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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Saturday, November 8, 2008
08:51 - Get your... what on?
http://www.236.com/video/2008/get_your_war_on_new_world_orde_10121.php

(top)
Okay, this I didn't see coming. I hadn't heard a word out of the "Get Your War On" comic strip in years; I'd assumed it had vanished into the miasma of post-9/11 ephemera that seem so long ago now. But now it's an animated series?

Somehow I didn't expect Obama's victory to be the catalyst.

Via Mark.



08:40 - Making a playlist, checking it twice
http://vodkapundit.com/?p=10626

(top)
"For music fetishists only," warns Stephen Green. That's okay, do go on.

He's got a nice system for developing a set of playlists for the car or wherever you take your iPod. It's pretty similar to my own system, as a matter of fact; I don't just exclude Christmas Music and Children's Music from my "this is actual music" pool, but also audiobooks, comedy, 8-bit video game orchestrations, and Rush.

Other than that, much of the same principles apply. My music library is pretty extensive and spans genres that I wouldn't even have chosen to own of my own free will, since this pool is what we draw from when loading out customers' iPods full of whatever music they request, be it jazz or classic rock or modern Top 40 (I tell you, I had no idea Top 40 music had become so filthy; for God's sake, there's a song among the big hits of the last couple years called "I Wanna Love You, only the word they sing isn't "Love". So a lot of use has been made of the little checkboxes that exempt songs from getting included on iPod loadouts.) So I will typically create several Smart Playlists that build various genres out of the general pool, selected by star rating, and then an overarching playlist of playlists (the name is always the same, so synching the iPod doesn't require any extra reconfiguration—I just redefine the collective playlist's criteria each time) that selects which of the genre collections to use. It works out pretty well.

Stephen's playlists, for the geeky, are formalizations of well-understood database querying language. In a given Smart Playlist you can only choose to AND or OR all the clauses you specify (i.e. "match all" vs. "match any" of the criteria); but you can make a query (e.g. Smart Playlist) as complex and heterogeneous as you want to by just including other playlists (e.g. other parenthetical clauses) in the larger one. So underneath, in the engine, it looks something like:

SELECT * FROM Music WHERE (star_rating > 3 AND lastplayed NOT within last two weeks) AND (genre = "Rock" OR genre = "Pop");

But since you can't do something that complicated in a single playlist, you end up making playlists out of the parentheticals:

Playlist_A = SELECT * FROM Music WHERE star_rating > 3 AND lastplayed NOT within last two weeks;
Playlist_B = SELECT * FROM Music WHERE genre = "Rock" OR genre = "Pop";

And then combining them together like this:

SELECT * FROM Music WHERE song is in Playlist_A AND song is in Playlist_B;

It doesn't give you all the flexibility of true SQL, but for the purposes of organizing your music into listenable chunks, it gets the job done.

Actually where I use more of the techniques Stephen describes is in my video playlists that fill up my iPhone with TV shows. As it happens, my TV Shows collection has a total of one genre in it (Comedy), which I guess shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me; it encompasses everything from Space Ghost to Reno 911! to the Venture Bros., but they all fall into the same overall genre. But some shows I will watch under just about any circumstances, and some I really have to be in the mood for. Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Tom Goes to the Mayor and Home Movies, for example, are in the "any old time" category; the latter is what I cue up to fall asleep to every night, perhaps because I've come to associate it so heavily with "the end of the late-night marathon" based on its position in Adult Swim's lineup in the 2003-2005 timeframe. South Park and Drawn Together are the kinds of things I like to watch only if I'm more alert and in an active viewing mood, because I feel like they demand more of my attention to appreciate properly. And others, like Reno 911!, I have to really be in the mood for, like if I'm at the gym and need something to keep my mind occupied but don't really care about catching every line, it does the job.

So what I do is very similar to Stephen's technique: I rate the shows based on how frequently I feel like watching them, and then create a Smart Playlist that selects them randomly, weighted by rating, and excluding anything I haven't seen in the last month or so. (I'm still fine-tuning the interval.) I also preferentially weight them toward shorter episodes, so that things like Space Ghost and ATHF are overrepresented. The result is a pocket full of TV shows that can fill up any chunk of time I find on my hands, from a lunch hour to an airport layover to a walk down the street to get sandwiches.

Stephen's technique is pretty well formalized, though, and worth looking into for anyone who wants to really make the most of iTunes' ability to query together the contents of this hugely rich database schema that everyone has on their desktop.

Monday, November 3, 2008
23:54 - Take heart
http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1888086

(top)
No matter what happens tomorrow, it won't be as bad as this.

Via Mark. (God, I love CollegeHumor.com videos.)



18:42 - Constructor class
http://striderweb.com/blog/2008/11/the-parable-of-the-sports-car/

(top)
Good piece by Stephen Rider on the American Dream:

I remember a number of years ago (probably a decade or so now…) when a British actor came on one of the late-night talk shows. Frustratingly, I don’t remember the actor, and I can’t recall if the show was Conan’s, or Dave’s, or (less likely) Jay’s. He talked about how he absolutely loved the United States, and had an interesting statement as to why he thought things were better here than in England.

He said (paraphrasing):

“In America, a guy with no money can be walking down the street and he sees a hot sports car parked along the street. He’ll stop and look at it, saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s awesome. I love this car — one day I’m going to make it big and I’m going to have a car just like this.’

“In England, that car can be parked along the street, and the guy with no money will come along, and he’ll get mad. He’ll say, ‘Screw you you bastard with your fancy car.’ And he’ll pull out his keys and key the car.”

...

In the story of the sports car, the hypothetical American knows that even though he doesn’t have much today, tomorrow is another story. The course of your life can go in whatever direction you take it. The Englishman in the story sees his life as much more set. He resents that somebody else has such desirable things because he knows that he will never have it. There is a divide between the wealthy and the “common folk” that can’t be crossed, so why try?

There's another side to the coin of that last statement, too: the guy also resents the rich fellow with the sports car because he knows that he didn't necessarily come by it by hard work. He might have had his riches dumped in his lap.

I would venture to say that Americans, by and large, respect wealth because they sense that in most cases it was hard come by. Wealth represents effort and the creation of value. It rarely in this country represents heredity.

I remember reading in one of the James Herriot books (All Creatures Great and Small, the tales of the author as a country veterinarian in Yorkshire) that in his country the self-made man was viewed with deep suspicion. Nothing, if I may paraphrase from memory, was more damning than the darkly uttered statement, "He had nowt when he fust came here." (As a Scotsman, he found this attitude troubling—apparently in Scotland, land of ingenuity and entrepreneurship, it's much more alien.)

To extend the anecdotal illustration of this anecdotal argument, I would present the case of my mom for the American perspective. Born in Westchester County and surrounded by generational wealth, she lit out for the West as soon as her mobility was sufficient. All it took was a family vacation or two in her youth, and a glimpse of a simpler and a more earnest lifestyle in the wide open lands where they used to ride horses, and she was convinced of the innate, visceral need to earn an honest living, and the intractable lack of fulfillment of that need that would come from staying in Scarsdale. As a result, I was brought up in a modest and rural house in Northern California instead of a mansion with a manicured lawn in New York. And I think I'm much better off because of it.

It's a curious happenstance that I'm living within outstretched arm's length of those ancestral digs in Westchester right now, and running a company renting out the kinds of cars that might get keyed if they were driven in some other country and parked on a blue-collar street. It's my own little Joe the Plumber experience, selling aspiration to a bunch of other Joe the Plumbers. At least for as long as aspiration sells.

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