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
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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 3/17/2003 -  3/23/2003
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  3/3/2003 -   3/9/2003
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 2/10/2003 -  2/16/2003
  2/3/2003 -   2/9/2003
 1/27/2003 -   2/2/2003
 1/20/2003 -  1/26/2003
 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
  1/6/2003 -  1/12/2003
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
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
 9/30/2002 -  10/6/2002
 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
 9/16/2002 -  9/22/2002
  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
 8/12/2002 -  8/18/2002
  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
 7/22/2002 -  7/28/2002
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  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, September 16, 2005
17:35 - "Tell us what we want to hear" doesn't have to mean "lie"
http://realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-9_15_05_LD.html

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If this sort of thing were on CNN, perhaps I might watch it more often:

With body recovery teams in New Orleans finding far fewer than the expected 10,000 to 25,000 dead, despite the flooding of 80 percent of the city, it is time to ask: What went right?

Largely invisible to the media's radar, a broad-based rescue effort by federal, state and local first responders pulled 25,000 to 50,000 people from harm's way in floodwaters in the city. Ironically, FEMA's role, for good or ill, was essentially non-existent, as was the Governor's and the Mayor's. An ad-hoc distributed network responded on its own. Big Government didn't work. Odds and ends of little government did.

. . .

Urban also notes one explanation why the rescue operation flew below the radar of the media: Individual federal and state units were not coordinating their efforts overall. There was no central clearing house for information on rescue efforts. What looked like a hurricane relief breakdown was in fact a press release breakdown.

Via Power Line, who also links this from Victor Davis Hanson:

Too many of the hysterical pronouncements of ill-informed officials were reported as gospel truth — and then forgotten — in 24-hour bursts. So "25,000 body bags!" and "10,000 dead" beneath the muck of a submerged city were quietly superseded by the matter-of-fact news reports that the airport would open shortly.

Now we are also told that Mardi Gras may be back on schedule. How could such radical improvement happen at ground zero in a city of corpses that supposedly would not recover for decades?

The MSM seems to have internalized some kind of admonishment, gnawing at them like a brain mite, that reporting good news is tantamount to propaganda—that if they were to focus on the positive aspects of a given news story and not the negative, even to just give the positive more prominence than the negative rather than to actually obscure or omit troubling details, means you're filling the shoes of Baghdad Bob. They feel that their role isn't to reassure people, but to remind them of the bleakness of reality. The idea presumably being that reassuring people means lulling them into a false sense of security, convincing themselves that things are going okay, and that change—that big shining concept in the sky, that cornerstone of platitudes from Sesame Street to Market Street—isn't necessary. And that wouldn't do. Change is good, we're taught to repeat until we're incapable of sympathizing with any status quo except the ones that say change is good.

In trying to keep myself focused on the apolitical parts of Katrina, I find myself wondering: would I be doing the same thing if I detested the people in charge? Wouldn't I be looking for an excuse to blame a President I disliked, even if the means by which to pin the aftermath of a horrific natural disaster upon him were ghostly at best? Would I be cheering the MSM's ghoulish coverage, CNN's claiming the right to film bloated bodies, Cindy Sheehan's indirect coining of the term "Occupied New Orleans"? I like to think I wouldn't, but I really can't know that. How can I be sure I would have the fortitude to resist the temptation to make such cheap feel-good allegations as so many are making against Bush and FEMA, if the shoe were on the other foot? I can't. We only get one shot at each such situation, and we never get to replay it or flip ahead in the Choose Your Own Adventure of reality to see which page has the big THE END at the bottom. We can't know how well we'd do in a simulated universe where we could flip certain variables and see what turns out different. Each of our actions and reactions is a once-in-a-lifetime thing; we get no do-overs.

So I suppose I can't criticize the blame-mongers too heavily, because I don't know that I'd be any better if I were in their mental shoes. Still, I know what I would probably see as the more principled position, even if I didn't adhere to it myself: the desire to see positive facts as well as negative ones, even to put the positive ones above the fold and to thrust discouraging details down into the noise. This is, after all, a disaster that the whole country feels, whether through $3.29/gallon gasoline or the knowledge that we'll have to wait just as long to hear the Simpsons sing the "New Orleans" song again as we did to see Homer order Khlau Kalash in the shadow of the World Trade Center (and wash it down with a cold refreshing can of crab juice). Thinking positively staves off despair. It averts recessions. It isn't just a swamp into which the weak-minded sink, leaving the corrupt holding the reins; it's also empowerment in the hands of the people, taking hold of their own destinies, the way we like to think we used to.

And I'm not going to root for an economic downturn or the destruction of a major American city just to spite leaders I don't like. Granted, I haven't had this tested yet, as I didn't give a fig for politics prior to 9/11 (and just sort of generically liked Clinton anyway). But after 2008, all bets are off, and we'll see who gets to keep hold of the moral high ground, and who gets shoved off into stagnant floodwater.

UPDATE: This from MoveOn.org:

Hurricane Katrina has presented a defining moment for President Bush. So far, it's defined him as indecisive, uninterested in poverty and critically unprepared. Last night's nationally televised address was an attempt by the White House to mark a turning point.

But President Bush failed to deeply address either of the core vulnerabilities Katrina exposed—the federal government's inability to respond to disaster, and the poverty and racism that still remains in America. With the media jury out on the speech, we can help draw focus to Bush's failure to deliver on his core promise—to protect America from disaster.

Our ad team worked overnight, preparing a rapid-response TV ad we want to get on the air as soon as possible, to help shape this historic moment. If we can raise $250,000 today, we can do it. Can you contribute?

https://political.moveon.org/donate/nosafertvad.html?id=6003-396431-YXHSMp_3e1wfdhHYfCq9PA&t=4

Even a small contribution will get the ad running if we all chip in. While the money we've all contributed for relief and recovery is critically important, we also need to fight to make sure our government does its job because government efforts will outstrip private efforts by a magnitude of hundreds. Advocacy is as important as charity at this time in our nation's history.

As Republican 9/11 Commission chair Thomas Kean said Thursday, "What makes you mad is that it's the same things we saw on 9/11. Whoever is responsible for acting in these places hasn't acted. Are they going to do it now? What else has to happen for people to act?"1

The ad, titled "No Safer," draws a contrast between the promises made and the reality today—explaining that despite all the money, reports and restructuring, America isn't any more prepared for a disaster now than it was four years ago, and President Bush doesn't have a plan to make us safe.

Since September 11th, we have been told repeatedly by the president that America is safer. That message—that he would protect America—is the central reason why he won re-election. Those claims turned out to be false.

What are these people, Howard Hughes' mother? You are not safe! For God's sake, people, grow a frickin' spine!

I am not interested in being "safe". Life isn't "safe". This is a world of bags of sentient meat fending off hostile physics and biology. We pilot multi-ton steel tanks down asphalt runways at 80 miles an hour. We eat food we didn't cook and sterilize ourselves. We get cancer and die from taking too many breaths or from swallowing tiny bits of saliva continuously over sixty years. "Safe"? Whatever happened to rugged individualism? Whence the frontier spirit? I just got back from three weeks in Alaska among people who have to carry shotguns and axes on a daily basis to fend off bears on the way back to their cabins, even if they've got Lexuses parked in the garages. How would they react to you telling them they're not "safe" from a hurricane or a terrorist attack? They'd laugh you out of town if you're lucky.

Look: if you want to be safe, you avoid high-risk areas and high-risk activities. Don't jump out of planes. Don't climb El Capitan. Don't ride your bike home from work once it starts getting dark in the evenings. Don't build a house below sea level or on the San Andreas Fault or in grizzly country. Don't go to the Super Bowl or the Times Square New Years Eve party when terrorists brag about having anthrax bombs. But doesn't it shame you a little bit, to see all the millions of people out there brave enough to do all those things and put on a happy face while doing it?

Yeesh. MoveOn.org is going to end up insulting even its fans at this rate.

(Oh, and "racism"? Blow it out your ear.)

UPDATE: Okay, I did like Clinton. For God's sake, what happened to all that admirable apolitical support and solidarity he'd shown until now? This is a very disappointing development.


15:16 - World's largest tire fire
http://www.somethingawful.com/booklist/index.htm

(top)
For those who don't know, or those who knew but didn't care, the articles at Something Awful by Zack Parsons titled with variations upon "My Tank is Fight"—exposés of some of the most insane and awesome inventions of World War II—is soon to become a book.

Go check out the site and get on the mailing list. Also be sure to look at the list archives, where excerpts from the illustrations are shown; Parsons has enlisted the help of some really high-powered professional illustrators to bring to life monsters like the HMS Habbakuk and the Nazi Space Station. It's really something to see, and I can't wait for the book to be ready.



"Such was his legacy, and perhaps it would not have displeased him..."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
17:06 - Hearing myself think is overrated anyway

(top)
One of my favorite restaurants is Chipotle, the burrito place that moved into what was once a Boston Market a few blocks from work. I just love their food. The burritos are big and tasty, the salsa is fresh, the cheese—oh, the cheese—is just to die for, and when you're done eating a steak or barbacoa burrito you've got a serious burn of spice-related well-being going on. They use lime and cilantro in their rice. They make great chips with large-grain salt and a drizzle of lime juice. Their soft-drink cups are covered with soul-baring, self-effacing essays musing on the zen of Chipotle, on all the aspects of the dining experience from the role of cumin and cilantro to the eclectic music selection to the cruciality of having the kitchen open for all to see to even a pronunciation guide for the restaurant's name. Their menu is small—just a few major choices with a few posted variations—but there's a purity to it, like at In-N-Out, that makes you feel like you're part of some kind of cultural phenomenon: Children of the Chipotle. I swear, if I had to pick a single place to eat every day for the rest of my life, this would be it.

There's only one thing I don't understand about the place, though: the acoustics. It's a chain, so maybe it varies from location to location in this regard, but I don't think so: they chose to do the interior décor in some kind of strange Industrial Midwestern/Corrugated Metal and Exposed Bolts/Hardwood Chairs and Dangling Ductwork motif that has an effect on sound that can best be described as apocalyptic. The metal wall coverings and clanking chairs hammer on casual sound waves in such a way that Chipotle is where conversations go to die. You have to shout to be heard across your own table. Yet you can hear everybody else's conversation all the way down to the cash register. The whole room is a giant echo chamber, without any soft surfaces anywhere to be seen to deaden the reverberations. The restaurant makes a big deal of all the cool music they play over their speaker system, but I can never make any of it out—everything but the bass line is drowned out by the metallic cacophony. The food is great there, indeed yes, but... man oh man, the noise.

One of the cups, though, solicits customers to visit the restaurant's feedback page (click "Speak" on the site's Flash menu) and feel free to send comments to Joe Stupp, the guy in charge of making sure the Chipotle user experience is every bit as impeccable as that of taking an iPod out of its box. They seem to place a great deal of stock in this ideal, and it's always seemed incomprehensible to me that nobody's noticed this glaring problem yet in what is otherwise an outstanding lunch experience. I'd used the form once before to rave about the cheese, and Joe wrote back within 24 hours to thank me and talk about the fresh-grating process and so on. But this time I wanted to air an actual complaint.

Here's what I got back:

Brian,

Thank you for writing us, and that does happen sometimes with the various locations we build that we can't seem to figure out the acoustics. We will look into this for sure at our Cupertino restaurant (are there other locations you visit?). In the meantime, if it is just too obnoxious for you to tolerate, then please just ask us to turn the tunes down for you, and we would be happy to do that.

Sincerely,

Joe Stupp
Manager, Duct Tape and Plungers
Chipotle

So I guess I can expect to see a sound crew in the Cupertino Chipotle sometime in the near future, swinging boom mikes around and tapping on corrugated metal wall panels, fine-tuning the acoustics. I'm not sure what they can do to soak up the sound, frankly, without completely changing the look of the place; maybe they can stand some coat racks in strategic places in the room and drape carpets over them, or maybe put up some mannequins with frightwigs.

But whatever happens, I remain convinced that there are few chain restaurants like this, where they give you this much interactive customer communication right up to the level of people who can make things happen. Small wonder the food's so good, dood.


16:41 - One browser to rule them all

(top)
Chris found this while installing a nightly build of Camino, the Gecko-based browser for Mac OS X:



Check out those illustrations of the installation procedure: "Camino... drag to your Applications folder. Then Camino disk image... Eject." No words needed. The process is that iconic. Which I guess is the whole point of icons, isn't it?

And Chris adds: "The disk symbol with that icon on it looks VERY creepy, if you ask me."

I guess if Sauron were to use a browser...

Monday, September 12, 2005
18:44 - News gridlock

(top)
It's slow news days that you're not supposed to be able to come up with much to write about, isn't it?

Well, I guess the opposite has been true for me lately. Ever since getting back from the vacation, I've had a hell of a time getting back into the groove. I'm only just now picking up some of the projects that I was working on when I left. As regards writing, I just haven't felt like there's been much I could contribute to anything. I'm keeping abreast of developments as I usually do, but I feel like I arrived late to the Katrina party (even though I was there for the whole thing) and can't really find my footing. It's one of those things that, like 9/11 and the tsunami, just sort of came out of nowhere, and in an ideal world you'd think that they'd exist entirely apart from politics and blame. They're just things that happen, and all I'm interested in doing is hearing how recovery efforts are going. I'm not in New Orleans, just as I hadn't been to New York in years and hadn't ever been to Malaysia, and so I can't think of a single thing I could say that people much better equipped for it have already said, and far better.

And just as with those other events, the politics reared their stupid, ugly heads, and I just couldn't stomach it. Politics at leisure is one thing; debating clubs don't debate when the missiles are flying, after all. But politics in the heat of the moment, or in the subsequent days or weeks? I just can't fathom it.

So I apologize for the lack of pithy content here. I'm hoping people read the Alaska journal and find it chunky enough to tide them over for a while, because things just aren't picking up around here for me just yet. I'm sure they will. But in the meantime, I'm still recovering from the trip, and world events aren't helping much to return me to that low simmer state that I'm usually stuck in. Right now things I see across blogland are just too much of a roller coaster for me to be sure I'm not about to lose my lunch over the edge, and so I'm concentrating on these few hours we seem to have in these latitudes of early sunsets, where Belgian Tervurens demand nonstop high-energy playtime and lugubrious collies plead for hour-long sunrise walks.

Routine. I need an extra helping of it these days. Guess I'm getting old.

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