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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11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, November 13, 2005
00:33 - My country, real or imagined
http://instapundit.com/archives/026823.php

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One of Glenn's readers says:

The patriotism thing is getting a little ridiculous. My impression is that what the left really wants is to make it out of bounds to describe anything as either patriotic or unpatriotic. Thereby making the word, and the concept, obsolete.

Well, sort of. I think the ones who raise a stink over the word "patriotism" really do think of themselves as "patriotic". They just don't mean anything like the same thing by it as most of the rest of us do.

It's not that they hate America. When they say they're doing what they do out of a love for America, as hollow as that sounds on its surface, they really mean it—it's just that the America they claim to love doesn't exist, and never has.

They love the idea of America. They love a nebulous, hypothetical concept, a vision of some America that might come to exist in some far-off future, where all the lofty ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers (who despite being flawed, muddle-headed, hypocritical slave-bangers somehow managed to come up with a few ideas worth building a country to achieve) have been realized to their fullest potential. They want to be able to say "Home of the Free" without any sense of guilt or irony: they want America to converge upon their vision of absolute freedom, where everyone is equal in opportunity and wealth and nobody "offends" anybody else with their pesky little beliefs, where nobody creates divisions in society by selfishly succeeding more than the next guy does, and where "culture" is reinvented every day with the systematic destruction of all the useless restrictions on speech and behavior that any previous generation might have misguidedly invented. It'll be a world where nobody has to work, nobody has to pollute, nobody has to eat animals to survive, nobody has to form corporations or make profits selling goods or services, and nobody has to cut down trees to build a house. And of course there'll be no more wars, because nobody who's truly free would ever choose to fight one. There'll be free access to all kinds of mind-altering substances, we'll all be polysexual and polyamorous and polygamous and have nonstop sex in the streets, and we'll all just laugh and laugh all day long because we're all just so insanely happy. There'll be no need to pursue happiness anymore—we'll have crossed the finish line of Perfect Countrydom, and the aliens will descend to award us all blue ribbons and convert us into beings of pure energy.

That's what a lot of people have deep in mind when they use words like "progress". The Golden Age of America isn't just something we expect to see in the future, as envisioned by David Brin and Bill Whittle: it's the one and only thing worth being patriotic about, and anything short of that vision is just a caricature, a cartoon of the real Platonic ideal that exists somewhere through the looking glass.

The trouble is that it isn't what America is now or ever has been, and so to the people who think this way (or who secretly believe something like it, way down deep, though they might never admit it), being "patriotic" about the America of the here and now means being satisfied with this fatally flawed mock-up of a country that's always been more about 3/5 compromises and KKKs and My Lais and Rodney Kings and Enrons than about any kind of true "freedom". Being "patriotic" means selling out the dream of Super Future America, then, and that—more than anything else—is what's unforgivable.

People who bristle at the word patriotism today, while at the same time ostentatiously and defensively embracing it, don't want to think of themselves as the kinds of people who will accept less than perfection out of a country, and thus they're more prepared to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch than to try to redeem something so tainted with original sin as our America. That's why nobody's protesting too loudly at the presence of Bolsheviks and anarchists in the midst of all the peace rallies: when they say nothing is more patriotic than dissent, they're outwardly thinking in terms of the First Amendment, but inwardly a little voice is suggesting that the only true patriotism is nihilism.

When confronted face to face, I don't think any such person would cop to genuinely rooting for America to be overthrown by Islamists or Communists just to prove a point, just to see us in all our hubris brought low before the forces of the Downtrodden Masses. But when I describe the idealized America as existing in some kind of parallel universe, rather than in the inevitable future, it's because I suspect that the nihilist-patriots believe we're behind schedule in achieving it—that we ought to have made it there by now. They're starting to think we're heading in the wrong direction. We're not on the right track after all, or we'd have made it to Vertiform City already. Every step we take, we just get further off course. So we can't be satisfied with mere "progress"; we have to break on through to the other side, smash it all down and start again, so we can be sure to get it right this time.

Think like that long enough, and paleoconservatives—which comes to mean anyone who believes the America we've got, with all its flaws, is our last best hope for humanity—start looking downright Satanic. They're the only things holding humanity back from achieving Enlightenment and Real Ultimate Freedom, from claiming our birthright in Super Future America.

Am I being too glib here? I don't know; it does feel right, since like so many others on my side of the aisle I spent a goodly number of years thinking along these lines, thinking it'd be dandy for three or four billion humans to just... sort of... you know, die somehow, because it'd be better for the Earth and all. A little bit of smoggy air obscuring the hills across the Ukiah Valley and I was ready to sign on to the auto-homeo-genocide compact. I have to imagine I'm not the only one to have gone through such a phase.

That was life in my boondocks, growing up. I like to think I've moved on a bit from those adolescent fantasies of nihilism; experience in the real world, seeing how rewarding life can be if you work at it, and seeing how much worse it is almost everywhere else on Earth and how much worse yet it's been at just about every other moment in history, and the cold-hearted pragmatic scientist in me knows that there's no better Earth we're ever going to inherit, and no better country we're ever going to have the chance to found.

But some people just don't feel that way. Here's Adult Swim's latest Boondocks bumper madness, courtesy of evariste:

We met Aaron's parents this weekend.
Nice people.
We can see where he gets his pleasant demeanor.
What we don't understand is where the anger comes from.
Oh yeah...
America.
[adult swim]

Booooga! Booooooooga! Watch out, guys—I'm America, and I'm comin' to getcha!

It's my feeling that if [adult swim] and Aaron McGruder are so terrified of what America is today, it's only because we're doing so much right that we won't have to destroy it all in order to redeem it.

We'll never be perfect; we'll never exorcise some demons of our past. But we'll be able to outlive the memory of them, and prove ourselves better than our forebears in the long run, without having to repudiate a word of their most fundamental ideals. We won't be Super Future America—we'll be 99.999% of the way there, approaching it asymptotically forever, never reaching it, but being able to live with ourselves with satisfaction nonetheless.

We won't be able to forget, but we will be able to forgive ourselves. And for some people, that's the greatest, most nightmarish treason of all.

Friday, November 11, 2005
12:09 - Got that right
http://daringfireball.net/2005/11/full_metal_jacket

(top)
John Gruber likes his new PowerBook. He's got a long and detailed design review; and in typical fashion, has a few gems of observation:

Better yet, compare and contrast to the exterior of your typical PC laptop: two-tone plastic, gratuitously beveled corner edges, dozens of silly extra buttons surrounding the keyboard, and so forth. The difference is that PC hardware appears not to be designed so much as decorated. There are exceptions — IBM’s ThinkPads and Sony’s Vaios are generally pretty good-looking machines. But I don’t think they look as good as PowerBooks or iBooks, and one reason is that although they’re simple, they’re not simple enough.

Epitomizing the PC industry’s lack of respect for their own case aesthetics are those ubiquitous little stamp-sized decals peppered over their laptops’ palm-rest areas. One for Windows, one for Intel (or AMD), sometimes a couple more for components like the graphics card. They’re garish and turn the surface of one’s laptop into a Nascar-style promotion board. Sure, you can peel them off, but judging from the laptops I see in coffee shops and airports, very few people actually do. Presumably these decals are part of the licensing deals struck between the laptop makers and Microsoft, Intel, et al., but why not just say no? We’ll buy your CPUs; we’ll license your operating system; but we’re not going to put your ugly fucking stickers on our computers. Apple is slated to soon start using the same Intel x86 guts as other laptop manufacturers, but I’ll eat my hat if they start boogering up their cases with “Intel Inside” decals.

No kidding. I've been trying to picture Mac ads on TV with that ever-more-garish Intel chime at the end; it just doesn't fit into my brain. Somehow I imagine Steve has a little more fortitude than your typical PC marketing company.

I hope they've got the hard drive issues figured out. Every single person I know who's bought a 12-inch PowerBook—and there are at least five I could name—has had the hard drive die. Every single one.

11:00 - Highly localized stupidity phenomena

(top)
There's an intersection near where I live—Branham Lane at Camden—where one of the four branches becomes an on-ramp to the I-85 freeway northbound (west). This intersection always flows nicely and seems well designed. I've never seen it backed up or blocked by an accident.

Yet I have seen so many people running red lights there that I'm starting to wonder what protective hexes have been laid over the people in the left-turn-onto-the-freeway lane on Camden that they can do so with such impunity, and whether this can be applied to other, more dangerous intersections.

It's gotten to the point where if I'm sitting at a red light across that intersection, I have a better than 50/50 chance of seeing someone run the red so he can turn and get on the freeway. A few days ago, I was on Camden heading south, and I stopped at the light (first in line); I watched the lined-up cars opposite me take the left turn onto the on-ramp, and then my light went green. But I hung back at the line for at least three seconds, because there were two people still in the intersection, turning left... and when they were finally clear, I still didn't take off, because I knew someone else would go blasting out into the left turn right in front of me, a good three seconds after the light had changed. The cars to the left and right of me surged forward... and immediately they had to slam on their brakes and lean on their horns, because sure enough, someone in a BMW came sailing right through the red light, turning left in front of us, not even particularly hurriedly. He was driving as though his light was green. And yet he would have been creamed if the guys going in my direction hadn't been quick to stop. In fact, if I'd bolted right off the line when my light went green, I'd have been right in the perfect position to become his new hood ornament.

Just this morning I was turning left onto the freeway in that charmed lane, and the light turned yellow as I was clearing the intersection; a few seconds later, I heard horns honking behind me, and in my mirror I saw another BMW sitting confusedly in the middle of the intersection, at a stop, his blinker on, while the cars opposite him threaded their way around him. I couldn't see into the car, and I'm reluctant to anthropomorphize, but I couldn't help but think it looked like some Marie Antoinette figure holding up her petticoats, sneering in contempt as mice ran around her ankles. How dare they!

I'm tempted, one of these days, to take a day off work; I'll go down to that intersection, hide in the bushes next to the on-ramp, and every time I see someone come hurtling out into the intersection against the light, especially if he gets marooned in the middle, I'll hold up a big placard that says, DON'T RUN THIS RED LIGHT, YOU MORON!!!

Not that it would help anything but my sense of wounded justice.


10:37 - It's like being "slightly pregnant", right?

(top)
I generally like to assume, when I see some human contrivance that looks totally stupid to me, that there's something I don't know about the story. I figure things are done for a reason. If it looks moronic to me at first glance, I have to remind myself that it probably went through multiple focus groups and marketing review panel meetings, staffed by people making six-figure salaries and with long fruitful careers behind them that could only have happened if they'd done well in school and at least started out life being moderately intelligent—and if not, at least there are others in the room that would have corrected the most glaring stupidities. That way, when I see something like USB 2.0 being officially designated "USB 2.0 Hi-Speed" and USB 1.1 retroactively renamed "USB 2.0 Full-Speed", my first reaction is to try to find corroboration before I believe something could be that hilariously silly. And even if it turns out to be for real, I like to hold out hope that eventually the perpetrators will come to their senses. I find humans are on balance pretty reliable that way, all gut instincts to the contrary notwithstanding.

So when I see something like the new economy cars labeled PZEV... which stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle...

... which I can only assume is like saying "94% fat free" ...

... Or "mostly dead" ...


... I don't know a good way to finish this thought.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
00:53 - Yaay! We won! We won! We... oh.
http://instapundit.com/archives/026775.php

(top)
Hmm. You don't suppose Nissan was waiting for the results of the California election before announcing this decision, do you?

Sorry, guys. I did my part. Hope UAW of Gardena is happy.


18:40 - Any day now
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1884611,00.asp

(top)
I-day is right around the corner, apparently:

Based on the availability of Intel hardware and its own software, analysts speculate the Apple-Intel systems could come out as soon as the second week of January, when the Macworld Conference and Expo arrives in San Francisco.

"It wouldn't shock me if Steve Jobs would have one of these models in January for Macworld," where he traditionally takes the stage for the opening keynote address, said Joe Wilcox, analyst with JupiterResearch.

Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., will officially launch its Napa platform, a collection of notebook chips that Apple has been widely expected to adopt at least in part, the week prior to Macworld.

Intel will use the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—where its CEO, Paul Otellini, will give a keynote speech—to showcase Napa, which is essentially the latest version of its Centrino chip bundle for wireless notebooks, and to discuss its Viiv brand for home computers, sources familiar with its plans said.

Steve did say that the first Intel Macs would be available "by June"; the cynical would take that to mean they'd be released on May 31, but I've thought for some time now that January would be the perfect time to at least get one or two unobtrusive models out. We're all aching for next-generation PowerBooks; since the iMacs and Power Macs have recently been revved, it looks like the laptops are long due for some excitement.

Also, I like the tacit acknowledgment that Apple "might not use the Napa as a whole". Gee, y'think? I'll bet it's always rankled Steve that AirPort—first to market though it was—never really achieved the mindshare that Centrino's built-in 802.11 did. I know it always bugged me to see Centrino logos in airport terminals—"Log on with your Centrino-equipped laptop here!"—when I'd been doing exactly that for years with AirPort.

Ah well. If there's any lesson we're all learning from this Intel transition, it's how to swallow the bitter pills of reality.


11:17 - I'm no art critic, but I know what I hate

(top)
What is it with people not comprehending the concept of "journalism" lately?

We've got Mary Mapes, incapable of distinguishing a Microsoft Word printout from a Vietnam-era typewriter page, but steeped in the art of professing wounded victimhood, wrapping herself in the J-word as though it confers untouchability:

Perhaps her greatest fury is reserved for the “vicious” bloggers who pounced on the “60 Minutes II” report within hours—and who she believes provided the map that major news organizations, including The Washington Post, essentially followed.

“I was attacked, Dan was attacked, CBS was attacked 24 hours a day by people who hid behind screen names,” Mapes said. “I may be a flawed journalist, but I put my name on things."

. . .

Despite her career implosion, Mapes hopes to stay in journalism. “It’s what I’m good at,” she said. “I like making a difference."

Saying you're "good at journalism" while being unable to dig up names like Charles Johnson and Scott Johnson sounds an awful lot like Rain Man muttering about being an excellent driver. More hilarious takedowns here and here.

And now, as though to deepen the self-parody, here's the director-general of France's TF1 channel, explaining journalists' duty to political impartiality:

One of France’s leading TV news executives has admitted censoring his coverage of the riots in the country for fear of encouraging support for far-right politicians.
Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service TCI, said the prominence given to the rioters on international news networks had been “excessive” and could even be fanning the flames of the violence.

Mr Dassier said his own channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, recently decided not to show footage of burning cars.

“Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” Mr Dassier told an audience of broadcasters at the News Xchange conference in Amsterdam today.

“Having satellites trained on towns across France 24 hours a day showing the violence would have been wrong and totally disproportionate ... Journalism is not simply a matter of switching on the cameras and letting them roll. You have to think about what you’re broadcasting,” he said.

Spoken without a trace of irony.

(Via LGF.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
23:23 - Silence! The Steve speaks!
http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/index.cfm?RSS&NewsID=13098

(top)
Lots of interesting tidbits from Steve on the future of movie downloads, in an analyst conference for Pixar:

Apple-watchers may be interested in some of Jobs' comments as regards iTunes and film piracy.

"The biggest problem with downloading feature-length films through iTunes is bandwidth, it takes too long in US," he explained.

And presumably in Europe, where there's a lot more broadband, there are regulatory issues to deal with. (Besides, even Steve probably couldn't bring himself to debut a new feature only in France.)

He confirmed his belief that illegal digital sharing of movies is taking place, but stressed: "There is some evidence that shows people downloading movies illegally wouldn't have bought them anyway."

Jobs believes the best strategy to deal with such problems is to create better legal alternatives to help keep honest consumers honest, and prevent them getting into the habit of stealing: "Hollywood has some time to put in place legal alternatives," he said.

So the idea is to make sure kids don't get into the habit of stealing in the first place—if they grow up knowing of a good, reliable, convenient, legal method for getting the movies they want, they'll opt for it if they have even a slight bit of desire to remain above-board. Steve knows that once a person starts stealing, he probably won't stop, because there's always that psychological precedent in his mind; he's always done it before, so why stop now? iTunes has already shown that it's possible to combat that pernicious tendency by simply making it worth people's while to be legal. Now it's movies' turn—as soon as the infrastructure is here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
11:12 - Innovative Leisure
http://www.flickr.com/photos/umpqua/sets/1312509/

(top)
Someone at Flickr has scanned and posted an original 1976 Pong owner's manual.



THE GAME THAT'S SWEEPING THE COUNTRY. COLOR! SOUND! ACTION!

Color? Well, I guess black and white count as colors.

Don't miss the maintenance and troubleshooting page:

DO NOT: Pour liquid in speaker opening.

Those were simpler times...


10:58 - Flash security hole
http://www.techweb.com/wire/security/173500401

(top)
Here's something that ought to be of interest to, well, just about everybody:

Macromedia's Flash has a critical bug that leaves all browser users armed with the popular media player open to attack, a security firm announced late Friday.

The vulnerability, said eEye Digital Security, the Aliso Viejo-Calif.-based company that discovered the flaw, is in the code of Flash.ocx, the component responsible for playing back .swf files (Flash content files). An attacker who manages to entice a user to a malicious Web site with a malformed Flash file could grab control of the PC, said eEye, if that user was running Windows with Administrator rights.

"We've assigned it our "High' rating, which means the vulnerability allows for code execution," said Steve Manzuik, the research team lead at eEye. "There's one caveat: it happens in the context of a logged-in user. But with the number of people running, say, Windows XP Home as an Administrator, that's still dangerous."

This is being presented as a Windows-platform vulnerability, but it's not browser-specific, and it may not be platform-specific either, so be sure to update regardless. (It's curious that the latest version of Flash seems to have been posted on September 12, though.)

It's instructive to note, though, that (as the last quoted line reflects) this is a lot more dangerous on platforms where users fall easily into the trap of running under Administrator-class accounts. Mac OS X, where admin duties are executed in "sudo" style, is a lot less exposed—though that's small comfort if all your personal data gets waylaid.

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© Brian Tiemann