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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Thursday, July 6, 2006
21:13 - A series of tubes
http://www.dieselsweeties.com/archive.php?s=1525

(top)
Okay, this is probably the least well-advised thing I've ever posted, but... what precisely is so ridiculous about Ted Stevens' description of how the Internet works?

True, he's stumbling all over himself, the way a layman would who's only just received a crash course in some obscure technology and is now holding forth on the matter to a bunch of other laymen; but what's so very wrong about describing the Internet as "a series of tubes" which "can be filled, and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material"? Sounds like a perfectly serviceable quick-and-dirty description of serialization delay to me.

Having spent a sizable portion of my professional life working directly with WAN optimization products and serialization reduction technologies, I can say that I've seen—and, indeed, used—far worse metaphors to describe what happens when a WAN's limited resources are consumed by large file transfers running at maximum MTU. That's what might well happen if people are planning to do a great deal of legal movie distribution over existing networks, which is what Stevens is talking about.

What am I missing? I'm sure it must be something huge.


12:53 - Red Man's Burden

(top)
In the reader comments following up this Independent article in which the columnist appeals to a sense of perspective and sanity in the face of polls showing that the English pretty much view America as the new Evil Empire, we get this:

Is this article a joke?

Produce the evidence that proves Kipling gave a monkeys about the USA much less addressed "The white man's burdon" to it.

Who wrote this rubbish? America is not synonymous with mankind. It's not even synonymous with civilisation. If you want to blind us with quotes, who was it who said "America is the the only country to pass from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilisation"?

It would be easier to be smug about this if our current government wasn't hell bent on dragging us down to this pitiful level with, so far, outstanding success.

There are many, many other countries with a far better claim to represent "mankind". Mostly small island cultures who don't have TV.

You know... once upon a time we praised such concepts as Progress and Enlightenment, enough so to name them with capital letters. Once upon a time we recognized that democracy and self-determination were the greatest aspirations for humanity, worth fighting and dying for—not merely "peace", in the sense of "a lack of fighting". You can have peace and slavery at the same time. History is full of such times, but they continue to dwindle, thanks to the efforts of those vanishing few who still value freedom—at whatever cost—over peace.

But where did this wacky idea come from, that "small island cultures who don't have TV" are such ideal expressions of humanity as to be fetishized and idolized? It's all over the place. Here's Gorillaz singing us a parable:

(Talking)
Once upon a time at the foot of a great mountain, there was a town where the people known as Happyfolk lived,(Chorus in background humming)their very existence a mystery to the rest of the world, obscured as it was by great clouds. Here they played out their peaceful lives, innocent of the litany of excess and violence that was growing in the world below. To live in harmony with the spirit of the mountain called Monkey was enough. (Chorus stops humming) Then one day Strangefolk arrived in the town. They came in camouflage, hidden behind dark glasses,no one noticed them: they only saw shadows. You see, without the Truth of the Eyes, the Happyfolk were blind.

(Singing)
Falling out of aeroplanes and hiding out in holes
Waiting for the sunset to come, people going home
Jump out from behind them and shoot them in the head
Now everybody's dancing the dance of the dead
The dance of the dead
The dance of the dead.

Because as everyone knows, there is more and more violence in the modern world, the more "civilized" we become. There's so much more war today than there was fifty years ago, or in the 19th century in Europe or America, or in medieval England and France, or in the Crusades, or on the verges of the Roman Empire. So many more people dying, all for unprecedentedly pointless and selfish causes. And all wars and violence and strife are caused by America, the inventors of slavery, the slaughterers of the innocent Indians, the creators of the unholy Jesus/Wal-Mart alliance, and the misguided obstacle to beautiful, beautiful global collectivism from Honduras to Iran to Vietnam.

And of course, native cultures living on islands without TV or under great clouds in harmony with the mountain called Monkey never knew violence or disharmony or death until the white man came.

Do people even care about history anymore? Does anyone have any interest in seeing anything good about our own culture's achievements? Are we so determined to heap blame upon ourselves for sins real and imagined that we'd rather commit cultural seppuku than dare to express that humanity as a whole is better off today than we were back when a healthy adult lifespan was forty years and a man would be considered a world traveler if he went more than ten miles from his own village?

Ask Captain Cook what kind of "peace and harmony" he found among the Hawaiian natives when he arrived. Show me how the lives of the Shoshone Indians of the Bitterroot range were much better off before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, whose guns enabled them to eat meat for the first time in weeks, for which they were so desperate due to herd movements and intertribal warfare that they descended upon the newly felled deer en masse and devoured it raw within minutes. Regale me again with the tales of how great the Aztecs were: yeah, sure, they practiced widespread human sacrifice, but hey! They played sideways basketball and smoked chocolate, so how bad could they have been?

I don't blame anyone for thinking that a more simple life, more attuned with nature, would be better for the planet, if the criteria we value have changed from "human achievement and enlightenment" to "making sure Earth doesn't have to change to suit us in our temporary stay on her". Hell, that's how I thought all through high school. But you know, it's a really dangerous cocktail when enough people of firebrand age get it into their heads that our entire culture must be purged of the trappings of "civilization" so we can return to a pre-agrarian paradise. Pol Pot thought that would be a dandy idea, and somehow I don't think the Happyfolk would look down with that much benevolent approval upon what happened when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh.

'Tis the season to reflect on what humanity has accomplished, as symbolized in large part by a striped flag dangling outside the door. Some of us are determined to see only smallpox-infested blankets in the red of it (I love the implication that we understood how infectious disease worked back in the 1700s); but by any objective measure if the Founding Fathers saw the kinds of things our present civilization is bringing to the world, kicking and screaming if need be, they'd realize that their little experiment in Enlightenment had succeeded beyond their most fevered of dreams. If we still value those guys' vision at all, we ought to at least do it the courtesy of acknowledging that.


11:48 - Would you like a loss/damage waiver with those bits?

(top)
I was forwarded this Wall Street Journal article on how college students are being enticed by subscriptions to music download sites that operate on that basis, but they're still preferring to get their music the old-fashioned way: P2P.

As a student at Cornell University, Angelo Petrigh had access to free online
music via a legal music-downloading service his school provided. Yet the
21-year-old still turned to illegal file-sharing programs.

The reason: While Cornell's online music program, through Napster, gave him
and other students free, legal downloads, the email introducing the service
explained that students could keep their songs only until they graduated.
"After I read that, I decided I didn't want to even try it," says Mr.
Petrigh, who will be a senior in the fall at the Ithaca, N.Y., school.

College students don't turn down much that's free. But when it comes to
online music, even free hasn't been enough to persuade many students to use
such digital download services as Napster, Rhapsody, Ruckus and Cdigix. As a
result, some schools have dropped their services, and others are considering
doing so or have switched to other providers.

The rest is at the WSJ's pay site, but the gist is that even if the subscription services were offered for free, the students wouldn't touch them if it meant they couldn't keep their music. There's also this:

There's also the problem of compatibility: The services won't run on Apple
Computer Inc. computers, which are owned by 19% of college students,
according to a 2006 survey of 1,200 students by the research group Student
Monitor. In addition, the files won't play on Apple iPods, which are owned
by 42% of college students, according to the survey.

. . .

Some schools that don't offer free downloads dismiss the subscription
services as too costly for the results they achieve, especially because so
many students now buy music from Apple's iTunes Music Store. "We were not in
a position to offer an alternative to iTunes," says Lev Gonick, the chief
information officer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "The
alternatives looked like they had more sizzle than steak."

So it's even worse than they thought: not only will students choose illegal ownership over legal rentership if the cost is nil, they'll pay more for iTunes music just because it follows the model they like. And because it runs on Macs.

Nobody ever said college students were models of financial responsibility; but in this case they sure do seem to be models of the music-buying business at large.

Monday, July 3, 2006
22:32 - Thanks, same to you
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=21352_They_Hate_Us_They_Really_Hate_Us

(top)
Huh:

People in Britain view the United States as a vulgar, crime-ridden society obsessed with money and led by an incompetent president whose Iraq policy is failing, according to a newspaper poll.

. . .

In answer to other questions, a majority of the Britons questions described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business.

Yeah, look who's talking.

I hear this kind of stuff from British friends and acquaintances on a regular basis, and the one thing they have in common is no first-hand experience of America except what the BBC tells them. (That, and a rather creepy sense of deferential respect for the BBC.) I've tried to do my part to combat these perceptions by drawing upon my own personal experience, but more and more lately I've been losing the will to bother.

I hold certain truths to be self-evident.


19:49 - Yeah, I was wondering
http://www.independent.com/archives/2006/06/stick_figure_masterpiece.html

(top)
Those Pop-Tarts ads were not done by Don Hertzfeldt.

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© Brian Tiemann