as soon as they come off the trucks—but there were plenty of V6es at the Ford dealer that's conveniently right across El Camino from the Midas of Ill Repute. So I dropped in and asked to drive one. After all, even if it isn't the top-end engine, at least I'd get a sense for the ergonomics, and with 210 horsepower available, it should be plenty fun to play around with for a few minutes. Right?

Well, there are pluses and minuses, is my verdict. Here they are.

Positives:

I like the seating position. It's not slung way down low like in a true sports car, but then it's far from the upright position of my Jetta. Having the shift knob up at chest level is something interesting to get used to, but it becomes second nature quickly.

Road noise is very well isolated. Very quiet cabin, and the ergonomics of the controls are excellent (not at all unlike my Jetta, truth be told—same shapes to the knobs and buttons, to a large degree). There's cavernous space in the console, and two power outlets in the cabin (one in the console, one on the dash). Visibility out the back and sides is quite good—lots of glass, no pillar obstruction problems. Power adjustable seats seem to be standard.

The steering is outstanding. It's not twitchy, and in fact is a little on the heavy side, but the turning circle is jaw-dropping—the salesman had me drive into a cul-de-sac just so I could try doing a U-turn. I started in the middle of the street, didn't approach a single curb, and ended up in exactly the same spot where I started, pointing the other direction. It was surreal.

Nice engine note, and the clutch is easygoing (though the V8-based GT would surely have different characteristics). Pedal placement is nice, and I had no trouble getting used to the various pickup ranges, and no bad shifts throughout the whole drive. Very easy car to get used to, for being in a completely different class from everything else I've ever driven (except for that F355, I guess, with which it shares more of a conceptual template than with my Jetta—though it's still a far cry).

And, of course, the styling is super-sweet.

Negatives:

Well, I know this is just the V6 car we're talking about, but still—the power it provides is just not exciting at all. Further research indicates that while yes, it does have 210 horsepower, they're all going into pushing over 3400 pounds of car—whereas my Jetta, with 174 hp, only has about 2800 pounds of weight to deal with. The upshot is that the 0-60 times of the two cars are comparable, and quite frankly I think the Jetta has more low-end torque. I felt like the Jetta would kick its ass quite handily off the line. Even then, at highway speeds it seemed like the pedal was more of a volume control than an accelerator—lots of noise and vibration, but mostly signifying nothing.

The whole car has a thick, mushy feel to it—like having a mouthful of dentist's cotton. The steering, while precise, is anything but "crisp"; the steering wheel is larger than I'm used to and you have to turn it some distance before anything significant happens. The engine noise isolation, while it keeps the cabin quiet, also means you feel like someone is shouting at you from another room when you're accelerating—whereas in the Jetta, it's simply silent at idle (at least, under normal circumstances), and you hear it clearly but quietly as it revs up. The Mustang's note is faraway and muffled. Maybe that's just because the engine is so far away.

Similarly, the shift knob feels plasticky and flimsy, and the action is vague and insincere. You can't feel any notches or gates—you just mash it in what you hope is the right direction, and it tends to engage, but you feel like there's a wad of paper in the shift lever boot that someone forgot to take out. The knob itself is lightweight... too lightweight. It wobbles around. It has no heft to it. I hate to keep comparing it to the Jetta, but the shift knob was one of the things that reawakened my appreciation for the Jetta when I got back into it afterwards: its knob is firm, hefty, round, with a lacquery legend badge that always somehow makes you feel like you're sitting in a brand-new car. And its action is firm, positive, precise—the Mustang's just isn't in the same ballpark at all. (One might suggest that this is because the Mustang's is a remote linkage for the first time, whereas beforehand it had been connected directly to the gearbox; but, well, the Jetta's is a remote linkage too.)

Now let's talk about those gauges. Look nice, don't they? Well, that's because this photo was taken at night. The entire time I was test-driving the car, I had not the slightest idea what speed I was going. Why? Because the sun, glaring on the bottom lip of the instrument binnacle and the side of the steering column, shone an opaque reflection against the face of the speedometer, so that I could not for the life of me see where the hell the needle was. I was driving entirely by feel. It's hard enough that those "vintage" numbers are seemingly made as deliberately hard as possible to distinguish from each other—surely no professional font designer had a hand in designing these gauge labels, now or in the cars of yesteryear to which this is an homage—but when I can't even see where the needle is pointing, because it's unlit and dark red against black behind a bright plasticky reflection, the entire speedometer is essentially rendered useless. Besides which, those four little gauges in the middle, while they look nice and crisp in this photo, are actually recessed about six inches into the dashboard, and can't be read at all under the contrasty sunlight all around that dank black pit. Bad, bad design, guys. Take it back to the drawing board. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if people get speeding tickets or crash because of being misled by these gauges, and Ford has to issue a recall.

Overall, on balance, I'd have to go with the thumbs-down, reluctantly. And that's even considering the extra power the GT would bring. The shoddy feel of the interior, and that godawful instrument cluster, ensure that I'd spend most of my time on the road avoiding shifting because of the unsatisfying feel of the shift linkage than shifting into more power, and fretting about how fast I'm going and petulantly sticking my hand in the cluster to try to shade it so I can read it than actually enjoying going fast.

I tell you, though: getting back in the Jetta, idle problem and all, was like diving into a cool blue swimming pool. Especially with its newly replaced clutch and all: it all felt wide-open, airy, and everything directly connected to everything else, even though it's a remote linkage shifter and a hydraulic clutch and everything. It really did give me a new appreciation for what I've got.

Ah well. I guess it's back to tossing coins between the Acura TL and the Audi A4...

Thursday, June 23, 2005
01:28 - It's still better than American Dad, though

(top)
It's giddily funny watching Adult Swim fight with its viewers over the "Action" vs. "Comedy" content lineups lately. Seems that in the Cartoon Network forums, a lot of people accuse the Adult Swim programmers of giving short shrift to the Action (read: anime) shows and avoiding showing them in the prime slots, et cetera.

Well, they just did an experiment for the past two or three weeks, where they showed nothing but Action shows (Inuyasha, Samurai Champloo, Fullmetal Alchemist, S-Cry-Ed, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, etc) on Saturday. And—devastatingly—when the ratings numbers came in, they proved to be about a tenth of what the comparable Comedy lineup brings in, with Futurama, Family Guy, Venture Brothers, ATHF, Sealab, Robot Chicken, and so on. So they returned Saturday to its accustomed Comedy/Action mixture as of this week, with appropriate fanfare in the just-in-time bumps.

Well, apparently the forums have been jumping over this decision, because just now they ran another bump, that went like this:

Okay, we know a lot of you still think we hate anime.

So let's end this.

Here's how it works:

You know what we like because of what we show.

We know what you like because of the ratings.

And after seeing the ratings on the Saturday Action lineup, we're forced to come to one conclusion:

YOU hate anime.

The numbers prove it.

[adult swim]

Hey, I wasn't going to say a dang thing.


16:50 - Is that really a piece of fairy cake?
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=16344_Koran_Abused_in_Nashville_Seethi

(top)
They're calling 911 now, when they discover a defaced Koran?

Methinks someone sees harvestable PR advantage in the relentless Gitmo drumbeat. Too bad we aren't buying it.

At what point does it become okay to suggest that these fellows need to be taught a sense of perspective, by whatever means necessary?


15:36 - Car Wars: The Phantom Idle Problem

(top)
No real progress on the car front—I called Bob Lewis again yesterday to say that the idle problem still hasn't gone away, even with a) a new mass airflow sensor, b) a new ignition coil, and c) a new battery. They haven't called me back yet. I think they may have filed me under the "crank (shaft)" heading.

I did an experiment yesterday, though. I was heading down a local street on the way to lunch (Taco Bell, again, and the engine idle had jumped from 700 to 1000 at exactly the same point on the route to Taco Bell as it had last time). Noting that the engine was idling at 1000 as I coasted in neutral, I turned the engine off and immediately back on again. The idle dropped straight to 700.

So this tells me that it's not a purely mechanical problem, such as cracked vacuum hoses causing an air leak only when the engine gets hot. It's a very regular step function—700 for the first few minutes, then after being revved up for a bit (and after what seems like a random amount of time), it doesn't drop back down all the way to 700 anymore, but stops at 1000, for the remainder of the drive cycle. This might still be caused by (as CapLion suggested) cracks in some of the vacuum hoses, ones that are only opened up when the vacuum solenoid valves kick on after a certain amount of driving time.

It could also be a bad mass airflow sensor. That was just replaced. Maybe the one they replaced it with is also bad. Or maybe they jostled something nearby loose while replacing it. Neither possibility fills me with confidence.

I just got the comprehensive service manual by Bentley for my car; it's humungous, probably at least 2000 thin pages. But at least I know what's involved in replacing the MAF sensor, now. ('Course, that doesn't mean I'm at all equipped to do it—apparently I need a special tool from VW just to pull out the spark plug wires to get the engine cover off.)

Maybe I should just buy one of these and get it over with.


15:18 - More office hijinks

(top)
When a senior VP has a younger engineer in his office, talking about potential international support deals, and you hear the VP say, "Wanna go to Vietnam?" ... there's not much anyone within earshot can do but burst out laughing.


15:04 - Incorrigible punster—do not incorrige

(top)
So I was looking for friends and/or colleagues to go out to lunch with today. It turns out, though, that everybody I usually go with is either on vacation or had lunch plans of their own. I'm also on my bike today. So I did something I don't often have to do: rode my bike down to Chipotle, got a burrito, and rode back clutching the paper bag over my handlebar while I cut through parking lots so as to avoid being blooped at by cop cars noticing that I was on the wrong side of De Anza Boulevard (bike lanes are one-way-only and aligned with car traffic, and I wasn't about to go find a major intersection and cross over just to traverse the four blocks back to work). Kind of a pain, but worth it. I do so love Chipotle.

I got back to the doors of my building just at the same time as two of my friends did, who had skipped out for lunch on their own shortly before I went looking for them. "Oh, we went out for lunch a bit early," one of them said.

I replied, "And so I went out for lunch bitterly."

Then I jumped into the elevator so they couldn't chase me down.

(Great, now someone's going to T.P. my server.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
13:54 - Only Gates could go to China
http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1119229511.shtml

(top)
You know, it's funny: people like me who have traditionally decried Microsoft and their products for reasons having to do with the products themselves and the injustice of superior competitors being crushed under the hubristic treads of the Redmond Behemoth have, to a large extent, grown weary of the fight and stopped belaboring the point. Part of it, these days, is that what with Apple going to Intel processors and Macs becoming more like PCs with every passing year, there seems to be less stylistic purity to defend, somehow; but part of it is also that Apple seems to be doing just fine without our help, and so is Linux. Their futures—both in doubt five years ago—now seem all but assured, as geeks far and wide now treat not just Linux but Mac OS X as the great shining beacons of computing excellence; Apple is no longer a pariah, but a champion, and Linux is no longer a subversive and snotty embarrassment to the corporate software giants, but the stuff of big-iron infrastructure. There seems little point in bashing Microsoft from a technological standpoint anymore: it's all been done. Longhorn delayed indefinitely: yadda yadda. Viruses: duh, we know. Click "Start" to shut down the computer: yawn. And in any case, those people who invoked Microsoft's free-market right to compete in any way they could, to secure the computing market to itself by whatever means necessary as directed by their stockholders, certainly had a point. Not a pretty one, but a point nonetheless.

But now, what's interesting is that in light of these new revelations about Microsoft being in bed with the Chinese government, happily taking part in China's censorship of words like "freedom" and "democracy" if it means opening up a whole new market of potential MSN subscribers, there's a new front from which Microsoft is being attacked—and it's the same people doing it who used to defend Microsoft on free-market grounds. After all, Microsoft is betraying the very free-market principles that justified its existence in a lot of people's minds throughout the endless pointless monopoly trials and whenever anyone raised the Mac or Linux banners or laughed at Bill Gates getting shot in the South Park movie or played xbill on their campus X11 clusters. To say nothing of undermining the principles of liberty that the company's home country stands for, principles that are espoused loudly by Microsoft's usual long-time champions. No wonder such people feel righteously indignant.

Microsoft must really, really be hurting, is all I can say. They know which side their bread is buttered. If they're willing to sell out the people who have been defending them all this time, by betraying the principles under which those people defended them, then Microsoft must have no clearer a roadmap to future profit than IBM apparently did for the PowerPC.

UPDATE: Kenny B. says:

While they're at it, Microsoft should go ahead and ban the words free enterprise, capitalism, profit, etc.

Of course, some would argue that they have already banned the word "competition" with some success here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
00:00 - Endgame

(top)
I have a car again. And Bob Lewis is off the hook.

Let me make that clear again, so if anyone ends up googling for Bob Lewis horror stories: Bob Lewis is blameless in this affair, or certainly bears no more blame than any average car service place.

I called them this morning and got a quote for the Interstate battery that they stocked for those people who asked for an upgrade from the factory battery (which, for some damn reason, is more expensive, even though it's garbage). $95, they said—same as list. And the $120 for labor isn't just hooking up the red wire to the red bolt and the black wire to the black one with all the acid corrosion dribbling from it. It also involves thoroughly testing the charging and starting systems, checking for parasitic drains, and—oh yes—ensuring that the weird idle problem and the randomly blinking warning lights have gone away with the new battery.

I called up a friend who works in a garage; we'd planned that if Bob Lewis had quoted some outrageously inflated price for the Interstate battery, I'd have just gone and bought my own, met him there, and replaced the battery using his tools in the Bob Lewis parking lot while their service techs and salespeople grumbled. But it wasn't to be—their quoted parts price was certainly fair, and their labor price, my friend told me, actually sounded like a damn good deal what with everything that came with it. Certainly more reassuring than tinkering at it for hours with what tools fit in his truck.

So I gave them the go-ahead. And now my car is back in my hands; it's idling happily at 700 rpm, just like before, and the electrical system seems to be behaving itself nicely.

Whatever a bad battery has to do with regulating idle speed, it certainly seems to have fixed this problem; the invoice says "S11 directly related to Line A," where S11 is the idle problem and Line A is the bad battery. And over the past two weeks, I have noticed occasional little hesitations and hiccups on startup, which I had chalked up to the variations in power drain caused by various things being unplugged which shouldn't have been, but apparently was the result of the battery indeed being on its last legs. (Which, of course, casts some doubt on whether the mass airflow sensor needed to be replaced after all, or whether it was just getting a low voltage reading from the battery—but that's probably something we'll never know. If Bob Lewis replaced that part unnecessarily, it sucks, but it's understandable.)

But now we turn our attention to the stereo, the thing that was completely un-turn-on-able when I got it back from Midas.

To refresh: when Midas replaced my clutch, I had asked them to check out that trunk-mounted power outlet and see if they could determine why it wasn't working (it had never been plugged in by the factory, it turned out). Midas couldn't figure this out. But apparently, in the process of checking, and though I can't for the life of me figure out why they would do this, they jimmied my stereo system out of the dashboard, unplugged it from power, and then jammed it back in again.

But it doesn't end there. Oh no.

See, the reason why I didn't simply turn the car around and rub Midas' face in it the moment I noticed that the stereo wasn't turning on was that I thought it was simply the case that the stereo had gone into Theft Lockout mode, and I'd have to punch in some sequence of numbers to revive it, as directed by my owner's manual. (I'd had to do that a couple of times in the past, like when I installed the CD player—whenever the stereo is disconnected from power it has to be re-keyed to become usable again.) The clock had also been reset and the power windows were behaving oddly, both symptoms of the battery having been generally disconnected, so I assumed. So it wasn't until I got the car home and pored over the owner's manual that I realized that if the stereo were in lockout mode, it would be powering up, but it would say SAFE on the screen; since it wasn't powering up at all, this was a different problem.

And thus it wasn't until I got the car back, today, that I finally got to examine it and see just to what extent Midas had thrashed the hell out of my stereo.

I had a tape adapter in the tape deck when I gave it to Midas; it's what I use to connect my iPod to the stereo these days. When the stereo wasn't powering up, there was no way to try to eject the tape, so I didn't try. But now, on the way back to work after picking up the car, on a whim I hit the eject button. And the tape ground and writhed and tried to push its way out the door—but the door was flapped down in front of it, and the tape was trapped like a roach in a roach motel. TAPE ERROR, said the display.

Hmm.

After some tinkering and poking and veering and honking and parking and tinkering and poking, I finally got the tape out—by pressing down (accidentally) on the volume knob and discovering that the whole faceplate is completely loose, having pulled right off the body.

And this isn't the kind of stereo where the faceplate comes off.



Well. That would explain why the tape got stuck behind the door. Some guy at Midas apparently tried yanking the stereo out of its hole (probably because he didn't have those little ring-key things that you're supposed to insert into the slots at the right and left sides of the unit to extract it), and by tugging on the knob and other exposed grasping surfaces, snapped the faceplate off. (I found the snapped-off plastic tabs inside the stereo housing.) Then he pulled the whole thing out by the exposed metal, discovered that there wasn't anything related to general wiring or fuses in the back of the stereo cavity, and crammed the whole thing back into the hole after neatly forgetting to plug it back in. Then, he mashed the faceplate back on, in the process bending two of the pins on the connector, so that most of the stereo's buttons stopped working, and trapping the tape behind the door so that its little tab flapped down in front of the tape, preventing it from ever being ejected again.

That's some professional-grade work for ya, right there. The Midas Touch, one might say.

I'll take this to Midas tomorrow and show them—won't let them touch it, mind you, because I don't trust Midas not to break it just by breathing on it wrong. I'm quite sure I can shame them into giving me a nice check for a Benjamin or two that I can take somewhere else to get the stereo fixed and/or replaced. (What I won't tell them, of course, is that I can get a replacement for this stereo for $25 on Ebay, from any of the thousands of Jetta owners who have upgraded their factory stereos to new aftermarket ones.)

I don't know, incidentally, that it wasn't Bob Lewis that broke the faceplate off and Midas merely unplugged it at the back. But I know for sure that Midas unplugged it, and I think my theory—that Midas didn't possess the little metal keys that you use to pull the unit out, which Bob Lewis certainly would have had—is entirely consistent. Either way, I'm going to hang the whole thing on Midas, because I think I can make it stick; if I divided the blame between Midas and Bob Lewis, I don't think I'd get any satisfaction from either, as both would simply blame the other.

So I'll get a nice cheap replacement for the stereo, which I can replace on my own; and meanwhile this one works just fine, as long as I don't consciously pull the faceplate off: the tape works, the pins are bent back into place, and all is happy.

And the moral of the story is: Bob Lewis has essentially treated me right from beginning to end, though they have overcharged for some parts replacements; but whatever you do, don't go to the Midas on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.

UPDATE: Oh yes. When I spoke to Matt, the service adviser, for the final debriefing, I told him of my tale of woe—the mysterious failures of part after part the moment I drive the car off each successive car service place's parking lot.

"Try looking at it from my perspective," he said. "Try having to be the guy to call up a dozen people a day and tell them about new parts you found that have to be replaced."

I gotta give that to him. Whether this is all an elaborate game of marvelous acting or not, he's certainly not doing this for the fun of it.

UPDATE: Oh geez. Guess what it's doing again?

That's right. Idling at 1000.

Pardon me while I go soak my head.


15:29 - GET'S!!
http://outpostnine.com/editorials/teacher.html

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"I am a Japanese School Teacher".

And thus it begins.

Not safe for work, but only because people will wonder why you're laughing so hard.


12:41 - Get my car out of my dreams

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So it was that early this morning I was driving the car down a winding country road, two dogs in the back seat (we were coming back from a dog show), when the Check Engine light came on. "Oh great," I thought to myself. "Here we go again."

Then, to the left of that light, a fairly high-resolution red LED display—which had never before been active, it being a luxury feature only available on the GLX model, or so I'd thought—lit up with a three-frame animation of a turkey waving a handkerchief. This puzzling apparition cycled for a few seconds.

Then, in an intricate and filligreed (and yet low-resolution) Teutonic font that I haven't seen since shareware video games I used to play on my 386, the message APOCALYPSE IMMINENT appeared within the instrument cluster, on the central display above the turkey.

I'd been told recently that when this happened, my car's vacuum system—which is evidently the equivalent of Johnny Five's battery fluid in Short Circuit 2, the component whose failure indicates the complete and irreparable death of the entire machine—was on the immediate verge of collapse. And yes indeed, the apocalyptic warning was then replaced by a countdown: 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Then the engine sputtered and whined into silence; I put in the clutch and started coasting. The road and countryside faded away into black around me, with little chinks of light getting in here and there as I coasted on, like in one of those sheds you often are pulled through on a roller coaster just before it clanks its way up the primary incline. The roadway sloped up and to the right, curving away, hiding any possible exit; but in less than fifteen seconds, the car emerged—just as the last of its momentum ebbed away from it—into a parking lot, overgrown with eucalyptus trees, behind a shabby old service garage surrounded by the haunting hulks of dead Volkswagens, their grilles grinning at me like skulls.

Then Capri stuck his nose in my ear and whined for me to wake up and give him his morning walk.



This is really getting tiresome.

Monday, June 20, 2005
01:54 - Secret Double Life
http://www.crazyapplerumors.com/archives/000484.html

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Via Steven Den Beste:

Apple steeled itself today and finally did what it had been putting off for a week and a half: it told the PowerPC it was breaking it off.

Insisting time and time again "It's not you. It's me!" the company did its best to be gentle with the RISC processor that's been the heart and soul of the Macintosh for ten years.

"Oh, don't cry," Apple said, putting a hand on the processor. "Look, I have a lot of issues."

Boy, that's a mouthful.


01:48 - Car update

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Oh yeah—in case anybody's wondering, the car is still stuck in quarantine. Bob Lewis claims the battery is "bad", and a day's worth of research shows me that Die Hard and Optima and Autolite all make batteries for every VW Jetta model and year—except for mine, the GLS with the VR6 engine. (Naturally. I should expect such things by now.) And Bob Lewis wants to charge me $240 to replace the existing crappy factory battery with another crappy factory battery.

Reportedly there's such a thing as an "International" battery, which Sears tells me is a Die Hard sort of variant for foreign cars, but it's less a brand name than a standard of some kind (apparently any manufacturer can make an "International" battery). I can get one for $99, but not from Sears, as they apparently don't stock them.

Tomorrow I'll find out just how Bob Lewis intends to break down that $240 figure into parts and labor; if they quote me more than about $120 for parts, I'll go over there and get them to give me a jump, and I'll drive to some place where I can get a better battery put in, like the park where I can hire a hobo to do it. Then I'll do what I have to do to figure out whether the weird idle situation and random blinking lights have to do with the bad battery, and what they might owe to having that mysteriously disconnected rear power outlet reconnected. (I'm sure it's just my fevered imagination playing tricks on me, but I could swear—now that I think about it—that I remember a service way back in 1999 or so when the dealer reported weird electrical problems and traced them to the power outlet, which they "solved" by disconnecting it upon my approval, which at the time seemed sensible, since I had no plans to use it).

This time tomorrow I'll either have a working car, or one where the hood doesn't close because I've got an anvil welded in there.

UPDATE: Wait. Maybe it was an Interstate battery.


13:32 - All propaganda, all the time

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Now I know why, when Narsai David does his "Food News" segments on KCBS every hour, he no longer ends each one by saying the tagline "KCBS All News 74". And it's not just because they're saying "740" now, moving away from the old and not-very-explicable tendency for AM stations to call themselves by their frequency in tens of kilohertz, whatever sense that ever made.

It's because KCBS can't really claim to be a 100% "news" station anymore. Oh, sure, they pipe in the CBS News feed every hour. But if what I heard on Saturday night, driving up the Central Valley from the wedding in San Juan Capistrano long after midnight, is any indication, well... all I can say is that it's a shame. It used to be such a great news source.

For the three hours that I listened, as the dark fields swooshed past and distant fires burned, KCBS flogged the Downing Street Memos, saying over and over how they "proved" something evil and nefarious about Bush and the war, though they were oddly coy about explaining exactly what, or about quoting them verbatim. They repeatedly played a clip of a BBC anchorwoman who summarized the memos' scandalizing contents thus: "The memos show that the Bush Administration had been planning war with Iraq as early as the spring of 2002." Shock, horror. Guys, we knew by the end of that week in the middle of September 2001 that we would be invading Iraq. Remember that? Remember how we all thought we'd have taken out Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia too by now? Once we'd come to terms with the idea that the solution to Arab/Islamic terrorism was to reform the Arab/Islamic world, we knew—or at least some of us knew—that it was pretty much an all-or-nothing affair. Some countries would reform voluntarily; some would require military intervention. But fighting a War on Terror with Saddam still in power—whether he had any WMDs currently in his possession or not—was simply not an option. This was Saddam Hussein. He would have done all he could to thwart us, and he was long overdue for a tumble—besides, a free and US-friendly Iraq would be a huge positive first step toward the rest of the war we knew we'd have to fight, one that would make the remainder a ton easier. We all understood this. Why is it such a huge scandalous surprise now?

KCBS even interviewed Joe Wilson, who has a new book out all about this scandal (I guess his publisher gave him two weeks to write it—blast, my record has been blown open!); and it was almost farcical, listening to the CBS interviewer prod him again and again to give them a juicy bite o' sound they could play over and over once the sun came up:

CBS: What is your personal impression of George Bush?

Wilson: Well, I don't know the man, personally, so I can't say how I feel about his character...

(later)

CBS: If you could tell us what your personal impression is of George Bush—

Wilson: As I said, I don't know him personally, so I can't give you a good personal impression...

CBS: His administration, then.

Wilson: Well, then I can say that this is the most obstinate, secretive, and authoritarian Presidency that I've seen in all my thirty years in Washington.

Thank you. End interview. End story. And if you thought CBS would, you know, bring in someone from the other side of the aisle to, y'know, rebut Wilson's chest-puffing claims that he had made all these BUSH LIED!!!!111 claims a year ago, and now the memos "proved" him right, blah blah blah—to, perhaps, explain that anyone who is surprised to discover that the White House had plans to invade Iraq back in early 2002 had apparently been asleep throughout the entirety of the 1990s, when calls for toppling Saddam were a matter of daily discourse from college campuses to Comedy Central—well, get used to disappointment. Confuse the listener with multiple viewpoints? Bah! We'll tell listeners what to think. Surety makes them feel more comfortable than having to make up their own minds. Don't give people contextual information that might help them decide for themselves whether Guantanamo has any resemblance to the Cambodian killing fields or Auschwitz; don't point out that the worst the Gitmo guards are accused of doing is kicking a book, which some might regard as notably less objectionable an offense than, say, clipping off people's fingers with gardening shears or forcing them to drink motor oil. No, "Invasion of Personal Space by Female" has such a compelling symmetry with "Rape Room" that it's just too good not to use. Remember, we're living in a Nazi dictatorship, so we elites in the mass media have to get the subversive message out, somehow, so the people are informed but so the goons don't smash down our doors. Wait! Look at all this huge broadcasting equipment we have. Let's use that!

It's getting so I can't even trust Narsai David anymore not to be giving us recipes that rob us of our precious bodily fluids.

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© Brian Tiemann