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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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
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 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
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  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
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
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
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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  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
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 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, March 5, 2006
01:30 - Holy crap
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brh6KRvQHBc

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Live-action Simpsons opening.

Jaw-droppingly good, but very very surreal.

Via Cartoon Brew.

Friday, March 3, 2006
15:58 - I needed that
http://www.dieselsweeties.com/archive.php?s=1436

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For some reason this is the funniest thing I've seen in days.

Though this comes close.

Wait. I think we have a winner.


12:55 - Greetings from Snowy California

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Every other year or so, we have a day or two where a winter storm dumps some snow on the mountains on the eastern edge of the Bay Area, on Mt. Hamilton and its surrounding modest peaks, making them briefly seem a lot more lofty than they really are. The snow's usually gone by lunchtime, but it's always a time for people to slow down and look, if only for a minute.

A dusting on the eastern mountains isn't that unusual. But I hardly ever see this happen: snow on the southern ridge, the Santa Cruz Mountains, right along the edge of Cupertino:



If that's not an omen for a good ski weekend, I don't know what is!


11:17 - They do know; they hope we don't

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So there's this nonsense about the Katrina response:

CNN and the Democrats--sorry for the redundancy--have jumped on the Hurricane Katrina bandwagon. CNN's report repeats the factual error that the Associated Press made yesterday, confusing breaches of the levees with overtopping of the levees. President Bush said it wasn't anticipated that the levees would be breached; the famous video that everyone is watching doesn't contradict that statement. It talks only about the possibility of levee overtopping.

. . .

The Democrats sent out an email this afternoon that contains a flat misrepresentation:

The tapes directly contradict Bush's now infamous claim after Katrina, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

That statement is false, and the Democrats must know it.

MoveOn.org sent out their own mailings a couple of days ago, and you'd think that after all that's come to light, they'd be dropping this one like a frog peeing on their hands.

Well, apparently, not, according to MoveOn.org's latest mailing (emphasis in original):

Subject: Step 2: Bush lied -- Congress must speak out

Dear MoveOn member,

Thanks in part to your efforts, the breaking news about Bush's smoking gun Katrina warning is spreading rapidly. However, the media is largely not featuring what is perhaps the most obvious revelation of all: Bush lied.

Three days after Katrina hit, Bush famously told the country on national television, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.'' But, today, we can all watch the leading hurricane scientist in the country personally informing President Bush, 24 hours before the storm hit, that a levee breach was a "very, very serious concern."

Although the original AP article and video focus on this clear contradiction, other major papers and television outlets have largely missed it.

The mailing has footnotes which include links to two news stories, both of which assert that the newly revealed videos damn the administration's response—but neither of which quote the statement in question by Bush, the one where he said "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees", or differentiates between the breach—which nobody did anticipate—or the overtopping, which everybody understood would happen.

Nor is anyone stepping back and saying, "So what the hell was Bush supposed to do, anyway? Jet to New Orleans like the Rocketeer, streaking across the sky, and then stand on a jetty with his Presidential Magic Wand, shout "Expelliarmus!" at the swirling sky, and dispel the storm to Protect The People™, as is his duty as Omnipotent Leader?"

There's no way the distinction betweeen "breaching" and "overtopping" is lost on MoveOn.org and such at this stage, but they're still flogging this wanna-be scandal. Fortunately they've got all those news stories to link to that don't do anything to destroy their assertions.

Thursday, March 2, 2006
19:59 - Best Video Game Evar: Fight!

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Spore... or Desert Bus?

Tough call.

At least, insofar as that the goal is to consume time while the developers laugh at you.

UPDATE: Oh yeah—think that Spore guy says "basically" often enough?


18:07 - The road to hell

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I'm not sure where I'm going with the following train of thought—it's just some disjointed stuff I've been pondering, so bear with me.

My brother recently sent me Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a biographical account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition that I devoured with the book open in one hand and my other hand obsessively driving Google Earth as I followed every step of the journey up the river and over the mountains, authentic three-dimensional views and all. The book is mostly a portrait of Meriwether Lewis and doesn't much extend beyond his life and how it related to the expedition—for example, it doesn't cover the leg of the return journey where Clark struck out on his own side mission down the Yellowstone River, and instead focuses on the formative and ill-fated mission up the Marias River where the small detachment Lewis was leading had an armed confrontation with some young Blackfoot Indians who tried to steal their guns, and which no doubt set the stage for decades of insoluble political strife in the West between America and the various tribes that occupied the land, and without which the tragic tale of Indian history in the 1800s might have taken a far different course.

One thing in particular that Ambrose stressed in the book, though, was Thomas Jefferson's philosophy regarding the Indians. To Jefferson, the Indians represented nothing less than a modern nation in the making—thus far hampered only by a lack of exposure to the ideas of the Enlightenment and the technological advances of Europe and the young America, Jefferson saw the Indian nations not as a nuisance and an obstacle to be overcome (as so many infamous military commanders in later years viewed them), but as an opportunity to build a trading relationship, an exclusive economic empire from which both sides would benefit. The fur trade being as all-important as it was in the early 19th century, the Indians had things the Europeans badly wanted; this was no simple matter of an advanced culture clashing with a primitive one, but—as Jefferson saw it—a balanced and equitable symbiosis between two nations equally capable of thriving in the modern world under the rule of European-style law and the laissez-faire trade market.

Jefferson, who oddly enough (yet exactly like almost every other Virginian landowner of the day) believed that blacks were somewhere between beast and man, incapable of thought or action on par with white people, nonetheless saw the Indians as every bit as human and worthy of respect and honor as his peers in Washington. It was his hope that the whole of the newly acquired American territories west of the Mississippi could be set aside as a vast Indian sovereignty—under the auspices of the Great Father in Washington, but with the land and rights thereto belonging to the tribal nations on an equal footing with the confederated States along the eastern seaboard, and closed to white settlement except by agreement. It turned out that this view was naïve in the extreme—Jefferson far underestimated the vigor with which wealth-seeking Americans and recent immigrants would charge up the Missouri as soon as they heard they could, so quickly that Lewis and Clark met the first private trappers heading upstream as they came back down the river on their return trip. No force on earth could have kept the white settlers out of the Indian territories. But Jefferson's dream was otherwise: to bring the Enlightenment to the tribes, to give them the keys to the modern world, but otherwise to leave them their borders and their dignity intact.

I've found myself wondering: how different would the world be if Jefferson's dream had been realized? What factors prevented it from coming true?

And most importantly: how can we keep those factors from causing the same dream to fail in Iraq and the Middle East?

There philosophical parallels between Jefferson's attitude toward the Indians and Bush's attitude toward the Arab world are striking, and far more compelling to me than "eerie similarities" between Bush and Hitler. Hitler had no dreams of uplift for the historically disadvantaged peoples of the world; his dream was for such people to be culled entirely, so they wouldn't trouble the Chosen People any further. Jefferson saw himself as the head of his own Chosen People, it's true—an envoy of the Enlightenment, which his cohorts discussed in the same terms with which we today speak of Western Civilization, Freedom, and Democracy—but he had no interest in denying it to the people with which the American settlers were bound to clash; rather, he wanted to provide the blessings of modern technology and law, like any other trade good, to the Indians in exchange for the economic benefits (in the form of beaver furs as well as such things as medicinal plants and mineral resources) they could provide. To Jefferson, it seemed a no-brainer that when they saw what the whites could offer, they'd jump at the chance; they'd become agrarian, they'd settle into cities, they'd elect themselves consensual governments, and they'd become Americans through the truest means of all: by adopting the ideas that underpin the Constitution as their own.

Perhaps it was hopelessly naïve of Jefferson to believe this would happen, even in the best of circumstances, even without white settlers scurrying up the get-rich-quick trails, even without a hostile British economic force north of the 49th Parallel or a hostile Spanish military force south of the Arkansas River all playing the various Indian tribes off each other with supplies of guns with which to exterminate each other as much as to gain a hunting advantage among the buffalo of the plains and the elk of the mountains. Perhaps our hindsight should tell us that he was a fool to believe that the philosophical tradition that he embodied would be embraced so readily by every tribe that saw an iron-frame boat or a brass-buttoned military jacket coming up the river. But can we blame ourselves for thinking that maybe, if handled properly, such a vision as his might have become reality?

If the Indian nations had succeeded in leaping forward into the 19th century in a few short years after their first contact with Lewis and Clark, if they had made peace among themselves as Jefferson and Lewis implored them and created cohesive national units, and if they had as a result been able to maintain their own borders and become an equal partner in the American experiment along with the other established States in the East, America would naturally be a far different place today—just imagine everything from the Sierra Nevada to the Mississippi divided up on state lines based on the boundaries of tribal coalitions and governed by Indian representatives of native majority populations, but otherwise sporting interstate highways and modern cities just like today—but on top of that, we would have a marvelous case study on which to base our approach toward the Middle East now. We'd have a first-hand example of enlightened, altruistic nation-building having worked. And we wouldn't have to keep making the case without evidence about democracy being the path to peace, and facing snide comments from high-school geography teachers who don't differentiate between democracies who go to war against dictatorships and democracies who go to war against other democracies, the latter of which is unknown in history.

All this is by way of saying that I have no deep conviction that our nation-building efforts in Iraq and the greater Middle East will bear fruit. We've tried this before, under conceptually very similar circumstances, and we screwed it up royally.

But what I'm wondering is this: Is the failure of Jefferson's vision any fault of his own—or any reason not to hold to his values in present and future situations where they apply? Can't we learn from the experience in the Indian wars, to recognize the factors that caused his plan to fail, and to mitigate them if at all possible? Aren't the benefits of success so compelling as to make it at least worth trying again?

(I realize that this same argument could be used to justify trying Communism again, and other philosophies that promise such great dividends even though they've been proven failures in practice. That's why I've approached this topic with such uncertainty, and why I think it's so disjointed at this stage.)

The factors that caused Jefferson's vision to fail had to do with human nature, unfortunately—petty politics on the personal, tribal, national, and international levels; individual greed; primitive medicine; the realities of supply and demand, especially when it came to things like modern weapons available from any willing supplier that meant tactical advantages over rival tribes; age-old warlike traditions that died hard; and the desire to keep settling old scores rather than put past grievances aside for the sake of the future. (Many tribes that Lewis and Clark met did jump at the proffered chance of inter-tribal peace and alliance with a powerful trading partner, just as many in the Middle East see what's to be gained by democratization; but these tribes quickly forgot Jefferson's grand, distant promises when the much more pressing issues of approaching Sioux or Hidatsa or Blackfoot war parties appeared on the horizon.) The only thing that could have prevented these problems, it seems to me, was despotic centralized government ruling with an iron fist, overcoming the impulses of human nature just like in every country that has tried to change the nature of reality by asserting that the sky is green and there are five lights in the torture chamber. And we know that would never work, if the goal is—in the uniquely American conception of "empire"—the establishment of a long-term ally that likes being at peace with us just because we're all democracies and people all want the same thing in the end: freedom.

Or, perhaps, the only thing that it makes sense for us to do is keep trying to realize Jefferson's vision, even if it's doomed. Just because that's simply who we are. Isn't it better to try and fail than to fail anyway out of not bothering to try? Shouldn't we at least try to plant a pennant, be it on the loneliest hill, of having given freedom-for-its-own-sake a shot? And if we don't do it, who will?

UPDATE: Kenneth H. writes to point out one key difference between then and now: Our interest in the Arab world pretty much begins and ends with oil, which can be extracted with hardly any direct impact on their internal culture; whereas our interest in the American West was for farming and ranching, which by their nature changed the face of the land beyond recognition and quite naturally sparked Indian resistance. (Jefferson himself showed little interest in the land for farming purposes, incidentally; he charged Lewis with bringing back specimens of medicinal plants and new-to-science animals to fuel their mutual passions, botany and zoology. Jefferson wanted things out of the land that could be extracted through trade, much like oil today. But it wasn't his priorities that prevailed among the greater populace.)

This might undermine the argument; then again, it might not, because I'm just as interested in seeking differences that might make today's experiment succeed while yesterday's failed as in finding more reasons to claim the two situations are identical. :)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006
15:57 - Do everything; do it weird
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV1WGDW37c0&search=project%20origami

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The Origami Project, huh?

I don't mean for it to sound like my reaction to such a thing is required by the Law of Brian to be knee-jerk negative; but I'm just trying to picture any of the things shown in the video actually happening in real life.

Photo-editing outdoors in the glaring sun? Drawing kooky faces in MS Paint? Playing twitchy, immersive video games on a giant and eminently thievable PSP-esque device in a crowded and crime-ridden subway?

I mean, yes, it's such an obvious extension of our existing technologies—small screen, portable, handwriting recognition, wireless Internet, dockable. Yet it's not like nobody has tried coming up with a device that embodies these qualities yet, is it? Tablet PCs are now like five years old, and I still don't know anyone who has one (though I know lots of people who say they'll buy one if only Apple makes it—not that I believe them, and I doubt Steve does either).

But what's the message with this thing? That it can do everything all your existing devices do—your desktop, your laptop, your game system, your iPod, your PDA? That's been tried before. It hasn't sold. And unless I'm seriously missing some major feature, I don't see why this device has anything going for it than all the preceding generations of tablets didn't.

They say it's a computer for high-end creativity, but it's inevitably going to be far slower than a comparable desktop.

They say it's a PDA, but it's overkill for such a purpose.

They say it's a music player, but it's too damn big.

They say it's a laptop, but it's too damn small.

They say it's a portable Internet device, but there's no keyboard, and I'm certainly not about to write e-mails and blog entries and URLs by hand. (I can barely read my own handwriting as it is.)

In short, do people want a single device that handles all of their technological needs? You inevitably have to sort of average out all your disparate devices, making compromises in each one's functionality in order to make it coexist with the rest, and the furthest outliers are the ones that get altered the most. I'm surprised they didn't show someone "sidetalkin'" on it like on the old N-Gage; but at least that means they found something they couldn't fit into the mishmash: a cellphone.

Here's a hint, Microsoft: the reason the iPod succeeded, I feel, is not so much its cool-ass rotary interface as the fact that when it was first announced, it was tiny compared to its competition, and yet still had a 5GB capacity. (Not much has changed.) People jumped at the chance to keep all their music on something small, not just a big heavy paperweight with a two-line screen and a full-size hard drive inside.

People are going to each individually have a different reason to want to buy something like the Origami; and I have to think that each such person is going to find it lacking. People who want it as an iPod-plus-more are going to find it way too big and clunky to carry around. People who want it as a laptop will find it too small and limited by the input options. People who want it as a computer will find it too inflexible and slow. It combines all the worst features of all its various antecedents, and those tend to pile up in the mind more than their combined best features do.

But hey, I thought video was a dumb thing to put in an iPod, so what do I know.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
02:58 - Oh, now what?
http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/trailer_2.html

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"If our government was responsible for the deaths of 100,000 people..."

Well, I'm sure this will prove cathartic for a few folks.

I just want to know: Doesn't it start to get a little monotonous to members of our creative caste, who hear nothing but this sort of stuff from each other all day long?

By way of example—I'll be sitting here, minding my own business, listening to a perfectly normal song, when suddenly there'll be a totally gratuitous line out of nowhere like "There's an ogre in the Oval Office." Like Douglas Adams' proverbial randomly flung fist in a crowd, I never see it coming, though by now I guess I should be expecting it everywhere.

Do these artists think they're being brave? Original? That they're telling people something they've never heard before? That one of these songs or movies will finally be what brings an end to our national shameful slumber and rouses the populace to action? Is this dreary drumbeat what "creativity" means today?

So Vendetta is from a Vertigo comic, huh? Well, here's another one for you:



(Preacher, from the Salvation storyline. And given a few choice word replacements, this might as well be a commentary on what passes as "liberal" philosophy these days. How sad is that?)


12:33 - Live unveiling
http://www.macrumorslive.com/web/

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Seems to be music-related thus far. And the Mac mini/media-center is here. As well as some leather iPod cases that sound like terrible rip-offs. (set me.expectations='low')

UPDATE: Heh. Best line yet:

"i'm actually getting rid of my stereo." o rly, steve?

UPDATE: They've updated the error message at store.apple.com:

Your browser sent a message this server could not understand.

Yay!

UPDATE: Here we go.

And while we're on the subject of grammar Naziism: Thank you, Apple, for spelling it "Hear, hear", rather than "Here, here".


09:24 - Death grip

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Sorry about the monosyllables lately, by the way. I'm just going through a rather ...intense period at the moment.


09:23 - I do not think it means what you think it means
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=19440_Calling_All_Moonbats!&only

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Welcome to America—where "democracy" means that if you're in the minority, it doesn't mean you don't get your way... just that you have to use violent means to get it.

Everybody secretly agrees with you anyway, see.

(Which I guess is better than the alternative justification: "Just kill everyone who disagrees with you, until you are the majority!")


09:20 - Random thought about that al Qaeda guy getting into Yale

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Maybe he'll join the Skull & Bones.

Monday, February 27, 2006
01:43 - Expressions that are not English

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"I never stepped foot in there"
"The proof is in the pudding"
"Another words"
"You've got another thing coming"
"Wrecking havoc"

And I'm sick of hearing them in TV shows that should know better.

UPDATE: Damien reminds me that without this link, this entry is almost, but not quite, entirely useless.


15:08 - An incredible sense of style
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAGr3mVVUwE&search=microsoft%20ipod

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The iPod packaging, as designed by Microsoft. Brilliantly done. And righteous use of the "Breakfast Machine" track from the Pee-Wee's Big Adventure soundtrack (Danny Elfman's first collaboration with Tim Burton, and one of the best).

Of course, this could also have been about just about any company that festoons its products with those ridiculous feature stickers and cooperative branding badges. I hope it's been well illustrated to all by now that Apple's lack of decals saying "G5 Inside" and so on owes more to the seriousness with which they approach their packaging and presentation than to the fact that they weren't using Intel products before now.

Via Kris, though as a matter of fact I was already watching it when his e-mail popped up...

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© Brian Tiemann