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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Sunday, October 2, 2005
19:18 - Right hand, meet left hand
http://www.drunkenblog.com/drunkenblog-archives/000682.html

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Evariste pointed me to this unpleasant little discovery within the development culture underpinning Mac OS X.

You know that fancy-pants "unique file IDs" thing that the Mac OS has had since the beginning? How you could move a file anywhere on the disk you wanted to, even while it was being downloaded or copied, and the system would always know where to find it? How no matter where you moved a target file, an alias that had been made to that file would always point accurately to it? How in iTunes, you could move song files anywhere the hell in the filesystem you wanted to, and the database would always be able to play the song?

Well, check this out. "OMFG" is right:

Anyway, I recently filed a bug [radar - #4273090] with Apple about how Preview breaks its bookmarks to files when their file path changes because it doesn't refer to the file via its file system node, and they replied. Quelle surprise! Unfortunately, the reply was less than encouraging.

To quote:

"NAME REMOVED: Engineering has determined this issue behaves as intended based on the following information:

"If you move the file, how would Preview know where you’d moved it? This kind of thing only works with applications because of the launch services mechanism and the Finder. Since Preview isn’t running all the time, it can’t receive notifications of when every file on your disk is moved, and you probably wouldn’t want Preview being launched every time you move or rename a file."


Oh my f*cking god.

Will R.

Who do they have running the show these days? I've been able to convince myself that filename extensions are a necessary evil and the ability to hide them is on balance an elegant compromise that had to have been arrived upon by a savvy and clever engineer. But this? Is Apple being run by people who aren't even familiar with what makes a Mac a Mac?

The comments are quite enlightening:

even apple doesn't know about inodes? sh*t man, we're f*cked.

---

Carl, we're all in this hand basket together. Might as well enjoy the ride.

---

Maybe Apple, in rapidly expanding it's R&D with their increased revenue, is taking in a lot of non-Mac engineers, who aren't yet "indoctrinated" with Macintosh culture.

The words read as if written by a just-out-of-college software engineer who grew up on WINDOWS.

---

I ran into that too, and being a Windows person didn't think it a was bug...

It's that last one that really starts making keyboard-shaped imprints start appearing on my forehead. The Mac-heads reading this article are all reacting in abject horror... and those people who are used to Windows don't realize that there's any problem.

That's what makes me so sick to my stomach to see such features get papered over and minimized and dismissed as wishful thinking: they've been the basis for infrastructural software for twenty years now. They're what has made the Mac so obstinately different. The zealots reacting with revulsion to this Apple engineer's clueless comments are people who have seen the nice little touches like this, hidden throughout the system like Easter jellybeans, that make the Mac a joy to use and to program for. They're the gin in your martini, the clams in your linguini—they're the trimmings of elegance that make the Mac OS more than just Windows with a different skin on it. Take them out and the system will work—it just won't inspire people. They're essential to the Mac mystique; they're what constantly bring new people into the fold. Yet they're so easily overlooked, and so easily lived without, that nobody can even draw frantic attention to them without looking like obsessed kooks.

But at least obsessed kooks have been known to follow up on their horrified discoveries, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if whoever closed out this bug finds himself the pilloried subject of Internet petitions, multi-page John Siracusa rants on Ars Technica, John Gruber diatribes, AtAT mockery, and an ADC bug-filing campaign that'll either end in the company releasing a placating message of renewed commitment to things like unique file IDs, or the closing down of the publicly available bug-reporting system in a hermit-crab-like effort to save face by hiding it.

But this is Apple. I don't expect the latter.

Saturday, October 1, 2005
17:14 - Ctrl+Alt+History

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In an ongoing e-mail stream, Brummbar asked me this:

Now that Apple is closing the book on the PowerPC era, what would have happened if they had just jumped from the Moto 68k to the x86 lo those many years ago? Would there even be an OS X? I'd be interested in your thoughts on this.

I've been pondering this for the last couple of days now, and to be honest I don't really see how it would have made a difference. Mac OS X isn't just something Apple did because they couldn't run Windows on their non-x86 computers. The CPU really doesn't have that much effect on the end-user experience, in Apple's view, and it's the job of the software to ensure that any transition is as seamless as possible. I don't doubt that there would have been just as annoying a period of fat binaries and emulated code if the first Power Macs had had Intel CPUs instead of PPCs, but I can't imagine the OS or its trajectory would have been any different. (Maybe they would have been called iMacs...)

The only thing I can think might have changed is that Apple could have chosen to focus on different sectors for its horizontal acquisitions. The PPC, and particularly the G4 with Altivec, made for a great platform for A/V stuff, video editing, image processing, heh—all the stuff the Amiga was always supposed to be so great at. If Apple had been stuck with Intel processors, it would have been harder for them to make the case to the public that Macs were any better than PCs for that sort of thing. Now, granted, it's the software that makes all the difference there—run iMovie next to Windows Movie Maker on exactly the same hardware and I don't care which one is faster, people will definitely prefer working with one over the other—but it made an easy marketing case to say that the PPC was inherently better for such tasks. Never mind, of course, the megahertz gap and the fact that a G4 with Altivec was probably still slower at A/V tasks than a P4 without Altivec. Let's just not go there. ...So maybe they could have tried to turn the Mac into a big gaming platform or something. I dunno. (Remember Pippin?)

What gets everyone tied up in mental knots is still the Windows factor. If Macs were Intel-based, wouldn't people just want to run Windows on them? My answer is that no, they wouldn't, any more than owners of Intel-based Suns or Linux boxes would want to run Windows on them. Anyone doing so would have to realize that once they put Windows on any such piece of hardware, they've just made it a PC, with all the implicit advantages and drawbacks, except with funky hardware and a weird keyboard layout and a sky-high price. People buy those kinds of machines for the software, the OS, the available applications—sure, there's the draw of installing Windows to play games, but you hear just as much buzz from people wanting to put OS X on their PCs, don't you? That Apple software platform is in its own self a genuine draw, just like games are for Windows. And as long as it was never to be made an officially supported installation path to be able to install Windows on your Mac or OS X on your PC, the number of people who were ever able to do so—ingenious as they were—would be a curiosity on the edge of the business model.

And that's the same case as we're going to have once Macs are Intel-based next year. OS X is still the big draw of the Mac, not the case design or the USB keyboards or the ADC displays (though those are cool). Mac hardware has only gotten more and more PC-like in recent years. Now they're going to be even more so. But no matter how close they get to being PCs, they'll never get all the way as long as Apple controls the boot ROMs and makes the motherboards. As long as that's the case, it's still a Mac no matter what the CPU is.

UPDATE: Brummbar has a response, to which I can't say I have much to add—it's true that Microsoft would be none too happy to see an OS X for x86 show up, and you'd probably see a lot of fistfights between Microsoft and the likes of Dell and HP over whether they could sell Mac OS X bundles with their PCs instead of Windows. No jurisdiction, one might suggest, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft before. We all remember those exclusionary license deals. The only reason Microsoft doesn't mind Dell selling Linux servers these days is that they probably recognize that Linux on the desktop really isn't a serious threat in anything but the ideologue market. OS X would be a whole different ballgame.

Which isn't to say that it would be a good idea for Apple. Sure, it might make Microsoft itch, but it would destroy Apple, whose revenue stream comes straight from its whole-widget hardware sales. Nobody would buy a Mac again if they could just get a $399 PC and put a $200 copy of OS X on it instead of Windows, and Apple's campus would dry up like a snail on the sidewalk. The day they sell a licensed OS X for PC hardware is the day every sane AAPL holder should divest completely, because the only reason they'd ever do it is to raise some quick cash to pay off creditors before closing up shop.

Meanwhile, Steven Den Beste (gasp!) has a response as well (no permalink—scroll down to 20051002). It's more about the historical question, about Jobs' exile, and about the foreign origins of OS X. It's interesting to ponder this seeming dilemma: is the "secret sauce" of the Mac, in fact, Mac OS X? If so, then what were we all worshipping before it came along? Yet it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Apple appeared to be down for the count before Steve returned, bringing all his NeXT baggage with him. Apple's fortunes pretty much turned around as soon as Steve got there and brought out the iMac. So is it, perhaps, not so much OS X that has made Apple what it is today, and instead Steve himself? His ineffable and inscrutable sense of what decisions are good ones and what paths lead to dead ends? It's hard to deny the foresight he had with the iPod and iTunes—and those don't depend on OS X at all.

I hate to have any argument come down to such a blatant puff piece for a particular person, but I think I'd have to see some serious counterexamples (like, bigger than the G4 Cube) before I back down from the idea that Steve is simply a force of nature whom Apple flouts at its peril—and without whom Apple is barely Apple at all.

UPDATE: On that note, sort of... perhaps this is Microsoft's trump card:

Manolo says, ayyyyyyy! The evil geniuses at the Microsoft they have made the tiny clone of the Steve Jobs! Run for your life, teeny tiny Steve Jobs, run!

The sheer diabolical brilliance of it all!

Via Den Beste.


16:57 - Man smashes Bowl, Nuke explodes Monkey
http://www.umop.com/rps25.htm

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Best 17 out of 33!



Friday, September 30, 2005
17:02 - Psychotic Episodes

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There's another kind of blogging out there. One that's rarer and more finely distilled than the usual stuff I tend to be used to these days. It's the rehearsed, episodic, often-daily but usually-sporadic sites that consist of story after story after story, often not-work-safe, usually hysterically funny.

Some consist of anecdotes of tribulation. Others (and this is a crucial distinction) are diaries in hell. Some are even entirely fictional and animated, which just increases the awe in which the purported veracity of the rest must be held.

But one thing that most such sites hosted by budding stand-up comedians have in common is that if they let their politics show through, it's never along the same lines as this:

They respond with lots of fancy, meaningless words like "exploitation" and "commodification." They also tell me I need to read Catherine MacKinnon, some Andrea Dworkin, and perhaps even some Michel Foucault. Those names set off a bomb in the bar.

I had tried for a good ten minutes to let it go, but with Red Bull and vodka coursing through my veins, and the names of the anti-christs being thrown around so flippantly, I let loose. Absolutely unleashed. I eventually start throwing out words like "fascist" and "not content to let people live their own lives" and "if you don't like stumpy people hitting each other, don't go see it" and "these are theories that only sound good or important to upper-middle-class-usually-white-people who feel guilty about their status, and have taken enough benefits out of capitalism that they have the luxury of enough leisure time to actually think about this crap and go to $35K/year schools to learn it.”

That's Tucker Max, and it's about as Safe For Work as it gets. It's lewd, it's crude, it's bound to horrify—but at a time when I'm starting to wonder if there's any such thing in the world as an articulate and intellectual comic genius storyteller (well, aside from this one) who revels in ridiculing "No Blood for Oil" buttons rather than in wearing them, I'm scooping this up like manna.

Also it's funny enough to make me gasp for breath while nearby people look at me funny.

The stories appear to be in reverse chronological order, so start at the bottom and work your way up. But read the "Classics" at the top first.

Why won't they give this guy a spot on Comedy Central? ...Aside from the two or three obvious reasons, I mean? He'd be like the Evil Dave Attell.

UPDATE: Nobody's good stories should go unlinked.

Thursday, September 29, 2005
14:01 - I used to hate these things. Oh wait, I still do
http://www.okcupid.com/politics

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People at Dean's World have been taking this Politics Test and sharing their results. For some reason the "OK Cupid" site is getting lots of play lately with its polls, hoary as the exercise is by now, and I guess we can never resist a politics test that tries to convince us that it's accurate and fun and (most importantly) unbiased like no other politics test has been before.



My results came out almost exactly where Dean's were (65% permissive Social Liberal, 65% permissive Economic Conservative), making me a Libertarian... and more alarmingly, I noticed that on the Famous People graph, I'm right smack dab in the middle of John Kerry's face. Well, actually in his hair, but that covers a lot of territory.

I think there may be some fishiness to the test. I noticed the author's snark showing through here and there ("logging restrictions preventing loggers from logging logs"); and of course I couldn't help but notice that of the people taking the test, the answers on the post-test questions all seemed to be coming out overwhelmingly against the war, overwhelmingly pro-Kerry, strongly in favor of gun control, etc. And the blue (Kerry) speckles on the presidential election results overlapped the "Libertarian" sector almost entirely, whereas the "Fascist" and "Totalitarian" sectors were almost all red (e.g. Bush), even though that's where Stalin is. Do those sound accurate to you? Only if you're one of the blue speckles, I would tend to think.

I guess it's that "famous people" graphic that gets to me the most, though. Why does Kerry get to be a Centrist on the Libertarian border, whereas Bush and Reagan are crammed up into the upper-left corner? How come "good guys" like Gandhi get to be the poster children for Socialists, whereas Hitler doesn't even show up on the graphic (though he'd certainly be placed up in the Fascist slice, "National Socialism" notwithstanding)? Why is my role model apparently Adam Sandler?

And let's not even get into why the more "permissive" you score on the Economics axis, the more "conservative" and the less "liberal" you are.

I noticed that there were few questions about the necessity of defense spending or about Constitutional strict-interpretation or about which of the first ten Amendments we consider most important, which is one of the most concise litmus tests I know. Yet there's a lot about how we feel about big corporations and the homeless. Not a lot of room for "compassionate conservatism" in the result set.

Intentional? My imagination? I'unno. I just think this stuff is never as unbiased as it ever claims to be, just as I have yet to see someone who claims to be a "centrist" who isn't really a partisan trying really really hard to keep it under his hat.

Or maybe I'm just paranoid. And I'm not sure where the "Paranoid" sector of the graphic goes.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
18:53 - Speaking of "Vernian"...
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0927_050927_giant_squid.html

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Seems they finally got photos of a live giant squid in the wild.



Arrr, Squiddy! I got nothing against ye. I just heard there was gold in yer belly.

Via David at Sgt. Stryker.

Monday, September 26, 2005
23:41 - What in the name of crap
http://www.whatisadat.org

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Uh...

What is 3rd Dimensia?

Additional Dimension Adjustment Disorder, or 3rd Dimensia, is a neurological disorder that strikes the brain and brain related functions of those acclimatizing to improved spatial situations.
The telltale symptoms of 3rd Dimensia are befuddlement, soreness, pain, frustration, inactivity, uselessness, confoundation, inability to do things, fear of rooms, and death. Many people ignore these symptoms or mistake them for other, more popular disorders. Left undiagnosed, 3rd Dimensia can cause serious damage to you, your life, or your home.

Up until the late 1990s, it was commonly thought that 3rd Dimensia was only a disorder for patients dealing with 2-to-3-dimensional crossover. But today, scientists and doctors know better. Be warned: 3rd Dimensia does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at anytime.

This site was just advertised with a real live ad on UPN.

Some days I just know there's a hidden camera watching me, and a studio audience laughing hysterically.

UPDATE: Apparently, as one might discover by drilling down sufficiently deeply into the site, it's a front for gametap.com, some kind of Time-Warner-funded service that lets you play classic emulated console games.

Two-dimensional ones. Okay, I guess that makes sense...


13:50 - Small and smallerer
http://appleinsider.com/article.php?id=1282

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Something that's going to take some getting used to is paying attention to the developments in the Intel chip world, not just the PPC world. Here's an article on Intel's new super-low-power laptop chipset, which I suppose we've got to look at as the stem cells for the next generation of PowerBooks:

This new ultra-low power 65 nm process will be the company's second process based on 65 nm process technology. It will provide Intel chip designers additional options in delivering the circuit density, performance and power consumption required by battery-operated devices, the company said this week.

To achieve these advancements, Intel made several modifications to the design of the transistor. Lost electricity leaking from these microscopic transistors, even when they are in their "off" state, is a problem that is a challenge for the entire industry.

According to the company, the modifications will result in significant reductions in the three major sources of transistor leakage: sub-threshold leakage, junction leakage and gate oxide leakage, which translates into lower power requirements and increased battery life.

This comes not too long after IBM's quiet and hesitant rollout of the long-anticipated low-power and dual-core PPC970 variants—too little, too late, apparently. As hopeful as IBM's offerings seem to be, and as reassuring as it is that IBM isn't punishing Apple for its defection with some kind of mean-spirited price entrapment, it does sound like Intel has its ducks in a neater row for future development along these lines than IBM does.

Chris M., who forwarded the Intel article, says:

Remember when the Dear Leader announced that Apple was switching to Intel? You and I exchanged notes about something an IBM engineer told me a couple of years ago: that leakage current from quantum tunneling was becoming such a problem (due to small feature size) that 70 % of the power dissipated by the G5 chip was due to this (!!!).

Intel has to make do with the same physical world as IBM, so why switch? I speculated that perhaps this problem could be overcome, but only by a company that really, really needed to do it. Intel does, IBM doesn't. We both thought that such a solution might be what Steve saw coming over the horizon with Intel.

I should hate myself for feeling so smug, but I don't. I don't!

When the Steve's on-stage smile radiates the same smugness as ever, even when he's breaking the news of a historic and seemingly crazy platform shift, you've just got to assume he knows more than we do. We can forgive ourselves a little residual smugness wafting down from the stage and onto our own faces.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Motorola seems to be having a hard time seeing Apple preparing to exit the stage they've shared for so long, and is hurling some incoherent words at Steve's departing back:

"Screw the nano," said [Motorola CEO Ed] Zander. "What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs? People are going to want devices that do more than just play music, something that can be seen in many other countries with more advanced mobile phone networks and savvy users," he said.

. . .

Unlike the positive iPod nano reviews and outlook for the device, reviews of the Motorola [ROKR] phone have been mixed at best.

Needless to say. The defect is with the buying public, eh, Ed?

Via evariste.

UPDATE: It was all a joke! That's it, a joke!

UPDATE: Peter G. mails to note that the figure of 70% leakage due to quantum tunneling couldn't have been accurate; the worst it's gotten is around 20%. Which is still pretty significant. And IBM is still in the game of figuring out solutions, every bit as much as Intel is, if not considerably more.


13:41 - Bringing the cows home to roost
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112743680328349448,00.html?mod=todays_us_page_one

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Mark O. sends this revealing WSJ look into the inner workings of Microsoft, where they've had to develop new and unheard-of technologies just to deal with the unsalvageable morass that Longhorn became:

Mr. Allchin says he soon saw his fears realized. In making large software programs engineers regularly bring together all the new unfinished features into a single "build," a sort of prototype used to test how the features work together. Ideally, engineers make a fresh build every night, fix any bugs and go back to refining their features the next day. But with 4,000 engineers writing code each day, testing the build became a Sisyphean task. When a bug popped up, trouble-shooters would often have to manually search through thousands of lines of code to find the problem.

Mr. Gates's WinFS project was so troublesome that engineers began talking about whether they could make the "pig fly." Images of pigs with wings started appearing in presentations and offices.

And Microsoft's culture was facing a new threat. The mass of patches and agglomerations that made up Windows turned it into an easy target for viruses and other Web-based attacks. Mr. Allchin had to divert top engineers into the effort to fix security problems in existing versions of Windows. "The ship was just crashing to the ground," Mr. Allchin says.

The solution they came up with sounds pretty interesting—and the article seems geared toward reassuring readers (particularly those with MSFT in their portfolios) that Vista is actually on track and might just ship someday if we're very lucky. It sure does look like Microsoft's morale has reached a historic low, though, in these last few years of malaise and crippling bloat. Looks like this internal revolution has come none too soon for them.

UPDATE: Of course, it could be that Microsoft has gone completely out to lunch. Check out this ad that Chris found on Yahoo just now:



Uh... what?


11:50 - Super Pol Pot
http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2005/09/visualize-industrial-collapse.html

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This (via LGF) is one of those posts that I'm going to bookmark and file away for future reference. Not because of the post itself (primarily), but because of the comment by "cathyf", who says:

Up until about 10,000 years ago, man was a hunter-gatherer. The assumption always seems to be that he survived on the gathering part, while getting the occasional treat of meat when the tribe succeeded in bringing down some food. In fact, those that do mineral analysis of prehistoric bones tell us that our caveman and cavewomen and cavechildren ancestors ate a diet that was about 90% meat.

Then about 10,000 years ago we discovered how to brew beer. This was a huge improvement to our health, because alcohol is a powerful water purification chemical, and so drinking beer, and then later wine, gave us a source of water that was safe to drink. Before that the only source of safe water would have been broths.

So when we started brewing beer, then we started cultivating grain crops to make the beer. And pretty soon we invented bread, which became a staple of our diets that crowded out a lot of meat. We had to create significant property rights -- before this people owned what they carried with them, and so stealing was hard. Once we had lots of real property, we invented war as ways to seize other people's property. And quickly discovered that fighting was a way that you could subjegate others. Women and children were significantly more disadvantaged in the new order -- as hunters they were a far more equal members of the tribe, now they became property. The planting of crops destroyed animal habitat, and the crops had to be protected from the animals tromping through them, so the animals were fenced away from people's property, or they were domesticated. Meat became more valuable, and so access to meat became something that the rich had and their slaves mostly ate bread.

In other words, all of those evil things that the vegetarians are complaining about came about as the direct result of human beings adopting a vegetarian diet. :-)

Probably as a matter of pure serendipity, someone last night in the middle of a conversation that apparently needed to be made less fun forwarded me a link to The Jain's Death, a sequential graphic-novel thing to which my first reaction was: Yay! Let us all wallow in guilt for not throwing ourselves to the ants and the tigers!

In the faltering conversation that followed, where I decided I was decreasingly likely to care what the person thought of me and my intolerant knuckle-dragging beliefs, I mentioned that I'd always thought that leaf-blowers would revolutionize the Jainist economy—except that apparently not having an economy was the entire point of the exercise: Walk Lightly Upon the Earth, and Accomplish Nothing of Consequence—which I suppose would make a fine slogan for lots of people in today's world.

Nihilistic self-loathing isn't just a modern conceit. Every now and then we get these early-Rousseau-esque back-to-the-land fantasies, clothing themselves in moralism and guilt-trips and admonishments to feel bad about even the millions of bacteria you kill with every breath taken in your wretched evil life; and it all sounds just so wonderful, except for that whole "four billion humans need to die to bring about our death-free agrarian ends" thing.

On top of which, exactly how in the hell are you supposed to farm without killing worms under your hoes or exploiting animal labor or anything? It's a beautiful thing to sit by the side of the road and eat oranges and speak blessings over the seeds so that they might nourish life blah blah blah, but unless you grew those oranges yourself through some amazing non-exploitative method, you found them, or you stole them, or you bought them from someone who didn't have such compunctions, like Safeway. Farming, by its nature, instills a sense of the pragmatic. People didn't start whipping oxen because they were sadistic, they did it because it was the only way to plow the fields. You get inured to sentimentality over the Pure Tenderness of Gentle Nature after a while. That sort of thing happens when you have to make your own food. If you don't—if you're sustained by the evil infrastructure of the supermarket, or if your room and board is paid for along with your tuition, or if you're lucky enough to be born among the idle rich—that sentimentality returns and you feel like you can change the world if only you could slaughter all those stupid troglodyte bastards who don't see things your way. As North Korea illustrates so well, it's easy to have a national policy of Self-Reliance™ when someone else is paying your bills.

"Mouthwash would be right out," the guy said, going along with my train of thought. "No killing bacteria allowed. It's like Super Christian Science."

"It's like Super Pol Pot," I said.


...Anyway. It's been a long morning. Sorry to start it off so grimly.

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© Brian Tiemann