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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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
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12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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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
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10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
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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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 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
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 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, October 5, 2007
19:56 - The first rule of Fat Club is, you do not talk about the first rule of Fat Club

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In Part 6 of an ongoing series of things to put on my personal résumé, I can now state that I have been a set of Before and After photos.

This is me last summer:


And this is me now:


That's after dropping about 55 pounds since late February. I just crossed the magic 180 boundary, which means I can at least take a breather now.

I don't think I've seen the 170s since my freshman year of college, in which I mysteriously lost about fifty pounds purely due to the intensity of the workload (or at least that's all I can conclude, Caltech being Caltech, and the "freshman 15" usually meaning something somewhat different). And aside from that one brief window, in which I wasn't really paying attention to such things except as an idle curiosity, I've been in the neighborhood of 210 since I started high school.

Yet I've kept records:


As you can see, sometime in February, during a Friday-night dinner, I decided that the pizza on the table didn't have to be a volume-eating contest; four slices are just as tasty as eight. A chico burrito at La Costeña will satisfy me as long as a regular one, and if it doesn't, there's yogurt and stuff in the fridge for later in the afternoon. 93%-lean ground beef makes yummy burgers just like 80% does, and pickles are calorie-free.

The upshot is that with that realization, plus a regimen of beating the crap out of myself at the gym every night (one to two 500-calorie cardio sessions on the elliptical machine, each of which takes 33 minutes, coincidentally the length of a South Park plus an Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or alternatively a Lileks Diner episode, plus freeweights every other day), I'm now down from 38-inch pants to trying to come to terms with stepping out of the 34s that are pooling around my ankles and buying 32s.

It's weird going to the mall and actually buying clothes for once in my life. Clothes that are designed to look good. T-shirts that cost more than shoes.

T-shirts in medium.

Now comes the next phase, which is to see how sustainable this is. I'm eight months in now, and I haven't missed more than ten or fifteen nights at the gym—and I believe I've made up every single one of those with a double session the following night. Well, except for a period in the May-ish-June-ish middle—extra credit for those who can spot its elusive presence on the graph—when I was, oh, driving a Lotus home from New York. And hosting a friend here in San Jose where there's In-N-Out. And floating on a schooner in Penobscot Bay. You know—the kind of thing where there's a bunch of unavoidable lobster and gloppy burgers to be eaten, and no gym in sight. There are sacrifices that must be made.

Afterwards, the downward trajectory wasn't quite so steep, and these last couple of weeks have been shallower still. But it's all part of further realizations, such as that with retuned taste buds deployed and at the ready, it's possible to take up hobbies like high-end chocolate tasting and cheese snobbery, without completely sabotaging the overall effort. Kept at a sane intake level, like making a single square of Lindt Excellence 70% last for 20 minutes, these things contribute very little to one's caloric intake, while making life measurably richer.

Ahh. 179.6.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's Friday night. There are steaks waiting, as well as some Burrata di Andria that just arrived. And I wouldn't want to keep it waiting.

UPDATE: Sorry, no rose petals, whoever it was that asked.

And burrata cheese is everything they say it is.


14:51 - A fool and his too much money
http://www.ilikejam.dsl.pipex.com/audiophile.htm

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Via BrianD:
AUDIOPRISM CD STOP LIGHT PEN
The most requested tweak of them all. A certain Jesse Morris emailed me with the name of the thing, so I no longer have an excuse for not putting it in.
This is the legendary 'CD Pen' - you're supposed to colour in the edges of your CDs with it.
That's what your supposed to do.
I have this mental image of middle-aged men, with beards and tank-tops, really carefully colouring in the sides of all their CDs. One after another. For hours on end. Then I imagine the hollow feeling they must get when they listen to their carefully prepared disks, only to find they sound exactly the same as they did before.
And now their hands are covered in ink.
And they're $20 poorer.

That's just the beginning; read on.

But hey: nobody ever said fetishes had to make sense.

Thursday, October 4, 2007
13:27 - Get that wobble under control

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Is it just me, or have the latest couple of seasons of South Park seemed a bit... I dunno... forced?

It's like they've finally reached a plateau where they can't shock us anymore. The last ten or fifteen episodes have all been grandiose, megalomaniacal, and seem to be overreaching their grasp. It's now all blockbustery soundtracks and overwrought social-commentary plots, and their twists of premise don't quite seem to ring with the same incisive wit as they used to. Randy Marsh being persecuted by rednecks for having used the "N-word" on national TV? The homeless as zombies? Hillary Clinton unwittingly harboring a "snuke"? Yet another bit of global warming teeth-grinding, cast among head lice?

Last night's premiere of the second half of Season 11 was more of the same: Cartman pretends to have Tourette Syndrome. Unfortunately, that sentence right there kinda tells you everything there is about the episode: Cartman likes to swear and get away with it, so, score. The plot doesn't really twist from there. And it was broadcast uncensored, so the whole thing felt more like an excuse to play a bunch of swear words on the air than like a real episode. Like Trey and Matt missed the thrill they got from "It Hits the Fan" back in the day, and tried to recapture it.

What's funny is that South Park made its very own "jumping the shark" joke, literally showing Fonzie jumping over a shark on his motorcycle, many seasons ago. Yet they kept on building the edifice higher and higher after that. I sort of think that the point where things really did start to go stale was right about at "A Million Little Fibers": not funny, not clever, and really just not South Park.

Can they get the energy back? I hope so; but if their plan is to just keep aiming for bigger and bigger targets and using more bombast and manufactured gravitas every time, it's just going to take it further and further away from the down-home, character-driven show that it has to be at its core for all the social commentary to work in the first place.


13:06 - I can still taste the sauce between my fingers

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Togo's is billing their new Sierra Steak sandwich as "the greatest sandwich ever made," or "the best sandwich you've ever had in your life," or something equally pretentious.

I just had one, and while I'm not sure it quite merits such adjectives, it is damn good.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
20:33 - Self-parody is the sincerest form of self-flattery... or something
http://www.zunescene.com/

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The Zune Scene "blog", which doesn't come with passé features like "permalinks":
Zune Squircle: Top 10 Reasons

Our old high school math teachers would be proud to see Zune Scene cited in the Wikipedia under a math section. After a source reported to Zune Scene the new Zune navigation button would be a squircle, we've taken some time to contemplate the ultimate question: WHY, OH WHY?

1. Gaming - Zune will likely support 2D gaming in 2008 and the squircle is just a fancy name for a d-pad. It will provide better directional orientation than a circle.
2. Confusion - Too many people confuse the current round button with an iPod click wheel. Watch the mp3 booth next time you are at Best Buy and see what we mean.
3. Logo - Notice how cars have a unique icon or logo on the front of the hood? The squircle will help customers to quickly identify a Zune by the shape.
4. Price - Microsoft paid Lexicon Branding hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with the word Zune. Squircle was on sale.
5. Image - They say sex sells and the squircle is definitely a looker.
6. Gender - Studies show men are interested in rugged geometric designs while women like circles. Why not have both?
7. The Hook - If you can't get something out of your mind, like a jingle on the radio, that is good marketing. Squircle is hard to forget.
8. Innovation - Who says Microsoft can't think stuff up now?
9. Japan - Someday Japan will be an important Zune market and Squircle fits in with the whole Pokemon theme.
10. Squirt - Steve Ballmer's idea was to call Zune to Zune transfers "squirts". Squircle forms a unique alliteration when two are combined in a sentence.

I think they're serious.


13:16 - Beginning of an era, again
http://wallofpaul.com/

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I just received word that Paul Tatara, one-time CNN movie reviewer who's been on hiatus lo these many years, has just reopened for business under his own banner. Hurrah!

I'm looking forward to getting caught up on his thoughts on certain movies new and old...


11:30 - Short books and long movies

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Into the Wild is indeed everything it's cracked up to be. Great piece of filmmaking.

It's so true to the book, in fact, that I don't even know if it's necessary to admonish potential moviegoers to read it first. Hardly anything in the book didn't make it to the screen, other than author Krakauer's personal digression into his own journey up a mountain in the Alaska Coast Ranges and a few bits of narrative color that I missed (such as McCandless' crappy old Datsun being salvaged by rangers and put back into service as a drug interdiction vehicle for years afterwards). But then, it's not a long book to begin with.

Indeed, I'd say that texturally, this film has a lot in common with Brokeback Mountain, another three-hour extrapolation from only a handful of pages. It's amazing what you can do with the film medium to elevate it above the mere landscape of words, when you've got the whole visual canvas of a place like Alaska or the Rockies to do it in, and some haunting acoustic guitar music to set the atmosphere and the pace of it. (The Eddie Vedder soundtrack in Into the Wild did kinda grate on me, but I guess that's what you get when Sean Penn makes a movie.) What might take up a couple of descriptive sentences in a thin paperback book, the pictures they paint limited to what your imagination and Google Earth can piece together, a movie like this one can turn into five minutes of some of the most breathtaking audiovisual storytelling footage you've ever seen. Especially when it's stuff the book never even touched on, or could, like the super-slow-mo shot of Chris tossing his head back and forth in the stream from his improvised shower.

Maybe movies like this are all of a kind, in that they lean so heavily on the atmosphere created by the natural cinematography and the music and the winning, wide-eyed smiles of their protagonists that you can't help but take stock of your own life as you drive home from the theater. I can tell you right now, with only a little bit of embarrassment, that seeing Brokeback Mountain back around February really smacked me upside the head in a number of ways, such that my life since then has been kicked onto a new set of more-or-less parallel rails—perhaps smoother ones, perhaps not, but certainly aimed in a more interesting direction. Never mind that there's not more than thirty pages of narrative behind that screenplay, just as there's probably barely a hundred in Into the Wild. That doesn't matter when the jump to celluloid has been effected so eloquently. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Into the Wild ends up hoisting a lot of people out of self-dug ruts, whether about travel, career, friendship, self-improvement, or family.

It's an evening well spent, by any standard. Sure, Chris is hardly the kind of "hero" you're forced to like, commiserate with, or justify. As jarring as is the beating he receives at the hands of a railroad cop, you find yourself thinking that dammit all, he deserved it. He left a trail of heartbreak mixed into the life-changing impressions he made on people like Ron Franz and Jan and Rainey, and whether the Danish sunbathers at Lake Mead and the Slab City girlfriend that Penn added to the story are echoes of accurate encounters that never made it into Krakauer's book or not, they flesh out Chris' character by reiterating the kinds of relationships he inadvertently forged, the kinds of twisted and confused faces he left staring after him wherever he went.

That includes all of us sitting in the theater, too. When the credits roll, we all wonder what he—or we—could have done differently, or should have. Anything? Nothing? Probably nothing. Stories like this have to end the way they do in order to have the impact they make on us as a culture. Just as Brokeback Mountain wouldn't have riven me to the core as it did without its dose of pointless death, Chris' story wouldn't have captured more than a local headline or two if he had indeed made it out alive, had found the bucket-and-cable transit system half a mile down the Teklanika, had given himself a shave and a haircut and a new set of clothes and gone trotting up his front driveway like he did in his final illusion. As it is, though, complete with his poetic death—and even the poetic unfairness of the mere few days before he would have been found, revived, and airlifted out—it's turned into a cultural phenomenon that will last for decades in the public consciousness.

Don't let Sean Penn's presence spook you off this one. This movie is apolitical, being a purely character-driven tale, just like the book was. McCandless was no "hippie"; even the hippies he fell in with found him enigmatic. He defied categorization. His stated enemies were liars, hypocrites, and the disloyal and shallow; unstated, he opposed only himself, his only allies an army of long-dead authors. His battle wasn't with any social ill, any political philosophy, any injustice that forced him onto his path as the only choice before him. His choice was his own to make, with a million other paths he could have taken on a whim. He had all the freedom he wanted right at the outset. It was only his final mission into self-denial that finally robbed that freedom from him. We can consider ourselves fortunate that he was kind enough to write down enough of what he discovered on the way there that we could, through Krakauer and Penn, piece together the escape route he found from his mental and physical trap, even if he was never able to actually take that route and save himself. What's important is that through his grand experiment, he rediscovered the meaning of life—happiness shared—which, to us, is something we all but take for granted.

Against all the odds, his findings have now been published, through mechanisms no less heroic and poetic than the story his chroniclers tell. Thoreau should have been so lucky.

Monday, October 1, 2007
10:57 - Pages vs. Word

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I still have yet to get anywhere near the purchase price's worth out of iWork '08, but I did use it a little bit over the weekend. Just enough to do some author review for the current book I'm finishing up.

The one and only reason why I need Word these days is revision tracking. That's the feature where each different identifiable person who opens up the file gets their changes added in a different color, and you can mouse over the changes to see a ToolTip-style popup showing who did what exactly—whether it's deleting text, adding text, changing formatting, whatever. Up till now, only Word did this. Not TextEdit, not AppleWorks, and not Pages.

Well, now Pages does it. And it does it super-well.

Having the change details in the "comments" column like that is an awesome idea. You can see everything immediately, and the controls for accepting and rejecting are right there in the colored box, not right-click-activated like in Word. Visually it's far more direct than having to remember whose text was in what color, or mouse over everything to get that sluggish ToolTip up. In Word, change-tracked text always gets really muddy and hard to read, after it's been through two or three editors who all have different ideas of how a paragraph should read. (If you select a bunch of text to cut and move to a subordinate clause elsewhere in the sentence, you end up with words half-crossed-out, initial caps separated from the rest of the words they're attached to, and long unreadable strings of strikethroughs in different colors. The only way to see how it's going to look on the page is to turn off revision tracking temporarily, which hides all the struck-through stuff.)

Pages' solution, perhaps most importantly to me, is fast. The whole word-processing environment feels solid, chunky, and immediate, even on my four-year-old G5. Text rendering, naturally, is impeccable, unlike the nasty Windows-esque antialiasing behaviors you get in Word. And there's no lag in scrolling, selecting, or editing, which is more than can be said for the woefully Rosetta'd Word.

I'm writing this only from a few minutes' perfunctory impression of the app; but if what I saw in those few minutes is any indication and if—big if—the resulting Word file is compatible with my dev editor's Windows Word... then I just might have myself a replacement for the last non-Universal app on my laptop.

UPDATE:

Previous Week...


© Brian Tiemann