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
Tal G in Jerusalem
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
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
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
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
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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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, September 21, 2003
13:28 - Wild Blue Yonder

(top)
Done with that last stupid chapter; now just two more to go and I'm at the 75% deadline. Now I'm off to go flying around the bay with Chris; back later.

Saturday, September 20, 2003
13:10 - We wonders, yes we wonders
http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?id=31551628-E56E-4248-A93E-838C45111C6E

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Remember when I was in the woods north of Toronto last month, and in a cabin at the camp site I found a sheaf of "Camp Songs" that had been rewritten with cheerful militant Islamic lyrics?

Well, well...

TORONTO - A Muslim youth organization that American counter-terrorism officials say was founded by Osama bin Laden's nephew has been operating in the Toronto area, the National Post has learned.

The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), established in the United States by Abdullah bin Laden, publishes literature promoting Islamic jihad and hatred of Jews, according to a senior investigator.

The Canadian branch, in Mississauga, operates under the supervision of the U.S. wing set up by Abdullah bin Laden, according to the group's own literature. Its headquarters is in Saudi Arabia.

In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia, David Kane, a senior special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, quoted provocative sections of books published by WAMY. One of the books said, "Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our youngsters will liberate Palestine and al-Quds [Jerusalem] when they go back to Islam and make jihad for the sake of Allah."

Special Agent Kane said another book compiled and published by WAMY listed "Heroes of Palestine" who had been killed in attacks against Israelis, including a terrorist who hijacked a bus and drove it off a cliff, killing 14.

"The Jews are the enemies of the faithful, God and the angels," Special Agent Kane quoted another WAMY book, entitled A Handy Encyclopedia of Contemporary Religions and Sects, as saying. "The Jews are humanity's enemies; they foment immorality in this world; The Jews are deceitful, they say something but mean the exact opposite."

WAMY Canada runs a series of Islamic camps and pilgrimages for youth.

I'm sure it's just a bizarre coincidence.

Friday, September 19, 2003
13:35 - Good News Don't Sell
http://www.msnbc.com/news/856672.asp

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I'm sure it would come as a surprise to people who get their news via hearsay from chat-forum wags and syndicated cartoonists to hear that things in Iraq are actually going well-- quite well indeed. That despite yesterday's attack near Tikrit, insurgent violence is dropping quite precipitously (we're going for longer and longer periods without American deaths). That Baghdad has electrical power. That just about every town and city has a democratically elected council. That American soldiers even today, in mid-September 2003, are hailed from the sidewalks with cries of "We love America!" and "Thank you Bush!" as they drive through the streets of all but a few Tikriti strongholds. That despite the slant you get from CNN and ABC and just about everybody but Fox, the troops don't have to skulk from doorway to doorway for fear that every second-story window harbors a sniper sheltered by the Loyal Iraqi Patriots.

In fact, to hear the reporting from the major news organs and all the popular comic artists (who, of course, people are predisposed to believe anyway because they're funny), one might come to believe that Iraq is, in fact, a quagmire that we should retreat from immediately.

Trouble is, if we were to do so, the Iraqis would be really surprised. Not least at our rationale. Because from where they stand, the longer the Americans stay, the better.

Glenn Reynolds has put up a nice long roundup of all the latest scandals that have gone nicely unreported except in the blogosphere-- Andrew Gilligan's doctoring of his Palm Pilot's message dates, Christine Amanpour's whining about being "intimidated" by Fox News, initially anti-war federal judge Don Walter's brick-wall first-hand realization of just how right we were to go to Iraq.

These things are reaching the editorial pages, but it'll be some time before they appear above the fold. If ever.

Only by continuing to spread the word will that ever happen.

Of course, if humor can be used for evil, it can be used for good as well. Read Frank J.'s take. No, really.

"Why are you filming the G.I.’s helping school children?" CNN's Lefty Stevens asked Fox News's Melinda Hawkish, "There's no story there."

"I think people would be interested in how war and destruction has improved the lives of the Iraqis," Melinda answered.

"Bah! Only stories of failure are news worthy," Stevens answered. Nearby he saw a troop fall to the ground, and he and his cameraman quickly rushed over to film him. "Yet another troop has fallen in this burgeoning quagmire," Stevens narrated.

"I'm alright," said Private Gomer, standing up, "I just done tripped on a rock."

"Dammit!" Stevens exclaimed, "Well scream for us if you are more seriously wounded."

Arrr.


11:05 - Stealing Capitalism's Sooouuuul

(top)
This morning the guest on Forum was William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. And with a title like that, you just know it's going to be one of those hours where I turn down the radio so I can hear the much more pleasant sounds coming from my VR6 all the way to work.

But, inevitably, the engine noise winds down as I come to the stop light after the off-ramp, and what is the guy doing but... holding gamely forth about how our society rewards all the wrong people for the jobs they do. "We have this artificial ladder of 'brain workers' and 'hand workers'," he says. "We have this idea that people who use their brains for a living are somehow better people, and that people who use their hands are to be looked down upon." He went on to explain how in order to make progress, we need to restructure society so that the people whose jobs we need are the ones who get paid the best, instead of those do-nothing parasites like corporate executives and scientists and stockbrokers and politicians. He noted that even brain surgeons do tedious repetitive work with their hands, while truck drivers and seamstresses and janitors all have an "intellectualizing process" in what they do. "One can ask the question of who in society we need more-- garbage collectors and sewer workers, or brain surgeons and bond traders? And frankly I'd have to say it's the garbage collectors!"

Unalloyed approval from the hostess and from the callers. Of course.

I parked and shut off the car before I could hear whether anyone called in to ask the following question, though: Why should a job that requires a $200,000 eight-year education be paid on an equal basis with a job that can be trained for in three days?

Y'know, just askin'.

I don't care how much society "needs" one job or another. Sure, we need people to flip our burgers, clean our streets, watch us while we sleep, and all the rest of the things Tyler Durden told the police chief guy while threatening to cut off his balls. Yes, I understand that unskilled labor is crucially important to the function of society.

But let's not kid ourselves, all right? There's no need to go all "noble savage" about people with menial, unglamorous jobs. I understand the temptation to get all weepy about the inequity of it all; why should Mr. White-Collar get paid six figures to sit behind a desk all day and type on a keyboard while his friend from high school digs ditches in the blazing sun for minimum wage? Oh, the humanity! And we need ditches to be dug; we don't need software to be written! ...Well, look: no matter how much you think the world should work, the supply and demand rules of economics apply to jobs the same as they do to everything else. Want to know why it costs an employer five bucks an hour to get a guy to swing a pickax, while it costs another employer $100,000 a year to get a guy to write C++ code? Um, because the people who are capable of swinging a pickax are more numerous than the ones who are capable of writing C++ code.

This is pretty rudimentary stuff. Why do I even need to explain it? Why are guys like Greider allowed to make hundreds of thousands of dollars writing books about how this fundamental theory of market economics is backwards and wrong and doesn't make sense?

Yes, we have a class system. We do. But it's one based not on accident of birth, or on inheritance, or on race or religion or gender-- but on merit. Tom Lehrer once started off his "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier" song with a monologue noting that our armed forces not only prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color, but also on the grounds of ability. It was a rueful joke in 1959; but today some people actually seem to want to add that criterion to the list.

It's a hard thing to get past, I admit. Even Greg Kihn, on KFOX in the morning a couple of years ago, wondered why we should trust airport security to an underpaid unskilled workforce when we need to be manning those X-ray machines with our best and brightest? We need those people, by gum. And I had to e-mail him to point out that if the airports could afford to pay the guys at the security checkpoint a salary commensurate with the education that makes them "our best and brightest", then they'll take that job. But unless they do, why the hell should someone who has put in that kind of money and study and effort over the years-- specifically to enhance his earning power-- choose to stand behind a beeping archway for twelve hours a day, staring at a little black-and-white TV screen and waving a magnetic wand over little old ladies' armpits?

While, presumably, Microsoft hires bums off the street to write their flagship software?

...Wait. Maybe Greider's on to something there.

Anyway: the callers clearly weren't going to be any help; the first one said "Hi-- I've been the beneficiary of capitalism all my life, but I've noticed that in recent years especially, the Soul of Capitalism has gotten progressively more dark... I mean, who can deny that one of the main reasons for the war in Iraq was oil?"

Uh, I can, you dorktard. If we invaded Iraq to steal their oil so we can have cheap gas, then why the hell do I have to pay $2.25 a gallon at the pump? I want my Evil Capitalist Imperialist Oppressor dividend, dammit! What, do I have to drive around the back to get to the special pumps, the ones reserved for the members of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? The ones where all the card-carrying demons in business suits fill up their SUVs and motorhomes and Palestinian-baby-threshing machines for a nickel a gallon, just like in the good old petticoats-buttoned-at-the-neck 50s?

Where do they get these people?

Oh, wait. It's California.

"My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state. We have the sons and daughters of every, of people from every planet, of every country on earth," [Governor Davis] said.

Never mind.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
02:42 - Baghdad Blog
http://freshair.npr.org/day_fa.jhtml;jsessionid=FN4MZAYNLTRV3LA5AINCF4A?todayDate=cu

(top)
Ah yes: this is why I keep listening to NPR on the way home from work. It's because every so often, Terry Gross will have on some guest who's just too interesting to pass up. And I can hardly think of a more interesting candidate for the position than today's guest: Salam Pax.

I didn't get to hear the whole thing-- we were running back and forth getting lattices from Home Despot to finish up the fence with-- but what I did hear was most excellent. You get to hear about Salam's life and times, how good his English is, what it was like in Baghdad during the bombing (which, it must be noted, was a subject that Terry just kept goading and goading and hoping he would expand upon, but all he did was talk about how "precision bombs are just scarily accurate" and how the bombing and even the ground invasion of Baghdad proper were as nothing compared to how scared his fellow Iraqis were of the Ba'athist army and what they might do.)

The audio's all archived, so I'll be grabbing an hour tomorrow to absorb the whole thing.


16:45 - Where do I get tickets?
http://www.ejectejecteject.com/archives/000065.html

(top)
Bill Whittle has some Big News.

As commenter "Blackfive" puts it, he's kicking in the gates of Hell.


09:34 - That's the stuff
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0903/091803.html

(top)
Lileks has gotten in the habit of warning people off of his more screedish Bleats, because presumably a lot of people don't wanna read "all that political crap".

Whatever. When I see the words "Bail if you choose; see you tomorrow", I rub my hands together and pour myself a drink, grinning.

Monday, September 15, 2003
17:28 - Censorship: American Style
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~6439~1628985,00.html

(top)
Some countries censor their citizens to prevent them from discussing events and ideas which might make the State look bad. Some countries silence teachers in their schools who might tell their students that their country might be in the wrong.

And here in AmeriKKKa, our public schools deny teachers the right to discuss the most important event in our recent history in such a way as to portray the country as being in the right.

Ritter on Wednesday showed his class of 13- and 14-year-old students a CNN-produced video that included images of Sept. 11 victims leaping from windows. He did not have district approval to show the video, Amole said.

Jeanette Washington, a student curriculum administrator, dropped by Ritter's classroom while he was playing the video "America Remembers," and Ritter later was called out of class to meet with principal Cynde Fischer.

Ritter said he agreed not to show the video again. After a meeting Wednesday afternoon he understood he could answer questions only about Sept. 11, but he went to school Thursday with other anniversary activities planned just in case, he said.

That morning, he said, Fischer told him he must limit his Sept. 11 discussion to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, and then move to a regular lesson about the foundation of American government.

"I did not feel it was an option for me to explore other Sept. 11 (topics)," he said.

School officials told him they would sit in on the class, and when he protested, they told him he could follow their directions or leave, Ritter said.

When he went downstairs to think about it, he returned and Fischer told him to leave, he said.

He returned for a regular day of work Friday, but administrators asked him to leave again, he said.

Minders. Right here at home. To make sure he doesn't teach his students about the attack on the World Trade Center.

Our future isn't just a Nerf world. It's a Nerf world run by Big Brother.

(Via LGF.)


17:04 - One would think they planned it this way

(top)
Oh, brother.

A federal appeals court Monday ordered California officials to halt preparations for the October 7 gubernatorial recall election, citing concerns about a "hurried, constitutionally infirm" process.

Specifically, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the state needed to upgrade its voting equipment first.

"The inherent defects in the system are such that approximately 40,000 voters who travel to the polls and cast their ballot will not have their vote counted at all," the court ruled, citing voting machines that the secretary of state's office has declared unfit.

Interesting. So I suppose all previous elections which were carried out using archaic systems similar to California's Pleistocene punch-card system are also hereby to be considered null and void, yesno? Including the one that elected Davis in the first place?

What I find more teeth-gritting about this is that all the bizarre eleventh-hour vote-pandering legislation that Davis has been pushing through in the past few weeks-- like giving legal driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and requiring catalytic converters on lawnmowers, which will probably mean lawnmowers' O2 sensors will now all start burning out and requiring $500 repairs every six months-- will not be immediately and painfully repealed by whatever saner candidate steps into his seat, as a little nasty-gram-to-the-new-guy, welcome aboard-- have fun dealing with this, as planned. Instead, these travesties will stand.

If Davis has used the recall as a cover for this flurry of ludicrous and otherwise impossible lawmaking, only to emerge smelling like a rose thanks to the Ninth Circuit, even Arnie won't be able to save us.


16:56 - Hammer drills both kick, and suck, ass

(top)
My arm, leg, and abdomen muscles all agree this is so.

But all the holes are now drilled in the concrete-brick wall along the back of the property, and the pressure-treated 4x4s are all mounted with 10" carriage bolts, and the cement piers and posts are all painted a deep terra-cotta reddish-brown. That's so the crosspieces can be attached between them, and then the piers can be covered with vertical trellis pieces, which then will stretch across the top. The brown will show through the trellises on the way up, but the rest of the white wall will be covered with redwood planks.

The backyard's still a mess, but it's starting to take shape. Slowly. Surely.

Photos. I need photos.

Friday, September 12, 2003
01:36 - Politics from the Land of Make-Believe, with flowers and bells and leprechauns and magic frogs with funny little hats

(top)
Still getting caught back up on all those newsgroup discussions. And lo and behold, on 8/6 there was an "anniversary" piece for the Hiroshima bombing. Centered around and juxtaposed with Bush's statement after we mistakenly bombed that wedding in Afghanistan.

"Fat Man and Little Boy Say: Civilian Casualties Are Unavoidable!", copperplated brashly in the circular border surrounding an iconic, eroticized "riding the bomb" image we all know from Dr. Strangelove.

Followups included deep sentiments like "Bush must be getting better at sticking feet in his mouth."

God, I'm getting tired of this crap.

Civilian casualties are unavoidable. Yeah, so? They bleeding well are.

Especially when the civilians in question are in the immediate vicinity of al Qaeda strongholds, and firing machine guns into the air when there are spotter planes about.

But no, it's all of a piece with Hiroshima. Which was itself just another piece of unwarranted American brutality, to be mocked and satirized and vilified fifty years on.

I honestly don't know what to make of these guys anymore. They seem to have just enough historical awareness to enable them to make accurate reference to dates and events and quotes artfully out of context, but they're totally lacking in the moral weights and balances that underly these decisions ensconced in their circumstances. I can't dismiss it all as simply people regurgitating sound bites they think are cute and visuals they think make for good irony; but nor can I believe that they have all the information necessary and yet have arrived at these dumbfounding ethical conclusions about America's role in the world and conduct during war.

Without knowing which case it is, I can't know whether these people simply want more tactical perfection and more moral consistency in US actions, or if they simply want the US to go away and take its poisonous history and culture with it.

On that note, I seriously need some sleep.


16:46 - ...Or the terrorists win
http://www.whatithinkiknow.com/Archive/WIT20030911.html

(top)
Damien Del Russo has a rather different take on "getting over it":

But that was then - now, I hardly think about it. Weeks go by when Sept. 11th doesn't enter my mind - even media references slide by. And, I think that's fine. Of course I would be much more concerned if our government weren't doing something about it. But even though some of the methods are stupid (e.g. silly airport security) or ineffective, the main action - taking the fight to the terrorists and West-haters in the Middle East - is going well. I trust our military to do the job there, and that's the most important thing at this point. So, I'll do my home improvements, take my daughter for evening walks on perfect days in September, and go on living the good life we have here, now. There's never been a better time to be alive, and if terrorists and dictators had their way, it would be downhill from here. But that won't happen, because we, the victims of 9/11 - Americans - won't let it happen.

Next year, I'll probably write about my daughter, or football. My best hope is that we can continue to remember Sept 11th, as opposed to suffering another national tragedy - that's the best measure of our success and resilience. Never again.

I can get behind that.


12:33 - Innocent Infant Artists
http://www.kqed.org/programs/program-landing-local.jsp?progID=RD37

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Normally I don't get to hear the locally-produced, Asian-interest program Pacific Time on my NPR station, because it comes on about a half-hour before I usually leave work. But some days I manage to catch it, because I'm on the road early, for whatever reason.

Usually the show is quite interesting-- and not just because of the funky Sino-rock theme music or the kookily endearing coverage of protests and concerts by Asian activists to "help the North Korean people who are suffering under American oppression". There are some real and worthwhile viewpoints to be had, things the show is frankly quite right to say I don't normally hear in the mainstream news. (Though the question of whether the importation of rice into Japan by Japanese-Americans is a larger issue to most people in the US than, say, Laci Petersen is surely up for debate.)

But yesterday I skipped out early to attend a dinner party up in Berkeley with some old high-school friends, the same ones I'd spent that day on the boat with a couple of weeks ago. (Zachary's Pizza, man. Mmm-mmm.) And that meant I hit the traffic snags in the partially-constructed 237-880 interchange, reducing my speed to a crawl and my engine noise to the level where I could hear the radio, just as Pacific Time came on.

Since the start of the Palestinian intifada and the September 11 attacks, the angry voices of political Islam that have shouted lthe oudest from the Muslim world. But there is a more conciliatory voice urging peace and dialogue with the West, and unequivocally condemning terrorism in all its forms. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a recent conference of mainstream and progressive Islamic scholars put out a message of moderation.

That's the summary of the first segment, as given on the website. And it was quite honestly one of the most refreshing things I've heard in a very long time. Conferences of moderate Muslims, actively coming together to figure out how to combat fundamentalism. An acknowledgment that radical Islam teaches that innovation and new ideas are wrong, an idea which these moderates think is ridiculous-- "You can't develop without new ideas." They talked about the Qur'an admonishing Muslims to seek out not just religious knowledge, but a second kind of knowledge as well-- scientific and technological and medical knowledge-- which, oddly, is something that's completely neglected by Taliban-style theocracies. The Malays interviewed said that they have a long way to go, but that they see 9/11 and the war in Iraq as a turning point for modern Islam-- and a positive one, even. "Radical Muslims have had this idea that by extreme faith, by sacrificing themselves, they can change history. But now, after 9/11 and Iraq, they're starting to realize that they cannot write history in this world." I'm paraphrasing, but that's what the guy more or less said. He sounded wry and optimistic, too, not as fatalistic as my flawed paraphrasing sounds. (Listen to the archived audio if you're interested. This first segment at least is quite worthwhile, and I found it hit the spot yesterday in particular.)

But then... oh, then. Then there was this second segment:

The U.S. has imposed stricter immigration measures since September 11, 2001. While some American artists are able to travel to Indonesia to participate in cultural exchange projects, Indonesian artists have faced a tough time getting U.S. visas.

A bunch of love-beaded American artists, mostly female by the choice of interviewees, departed immediately after 9/11/01 to go to Indonesia, bringing messages of cultural exchange and tolerance and bright pretty colors. They would ride to locations on little scooters, perch on rickety bamboo ladders, and paint huge murals of flowers and butterflies and birds with their Indonesian counterparts, and thereby gain a better understanding of Muslims and Islam in the post-WTC world.

My first reaction was, hey, why Indonesia? Why not go to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan and try this?

The artists, of course, when prompted with a microphone, held forth with great vigor about how wonderful a people the Indonesians were-- how the artists had felt great trepidation about going to a Muslim country post-9/11, but found upon getting there that everybody was just so nice and welcoming and generous and laid-back, and how after a few weeks of living there, they found themselves becoming similarly at ease, the stress and cares of their lives back in America slipping away. "They would drive us around on their scooters every day, and paint with us," one breathy-teen-voiced participant said. "Not being able to reciprocate just made me feel really bad. I felt that these people deserved to be able to, you know, like, travel... much more than I do."

One of them mused in doleful, singsong voice about how badly she wanted her new Indonesian friends to be able to come to the US for their art-exchange program tour. "I want to show them so many things about America. I want them to see all the things that I hate... and then I want to share some things about my childhood and community."

Geez, don't fall all over yourself with jingoism there, you chauvinistic American.

And the big story in this segment was about how the Indonesian artists, when they tried to get their visas to enter the US, faced such a horrible police-state atmosphere that the listener can't imagine why anyone would ever want to enter such a place. As the narrator ominously intoned, young men coming from Muslim countries were suspect. "The interview process was humiliating," one Indonesian artist said. "When you come into our country, it's all based on this idea of, like, friendship and goodwill. But just to go to the US Embassy, it's all surrounded with barbed wire-- it's like going into a war zone. And the entry interview-- I thought it was going to be, you know, a normal conversation. Not like where you go up to a counter to buy a ticket."

I hope Ashcroft and Tom Ridge get the message: 9/11-like rage against America is caused by long lines at Customs.

But they got their visas, and they did their tour of the US, and they showed off their murals and paintings of birds and flowers and trees and butterflies, and it was a big hit. But the stress got to be just too much, and the artists retired to a back alley after a show to smoke and drink and talk.

One of them picked up a cut-out letter E from the ground. So they all started naming words that begin with E. At first it was simple words: entertainment, and easy. Then it went on to more complicated words: eternal, and endless. Soon, though, the reality of the present began to hit home, with words like exit permit and entry visa. Then words like excluded and expelled. And finally, words like embassy... and evil... and empire.

Yeah, excellent. Emissaries with easels, explaining "evil" to expatriates whose experience has been expunged of events in East Timor.

"One-Way Cultural Exchange Between U.S. and Indonesia" is the name of this second segment. Yeah, I'd say that's about right. Only one side learned anything.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
13:39 - Understanding
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,560773,00.html

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13) Check your weapon before you leave and long before you leave. (You must make your knife sharp and must not discomfort your animal during the slaughter).

Via LGF.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
21:50 - My chest hurts
http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=640367

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Fark's topic today: Microsoft High.




16:12 - Perspective and soda
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/004099.php

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Tim Blair:

The Associated Press reports from Jerusalem:

On the eve of his daughter's wedding, Dr. David Applebaum sat with the young woman late into the evening at a coffee house, offering fatherly advice on marriage before her big day.

Father and daughter were killed late Tuesday when a suicide bomber struck the cafe - one of two attacks that left 15 people dead.

Applebaum had just flown back to Israel after giving a talk at a New York terrorism symposium marking the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Dr. Applebaum was the founder and director of Jerusalem’s TEREM emergency medical centres. His daughter's funeral will be held on the day she was to be married.

Oh, but I'm sure the AP and Reuters will find a way to tell a similar story of irony and woe and loving family life cut barbarously short when the IDF finally gets Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Mahmoud Zahar.

You know it'll happen.


14:06 - If you can't say anything nice...
http://english.aljazeera.net/Structural+Postings/CartoonDisplayerPopUp.htm?idpage=1&

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Do they have even the slightest idea how offensive this is? How deeply, deeply wrongheaded and inhuman?


Of course not, because we don't preach our outrage on state-sponsored TV. That's not what we do here in the Civilized World. We have to bottle up our anger, you see. We have to keep quiet, smile, take deep breaths, dispense our feelings in small measured doses with warning labels. Because to do otherwise would be hubris.

That's what being Western is all about, apparently. Turning the other cheek. Appeasement. Peace at all costs. Absorbing insult and attack without retaliation.

I think I can still do it. But it's getting awfully hard.

(Just imagine, as a thought experiment, what it would be like if America had responded to 9/11 the way that, say, the Palestinians would have.)


13:40 - Just shut up, McGruder
http://www.ucomics.com/boondocks/2003/09/10/

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Yet another of those things that only sounds ridiculous if you don't think about it.



Right. It can't be something based on actual science, something that's a lot more complex than can be explained in a three-panel comic strip. It must be because those Republicans are so DumbEvilStupid™ that they're willing to invent a Topsy-Turvy Town where environmentalist language can be used to justify their desire to cut down trees just because they... hate trees.

Or whatever.


11:47 - Stay Angry
http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/000244.html

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Tim Blair found this piece. He says it's that "one thing" that you should read if you only read one 9/11 piece, but there seem to be too many of those to only pick one. (Seems we've already well and truly taken care of that problem identified a couple of weeks ago-- namely, that none of the "official" entertainment organs were planning commemorative pieces. All hail the grass roots, eh?)

Growing anger, anger that got bigger after seeing the images. No wonder they have disappeared. GOD forbid that Americans get angry. We have to stay passive, we have to crumple up handkerchiefs in agony, we have to blubber and mourn the loss. But righteous anger is to be avoided. Americans cannot be trusted to handle their anger. Anger is BAD, right? Anger is NEGATIVE. We have to try to understand WHY, we have to try to see the other side's point of view.

Well, you know what? I do see the other side's point of view, and I hate their point of view. It's like that great Dennis Miller quote from his recent HBO special: "You know what? I hated religious fanatics who wanted to murder me on September 10, okay?"

"Understanding" is not the key to everything. You can understand something and hate it with all your heart just the same. As a matter of fact, the MORE I understand the reasoning of the thugs on those planes, and the ideology behind them, the MORE I hate them.

Seeing those images again made me outraged at those of us who chide others to get over it. I am stunned that anyone could ever look at the carnage on that footage (and I saw the whole damn thing with my actual eyes) - and somehow ... not be changed. Get OVER IT? What? Are you out of your goddamned freaking mind? What is the MATTER with you?

I was a little miffed at myself for so quickly condemning PBS as a whole after that "Muhammad: Portrait of a Peaceful Leader of a Peaceful Religion" or whatever it was, a couple of Decembers ago. But seeing the spreading reaction to this 9/11 special, I'm glad again that I haven't wasted any thought on PBS since then.

On the other hand, I'm glad someone is keeping an eye on them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003
21:30 - We need role models
http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/000307.html

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This piece is getting linked from all over, and with good reason. I guess it's because things like this have come to light in the past two years that I feel as though anything I myself could add or write would just cheapen things.

If you read only one emotional and inspiring story and learn only one name tihs September, though, you could do far, far worse than those of Rick Rescorla.


18:09 - Nothing to see here
http://www.capitalistlion.com/article.cgi?628

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I'm afraid I won't have anything very meaningful to say on the subject of 9/11, now that the second anniversary is rolling over us like the low, solemn clouds that have been inexplicably hanging on the tops of the Santa Cruz mountains for the past couple of days, only this afternoon to start shedding some moisture on our sidewalks.

I wasn't there, after all.

I was asleep, safe in my bed, on the West Coast, where it was only just becoming light at the time that the first plane hit back at the other end of the country. I woke up, stretched, tried to focus on what I was hearing out of my clock-radio-- not classic rock, but what sounded like an extraordinarily agitated news report. There's usually news on at 9:00, at the top of each hour; but it didn't usually sound like the headline-reader was trying to keep from shouting the lines into the microphone.

So I turned on the TV, which was usually perpetually tuned to Cartoon Network; I didn't even remember the channel number for CNN, so I had to use the on-screen guide to get there. And then I sat there staring at the AMERICA UNDER ATTACK banner, and at the plumes of smoke (the towers had already fallen by this time), wondering what the hell kind of "attack" they could possibly mean-- ICBMs? Street riots? What city was this? --for a few dumb minutes before I even turned around to see what was on my computer monitor.

The first thing was a message from CapLion, sent shortly after the first plane hit. Terrible accident, he said. Boy, would traffic suck in Manhattan this morning.

Then there was one more message. It only had two words in it. And then idle.

So what could I do? I woke up my roommate-- "You should probably be awake for this"-- and sat down dumbly to watch his TV for a little while. I filled him in. There wasn't much to say. There were already rumors of footage of Palestinians dancing in the streets, but I shelved that for later. There were still those images of the crashes themselves to process. Eventually I just went back to my room, called my boss, asked what was going on at work, said I'd be in a little later, and just sort of sat there.

I'd bought a PlayStation 2 the previous night. September 10. There it was, the date and the price, right there on the receipt from Fry's. What a set of circumstances under which to try to learn how to play Gran Turismo 3.

I talked to a couple of friends online. Yes, I'd heard what had happened.

Poor Khlau Kalash vendor.

Humor was all I could fall back on. That and the iron object in the back of my dresser, which I realized I might be called upon to dig out. Some of our neighbors were Muslim, you see.

And who knows what an angry mob might decide to do?

Neighbors are neighbors. And even at that point in the day, we knew that we weren't going to be a part of the real war, the one being fought in the urban canyons back East. Perhaps we had to play up our own role. If we had to die in the streets of San Jose fighting off our own vengeful compatriots in the historic violent riots on the Blackest Day in American History, well, so be it.

But, of course, that didn't happen. (I really should have known better. I didn't know anywhere near as much about America two Septembers ago as I do now.) We went to Cosentino's and did some cursory shopping, picking up essentials on the off chance that the country would be locked down or something. The air was still, traffic was light, but it was no different-- oddly-- from how I remember Christmas being in my youth. Normally we'd stayed home and indoors all day. It was Christmas, for crying-out-loud! You didn't drive on Christmas! And so on those rare times in the early years that we did go somewhere, I always found myself staring in fascination at the rare other cars we passed, wondering who was in them, what they were thinking. What could be so important? Why aren't you inside? The whole year has been leading up to this! Get off the road! And though age brought practicality and cynicism about that kind of thing, the same kind of primal nerve got tripped in my mind on that day. Didn't you hear the news? Go home, dammit! Can't it wait?

Eventually I went in to work, though not many people got much done. Most people went home early. Our friends gathered to watch the news until late into the night, hunched around a party tray of snack food, like some kind of macabre Cinco de Mayo festival. Hell, it was practical.

We told the stories we'd heard throughout the day. We waited for new developments, revised numbers, talking-head analysis, categorical denial and apology from cross-legged Taliban officials. We noticed after a couple of hours that there hadn't been any commercials. We wondered if there would ever be commercials again.

But for me, and for a lot of us three thousand miles away from where it happened, the reality of the events was still dull and distant, and-- somehow-- simultaneously loud and touchy and oversaturated. It wasn't like any of us thought it was all just a dream, or anything maudlin like that; it was more like being suddenly inside a sci-fi movie. Who knew when the clouds over the horizon would suddenly light up red and the sky would boil with spreading fire? Who knew when the Golden Gate Bridge would collapse asunder and crash into the Bay? Who knew when our computer screens would all suddenly flash giant skull-and-crossbones icons and shout Allahu akbar! at us? Who knew if anybody could ever watch a movie, or listen to a song, or buy a loaf of bread without feeling somehow guilty about the mundanity of it all? By gum, everything should have meaning now. They'll be writing history books with chapters that start with today's date. That banana you eat, that e-mail you type, that toe you stub might one day be on some kid's final exam.

So it was with no small amount of guilt that I, and probably others, went to bed that night. Guilt that we hadn't been in a position to take a more active part; guilt that we were worried about deadlines at work while people in New York were concerned primarily with finding out whether their family members were alive; guilt that we out here were never actually in any real danger, and especially guilt that we'd acted as though we might be.

And so, although this account has dragged on far longer and become far more self-aggrandized than I'd intended it to, I'd recommend looking elsewhere for apt first-hand descriptions of what it was like on that day where things actually did happen. Where guilt arose only from having the luck to live out the day when others did not.

I can't imagine how I might have handled being in that position. All I know is that I haven't "gotten over it", even having spent the intervening two years here on the sunny West Coast, far away from the battlegrounds, surrounded by those who are ready to dismiss any lingering emotional attachment to 9/11 as some damn faux Madison Avenue white-male sob-story sold by the cable networks and the politicians as an excuse to enslave the world.

I can only imagine what it would take for a New Yorker to "get over it".

No, actually I can't.


14:29 - Sounds awfully familiar to me
http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/5288.htm

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Via VodkaPundit-- Daniel Pipes has a post-mortem on the Oslo accords. Because by now they're not just merely dead, they're really most sincerely dead.

I remember, at the time, that not only were the accords hailed with a kind of festival atmosphere among all those who so desperately wanted to believe that something could work, but there was another side to the public discourse that painted Clinton, not to put too fine a point on it, as Satan. "He will come in the guise of a peacemaker," said the usual Final Days fantasies, triumphantly centering on that "handshake" photo.

I guess he couldn't have known how things would turn out, though naïveté may well have played a part. But it can hardly be argued that things are better now because of Oslo.

What went wrong?

Many things, but most important was that the deal rested on a faulty Israeli premise that Palestinians had given up their hope of destroying the Jewish state. This led to the expectation that if Israel offered sufficient financial and political incentives, the Palestinians would formally recognize the Jewish state and close down the conflict.

Israelis therefore pushed themselves to make an array of concessions, in the futile hope that flexibility, restraint and generosity would win Palestinian goodwill. In fact, these steps made matters worse by sending signals of apparent demoralization and weakness. Each concession further reduced Palestinian awe of Israeli might, made Israel seem more vulnerable and incited irredentist dreams of annihilating it.

The result was a radicalized and mobilized Palestinian body politic. In speech and actions, via claims to the entire land of Israel and the murder of Israelis, the hope of destroying Israel acquired ever-more traction.

Thus did the muted Palestinian mood at Oslo's start in 1993 turn into the enraged ambition evident today.

In other words, appeasement doesn't work. Never has, never will.

Maybe the EU's finally tagging Hamas as a terrorist group (following the recent Jerusalem attack) is the sign that we've been looking for (or at least one such sign), namely that what we're dealing with here is a culture for whom terrorism is not just condoned, it's celebrated, inculcated in kids from birth, taught in those "summer camps" that instruct children in bomb-making techniques, painted lavishly in murals, commemorated in street names and schools, and seen as the legitimate way to salvation. As long as the Jews are offered as the scapegoat for the whole of the Arab world and its collective failures, where the world thinks nothing of a "cease-fire" in which dozens of attacks are foiled each day and which is named for a historical "truce" in which Mohammad's forces laid down their arms so as to rebuild their strength for a later sneak attack, and where the last desperate attempt at a humane deterrent against terrorism-- a partition wall-- is condemned and torn at by "peace" protesters, and where the majority of Palestinians believe not in a two-state solution but in the destruction of Israel, trusting to diplomacy and reason and the common human desire for peace is just wishful thinking.

In the spirit of Oslo's 10th anniversary, I propose a radically different approach for the next decade:

* Acknowledge the faulty presumption that underlay both Oslo and the road map (Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence).

* Resolve not to repeat the same mistake.

* Understand that diplomacy aiming to close down the Arab-Israeli conflict is premature until Palestinians give up their anti-Zionist fantasy.

* Make Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence the primary goal.

* Impress on Palestinians that the sooner they accept Israel, the better off they will be. Conversely, so long they pursue their horrid goal of extermination, diplomacy will remain moribund and they will receive no financial aid, arms or recognition as a state.

* Give Israel license not just to defend itself but to impress on the Palestinians the hopelessness of their cause.

When, over a long period of time and with complete consistency, the Palestinians prove they accept Israel, negotiations can be re-opened and the issues of the past decade - borders, resources, armaments, sanctities, residential rights - be taken up anew. The sooner we adopt the right policies, the sooner that will be.

In other words, they can't be rewarded for the road they've taken-- they must be defeated. That is, after all, what we're doing with al Qaeda. And this is, after all, part of the same war.

UPDATE: Den Beste has more. One way or another, it always comes back down to Arafat.

UPDATE: It would be interesting to know if anybody can find one instance, just one, of Israelis behaving even remotely like this after any IDF operation against terrorist leaders, no matter how focused, efficient, or successful.

Hell, I can't even imagine Americans acting like this if we got bin Laden.


13:42 - Spam Moment of Zen

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That's all.
Saturday, September 6, 2003
01:05 - Out of the fog
http://northcoastjournal.com/090403/cover0904.html

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Via InstaPundit-- a soldier's report from Iraq, including his stupefaction at finding upon his return home that all the news reports we've been seeing here have been so negative.

THE QUESTIONS I GET FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE ARE, "What's going on over there? Why is there so much fighting? Why do the Iraqi people hate us so much?" When I first heard that, that's when I realized that the news was not proportionate to what was going on in the country.

I was in eight or nine cities in Iraq. Starting from Kuwait, we saw pretty much every city along the river on the way to Baghdad. People absolutely loved us everywhere we went. There were big parades. We'd just roll down the streets, or sometimes be on foot patrol, and kids would run out of their houses just to wave at us, just to get a wave back from us. People would give us flowers; they'd give us flowers and gifts and Pepsi -- all kinds of stuff.

I'd have people come up to me and say, "What took you so long? You should have done this in '91!" Especially when we were in Baghdad. We were in this huge building, with a huge fence around it. I'd have a lot of people -- especially the elderly guys -- telling me, "I was tortured under this building for 12 or 14 years," or, "There's torture chambers under here." So we went down and checked it out, and sure enough, there were torture chambers under there -- basically an entire block, underground, with cells and everything else.

This is particularly interesting to me because it's appearing in the North Coast Journal-- the main newspaper in Arcata, the Hippiest Place on Earth, from where this soldier hails. While I was up there for the Kinetic Sculpture Race in May, the attitude was one of such post-war seething that I had the impression I'd have had my car vandalized if I'd been there a couple of months earlier. This is a place where newspaper vending boxes in front of supermarkets are covered with scrawls of "LIES" and glass display cases showing documents like the Bill of Rights and the abolition of slavery are plastered over with strident anti-war handbills. And the North Coast Journal, naturally, reflected the tenor of the place.

For this kind of story to appear there now must be horribly galling to the residents. I'll bet there will be protests outside their offices on Monday calling for the ouster of whatever Rupert Murdoch flunky has forcibly taken over the paper and printed such blatant propaganda to spread over their town.

It should be noted, however, that this kind of story is very, very typical; I've read a dozen or so of them, and to a man they all say, "Wait a minute. What the hell has the news been telling you all this time?"

It's taking its time, but the establishment of a free press in post-war America continues apace.


00:42 - Stupid fat lazy Americans

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I heard on the news last night that there was a new health study out.

Oh great, I thought. I can't wait to hear how I'm going to die this time.

But that wasn't it at all. Just the opposite, in fact. The findings of the study were that in the past ten years in the US, there's been a massive decline in the number of restaurant patrons ordering dessert.

And the reason? Nothing to do with health concerns, it seems. It's all because Americans just don't have the time for it anymore. People cited in the study said they're working more hours than they were ten years ago, and though they're making more money, they have less time to linger over food.

And it's not just restaurants, either. Frozen dinner manufacturers have apparently changed their offerings to match the new buying patterns; and whereas ten years ago nearly all frozen dinners included some sort of dessert item, now only like 15% do.

What to make of this? I don't know, but with unions striking in Europe to try to get 30-hour workweeks and smoking still a ubiquitous thing from Lisbon to St. Petersburg, I'm starting to think that maybe the reason why I don't see as many morbidly obese people trundling down the streets as the news normally leads me to believe there should be is that they're all inside making documentaries.

Friday, September 5, 2003
19:08 - Dumb puppy, or soundbite salad?
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/004023.php#comments

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According to Tim Blair, some of his commenters, and a USA Weekend article, Johnny Depp's "dumb, dangerous puppy" comments were taken wildly out of context and/or completely reworded. Or he gave two totally different interviews. I'm not sure which.

Instead he fell in love, first with Paradis and then with his adopted country. He says he is shocked by the gun violence in American schools and feels it is far safer raising a family in France.

"I was very lucky that something steered me to France back in '98," he says of his decision to make a movie with Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski in 1998. "I love America -- I love going back, seeing my family and friends -- but it's wonderful to get back to France and be living in a tiny village with nothing around. There is still the possibility to live a simple life. You can go to the market, walk about, buy fruits and vegetables -- the things they did 100 and 200 years ago. We have moments when we're sitting in our house and our kids are playing, and we look at one another and think, 'Thank God we escaped.' "

A product of the rural South who spent many years in Hollywood, Depp never really felt at home until he moved to France. He rejects the view that there has been a surge of anti-Americanism there because of opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and he believes the French people have behaved in a dignified manner while some Americans have resorted to "schoolyard tactics" by renaming French fries "freedom fries."

"That was so revealing, that grown men sat around and came up with that idea," he says of the freedom fries initiative. "It was tragic and embarrassing. At the same time, I was happy it was exposed, and people knew that a bunch of congressmen -- big people, the upper-drawer people -- made that decision."

He also was not convinced by the Bush administration's rationale for the war. He says the real reason was America's economic interests. "I saw these American kids being shipped off to war, and I was looking at their faces and thinking, 'They're not ready for it,' " he says. "Is anybody ever ready for it? You're thinking about where they're going, what they're getting into. What's it really all about? It's about dough; it's about money. That's ugly."

So he wasn't deliberately lying, then; he's just on the clueless side. He prefers walking to market with a basket on his head, and that's fine. He thinks the war in Iraq was all about money, which is a new and interesting angle, well-thought-out and bound to upset many political theorists' theses. "Freedom fries" were cooked up by Congress, apparently. That's not the way I remember it, but hey.

If this is the extent to which his commentary reached, it definitely falls more into the "par for the course" category than the "Ha-haah, Orlando Bloom and I shall conquer every 14-year-old female American's heart, and then turn them all against their leaders in a mad cackling swarm of furies in baggy pants and glowsticks!" category.

That's good. It would have sucked never seeing Fear & Loathing again.

Thursday, September 4, 2003
18:51 - Tell me this isn't happening
http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=3357051

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Orwell was an optimist.

Prokofiev's version ends with Peter capturing the wolf and leading a triumphant procession to the zoo, paining music-loving environmentalists with romantic visions of wolves in the wild.

In the new version, narrated by former U.S. president Clinton and called Wolf Tracks, Peter again captures the wolf, but this time repents of his act and releases the animal, who howls a grateful goodbye.

"Forgetting his triumph, Peter thought instead of fallen trees, parched meadows, choked streams, and of each and every wolf struggling for survival," Clinton narrates.

"The time has come to leave wolves in peace," he adds.

French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus wrote the score for the new wolf-friendly version while former Soviet leader Gorbachev provides an introduction and epilogue.

"In Prokofiev's classic, man dominates, but Wolf Tracks expresses quite different values of balance and tolerance. All of us hope for a future where these values are lived every day," Gorbachev said.

<sob>

Wednesday, September 3, 2003
01:05 - By their slurs shall ye know them
http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,7158078%255E13780,00.html

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Depp:

"I was ecstatic they re-named 'French Fries' as 'Freedom Fries'. Grown men and women in positions of power in the US government showing themselves as idiots," he told Stern.

Now which men and women in positions of power might you be talking about, you smirking little weasel? Which proverbial they have earned your incoherent ire?

Oh, that's right. Bush and Rice and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, who jointly passed the Imperial Decree that all subjectscitizens of the US must henceforth refer to "French fries" as "freedom fries" on pain of exile to the gulags. Right?

He clearly doesn't have even the beginnings of understanding of how American society and government work, so perhaps his moving to France is the right answer for him. And for us. It'll raise the moral quotient of both countries.

Dammit, I'm running out of movies I can watch and enjoy whose stars haven't gone on record as card-carrying members of the Rectal-Cranial Inversion Brigade.


17:29 - I'm okay, really

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I just got word from the VW dealer that on top of my O2 sensor being fixed (which is what the solidly-on Check Engine light is always about, always, though for some reason they always have to act like it's some big mystery, and for some reason nobody has invented an O2 sensor that has a lifetime longer than your average set of tires), the catalytic converter is also fizzled and must be replaced. Fortunately, replacing the catalytic converter is covered under the drivetrain/exhaust warranty.

Unfortunately, not only do they not have a catalytic converter in stock-- neither does any of the supply warehouses in the region. LA, Reno, Seattle... all out.

You can't get a catalytic converter for a Jetta if you live in the western United States. For, apparently, as much as six months.

No! No! Calm down! That's a worst-case scenario! the guy told me. It could be as little as a day or two! We just don't know yet.

Fine. Let's have a call back tomorrow to see what the news is. I fully expect he'll tell me that they've got one on back-order, and it'll arrive in about two weeks. Long enough to completely stall the household's mobility and progress on construction, but not long enough to qualify as "an unreasonable period of time" sufficient for me to demand a loaner off the lot. Murphy's Law works that way.

But no, no... I'm cool. Everything will be fine.

I know I've been on a bit of a tear today. I know it looks like this has been one of the most off-pissing days of my life. And I suppose it's had the potential to be one.

But I'm calm. I'm in my happy place. Oddly enough, I don't feel anywhere near as angry as I must sound.

Honest.


13:57 - Remember when comics were funny?
http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff900/fv00845.gif

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God dammit, can we have just one strip that dares to break free of the Comic Artists' International Anti-US Union party line?!



I mean, yes, sure, humor is great for catharsis. We were all glad when we found we could laugh again after 9/11. But is there some great unspoken law, some You Must Never Speak of the Snares rule, that prevents any pop humorists on the planet (aside from Chris Muir) from acknowledging the scale and the importance of the war we're fighting? Let alone to stop spreading memes to a credulous and self-conscious public that, if the war should fail, are going to be the single largest cause for that failure?

They call it self-loathing, the desire among high-minded pundits to see the West fail so they can quote Denethor's death-pyre ravings and look all cool with their arms outstretched and a wall of flame leaping up behind them. But you know what? I call it treachery. I call it treason. And I'm beginning to think that as the 9/11 anniversary approaches with nary an acknowledgment on the major TV networks, it's going to take something even bigger and more gruesome than the events of that day to even get us back to the clarity we had two years ago. Much bigger. We're desensitized and cynical now, you see. Leads to wry, defeatist irony in place of the grim resolve we once had to put our foot down, ignore or silence our critics, and do some good in this world. But it's not real to us any longer. It's all a big fucking joke.

All that violence on television, I'll bet. Especially during September of 2001.


13:36 - Che and Che Alike
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=8056_Indonesian_VP-_US_is_Terrorist_Ki

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Somehow or other, this LGF thread turned into a back-and-forthing about Che Guevara. Itinerant limpet "View from Ireland" made happy noises about how many kids buy Che t-shirts because the guy looked soooo coool, and hey, he was an inspiring revolutionary! And for kids to grow up without knowing who he is reflects poorly on their school district.

To review:

Lessee here... Looking in my history books from College... Ah, here it is. Che Guevara: Argentinian of Irish descent... Trained as a doctor... Murdered hundreds of Cubans that wanted someone other than Castro to be in power... Murdered a couple hundred more in the La Paz Massacre... Extreme left-wing radical... One of the "spriritual founders" of the Shining Path which has killed more than 40,000 people... He was fond of tying people up, blindfolding them and then popping a cap in the backs of their heads while their wives and children were forced to watch... Executed by the Bolivian government on 48 proven counts of capital murder... Just the kind of guy that deserves to have his face on a t-shirt. Him and Bob Berdella.


And more:

OCTOBER 18, 1965: A CIA Intelligence Memorandum discusses what analysts perceive as Che Guevara’s fall from power within the Cuban government beginning in 1964. It states that at the end of 1963, Guevara’s plan of "rapid industrialization and centralization during the first years of the Revolution brought the economy to its lowest point since Castro came to power." "Guevara’s outlook, which approximated present -day Chinese--rather than Soviet--economic practice, was behind the controversy." In July 1964, "two important cabinet appointments signaled the power struggle over internal economic policy which culminated in Guevara’s elimination." Another conflict was that Guevara wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa, while "other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the Revolution." In December, 1964, Guevara departed on a three-month trip to the United States, Africa, and China. When he returned, according to the CIA report, his economic and foreign policies were in disfavor and he left to start revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world. (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution," 10/18/65)


And VFI's response?

Che certainly was responsible for the executions of many following the revolution. A dirty job that Castro gave him. About 500 were killed.

Shining Path are Maoist. If anyone inherited the mantle of Che in Peru it was Tupac Amaru.

He was executed by the Bolivians (alongside the CIA) but not on any 'proven' counts of murder. In fact they denied executing him for a long time.

He was erudite, led a successful revolution, inspired countless numbers, never gave up, and happened to be drop dead gorgeous to boot. I don't think it's any mystery why he's a hardy perennial.

Of course. Never giving up. And being charismatic. What fine reasons to admire a guy, regardless of what it was he never gave up doing.

But I was a good boy. I kept from throttling the Canadians who proudly wore t-shirts with his image when I was up in Toronto.

I'll bet my teeth surfaces are flatter now, though.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003
20:15 - Cleanup in aisle 221B
http://stream.qtv.apple.com/qtv/videoc/http/benn001/benn001_http_300_ref.mov

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This is bound to be of interest to some.

I'm told of a tale of Costco, when everyone was standing in the checkout lines waiting to pay for their heaps of goods; then, someone several registers down dropped a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. SMASH. And the smell wafted over the congregated throngs.

And to a man, they all abandoned their carts and scuttled off to the back of the store, to reappear laden with armloads of steaks.

(So now it's theorized that if a grocery store ever needs to kick its meat-counter sales up a notch, all they have to do is drop a bottle of Lea & Perrins somewhere near a recirculating vent. Bam!)

Well, this is apparently the way to do the same thing at a Home Depot.



Maybe it's just a music video. But the whole power-tool industry can probably be forgiven for cackling with glee over this.

14MB, but I know I can name people who will find it worthwhile-- or at least very silly.


17:50 - I hope al Qaeda's using Windows
http://www.ccianet.org/letters/dhs_030827.pdf

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The CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association sent a two-page letter to Tom Ridge, urging him not to entrust the operation of the Department of Homeland Security to Microsoft software.

These vulnerabilities and exploits are not new, and unfortunately were predictable. CCIA believes it is critical to maintain secure systems to protect homeland security, and so CCIA has asked the Department to reconsider its decision to promote Microsoft as the default software for DHS. Reliance on a company that distributes products known to have such serious vulnerabilities will not provide adequate security and stability to protect of our nation's most important computer systems.

Not that I imagine this will have any effect or anything; if one bureaucracy in charge of law enforcement and security (the FBI) has to be taken to school on how to use things like e-mail and Google, my hope that the DHS is more adept at using computers-- or stringent about secure usage practices and software deployments-- is pretty much nil.

Whatever it is Tom Ridge is doing at his post, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that he does it by spending most days sitting hunched uncomfortably in front of a 14-inch monitor on a massive mahogany desk, little bifocals perched on the end of his nose, hunting-and-pecking his way wonderingly through e-mails that entreat him to assist the son of the late Mobutu Sese Seko to move $30 million into a bank account in the United States.

Sunday, August 31, 2003
01:37 - Zzzzz...

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Just got back from a very intense day of high-school-reunion-type-stuff. Met up with the old Carpe Diem Society at Lake Mendocino, and we all went out on a party boat owned by some friends of one of our number; we drove around the lake all afternoon, picking out spots to stop the boat and dive off to swim. When I got back to the car at 6:00, I found that it had been well over 100 degrees on the lake all day. (Miraculously, I don't seem to have become sunburned.) And it still felt refreshingly chilly when I was standing on the boat deck dripping from a dip in my non-swim-trunks.

It was a blast. And I love having less than 20% humidity.

Anyway, I'm pleasantly surprised that I was able to keep myself from falling asleep on the three-hour drive back home; it was an exhilarating day, but the glucose crash at the end was pretty cataclysmic. I'm going to sleep well tonight.

See you in about, oh, fourteen hours.

Saturday, August 30, 2003
03:10 - Conservation of conservatism

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So I'm taking a brief break from my pounding out chapters in advance of my Tuesday 50% deadline to catch up on the newsgroups I follow (taking happy advantage of the new T1-- damn, but it's fun to not be fazed by 5000-line attachments anymore), and I found myself noticing something.

See, the group in question, and the demographic that I've been sidling around for the past six years or so, is one that's made up in large part of young, angst-filled, disillusioned guys of alternative sexuality who feel themselves to be alienated from the mass of humanity-- largely of their own volition. Whether in college dorms or their parents' basements, many of them have lived on some form of dole for the majority of their lives, and (like anybody would be) they don't feel terrifically self-confident or self-sufficient as a result. These are people who are so disgusted with the human race and its perceived vagaries, cruelties, inequities, and crimes against the planet, that they'd rather not even be human. (Don't even ask what I'm doing floating around such a group.)

So it's not as though I can really reasonably expect to find a whole lot of political balance there. And upon pulling up the chatty newsgroups, which I'd last read in mid-February, it was with a twinge that I realized I'd soon be scrolling my way through an inevitable morass of truly, truly dumb anti-war sloganeering.

As, indeed, it turned out to be. We had insightful sentiments from DJ-ish types like "Drop Beats Not Bombs", and speculation was batted about that the Bushies were planning to use nuclear weapons in Iraq, and someone had changed her signature to an FDR quote: "A conservative is a man who, having two perfectly good legs, has never taken a single step forward."

But before that was a startling thread from one person who was on the verge of tears for an entirely different reason: he was a Christian. And he felt totally alienated by the group he loved-- vilified and discriminated against by the very people to whom he'd attached himself largely because he'd thought they were all about tolerance and open-mindedness. He felt betrayed. He felt surrounded by scowling faces who saw no difference between him and Pat Robertson, between him and the KKK, between him and a Satan that the scowls didn't believe existed anyway. And he didn't know where he could turn next.

And I got to thinking. Let's see: since so many people start out as liberals, being idealistic and full of progressive, anti-capitalist, anti-McDonald's, anti-modernist causes to fight for from the safety of their prepaid tuitions, it follows that for anyone to become conservative later in life has to involve a conscious change in attitude, catalyzed by some series of personal events or shifting of interests. Remaining a liberal is the default state, and in the absence of some defining event to change one's attitude, one is likely to find a community of like-minded compatriots with which to experience one's twenties and thirties in the same relative comfort and idealistic certainty as one was used to.

So it follows, it seems to me, that a great many people who grow up proud to call themselves "liberals" have quite possibly never actually met a real, live conservative-- except maybe for their jingoistic fathers whom they remember as the guy who always told them to mow the lawn or stop dating hippies, or their square-jawed buzz-cut gym-and-civics teachers who always growled about commies. It's hard to grow up these days with a positive impression of conservatives-- and it's equally hard to grow up with a real first-hand understanding of what conservative politics are about.

The realities of the business world are opaque to the high-school student, who sees only grimy air and ugly smokestacks next to a white-sand California beach. The rights of the landlord are ignored or seen as irrelevant by the tenant, whose friends and roommates are naturally on the opposite end of an adversarial relationship with what can only be a tall and dark-cloaked figure with a top hat and a greasy, curled moustache who darkens poor welfare recipients' doorways each month to demand exorbitant rent to support his own opulent playboy penthouse. The gun owner, casually visiting the range twice a month to brush up on his target practice, is inscrutable to someone who sees the government as being a more benign entity than his neighbors, or who would equate the killing of an animal for food with killing a human for sport. The moderate religious citizen, no matter how low-key or benign his faith, is automatically folded into an über-class of oppressors by kids opening their minds for the first time-- cataclysmically, like a ship floating through the last trammeled channels of a river delta before suddenly finding itself out at open sea with no boundaries in sight-- to the myriad possibilities of existentialism and atheism and Matrix scenarios; it's so attractive for such a wondering youth to think of the past two thousand years of human experience being a deluded mass fiction that even those who take just a passing part in such a delusion become synonymous with the great perpetrators of intellectual darkness in our species' history. Christianity is old and staid and established, and so it becomes evil. Likewise with so many other traditional hallmarks of conservatism-- gun rights, business-friendliness, acknowledgment of military necessity. Group enough of these memes together, and the college student or young adult can't help but equate "conservative" with a caricature so vile and objectionable that it's inconceivable to look at the underlying realities with clear eyes.

So it's with some disappointment that I still find myself floating through social groups full of people who, if they knew I was no longer comfortable with the "liberal" label myself, would suddenly view me with the same narrow-eyed suspicion as they would if told that I donned a white hood and burned crosses at night. But, naturally, I try to keep my mouth shut, for fear of losing friends. Even the most conscientious and centrist conservative viewpoint can seem callous or cruel to a dyed-in-the-wool liberal; how do you discuss landlords' rights with someone who lives in an unpleasant and overpriced apartment, or discuss the Second Amendment with someone who lives down the street from a kid who was killed at school by a classmate who brought his dad's .38 to campus?

I don't have the answer, obviously. If I did, we'd have the Grand Unified Theory of Politics and the way to universal bidirectional dialogue. But there's that unfortunate one-way tendency of politics to contend with, more's the pity. Lots more people spend their childhood reacting positively to the word "liberal" and with distaste toward "conservative" than the other way around. This leads to a profound imbalance in politics and demographics, one that's likely impossible to resolve.

Of course, there's always the contingency of anecdote: I could describe a conservative as "someone who would pull a gun in order to face down a racist", and surely it would short out a few synapses, particular on one of those ever-present people who seem to be absolutely fetishistic about guns, but who viscerally dread the idea of Americans legally allowed to own them. Just as it would ring hollow with someone quoting FDR or Marx for me to point out that American conservatives are the firmest believers in individual liberty, self-determination, and the innovation and technological and social progress that inevitably follows. Danger! Danger! Does not compute. Conservatives are against progress! Why do you think they call it Congress? Taglines don't lie!

But anecdotes can only go so far; there is, unfortunately, the reality that political schisms and prejudices can't be resolved with a well-placed tactical one-liner. The best I can do is to just hope that as these people grow up and find their place in the world, they'll come to realize why it is that half the American political system consists of people who occupy a school of thought that they reflexively think of as evil. Fifty Senators and 240-something Representatives, to say nothing of the highest elected officers and appointed Cabinet positions-- all evil. Never mind the lifetime of thought and philosophy that leads each such politician to such a platform; never mind how much time each one spends each day thinking about how to advance freedom and personal happiness throughout the country and the world, using the proven tools of capitalistic creation of wealth and individual liberty. These must be meaningless three-card-monte shells, pushed forward to hide an ever-present evil agenda and a black, black, corrupt heart.

I have no problem with people being genuinely in favor of those causes one normally associates with "liberal" thinking. Equality, environmental preservation, assistance to the down-at-heel, spiritual freedom, peace-- these are all fine goals. I believe in every one of them, and firmly. However, I also believe that the paths toward them that are so casually espoused by the Left-- equality enforced and over-enforced by fiat, environmental protection through barriers against business, welfare, abolishment of religion, pacifism-- are superficial and short-term semi-solutions that treat the symptoms rather than the causes. That's why I'm no longer comfortable with the term "liberal". I think there are better paths toward these admirable goals, but they're more subtle, or they involve intermediate steps that may seem counterproductive. To have peace, for instance, you can't just not fight; you have to take positive action toward lasting mutual good-will, which can involve things like the overthrow of tyranny-- in other words, war. To bring happiness to the downtrodden, you need to create wealth in the economy, not just dole out the wealth you already have in the hopes that the recipients will somehow be inspired to achievement (or at least become magically happy); and to create jobs, you've got to make your city a favorable place to run a business, not bleed dry anyone stupid enough to set up shop there. To protect the environment, you've got to let businesses become more efficient and less wasteful as a result of their own internal process development, which is in fact in their own interest.

It's a complex world out there, much more complex than it ever seemed when I was peering out the window of my college dorm. It's full of tradeoffs; but it's also managed to survive this long, and those mysterious and shadowy people over on the right who stand for what I always thought of as evil must actually sort of have a point-- because, after all, it's their "conservative" ideals that have kept this country on the amazingly successful track toward all those "liberal" goals, to which we're closer now than ever before in history.

It pains me to think that I'm what so many people whom I like to think of as friends and kindred spirits would think of as evil. But I'm comforted by the thought that there are as many people there whose ideas can and will change over time as there are people who are forever fixated on the worldview they developed from the comfort of a computer chair, disgusted with being unable to see the Golden Arches across the street because of the smog.

Those images are hard to shake, I know. But it's the starkness of what appears to be their truth that is most insidious about them: there is, indeed, more to the picture, and it can only be revealed with time.

Friday, August 29, 2003
17:40 - Doesn't exactly trip off the tongue...
http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,95902,00.html

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But I thought they hated us! I thought they'd all posed grinning for photo-ops in April with the soldiers handing out M&Ms, and a month later took up AK-47s to drive out the despised invaders!

An Iraqi couple has named their 6-week-old baby boy George Bush (search) to show their appreciation for U.S. efforts to force Saddam Hussein (search) out of power.

"He saved us from Saddam and that's why we named our son after him," the baby's mother, Nadia Jergis Mohammed, told the Associated Press Television News. "It was George Bush who liberated us; without him it wouldn't have happened."

Baby Bush was born July 11 to Mohammed, 34, and her husband Abdul Kader Faris, 41. His full name is George Bush Abdul Kader Faris Abed El-Hussein.

If the couple had had twin boys, the father wanted to name the other baby Tony Blair (search), because he said both the U.S. and Britain liberated Iraq.

I wonder if anyone in Iraq is naming their daughter Janeane Garofalo?

Just wait, though. The real scoop, the meme that will stick, is this:

As the woman did the interview, little George Bush screamed in his crib.

How very cleverly worded. Someone break out the 24-pack of Pulitzers.


13:28 - ¡Ha! ¡Más!
http://www.imao.us/archives/000958.html#000958

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Frank J. has a list of Fun Facts About Hamas. It's about time someone turned up the satire screws on those turds.

* Hamas is a big part of the "cycle of violence". They blow up innocent men, women, and children, and then Israel is like, "Hey, don't do that." And thus the cycle of violence continues.

And he even thinks Aquaman could kick their asses. That's saying something, for Frank.


11:41 - <bang> <bang> <bang>

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Do pardon the forehead marks on the table.

So in the ongoing battle against Microsoft's unbelievable lack of proactiveness in fixing that stupid JPEG/RDF/XML/IPTC header bug (wherein MSIE will go into a death spiral if it encounters a JPEG that contains an XMP packet with profile and path information, such as Adobe Photoshop writes), I've hit another snag.

For background:

The long-time Photoshop users said, effectively, "Well, duh, of course there's a difference between Save As and Save For Web". Obvious to you, of course, but based on the people who have been emailing me, saying "Oh, so that's what's wrong with my site!" plenty of folks are actually using the inappropriate save option for web purposes. That's a user behavior problem and I'm not sure what the best solution is for that. Adobe could add warning dialogs until they were blue in the face, but they'd still fall victim to [Frank's First Law of Documentation].

All available information suggests that XMP data is a documented, accepted extension to the jpeg standard. Without any evidence to the contrary, my perception is that Adobe has committed no crime, and the onus is on Microsoft to fix Windows IE's jpeg decoder. Hopefully someone read my bug report. Nobody from MS has contacted me.

In the meantime, what can web developers do to avoid the problem?

Well, first and most obvious, if you are creating static graphics, use Save For Web. And (hopefully you're already doing this) test your site on as many platforms as you can.

For more dynamic sites, such as snapclub.com, which accept jpeg file uploads from arbitrary third-parties, there is at least one solution; ImageMagick's "mogrify" command can be used to remove the metadata from the jpeg like so:

mogrify +profile iptc image.jpg

...Which I've been using for a month or two now. And it's worked great. Or so I'd thought.

See, I was sure I'd checked to make sure that this command didn't recompress the JPEG while it was stripping out the IPTC header. I was sure it left the image quality alone. But several artists have e-mailed me to let me know that no, this is not the case. The mogrify command does in fact recompress the JPEG, at some arbitrary level (probably the default 60). So all the many thousand images that people have been uploading in the past month have all been recompressed to some godawful level. And it's only now that they've got the better of their politeness and notified me of it.

<bang> <bang> <bang>

It hardly bears pointing out that this is Microsoft's problem to fix, and that while this problem is increasingly widespread with the adoption of Photoshop 7 in web design houses, most Windows users don't even notice what happens (namely, that IE abruptly stops being able to open JPEG images, and spins endlessly upon opening pages, until you hard-kill the process or reboot), figure it's "some damn worm or something", and reboot. Certainly nobody's able to trace it back to some "poisoned" image that IE choked on way back during the person's surfing history. And needless to say, there's been a patch made available, but it's so low-key and so little has been made of it (or people are so distrustful of software patches and the Windows Update process) that nobody has apparently installed it.

So I, the web designer, get the blame from those people who do encounter the problem. And Microsoft gets off scot free. Like always.

And I have to write godawful workarounds on the server side to clean up after Microsoft's incompetence. And the tools I have to do that aren't a complete solution, and indeed can be worse than the original problem. So I'm stuck.

I guess I can still mogrify the thumbnails, so at least people won't have their browsers freeze up in the middle of loading a gallery page-- only when they should happen to open one of the offending images. JPEG quality on thumbnails isn't a big issue. And maybe this will be good enough.

God damn I hate those two words.

Thank you again, Microsoft. Hope you're enjoying your Freedom To Innovate™.


By the way... is it just me, or was Microsoft's current slogan written by Yoda? "Hmmm! Do Amazing Things You Can. With Windows XP, Yes!"


UPDATE: Chris Adams has been down this road before, and he has the answer: jpegtran, which is part of libjpeg (a package that ImageMagick has as an installation prerequisite anyway):

jpegtran -copy none -outfile nometa.jpg meta.jpg

And the resulting file has no meta-data and has not been recompressed. Yes!

So all I gotta do is jpegtran all my uploads, then copy the resulting files back over the source files, and all will be well...


Thursday, August 28, 2003
16:21 - CUHMLHFWS Covert Ops
http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,60081,00.html

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Damien Del Russo forwards me this guffaw-inducing little gem from the first days of the SoBig storm:

After removing its predecessor MSBlaster, the new worm, which -- just to add to the confusion -- has been dubbed WORM_MSBLAST.D, Nachi and Welchia by various security and antivirus firms, then politely patches the machine against the vulnerability that MSBlaster exploited.

"My computer hasn't been right since it was infected last week," said Nadine Lovell, a Manhattan textile designer. "This afternoon it's working perfectly again."

A scan of Lovell's system confirmed her machine had indeed been infected with the new Blaster variant.

"Thank you, worm!" said Lovell.

Innovative, and amusing-- but somehow it doesn't comfort me that this, the computing equivalent of an entrepreneur innovating his way toward the American Dream, is a lot messier and uglier than Apple's solution, which is to trickle software updates to your machine in the background (if you request it to) and prompt you whenever there's an update ready to be applied. Clean. Centralized. Secure. Friendly.

Makes me feel like such a statist.


13:23 - Self-parody
http://www.al-shia.com/html/eng/books/miscelleneous/islamic-articles/14089803.html

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This kind of thing really shouldn't be this funny. I wish it weren't. But you know, sometimes the only way to keep from crying is to laugh, right?

Music creates vibration in the body and this is conveyed to all the parts of the body through the nervous system. As a result of it, indigestion occurs. Music affects the heart in such a way that the heartbeats becomes irregular. The blood pressure goes awry. All such ailments make a person permanently ill. Consequently, even the modern medical science, in spite of its astonishing progress, fails in such a situation. Sometimes, the music is so intense that the listener loses his sanity. He becomes dumb and various kinds of mental diseases occur. In places, where music is more prevalent, we find that there are more neurotic illnesses. It is for this reason that most of the mental hospitals are to be found in Europe and America.

Dr. Adlen writes against music, "Even though it seems pleasant, the effect of music is profound upon the nervous system. Specially, when the temperature is high, the ill-effect of music is more. This is the reason that ill-effects of music are more in the hot areas of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The American people are so disgusted with the bane of music that they have united to demand from the senate a permanent ban on music. It is a pity that the whole world perceives the evils of music yet is adopting it as entertainment."

The Islamic world will be reformed when they have their own equivalent of the Onion. One that they do intend as parody.


11:49 - Now that's a testimonial
http://www.smoking-monkey.com/Jesus.htm

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Sure does explain a lot of the world, don't it?



(Thanks to Capt. J.M. Heinrichs.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2003
00:56 - Thanks! Uh... you too! Wait...
http://gandalf.ics.uci.edu/blog/2003/08/three_weeks_in_france_ten_years_later.html

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Kris mentioned this fellow's blog-- a Frenchman who had been naturalized as an American citizen, and ten years later went back home for a visit. He described the experience, as well as the return trip:

At last, in a clean, air-conditioned, body odor- free room, the US custom agent looked at my American passport. He then raised his head, and after he verified I didn’t bring any French cheese, said with a warm smile something I never heard as a French citizen re-entering France: “ Welcome home! ”.

Those were the words that came from the suddenly-smiling mouth of the dumpy little blonde woman who stamped my passport yesterday too. I hadn't known what to expect; last year I'd been barked at by a crew-cut column of a man thus:

"WHAT'S YOUR COUNTRY OF CITIZENSHIP?"

"Uh, USA."

"WHERE DO YOU LIVE?!"

"San Jose."

"WHAT DO YOU DO THERE?!?"

"I'm a software engineer."

"WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN CANADA?!!!"

"I was visiting some friends. Something I do every year about this time, you know, sort of a trad--"

"DID YOU SEE THE BALLET?!!?!"

"Uh... no. What?

"I SAID, DID YOU SEE THE BALLET?!?!?!111`1`"

"Uh, bleerg? Glassnorpt. Ah-hoogy hoogy bomb! Allahu akbar! Um, I mean, go Raiders!"

So I had no idea what the customs experience would be this time. The card I filled out said that "controlled substances, obscene materials, and firearms" usually weren't allowed into the US, and I was worried that someone might open my bag and be knocked flat by the smell of a week's worth of wilderness laundry and clap me in irons. (There wasn't anything more incriminating in there. Honest. Certainly nothing from Church Street.) I wasn't sure whether it was more suspicious to put down some innocuous number like "$20" for the amount of goods that I'd purchased while in Canada, and then to itemize it as directed on the back as "camera batteries" or something, and if so if they would demand to see me open my camera and verify that it took $20 batteries-- or to enter "$0" and incur that look of "Okay, nobody doesn't buy anything while on vacation. And we're certainly not buying your story, Ahmed." In the end I found myself scribbling out the "$20", itemizing "camera batteries" and "toothpaste", and changing the value to "$0", then emending it to "$10". In other words, making it as incriminating-looking as I possibly could. I figured that way it would look like I was either a) an amazingly disorganized tourist or b) an amazingly disorganized terrorist, and in either case they might let me through on pity alone.

So imagine my surprise and relief when the little woman's stony face and pursed lips tilted up toward me and bulged into a sunny smile: "Welcome home." (Stamp, stamp, stamp.)

I know they make them say that. I know it's part of the ritual, as rehearsed as any telemarketer's script.

But still.


11:35 - Cheerful little campfire songs

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I nearly forgot.

While I was in the woods of Ontario, I found an interesting little sheaf of paper in one of the cabins at the camp.

"Camp Songs!" it said at the top. Ah! For strumming with the kiddies around the fire, while making s'mores. For the kids who were in these cabins the previous week. How sweet.

When the night
Has come
And the land
Is dark
And Islam
Is the only
Light I see....

Uhhh.... waiiit a minute.

I'd like to build the world a mosque
And furnish it with faith
Bring Africans and Chinamen
And every human race

Oh... kay.

It went on. For like ten pages. Pop songs, hymns, campfire melodies-- all re-lyricized and filked into Islamic themes.

And not peaceful ones, either. There was one long song that explained in bewildering terms that the US, Canada, and Turkey had all ganged up on Pakistan in order to put Afghanistan through a trial of hell. There were other songs glorifying the day to come when Ottawa would rule a Canada subject to Shari'a law, and the Kuffar States of America too. To say nothing of the Arabic songs that I couldn't translate.

I'd been reading on LGF and elsewhere that these chilling summer camps were being set up all over the US, Canada, and other Western nations. But let me tell you, it's quite another thing to actually come across direct physical evidence of it sitting on top of a bunk bed in a forest bungalow.


10:15 - Not funny

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003
00:45 - Oh my, a flaming paper bag on my doorstep

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Well, I'm back. And joy of joys, I see there's a little present that's been left for me in my inbox.

Well, no-- perhaps little is the misnomer of the year.

It's this new "SoBig" virus that I heard whispers of while up in Toronto, see. The worst Outlook virus ever, so I'm told. Klez-like in its behavior (in that it combs through your cached Web history and e-mail boxes as well as your address book for names and addresses, which it uses to forge both the recipient and the sender, the upshot of which being that anybody who has a popular website with their e-mail address on it will get bombarded with a copy of the worm for every infected person who's ever been to their site, as well as angry messages directly sent from people who think I've been sending them these things), but not in its impact (where Klez had internal brakes to prevent it from propagating exponentially, SoBig does not-- it can send multiple copies of itself simultaneously, for example). The worm's payload is 103K when encoded. It exploits a vulnerability in Outlook that's been patched for months. A patch that nobody on Earth has apparently applied.

Care to guess how many copies of this charming little beastie were to be found in my inbox upon my landing just before midnight tonight? All starting sometime during the evening of August 18, one day after I left on my vacation which I knew in the back of my brain that I'd regret having taken? Go on. Guess how many.

No. Higher.

Higher.

I'm not kidding. More digits.

Give up?

21,000.

Twenty-one thousand. For a combined mailbox size of 1.14 gigabytes.

Boy oh boy, am I going to have fun getting this one under control. Ten new copies every time I check for new messages. Oh, sure, I'll filter it out on the server side (somehow). But first things first. I've got to try to download all this crap, then sort it and delete the garbage. Then I'll have to tackle the /var/mail directory on the server and see just how bursting it is. That's all I need-- the server itself to burst its seams over this.

Thank you, Microsoft. Thank you so fucking much. This is just what I wanted to spend my first night back home doing.

You know, I'm going to have to regress a little bit here. For the longest time my feelings toward Microsoft were downright murderous. Then, for the past couple of years, they were mostly just sort of tiredly amused. You know, the old whaddyagonnado? thing. But that's not going to survive this little episode. I can't hold myself back. There's going to have to be some payback, and somehow I don't think I'm the only one who will have been hit in a similar manner or driven to such a pass.

I mean, it's really become self-parody in its purest form, hasn't it? Microsoft announces with great fanfare that it is reorganizing its software development strategies so as to put security above all other concerns. And what follows in the subsequent twelve months but a litany of unprecedented viruses, worms, compromise vulnerabilities, and other hideous failures that would be an irreparable embarrassment to any other company-- that would make such a company into a laughingstock that would thrust the Enron scandal firmly into the sweatband of a cocked hat, in a train-wreck of a performance of a piece of software that I can't turn my back on for ten lousy days without it abruptly mutating and exploding and sending radioactive tentacles everywhere, like some homeless guy from an alley in Toronto who shrieks at the top of his lungs continuously and with no apparent flagging of energy, and who decides inexplicably to follow you four blocks to the subway station, still emitting howls of wordless fury after your retreating back, yet somehow able to buy subway tokens and operate the turnstiles because you hear him screeching furiously in your direction as soon as the subway door opens for each the next five stops up the Downsview-University-Spadina line?

I've had it. I've had it up to here with Microsoft's incompetence, their lip-service to making things better, and their insufferably arrogant attitude towards the consumer. Enough is enough. Too much is riding on the Internet now for companies who pit their fortunes on it not to notice this massive liability they have in trusting the construction of the scaffolding on which they climb to Microsoft. There will have to be a reckoning, because nobody can ignore the irony of a solemn vow of commitment to security and reliability being followed by a year of escalating security breaches of never-before-seen proportions.

Now, don't nobody be giving me no platitudes about how if it weren't Outlook out there serving people's e-mail needs, it would be some other program-- Eudora or Netscape (pbuh) or Pegasus Mail or whatever-- which would invariably be equally as bad as Microsoft's piece of compiled compost, and even worse for business because what purchasing manager would trust his company's fortunes to a firm he can't sue for the sum of his company's market cap? Please. It's been well documented for many years (right here on this page, I might add) that Microsoft's software is garbaceous in ways that other companies with far fewer resources just can't even approach no matter how hard they try. It's like trying to dance against the beat: most companies can't force themselves to produce crap that smells as bad as Microsoft's. It's not possible. Most companies employ human beings with standards of personal pride in what they write. How can such beings compete with the million monkeys hammering away in the lava caves under Mt. Rainier?

Maybe SoBig will fade away to a smirk and a roll of the eyes from the Buddy-Holly-looking guy on the evening news at eight minutes to the hour, just like every other past snafu that whirls in a maelstrom through the Internet every few months with Microsft serene and calm and unruffled at the center. Maybe nothing will come of this, just like always. We'll all just sigh, roll up our sleeves, and pick up the old shit-shovels like we do every time, dutifully spooning Microsoft's clockwork turds into baggies and stirring them into our ice cream to eat with a smile. I can't freaking wait.

I'm thinking maybe we need to start an action group: CUHMLHFWS, or Citizens United to Help Microsoft Learn How to Fucking Write Software. It would be a great philanthropic undertaking, surely one from which the world would benefit.

If anybody needs me, I'll bee knee-deep in twenty-one thousand gallons of solid waste.

Sunday, August 17, 2003
05:26 - WE INVENETED TEH INTERWEB!!!11!1`

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In the San Jose Airport:

"Whenever you see these symbols, connect using a laptop powered by Intel® Centrino™ Technology™!"



No, thanks, I think I'll continue connecting with AirPort, the way I've been doing it since three years before Intel came up with "Centrino".

God, what a great way to start off this vacation. Right under thirty-foot banners advertising the manufacturing house that makes the Xbox, too.

Friday, August 15, 2003
19:10 - Are there bits in de wall?

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I just got word that our T1 has been installed.

A good thing, too, because I was about to cease my Good Cop routine and loose the full Bad Cop fury of Lance on the ISP for breach of contract. Recall, after all, that this line was supposed to have been installed prior to July 1.

But today, apparently, there were hours upon hours of people calling on cellphones from the job site (e.g. my house) and from cubicle to cubicle as they squeezed tiny incremental pieces of information from XO, each one accompanied by a whoop of success. When I called for the status report today at about 3:00, it was a very haggard-sounding voice that answered the phone.

And after hearing that, and his nigh-tearful admission that it's out of his hands and wholly in XO's court and there's nothing more he could do until they got the line switched back via XO, and after having read Lileks' spookily well-timed admonishment to ply my telephone handset with honey rather than with vinegar, it was all I could do to muster the gruffness to threaten to nullify the contract if a more favorable deal could not be negotiated, especially in the face of what turns out to be considerably better deals from other T1-grade ISPs in the area.

But he said, "I read you loud and clear," and I felt like an awful heel and a virtuous consumer at the same time. And lo, the bits did begin to flow these thirty minutes now.

There'll be some router machinations later tonight-- because of an unrelated matter, they've got us on a temporary alternate subnet until they reboot their main switch panel and the router we're on for some reason-- but evidently we're on a full T1, not the half-T1 that we'd been budgeting for. It's only $220 extra per month. And hey, what's that between the two parties who are merely the mutual victims in all this, namely the customer and the ISP?

Thank you very much, Pac Bell/SBC. You've made it a hell of a ride. And now we have brand-new sidewalk panels in front of our house, which we wouldn't otherwise have had. Yep-hh.... mighty fine sidewalk panels they are indeed.

And it also means I can blog from home again. So I'll be heading there shortly.

Except that I'm going to be on vacation starting early Sunday morning. So I only get to enjoy the bandwidth for the duration of tomorrow, until I head into the barren and blacked-out Northlands, where there may or may not be a functioning airport terminal to receive me and my tired bones.

Followed by what's sure to be, among other things, a week of baldfaced criticism of the Nazi nation in which I live, the bristle-skulled Epsilon-minus bodybuilder about to seize power in my state of residence, and the dung-and-poison-tipped-nookular-missile-throwing simian occupying the Oval Office.

Just the kind of vacation I need. Yay!



10:19 - Welcome to 2003
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20030814

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Is it just me, or is this not the most tired, well-worn old Vietnam-era canard that's ever been floated in political wartime humor?



This and the whole recent Doonesbury story thread, in which the troops in Iraq are in fact fighting street to street against hardened militia forces holed up in civilian homes, supported by an irate populace intent on nothing so much as driving out the hated invaders.

I know there are bloggers who are actually in The 'Raq right now, who know better, and could e-mail Mr. Trudeau in the hopes of enlightening him, in case there's a chance of his realizing what year this actually is. The reality that I've been hearing from almost all sources is entirely at odds with this desperate fantasy that Trudeau seems intent upon carrying out to its bitter end: why, after 'Nam, and after The Mog, how could this possibly be any different?

I guess there's the possibility that this is tongue-in-cheek, but considering the kinds of things this strip has been focusing on lately, I doubt it.

"Pinned down". For God's sake.

Thursday, August 14, 2003
17:43 - Ah, the mysteries of life
http://members.optusnet.com.au/white_gold/

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A friend pointed me at this a little while ago, and I've been reading through the entries day by day in astonishment, sucking up a few pages each night through our meager shared modem line multiplexed out into 54Mbps AirPort Extreme (there's a parody of modern technology if there ever was one). My eyes get wider and wider the more I read.

"Enter the Cow-Orker", the site is called. It's the three-year-old-and-counting journal of an unnamed office worker somewhere in Australia, drearily holding his own at some kind of software clearing-house firm, endlessly scourged by an absolutely insufferable excuse for a fellow human being in the next cubicle. The Cow-Orker. Scott Adams' coinage. And Adams himself has evidently given the site his vote of hearty approval.

My only question is, My God-- how in the name of all that's sour can this woman still have a job?


17:36 - Ve haf vays uff making you pronounce correctly

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Back in March, I commented on the new Nestlé ad campaign for their caramel-filled Twix (or whatever it is). They had an ad in which two city dwellers sit on some steps and argue about whether it's pronounced caramel or carmel.

I wouldn't have been annoyed by this, except that then the ad scene gave way to the close-ups of the candy bar itself and the youthful announcer talking about the rich, creamy carmel inside. Apparently that famous resort town is not only rich, which we all knew, but creamy as well. And Nestlé's official position is thereby revealed: after giving equal cred to both pronunciations in the presentation of the scene, with the two guys arguing, they themselves came down on the side of the two-syllable edition. Much to my dismay.

So the ad runs its due course and vanishes from screens. Until just a few days ago, when it came back. The city-steps argument is the same, the visuals are the same, everything appear to be unchanged, including the announcer's voice-- except that now the announcer clearly says caramel instead of carmel. Almost unnecessarily sharply and distinctly, too. Rich, creamy care-a-mel.

So what could this sordid tale be? Was the original ad yanked for quality-control reasons, the unapproved pronunciation making it past the ad quality testers? Did they force the twentysomething voice actor back into the sound studio, stick a gun in his back, and hold up big placards behind the plate glass directing him to pronounce it the three-syllable way if he ever wants to see his Xbox again? Are they doing some kind of "Lime Skittles or Sour Apple Skittles-- You Decide!" kind of promotion, whereby through grass-roots consumer appeal Nestlé plans to set in stone forevermore the accepted pronunciation of sticky sugary goo? Will there be two different Twix packages sitting side by side in every candy aisle-- the fast-selling caramel version and the ever-vandalized carmel version, or vice versa, depending on region?

Bring 'em on. I can't wait to see them duke it out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
10:32 - Marketing Genius
http://www.tacobell.com/gas/

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You know what I think is just completely awesome?

This promotion at Taco Bell. The one where you can win free gasoline for a year.

So let me get this straight. If you eat at Taco Bell... you might get gas?



Can this be knowingly tongue-in-cheek? Do I dare hope?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
16:59 - Crimes of omission
http://traffic2.bayinsider.com/news/2400932/detail.html

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The big flap on the KCBS news every ten minutes is that a repeat child molester, Brian DeVries, has been ruled by a judge to be no longer a threat to the community, and ordered transferred from the mental hospital where he's been kept for the last several years... into a trailer on the grounds of the Soledad prison.

Residents of Soledad are outraged, KCBS reports over and over. Money soccer-mom soundbite: "I'm very disappointed that the judge reached this decision, and didn't try to take any steps to protect the children of our community."

Other pithy quotes:

"This isn't the appropriate location for him," said Noelia Chapa, city manager for the Monterey County town of 13,000 along Highway 101. "He needs to go back to Santa Clara County. We don't want to be the dumping ground here."

"We don't want this guy in our town. This guy is sick," Gutierrez, 43, said. "He should go to a place in the desert where there's no kids around."

To hear the news report, well, hell, absolutely. Why would the judge act so irresponsibly? Why would anyone release this guy from the psych ward?

Why, it's because of one small, insignificant fact that KCBS seems to find it entirely unimportant to report:

To help demonstrate his intent to reform, DeVries was castrated in August 2001 -- a surgery DeVries said took away his ability to become sexually aroused.

Something tells me that most of the wide-eyed interviewees on the street that KCBS and other news agencies keep talking to aren't being made aware of this meaningless little tidbit.

It is as it has always been: just say the magic words To Protect The Children, and the throng will nod along to the beat.

Monday, August 11, 2003
13:57 - Corrupting vulnerable young hearts
http://www.kbtoys.com/genProduct.html/PID/2431939/ctid/17/place/aguc?_ts=y&ls=collec

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"No, Junior! I'm not buying you any more of these awful violent toys. All they do is teach you a lot of bad values! Like treating the President as some kind of respectable figure that kids should look up to, instead of a mass-murdering war criminal who's just like Hitler except without the brains!"

Via CapLion. Y'know, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the product pitch meeting for this item...


13:16 - Weekend Update with Kevin Nealon

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No photos this time; sorry.

Which I guess is good, because the front yard actually looks a little bit less kempt than it was last week-- on account of the fact that the edges of the gravel and the weed cloth it's on have all been rolled back so the SBC guys could dig six feet down and lay conduit.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, see, they went down under our gravel patch and prepared to burrow under our driveway. They unveiled their "missile", a five-foot-long metal cylinder that you could about wrap two hands around, fingertips touching. The stick it in the hole, horizontally, hook up a high-pressure air hose to the nether end, and it starts pounding its way through the ground. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! Or at least that's the theory.

Because when they started the missile under our driveway, it got about three feet in and then... stopped. They couldn't get it moving again. They dragged it out, and found that it had shattered into several bedraggled pieces.

So they came out the next day, with a bigger missile, one that presumably cost them even more digits. They dug down on the other side of the driveway, about where we'd dug our trench a couple of weeks ago; they sent the missile in going the opposite direction. It bammed away for an hour or so, then... stopped. They dragged it out; it was split from one end to the other like a hot dog you left in the microwave too long.

I dare not even contemplate how much money this job has cost SBC, in time, labor, and equipment. At least we don't have to pay for any of it-- oh wait, I guess we do. Now we know where all those mysterious fees and rate hikes come from. I guess everyone has me to thank. Ah-heh-heh. Ahem.

So anyway, they gave up and pulled up the driveway, and jammed the conduit in. That was late last week. Now I must call and find out why we're still not online.

Oh, and we planted those trees and shrubs in the front yard. The crape myrtle is now ensconced at the corner of the sidewalk and neighbor's driveway (we should have thought to drop it in while the contractors had their trench dug), and the rear line of the gravel area is lined with new flowering plants that we picked up. Not the azaleas-- thanks to a tut-tutting neighbor and her venerable Sunset Garden Book, we now know that azaleas find direct sunlight to be most distressing. So we moved those to the backyard along with some various birches for a corner grove, and in their place picked up a line of splendiferrus verilligata or something. With the help of my parents and grandma, who all came down to indulge in a bit of overdue-but-yet-premature housewarming, and with the sacrifice of my dad's back, the front yard is now planted. We now just have to wait for everything to take root, and then we can move the gravel back into place and think about irrigation.

So at any rate... I'd better get calling the network people. Though I'm finding it interestingly convenient that I don't have a real connection while I write; otherwise I doubt I'd be making any progress at all.

Friday, August 8, 2003
12:16 - Fey Unabomber
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/003686.php

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Great Fisking over at Tim Blair's joint of that bizarre Mark Morford rant.

Because there is more meaning and content and depth and significance in a lover's moan and in a drop of wine and in a dog's wag than in anything you can conjure in your homophobic faux-cowboy Lynne Cheney-thick dream, honey. Get over yourself. We are on to you. We know you are made of nothing but spin and frantic gesticulations and scowls. Poke a finger into you and out pours only sawdust and sighs.

Poke a finger in Morford (wear gloves) and out pours this stuff. Lucky we’ve got some sawdust.

Here is my porn collection. Here are my divine sex toys and my lubricants and my leather strappy things and my collection of happy open-minded perversions and my active account at Blowfish.com and my tattoos and piercings and love of massage oil and vibrators and things that go ooooh in the night. Come on over, Mr. Ashcroft, I have something to show you.

If I was reading this in 1973, and if I was an elderly woman, I might be mildly startled by that paragraph.

Hear, hear. You know, I hope Bush read Morford's column, because I'm sure he would have laughed his ass off.

I get enough of people simpering about how they're in favor of happiness (emphasis on the last two syllables) and The Man is for Christianity and Dour Evil in my non-blog life, thank you. How come some people just never, ever grow up?

Thursday, August 7, 2003
11:43 - Bleataaaahhhje
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0803/080703.html

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Today's Bleat is one of the longer and more uproarious ones I've seen in a while. Nice and chewy. Plus he found that Terminator font.

I guess this is what happens when he's prevented from Bleating for a few days. There's always a silver lining!

Wednesday, August 6, 2003
23:58 - I hate...
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Terrorism-Plea.html

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....The way this makes me feel.

Mike Silverman notes this development: brutally, wrongfully detained American Citizen (of Palestinian descent) Mike Hawash, who for months has been supported by a network of well-wishing friends convinced of his innocence, pleaded guilty today of trying to join the Taliban after 9/11 to fight against the US.

This is not the first time this has happened, either, and I hate when this kind of thing happens. I hate it because it leads me ever closer to a conclusion that I can't abide, a conclusion that I had thought I'd never find myself reaching regarding how we need to be acting toward a certain group of identifiable people.

It's a terrible, hateful feeling, one that I had thought unworthy of anyone more moral than a Nazi. But the more times things like this happen, the closer I get to thinking that our only prudent choice of action is to refuse to rule out that any Arab or Muslim-- regardless of his circumstances-- could be a "sleeper".

Our government can't do that. We as a people can't do that. We're supposed to be better than that. Freedom above security, after all. Internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII was a deplorable act, especially in the safety of retrospect. We can never allow ourselves to be tempted to let that happen again.

Even if it's warranted.

Our freedom, and our dedication to it, is our weakness. It must take precedence over security, because in this case the two are at odds. I hate the reality that represents; I hate the way it makes me feel about my own priorities. I hate having to decide between those two mutually exclusive-- but vital-- ideals.

And so we need help. We can't do this on our own.

The US Government needs the help of the Muslim community. Pledged, promised, and delivered. We need American Muslims' help in rooting out the terrorists, in reporting them and bringing them to justice instead of turning a blind eye. Our government can't be the one to keep tabs on those who are at high risk for being or harboring terrorists; neither can non-Muslim Americans, for either would result in massive outcry against civil liberties, and rightly so. Not only would it be shades of Japanese internment and renewed racist suspicion, it would recall the Big-Brotherism of totalitarian regimes the world over that encouraged neighbors to spy on neighbors, or the McCarthyists here at home who exhorted kids to rat out their Red parents. We can't do that, even if we agree with the ostensible goals of such methods, for the methods themselves are slimy. No... the only people we can rely on to help us eliminate the threat is the Arab-American and Muslim communities themselves. It's the only way we can find the terrorists and bring them to justice, without being decried by the Left for unfair profiling or discrimination. It's up to them to help us, because as Americans too, their interests are ours. We must have their friendship, their cooperation, their understanding of our country's needs and ideals and their willingness to act in accordance with them.

I don't know what kind of cooperation we can expect, but it's my hope-- however uncertain-- that the grass roots will speak up and give us the help we badly need.


16:52 - 1000 words
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/8/6/105528.shtml

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That there be a post-Gulf-War MiG-25 Foxbat, that there be.

Just look at all that desert.

All those dunes.


13:35 - Well, that's a relief

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Apparently, Diane Feinstein has decided not to run in the California recall election. This is doubly satisfying in that a) she would have been more popular than Davis, and thus garnered more Democratic votes; and b) now that Davis is running alone, there's virtually no chance that he'll win.

Not that I'm particularly enthused by any of the challengers. It's not exactly shaping up to be a very dignified affair, what with the Dems suing left and right over petty operational details, and with people like Gallagher and Larry Flynt taking up positions on the stump. I'm just as glad Ah-nuld isn't running after all, because in this motley crew nobody would have given him the time of day. "But I aaahm sehrious!" "Yeah, right."

But at least Feinstein won't be running things, for which I am profoundly glad. If Davis has one distinguishing characteristic, it's that he's gotten absolutely nothing done; he always claims to be too busy to appear on interviews, but somehow I doubt he's drowning in paperwork that only the Governor is capable of handling. (Or maybe he is, which would be damning.) But Feinstein wouldn't share that trait.

Aside from being criminally careless with guns in public demonstrations of why she's so firmly against them, she's all in favor of her own right to arm herself. Just not anybody else. When she was mayor of San Francisco, she sponsored a gun buyback program, whereby citizens could voluntarily turn in their weapons for cash. Posing for the cameras, she smugly handed over her own gun. But then a reporter had the audacity to ask her that didn't she have two guns registered to her name? What about the other one?

She had the reporter followed and beaten.

Afterwards, she sponsored a state measure to deny the use of "assault rifles" to anybody but law enforcement bodies and their legal deputies. Guess what she did next? She deputized herself.

I'm not able to find much online about these events, but then Feinstein backs things like making it a felony to discuss drugs on the Internet, so who knows to what lengths she's gone.

It's bad enough that she's in the Senate, but at least there she's got 99 other individuals to help drown her out. In the California Governor's Mansion she'd have the means to do quite a lot more damage.


11:22 - How times change

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Tim Blair links to this interesting Nicholas Kristof piece that paints the 1945 atomic bombs as a great boon to the Japanese-- identified as such by Japanese voices of the time.

Wartime records and memoirs show that the emperor and some of his aides wanted to end the war by summer 1945. But they were vacillating and couldn't prevail over a military that was determined to keep going even if that meant, as a navy official urged at one meeting, "sacrificing 20 million Japanese lives."

The atomic bombings broke this political stalemate and were thus described by Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the time, as a "gift from heaven."

Without the atomic bombings, Japan would have continued fighting by inertia. This would have meant more firebombing of Japanese cities and a ground invasion, planned for November 1945, of the main Japanese islands. The fighting over the small, sparsely populated islands of Okinawa had killed 14,000 Americans and 200,000 Japanese, and in the main islands the toll would have run into the millions.

"The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war," Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief cabinet secretary in 1945, said later.

Some argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated the bomb on an uninhabited island, or could have encouraged surrender by promising that Japan could keep its emperor. Yes, perhaps, and we should have tried. We could also have waited longer before dropping the second bomb, on Nagasaki.

But, sadly, the record suggests that restraint would not have worked. The Japanese military ferociously resisted surrender even after two atomic bombings on major cities, even after Soviet entry into the war, even when it expected another atomic bomb — on Tokyo.

One of the great tales of World War II concerns an American fighter pilot named Marcus McDilda who was shot down on Aug. 8 and brutally interrogated about the atomic bombs. He knew nothing, but under torture he "confessed" that the U.S. had 100 more nuclear weapons and planned to destroy Tokyo "in the next few days." The war minister informed the cabinet of this grim news — but still adamantly opposed surrender. In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, the emperor and peace faction finally insisted on surrender and were able to prevail.

One of Tim's commenters, Scott H., quotes a Farker named Thale who summarizes the malleable historical opinions thus:

"While American scholarship has undercut the U.S. moral position, Japanese historical research has bolstered it."

And goes on:

American scholars: The use of atomic bombs by the U.S. on Japan was a wholly unnecessary thing.

Japanese scholars: No, we wouldnt have surrendered otherwise.

American scholars: Yes you would have. All we had to do was drop Fat Man on a small Pacific island to show you we had it.

Japanese scholars: No, really the military wasnt going to stop fighting.

American scholars: Well if wed allowed surrender with the provision that Japan could keep the Emperor.

Japanese scholars: Look even after you guys dropped both bombs the military didnt want to surrender. It took us beating a downed pilot into saying you had hundreds more Atomic bombs and Tokyo was next for them to even start to budge.

American scholars: Well we were still wrong.

And another commenter, Tokyo Taro, notes:

Scholarship is one thing but politics another. No positive adjective should ever be attached to the use of the bomb. The question is why or why not. Good strategy or bad? The revisionists will always have the advantage of the fact that no one in their right mind would allow themselves to praise an atomic bombing. It automatically results in disqualification from the debate. YOu think WHAT?! On the other hand, the revisionists have the disadvantage of the fact that the bombings ended a war in which the suffering of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was just a drop in the bucket and the fact that things have turned out pretty well for both countries since then.

That disadvantage, however, has to be carefully explained to them, while their advantage is right out in the open. Nobody has to educate anybody about how an A-bomb is bad for children and other living things, but if you want someone to understand the concept of the bomb ending much greater bloodshed and preventing more huge numbers of casualties, you have to sit him down in one of those tiny little chair-desk arrangements and whack him with a ruler.

If Iraq has taught us nothing else, it's that. It's all about 3000 inadvertent civilian casualties-- surely we all agree that civilian casualties are bad-- but let none mention the 3000 intentional murders per month that Saddam has had to stop committing because of those civilians' sacrifice. And how do we know history happened in the first place? How do we know there was ever a World Trade Center? Maybe it was all just an illusion-- and therefore what right do we have to go mucking around in the Middle East?

It's not so much "revisionism" as deliberately ignoring crucial cause and effect. Because, hey, that always works.

Monday, August 4, 2003
19:10 - Hate is okay...
http://bushflash.com/ihr.html

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... if the targets are Republicans.


Waaaait a minute. Eric Blumrich? Is this what that creep's doing these days?

Somehow it doesn't surprise me, I guess.


18:56 - This defies parody
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20030804

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10:20 - What a difference crown molding makes

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I'm almost done with the upstairs bathroom! Whee!



Okay, granted, it doesn't look like much in these pictures. But trust me-- if you're actually in the bathroom, it looks awesome.

(<BRENDON SMALL>I know what I need: a fisheye lens!</BRENDON>)

The crown molding is what really did it. It's like, you paint the walls some bright primary color, and it looks like a preschool or-- in the case of the other bathroom that we painted deep currant red-- an abbatoir. (Especially if the upper edge is all ragged.) But add some crown molding, and it's like you just raised the room three social-class notches. And so much the better when you finish taping off the caulk line and repainting the edge, and adding the bright gloss white finish to the molding. Which takes a long bloody time. (I really despise standard bristle brushes-- but it's the only way.) And that blue masking tape-- that stuff is expensive! Five bucks a roll? $30 for an economy pack? Ye gods. I hate having to reuse that stuff, but I'm going to have to once we do the molding in my bedroom, with its 16-foot walls.

So, yeah-- then there's the front yard. Here are the pictures I promised:



(Those of you who live in places where real estate is not so precious that you have to shoo the gold panners out of your driveway every morning, feel free to mock the size of the frontage.)

Once everything's planted, it'll look niiice. Azaleas along the back of the gravel area, another line of them along the house, two cypresses framing the picture window, and mock riverbed (made out of largish flat rocks) leading from the gravel up to the wall, just left of the window. And maybe one of those little Japanese wood bridges over it.

And then lighting.

Yes, this is fun. Especially after the fact.

Saturday, August 2, 2003
00:59 - Thy pain, it is felt
http://www.penny-arcade.com/images/2003/20030801l.gif

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Courtesy of Marcus.




00:41 - Taking shape

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Today we made some real progress on the front yard.

The limestone boulders and the gravel have already been put down; today, the job was to put in some living matter. Because with just the rocks and gravel (and before that, the rocks and the expanse of weed cloth), it looked like we'd just been raking and managed to dig up some monstrous submerged lawnmower-crackers.

Now there's a line of azalea bushes around the rear edge of the gravel area, and a crepe myrtle tree (trained up on a stake, so instead of being a big shrub with branches sticking up from the ground, the branches start about six feet up, ending in big clusters of white flowers). And a park bench. The plants aren't planted yet, but the effect is an astonishing improvement: we can now tell what it's supposed to look like. Instead of a freakish half-complete afterthought of a landscaping job, like the pepperoni dream of a concrete-obsessed 60s architect, like the petrified bowel movement of a badly impacted dragon, it now resembles nothing so much as a park.

Pictures tomorrow.

Because now I've actually also started to make progress on networking. The AirPort Base Station is mounted on the wall in the downstairs bathroom (if anyone asks, we'll tell them it's an air freshener-- makes it smell like apples), and it's hooked up to cables trained through a pipe embedded in the wall so there's no visible sign of supporting architecture. Except that just before installation, Capri managed to get hold of the clear plastic mounting frame and gnaw it from its original totally unrecognizable shape into a different totally unrecognizable shape. It still fits, but it's a lot uglier now if you take the base station down off the wall.

So now the downstairs iMac and my iBook can freely roam, and they're sharing the copious bandwidth of a 56K modem mostly occupied by game traffic. Woop-de-frickin-hey. But it means I can make some real headway on the book; the first couple of meaty chapters are done, and now it's into the cruising phase. Or so goes the theory.

Anyway, that means I should be able to add some pictures to this post as soon as my camera recharges; actually I guess there's no technical reason I have to have the net up before I can post pictures, and it's more just a psychological thing: if the net isn't available, I feel as though computing is hardly worth the bother. I just wait till work and do it there.

At least it'll be worth it. Today's efforts could indeed have been less strenuous; we got the tree and the azaleas at a wholesale nursery on Southwest Expressway, and in order to get them home we slid them upright into the back of Kris' truck. (The myrtle was in a 24" box.) And then we took off. And not three hundred feet down the road, the myrtle pitched over backwards.

Well, durr, I thought. I shoulda seen that coming.

So after some experimentation with lever positions and stress points and having it lie sideways and drag on the pavement, I decided that the only way to get the thing home would be to prop it back up vertical, lie down in the truck bed among the azaleas, hunker down so as to avoid the roving eyes of cops, and keep a firm hand clenched around the tree. Lance (whom, by the way, I wouldn't describe as a partner, but rather as a good friend) would drive, keeping it under 30 mph if possible, and I would hold the thing up as best I could.

And we made it. Turned out the big problem wasn't so much sharp acceleration (though sharp acceleration wasn't exactly a picnic) as constant velocity; the tree acted as a giant sail, and at any speed above about 20, the tree leaned back against my arm like a slat on an aboveground swimming pool that's about to give way. And the trip was long-- far longer than I would have imagined the span from Bascom/Meridian to the Camden area to ever be. By the time we arrived, the top of the myrtle barely having cleared the bottoms of countless corridors of shade trees and power lines, my body was contorted into a position I hadn't imagined I would ever have found comfortable. I'd had to brace my leg against the liftgate, strut my right arm against the tree, and prop myself up with the left one. After a few minutes of sitting in this position, which to an outside observer would have looked quite a sight-- a pickup truck with its hazards on, picking its way gingerly down Meridian with a bed full of big-leafed bushes and a tall flowery tree sticking up from behind the cab, with a pasty white arm protruding from within the bushes and jammed against its trunk-- I realized that I was okay if I stayed in that position, because my limbs were mostly locked into place and devoid of blood. But if I tried to stand up or reattain any kind of bodily symmetry, I was in for a significant amount of pain as the fluids of my joints flowed back into their accustomed positions. "Just keep going," I kept bawling into the open sliding window of the cab. And we did. The best bet was to just get it over with as quickly as possible. I wouldn't be able to take over a driving shift, no sirree. So it took the better part of an hour, but we made it-- the tree vertical and intact, and with most of its blossoms still attached.

And boy howdy do I have a sunburn now.

So tomorrow we try to make some progress on the kitchen cabinetry, and maybe the crown molding for my bedroom, and/or the pilings for the deck. Technically we should be doing the line of trees for the backyard before we put the deck in, but, well... I think we may want to look into alternate methods of delivery before we go buying any more trees.

Just sayin', is all.

Thursday, July 31, 2003
18:24 - Progress?

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Just got word that the SBC guys finally sent some trucks out this morning, and were set up most of the day; they had a whole assembly line going. The goal was to locate the junction box and see what they would have to do in order to connect it with the trench we dug through our flowerbed.

They found the box, buried six feet underneath the sidewalk two houses over, 100 feet from where the trench ends.

They're going to have to get the buried-services-locator guys to come out and slop paint around again, but that shouldn't take more than a day; then they get to dig up the sidewalk over the junction box, sink a water-borer down into the pit, and then dig a Chunnel for the hundred-foot run to the endpoint. It must be something to see, this high-pressure water excavation thingy boring its horizontal way underneath huge expanses of pavement. But I assume they've done it before, so it'll happen and it'll be done right. Sometime in the next couple of days, if nothing more goes amiss.

We're assured that we've done our part, though. It's now in the hands of the Phone Company Gods.


13:08 - Dowd for a day
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/07/Culturalcrosspollination.shtml

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Just look what Den Beste said today:

...Dogs reproduce by fission.

He said it! He did! Right there in black and white! I agree with Philip Shropshire-- who could possibly take this man seriously?!

... Hee. I kid. I couldn't resist; I am weak.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
12:01 - Notworking

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Just a little status report on our ever-lengthening efforts to get a partial T1 into the house.

(And before anyone asks what the hell we're going to all this trouble for, we need symmetrical bandwidth and the ability to host our own servers. We don't get DSL here-- the CO five hundred feet away was installed in the longlongago for a subdivision that was never actually built, so it's "dark"-- and Comcast cable service isn't symmetric and doesn't allow hosting or fixed IPs. This is our only option.)

In mid-June, I signed the contract with the connectivity provider, who I must note has been exemplary with service since day one, as I would expect from a business-grade networking provider. The trouble is that he has to order the line through Pac Bell/SBC, then XO has to do the provisioning. And SBC in particular is a huge faceless monopolistic bureaucracy. It's like having desktop support administered by the DMV. It's like-- well, hell, it's the phone company. All the jokes have already been written.

So anyway, mid-June, and they send out the order. They promise, by the way, that they will have the T1 installed by July 1. Over the ensuing three weeks, however, it transpires from a series of calls to the provider, who tries desperately to get a human voice on the line from within the SBC monolith and not just a terse computerized status message, that the SBC site surveyors have tried on three separate occasions to come to my house and reconnoiter-- only on all three occasions to go to the wrong address. At one point they misread 1787 as 1878. At another, they mistook Spagthorpe Pines Ct. for Spagthorpe Avenue. (Names and numbers have been changed to protect the-- heh-- innocent.) A third time they got the street number and the street wrong. Each time we deluged them with e-mails and phone calls correcting them, and each time it sent the job back to the end of the Holy Favor Queue, so it meant it cost us another full week each time the site-surveyor guy had to stand in the forecourt of a strip mall somewhere making a bewildered cell-phone call to the mothership about how there wasn't any damn house anywhere in sight.

So that was some time ago, ages ago, ancient history. It's a whole new chapter now.

See, the guy finally came out. He looked up and down our front yard, rubbed his chin, and announced that he had no idea where SBC's junction box was. There was no access hatch. There was one labeled "Pacific Bell", but inside there was only TV cable-- the box had been co-opted by Comcast in their recent upgrade pass (for which, by the way, I am massively grateful). Our phone line was buried. Bare. No conduit. Just the bare two lines, dropped in a trench and covered over. We couldn't even try to dig it up, because of all the gas and electrical and sewer and other lines running through our flower bed.

Why not just do without a phone? I asked. You know-- use the two existing phone lines, the existing four wires, to carry the T1. We could put in a new phone line at our leisure. But no-- proceeedure. They'd have to shut off the phone line, verify its being shut off, then put in the work orders to get the T1 provisioned; that would take another week or two, and meanwhile we'd have no phone or network. And while the whole point of this exercise is ostensibly so we can have Internet connectivity at home, we're currently using the phone line as a 24-hour dialup so friends can come over and play MMORPGs all night long. So scratch that.

So we had to dig a new trench and lay new conduit. Which we did. Or, more correctly, we had a guy do it for us. It was the guy who had come out from the City of San Jose when we called the 1-800-POO-GAS-10-10-987-12500DOWNTHECENTER call-before-you-dig number, to mark the sidewalk where the buried lines were. (You call the number, an automated signal is sent out over the Sub-Etha, and hundreds of scuttling bureaucrats come swooping by in vans with cans of orange and red paint, marking where the water and cable and electrical and other lines all go, and then vanish into the night.) So the city guy came back and offered to dig the trench for us. "Times are tough," he said. He was out of work, having previously been a contractor for the phone company. His clothes and car weren't as nice as those worn by the SBC site-surveyor, but he got a whole helluva lot more of my respect. Especially considering how hot a day it was, and how he did the whole job by hand. By choice.

So now there's a trench running through our flowerbed, a four-inch gully cut across our concrete walkway that goes around the side of the house (the ground underneath was apparently once the parking lot for the power substation next door, so it's clay and sand that's packed super-hard-- or, as we like to call it in the parlance, concrete; so no digging the dirt out from under the walkway), and a conduit endpoint sticking up out of the ground next to the input box at the side of the house. The other end of the conduit is in a hole next to the sidewalk, and there's a rope running the length of the conduit, the better to pull the phone line through when the time comes.

Which, we now learn, is an indeterminate time away.

We called the SBC guy back (I wouldn't let him leave, the day he came out and rubbed his chin, without leaving an accurate human name and cell-phone number), and let him know that the trench was ready. So he told us he'd get back to us. And get back to us he did-- yesterday.

I don't know whether he had to go to the house to find this out, or if he just made the proclamation from his truck on the freeway somewhere; but his new insight is that well, fine, we have a trench now-- but SBC still has no idea where the buried junction box is. But-- oh, and here's the best part-- their suspicion is that it's buried directly under the sidewalk.

They have to find out for sure. So SBC Man waits three days for the time-sensitive task to ferment properly, then sends out the work order to have some "exploratory digging" done-- apparently they couldn't have done this any earlier, like at the same time we were getting the trench dug-- and see if they can't find that box. For all we know, we might have put the trench ten feet away from the box. But hell, it's in their court now; all we had to do was get the line to the curb. Now it's up to them. And they have to pay for it. (I've even heard stories about the phone company coming out to install a line, tearing up the sidewalk and a slice of the road, laying the line, repaving the sidewalk and the road, and being done before the sun set. This was the provider's SBC liaison guy whose story it was.) Theoretically my work is done.

Except that if the box does turn out to be under the sidewalk, they'll have to get a permit from the city to dig up the sidewalk. Which means another week or two. And we won't know until tomorrow whether we'll have to do that. But after that they have to recondition the line, because in the 13 years since the neighborhood was built, apparently all of Western technology was invented, and the pavement and technology were all laid down together under the assumption that 1950s equipment would suffice us for the next century at least, or until the nukes flew and leveled the cul-de-sac and allowed us all to start afresh without any of those pesky flower gardens or homeowners to get in the way.

Fine. I'm resigned to the idea of not having any net at home for another couple of months. The provider called me here at work a few minutes ago for a status report and to ask me how things were coming on my end, and I had great fun telling him. I'm past the phase of being angry or frustrated, and am now just enjoying making up new adjectives to use over the phone. Again, the provider guy is being superlatively helpful and sympathetic-- there's just nothing he can do. The moment there is, you can bet, that damn line will be hooked up and we'll be sailing happily away into the bitstream. But for now, we wait. And I try to write desultory book chapters on a machine with no access to Software Update.

I'm sure CapLion will tell me that if I lived in New York, this would all have been taken care of with a tip of the hat by smiling Maytag repairmen six weeks ago. I have to imagine that if we were ordering the T1 from SBC directly, instead of getting it relabeled through a provider, there wouldn't have been any of that "escalation to the manager level" or "not being able to find the address for three weeks"; you'd think, being the phone company, they might even have been able to call the number and ask where the house was, or even look in their database and see where the line was hooked up. But I'm sure that this is all just atonement for some non-specific sin I've committed, and as long as I suffer it in silence (except for long-winded typing) I'll have redeemed myself like Douglas Adams' England.

That's my theory, anyway. And until I come up with a better one, it's what I'll stick to.

Fingers crossed for the damn box being accessible without having to dig up the sidewalk.

Monday, July 28, 2003
16:23 - Woody Allen, please call your agent
http://www.achewood.com/index.php?date=07282003

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Don't get me wrong, I have the requisite gleeful surreptitious Achewood habit. But:



Uh-huh. Didn't Lileks say that France's opinion of America comes from the 1968 issue of Playboy, and Rachel Lucas observe that most Germans' impression of the US is informed primarily by Baywatch?

Beef, heal thyself.

Jeff Goldblum. Cripes. And what appears to be a CRT monitor. If Onstad is playing this straight, which I suppose I have no reason to believe he is, it means his last Mac contact was circa 1997.

Friday, July 25, 2003
15:47 - Meanwhile, on a different planet...
http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/07/25/sharpton.ap/index.html

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Sharpton: "I agree with what Bush is doing, and support more of the same! Shame on him! He's a racist!"


14:20 - What do you want from us?
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=7607_Naked_Arab_Hypocrisy_on_Display

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Arab Street: "We will not believe that Uday and Qusay have really been killed unless you show us pictures of the bodies."

US: "Okay, here they are."

Arab Street: "Aaaahhh! That's un-Islamic!"


Geez louise. As Lileks said back in late March or so, whatever.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
11:14 - Insanity
http://coldfury.com/archives/001431.php#001431

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Mike at Cold Fury has done what I don't have the will to do: written a cathartic post about the stupefying reaction we've been seeing from the Left to the deaths of Uday and Qusay. It's not a long post, nor a very refreshingly vitriol-filled one; rather, it's faltering and even a little bit resigned-- the way I've been feeling, the reason why I haven't been able to write anything on the subject. I think I know now why I've been feeling so very tired over the past couple of days.

I know that kids under, say, 16 really don't know what they're talking about when it comes to politics; they'll happily espouse completely horrifying viewpoints just because they sound cool. That's all I can imagine explaining this:
Doesn't a part of you wish that Queasy and Duh-day were alive?

I'll admit they're scum and rightfully so, but anything that lands as even more humiliation on W's grotesque shrivelled face is that much the better.

It's sad, really, that as despicable as they are, Saddam's family seems to be the lesser of two evils when you compare them to the wretched little bastard occupying the White House and destroying America in the process...

And I only quote that one because it's particularly representative and memetic, not because similar sentiments (slightly more tactfully worded) haven't been soaking the online and broadcast world, across the mainstream spectrum.

All I'm saying is, shouldn't there be some kind of age requirement for getting on the Net?

Not that that would help. Apparently people from all walks of life are having a hard time seeing why killing Uday and Qusay is a good thing. The fact that Bush exists trumps all.

Lest anyone get the impression that I'm some kind of unquestioning Bush supporter, um, no, I'm not. I think there are many things he could be doing far better. There are also many things he could be doing far worse. About par for the course for a President in an extraordinarily trying historical time.

But I swear, I am so goddamned physically drained after seeing this unrelenting stream of utter bilge from the reactionary Left, especially in reaction to what should have been an unquestionably uniting and praiseworthy event, that I can't even sleep well. I saw some of those conspiracy-theory-munching goons in my dreams last night.

For a long time I've been able to reassure myself, based on poll numbers during the war and such, that most of this country was too smart, too moral, too mentally clear to be sucked in by the endless "yellowcake" bleating and the hammering of these legions of hateful little trolls; but I'm afraid. I really am. I'm afraid that enough people take news sources like the BBC seriously enough, and ascribe enough credibility to any headline that stays on the news for more than two days, that the Left's tactics-- if tactics are what they are-- are working. And if so, it means my faith in the American public to make the right choices is seriously shaken.

That's such a depressing thought that I'm going to have to avoid this subject altogether for some time.

UPDATE: Specifically, some people seem to have the same vacuous, unresearched understanding of the word "McCarthyism" that they do of the terms "Free Speech" or "First Amendment".

God, I hate when people don't do their homework and then get treated like rock stars. It's like high school all over again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
12:52 - There's a name for that sort of thing
http://www.dickgephardt2004.com/releases/pp_foreignpolicy.html

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Several people have been commenting on this speech by Dick Gephardt in which he says with complete seriousness that the greatest threats to this country are those created by our unwillingness to cooperate with international legal bodies, for our own safety and security-- for instance, the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty.

Now, never mind the arguments that have already been put forth and dished about, for instance by Bill Whittle, who notes that "Even the proponents of Kyoto admit that if fully ratified, it would only delay their own worst-case model’s warming by two or three years over the next century. And all we have to do is wreck the world’s economy." While that's certainly worthwhile, I have a different observation to make.

The other day I heard (on NPR, where else) some guy moaning about how we hadn't signed the Kyoto treaty, thumbing our noses at the rest of the world and the 178 countries who have dutifully signed the accord. He said that countries like Russia have signed it, and their greenhouse gas emissions have been steadily dropping ever since; but over the course of the 1990s, while the US had made some token statements to the effect that we would be attempting to scale back our emissions over time, each year our emissions grew significantly. We appeared, in essence, not only to not be cooperating, but to not be trying to cooperate.

But this guy on the radio noted a critical little piece of information: that Russia's emissions were falling not because they were working to comply with the treaty's regulations, but because their overall economy is shrinking. Industry is scaling back. Factories are closing. So naturally their greenhouse gas emissions are dropping.

Kinda makes the US look a little less malicious, unless you consider success in itself to be malicious. And, we now know, some do.

It also throws some perspective upon those 178 countries that have ratified the treaty. For the vast majority, it was no huge leap to be able to do so. Did anyone fear that Ghana or Nepal were likely to be significant contributors to global warming? It's a no-brainer for non-industrialized nations to sign, or even industrialized nations with small populations. The treaty, it becomes clear, is really only aimed at one specific rogue state.

But that's not even what I was getting at-- it's just the warm-up. The guy on the radio went on to describe how because Russia's economy is shrinking, they are not using their full allocation of "emissions credits"-- and are therefore selling some to the US.

I was coming up to a red light when I heard that, which is fortunate because I would have slammed on the brakes anyway.

Emissions credits?!?

So if I understand this properly: if you're a country that is not in compliance with the Kyoto treaty, or whatever treaty it is that provides for these "credits" that we are a signatory to, you can either put yourself in compliance-- or you can purchase a waiver for yourself in the form of these "emissions credits", buying them from countries that aren't producing enough pollution to be using all the credits that are allocated to them.

In other words, the treaty isn't concerned with pollution at all; it's merely concerned with identifying the successful countries, the ones who can't comply with the treaty's terms without destroying their own economies, and siphoning money out of their coffers and into those of countries that can't help but be in compliance because they're unsuccessful. You can go ahead and pollute, but you have to pay off the poor countries around you.

When the Catholic Church did this, it was called indulgences.

Nowadays, it's mostly known as a bribe.

Or, in slightly different terms, a "sin tax". Levied on the successful, assessed upon the level of success. For the purpose of redistribution of wealth.

I believe I now understand where reasoned cynicism regarding environmental regulation comes from. How come nobody had a booth explaining these stipulations at Earth Day at my high school? If they had booths for Negative Population Growth, Inc., why not this?

Yeah, I know. Stupid question.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
13:27 - About frickin' time
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/07/22/sprj.irq.sons/index.html

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CNN's big alert banner has pictures of Uday and Qusay on their respective playing cards, with the headline TRUMPED.

Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday, were killed Tuesday in a gunbattle with U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq said.

Their bodies were identified from "multiple sources," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters in Baghdad.

"They died in a fierce gunbattle," Sanchez said. "They resisted detention and the effort of coalition forces to apprehend them."

Of course, now it's anybody's guess whether Saddam's still out there. But it's immensely gratifying that finally we've bagged some really, really big fish.

UPDATE: And, of course, the usual suspects are reacting to this news with every conceivable emotion except for happiness: they're accusing the US of having had the bodies in freezers for weeks, to trot out in order to push "yellowcake" off the headlines; they're lamenting our cold-blooded assassination of two men who should only have been arrested at worst; they're even latching onto the word "sons" as though it implies that Uday and Qusay were innocent kids. And it's not just these slimy little web worm-dungeons either-- the BBC is even putting scare quotes around the word "dead" and what we callously refer to as "good" news.

That's it. I am through with trying to make sense of how people like this can consider themselves moral and rational and informed human beings.

If I were a praying man, I'd pray that they were fewer than they appear.


11:02 - Amazing coincidence
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=7559_Saddam_and_September_11

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No connection; no connection at all.

Oh, and read the comments; there's a contributor by the name of "evariste" who makes for some fascinating reading.

Monday, July 21, 2003
13:56 - Smirk me up that grid square

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One of the side effects of having all my worldly possessions-- which primarily consist of things that had been stacked on bookshelves, many of which are in fact books-- strewn about my floor in stacks without any particular place to put them is that I'm tempted to do something I haven't really done in years, since before college: reading.

Now, granted, I never was that much of an adventurous reader. I loved big thick books, but only certain big thick books; I would find a few favorites and read them over and over again. I've been through The Silmarillion some twenty times, for instance, and Watership Down fifteen, and the James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small series until the covers fell off and the paperback spines split. I can't say what the commonalities are between the books I've tended to like, except that I know a book I'll hate the moment I pick it up. Almost all sci-fi/fantasy falls into that category; Tolkien's the one exception to a genre that nearly uniformly makes me furious. And in any case, once I went off to college, my reading time was severely curtailed, and I never really did pick it back up again.

So now that the house work is gradually and slowly beginning to asymptote off, and the things I am doing usually involve a work path as follows: Apply a bead of something, then wait several hours for it to dry; spray a layer of something, then wait several hours for it to dry; apply fingerfuls of something, then wait several hours for it to dry; sand, caulk, prime; paint on a coat of something, then wait several hours for it to dry; repeat; repeat -- I find myself with a number of temporal interstices into which I would normally insert networking time, doing e-mail or blogging or tinkering with code or some such. But that's not possible until the phone company should ever get my house's correct address into their head (they've tried three times now to install the T1, and gone to the wrong address each time, resetting the Beseech a Favor From the Bureaucratic Monopoly clock with each dimwitted call from the middle of a parking lot somewhere miles from my house); and so I find myself sprawling on a couch and reading.

And what should I pick up but the various books by Bill Bryson? They're always a lot of fun, though I should note that they're always funniest the first time through. A long sojourn away from them will also pep them up a little, but I find that if I'm anticipating some cute trick of wording or visualization that I know is coming, such as his extravagant fears in Neither Here nor There about what should happen if he should buy a rubber love doll in Germany and it should flop out of his suitcase and self-inflate in the middle of a crowded subway car, it doesn't give me the lingering, delectable guffaw that I suffered the first time I read that passage-- on a transcontinental red-eye flight, under the dim reading light on my window seat, my paroxysms of silent laughter provoking increasing irritability in the guy sitting next to me and gamely trying to sleep as we soared through the midnight sky over Ohio.

I've always been a fan of Bryson's, I should point out, ever since I was handed a copy of The Mother Tongue by an English teacher at my high school. It's one of the most engaging, comprehensive tomes on the subject of the English language that I've ever run across, and I've read quite a few, many by much more distinguished linguists than he, such as Jespersen and Pei. But I always come back to Bryson. Why? Because there's something about his written wit that I like. It's hard to pin down. He's often described as a Keillor/Kerouac/Barry admixture, but I don't know if that comes near the mark. Bryson spends so much time talking about how bewildered he is by things in the world that I usually find perfectly understandable, and I'm not just talking about computers here, and yet has such a vast wealth of statistics at his fingertips with which to bolster some narrative point or other, that I can never tell if he's as endearingly feckless as he makes himself sound, or if his endless bumbling and gape-mouthed wonder at things like cell phones and underground walkways is all just an elaborate put-on. In which case I find my respect for him is diminished by a significant amount.

Which, I also should note, is the impression I'm regretfully left with after plowing through I'm a Stranger Here Myself, a collection of his columns that he wrote for a local paper after returning to America after living in England for twenty years. Now, I'd loved The Mother Tongue for its wealth of fascinating information wryly delivered; I'd found The Lost Continent, his trek across America, to be uproarious in the best Bryson tradition, though I can't find that one in my bookcase at all now; Notes From a Small Island, about England, was marginally less diverting, mostly because of its monotony; same goes for In a Sunburned Country, on Australia, its interest coming chiefly from the alien nature (to me) of the place. Neither Here Nor There, about his travels through Europe, is the magnum opus, unless it were A Walk in the Woods, the one that really put Bryson on the map, as it were-- his northward hike along the Appalachian Trail. It's in that book that you start to get a glimpse into Bryson's priorities in life, and in I'm a Stranger Here Myself he continues the trend through to its conclusion-- he's willing to devote months toward becoming a wild and scruffy mountain man, able to hike thirty miles a day through sweltering, buzzing mountains, but at heart he's really a cosseted American dad who putters in the yard and wrestles with his taxes and writes long sarcastic tirades about his computer being incomprehensible and unreliable. (DOS-prompt jokes in a 2000 book, even. I wonder.) He spends his Appalachian adventure bemoaning the changing landscape, whose decay he's careful to point out is not always the result of simple crass American industrialism eating away at the natural world-- often it's just, for instance, that the Ice Age is only just now ending, and climates are still changing rapidly, in a geological sense. But over the course of that book and the columns collected in the next, Bryson's disgust with the modern world begins to stick out in sharp relief.

Sure, he remains funny in his later books; that's not in doubt. If I were to characterize his style, I'd say he's what you get if you were to take James Lileks, excise about two pounds of clue from his head along with his conversance with popular entertainment and any smidgen of fascination with modern technology, and instead replace it with several encyclopedias' worth of fascinating environmental and economic and political statistics relating to the past twenty years' worth of American and British history. Also, scoop him up from decidedly practical Minnesota and transplant him to the Imagineered quaintness and contractually quintessent Americana surroundings of New Hampshire, where his neighbors are no doubt the nasally and insufferable cast of Family Guy. And pull the political ripcord and let the spin begin.

There are a lot of points in I'm a Stranger Here Myself where I find myself saying, "Yeah, yeah, I'll let this one slide," with reference to some particularly incisive and slanted barb about something I hold dear. I can take his extravagant rants about the unnecessary complexities of design in personal computers; hell, I write those myself. I can handle his moaning about how the old modular diners from the 30s and 40s are all gone now due to disinterest, but people flock to modern simulations of them like Johnny Rocket's. But I do take exception when I run across those gee-aren't-I-clever statements that I find now and then: If we as a people are advanced enough to send a man to the moon, measure the most distant stars, and cure seemingly incurable diseases, then why can't we design a turn signal that turns itself off if you're not making a turn? or whatever. Things that have very rational explanations, but that I can't explain to the author because this is print media and I can't make myself heard by shouting at the book.

When Bryson spends a column on his slack-jawed stupefaction at the amount of choice you get in American goods and services today, he comes dangerously near to crossing the line: One of the hundreds of cable channels that I get is a twenty-four-hour cartoon network. Perhaps the most astounding thing about this is that the channel has advertisers. What could you possibly sell to people who watch Deputy Dawg at 2:30 AM? Bibs?

Uh, no, Girls Gone Wild videos, of course. Jackass.

Anyway, I understand that Bryson has a new book out in which he denies his statement from I'm a Stranger Here Myself-- that he is competely, woefully clueless about all things scientific, whether physical or chemical or biological or mathematical-- and chronicles the history of the universe and all its component sciences, all in typical smirky Bryson fashion. It might well be fascinating, and I suppose I'd better give it a look, as it stands to reason that it will resemble The Mother Tongue the most closely of all his previous books. And that suits me just fine.

After all, I ought to be able to tell when he's making a salient and amusing or startling point, or when he's blowing a verbal booger like When you are overwhelmed, what is the whelm you are over, and what does it look like? out his nose.

Friday, July 18, 2003
10:44 - Sunny Day in Arizona; Janeane Garofalo Still a Moron

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Forum this morning had Janeane Garofalo and some other Hollywood turd-- Hector something-or-other-- from "Artists United To Win Without War", as I believe they're now called. God-- I've never heard such a circle-jerk in my life. Garofalo kept bleating out statements like, "Of course Iraq was going to be a Vietnam-esque quagmire; anyone who thinks otherwise is alarmingly ignorant, and I hold the popular media criminally responsible for click!" Actually I don't know if she actually said click; maybe it was just me turning off the radio.

Of course, nowhere to be found in the show was the apology that Garofalo had promised to render if the Iraqis should-- inconceivable!-- welcome the American troops.

The assumption under which these people were operating was interesting indeed, though: it was all focused on the fact that the media is too unconcerned with the negative aspects of the war, too conservative. They blamed the news outlets for focusing on Laci Peterson and Kobe Bryant-- okay, granted that they're guilty of that-- but that instead of that, all the media had to do was to poke just a little bit into the Truth and they would crack wide open this massive scandal of a monstrous Lie that was foisted upon the American public, a war that was fought purely for evil reasons masquerading as righteous force. "Americans have an emotional need," Garofalo said, "to believe in the mythology of America-- that America is always on the side of good and right, and whatever the President says-- unless, of course, he happens to be a Democrat-- goes."

The people behind the Drudge Report, the Coulters and Hannitys, she also said, are doing their work not because of any political reasons, but just because of an emotional need for that same mythology that "right-wingnuts" need to fill. And naturally that extends to all the popular media, all the news organs, all the services that claim to be "giving the people what they want". When they show things like Bush landing on the aircraft carrier, it's the government happily using Hollywood as long as it suits them. And of course now there is new fodder for these people to use in leveraging themselves back out of the woodwork-- videotapes of soldiers wanting to come back home, reports of the casualty count exceeding that of Desert Storm-- which they're happily pouncing on (making sure, of course, to paint on their Sympathetic Sad Faces before wagging their fingers on-air and blaming the families of the soldiers for not knowing what kind of corrupt bloodthirsty military machine their sons and daughters were signing up for).

What's most stunning about this whole matter is just, as I have to keep telling myself, because otherwise I just can't believe it, that these people have honestly convinced themselves that our invading Iraq was a bad thing.

I wonder how well one of Garofalo's cynical stand-up routines would play in Baghdad?

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
11:08 - Pay attention now

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ZEP.


RIT.


DAP.


MEP.


11:02 - Stupid Nature

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So I was stripping caulk (huh huh) off my bathroom sink last night in preparation for touch-up painting and recaulking, when I looked into the bathtub and noticed that there was a large stream of ants pouring out of a tiny crack in the grout and milling around down in the drain area. Now, ants are one of the things I'd hoped I had left behind in the old house, but I'm thinking that that was a fool's hope; even after the house had remained effectively empty of food for some three months before we moved in, the ants came billowing out of the woodwork with the very first Coke can that was left out on the counter overnight. So it's either regular tent treatments, or a stepped-up Grin-N-Bear-It campaign.

I've been grinning and bearing it for a few weeks now, and to their credit the ants have been behaving themselves better after that initial night of Coke-induced carousing; they've only made scattered and inexplicable appearances, such as swarming over a plate in the sink with baked-on chicken juice, while bypassing sniffily a whole open box of cookies. I've given up trying to understand the little buggers. Their tastes bewilder me, but if they don't like our cooking, I won't lose sleep if they complain.

So imagine my surprise when I saw-- in my otherwise spotless bathtub-- this cloud of ants gathered around a mysterious puddle of material near the drain. On close inspection I couldn't determine its nature. I looked up at the ceiling-- did something leak through and drip down? Is there a dead candy clown in the attic? Nope. Did the paint touch-up I'd done the previous day somehow fall bodily off the wall and curl up in the tub? Did ants like latex paint? I wouldn't put it past them. But no, that wasn't it either.

Then I noticed it: the round metal cover above the drain, under the faucet, the thing that has that weird toggle lever in some tubs but not this one, was slightly open along the bottom, in a slit along the tub line, as though for ventilation. Into this slit was stuffed a dead moth.

Whether it had crawled in there itself or had been dragged in by amazingly industrious land wasps, this moth was now being carted away in bite-sized pieces into the crawl space. I sat on the toilet and stared at the spectacle for a good ten minutes before grabbing up tissues and noxious chemicals and embarking on the vigorous cleaning process. It would probably behoove me to caulk up that slit while I'm at it, unless it's actually important for drainage or something. But all throughout, all that occupied my mind was a general sense of wounded pride and baleful stolidity, the kind you get if some jokester dupes you after long and careful skepticism into believing some bizarre tale, upon which he laughs in your face and goes SUCKER!

I kept thinking, Yeah, very funny, nature.

Monday, July 14, 2003
16:47 - Well spotted, Bruce!
http://www.theonering.net/perl/newsview/2/1058130053

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It is a small world...

Report on Bay Rait and Weta at the Aussie FX and Animation Festival
Tehanu @ 5:00 pm EST
Lolly's Report from the Australian Effects and Animations Festival held in Melbourne back in May, at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square. This happened back in May, but I don't think we got such a detailed and funny report as this at the time.

Lolly writes:

Firstly Bay introduced himself and gave a brief run down on his role at Weta, which in TTT was building hero facial systems. He discussed what would be discussed and shown, and we were treated to a 50 minute tape of behind the scenes.

I do believe that's Bonnie Raitt's nephew Bay Raitt, who graduated from my high school, Ukiahi, after my freshman or sophomore year. He was always a performing-artsy type, big and imposing, with a deep booming voice. (He played Charlemagne for the school's production of Pippin, and boy did he look the part.) Everyone expected great things from him. I'd heard offhand that he had gone into film animation, and thence to Weta Digital, where he was working on the Lord of the Rings movies.

And now he's in the spokesman's role, giving demos at animation festivals.

Sweeet.


11:11 - Any port in a storm, eh?

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There seems to be a problem with a certain lack of critical thinking in America today. At least among the media personalities. If there weren't those opinion polls which stubbornly insist that most people still think going to war was the right thing to do, I'd be starting to despair that this mental laziness were becoming an epidemic.

NPR all throughout the weekend-- particularly on Saturday, to and from the concert in Sacramento, which featured Three Dog Night, Lou Christie, and The Association, among others-- was giddily gleeful in all its headings. The dubious information that was used to justify the war in Iraq! To hear these headlines, you'd think someone had just sleuthed up a secret dossier titled EYES ONLY: OPERATION SCAPEGOAT. ZOG CENTRAL.

On Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, as usual, they led off with their typical raucous Bush-bashing; it was all the more maddening given the recent flap over the Nigerian yellow-cake business. According to the hosts, when confronted with the evidence of prevarication and subterfuge, Bush responded with wide-eyed confusion befitting a toddler. The hosts giggled and dished back and forth for a few minutes, then mentioned that Ari Fleischer had said, "I think the burden of proof lies with those who said Saddam didn't have any weapons of mass destruction-- it's up to them to say where they are." Clearly going for the "You can't make up stuff like this" vibe, one of the hosts followed this up with, "What, is Ari going for a stand-up comedy career after this? I mean, at some point you have to just sit and marvel." Another added, "Hey, it's Comical Ari!"

And that's the infuriating bit: unless you think about it, Fleischer's comment does seem like the stuff of ripe parody-- unless you think about it. I wanted to reach into the radio and grab those guffawing hosts by their lapels and do what I've grown far too tired of doing: explain the reasoning behind the statement. That being that everybody knew Saddam had WMDs, including the UN, Hans Blix, Bill Clinton, the State Department, France, Germany, Russia-- nobody was disputing any of that. We knew Saddam had used WMDs, against Halabja, against Iran, and against our troops in Desert Storm. Iraq had many of those same weapons when the inspectors were expelled in 1998. This was a fact, never in any doubt. Where the weapons went between 1998 and now-- if indeed they aren't in Iraq-- is an interesting question, and one that ought to be answered (if only because we'd rather find them before al Qaeda does); but there is no logical means by which the failure to find the weapons constitutes a lie on the part of the administrations of the US or or Britain in the lead-up to the war. Nor does it change the fact that nit-picking at the dotted I's and crossed T's of the pre-war justification is not just petty and stupid, but an insult to the people of Iraq, some six to nine thousand of whom would have died in the time since March if we hadn't removed Saddam, and whose children would still be in prisons, whose family members would still be in torture chambers, and whose compatriots would still be buried in unmarked mass graves. Complete the sentence: Though none of the other grievances against him are in any doubt, Saddam may not in fact have tried to buy yellow-cake from Niger. Therefore: __________________

(I know! I know! Therefore... he wasn't a bad guy after all, meant us no ill will, never harbored a WMD program, and was loved by his people-- and we ousted an innocent man!)

Statements like Fleischer's seem like self-parody only if you don't think about them. And that's what really gets me: apparently the majority of the American public is able to see and grasp the logic of his reasoning, while the visible media personalities to whom they tune their radios and TVs-- whose job it is to keep up with and interpret the news-- can't. To them, it's all just the obfuscation of a bunch of unelected dunderheads steering this country to ruin, and isn't that just so tragic that we have to laugh to keep from crying?

They also made fun of Ah-nuld's chances at the California governorship, and his recent statements wherein he compared himself politically to Nelson Mandela. Apparently never having listened to a word the man has said on political subjects, they dismissed him out of hand on the basis of-- what? Apparently the fact that he's still making movies as a character actor. "Schwartzenegger's potential voting constituency is bodybuilders, pro wrestlers, movie fans, and Howard Stern," the hosts quipped, adding that "Well, hey, that's most of California." They then said that the next thing to expect would be Keanu Reeves explaining in a press conference why he's like James Madison.

It's funny, so it must be true.

We've trained ourselves not to accept anything on face value-- to assume that there's always more to the story, to assume that whoever's in power is trying to dupe the public, especially if they're Republicans. There's always some nefarious subplot. If one isn't obvious in what people say, then that's just evidence of conspiracy.

It must be an amazingly unfulfilling life, to be that suspicious all the time.

Now people are calling in to Greg Kihn's radio show and stating bluntly that "There are no weapons of mass destruction." And, presumably, there never were. Nor was there ever a Saddam Hussein or an Osama bin Laden. Or a World Trade Center.

UPDATE: Oh, and even Congresspeople are getting into the act. Some guy who said he voted for war is saying that he's shocked, shocked, at the recent revelations. When pressed, he won't say he was "duped" into voting for war, but clearly, clearly the war was fought under false pretenses and therefore for some sinister purpose of the Administration's. Condi Rice knew! She told Tenet to take the fall! Bush didn't know because he's an imbecile! Now an innocent dictatorship has fallen and a people has been ruthlessly liberated to their own destiny! Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!


The cognitive feedback loop on the left may have become such that there won't be a voice from there that anybody can take seriously until after a major shakeup-- like on the scale of the death of certain political parties. Bring back the Whigs and Federalists!

Friday, July 11, 2003
19:03 - You can't make this stuff up
http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=21464

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There was probably a time, back in the Enlightenment days, when it looked for all the world as though the longer the planet Earth lasted, the more history unfolded, the more knowledge humanity accumulated, the wiser all people would become. People would try grander and grander experiments in science and social engineering and justice and government, and the good ones would succeed and the bad ones would fail. And the cumulative effect of these shared dabblings in the human experience would make us all happier, richer, more decent individuals with an advanced understanding of how humanity works commensurate with the luxury in which the poorest of us live our lives compared to even the richest nobility of earlier ages.

Boy, would they have been surprised to see 2003.

French virtuoso keyboardist François-René Duchable plans to end his career this summer by destroying two grand pianos and burning his concert suit to protest what he sees as the bourgeois elitism of the classical music world, The Times of London reports.

According to The Times, Duchable, 51, told the French Catholic newsaper La Croix that his life as a touring pianist has been "hell" and he delivered blistering parting attacks on some of his fellow musicians.

Alfred Brendel's latest recording, Duchable said, is "discouragingly artificial." Maurizio Pollini has "worn himself out from repeating the same things" and Martha Argerich has "managed to become a myth by always playing the same four concertos."

Duchable told La Croix: "The piano is a symbol of a certain domineering bourgeois and industrial society that has to be destroyed. Used as this society uses it, the piano is an arrogant instrument which excludes all those that don't know about music."

The pianist says he plans to create a sensation with his final three concerts, according to The Times. The first concert, scheduled for the end of July, will end with a piano crashing into Lake Mercantour. The second will finish with his recital suit on fire and the third will culminate with the mid-air explosion of a grand piano to make the statement that "the concert is dead."

After the concerts, Duchable plans to strap a portable keyboard to his bicycle and pedal around France giving impromptu performances, the Times says.

"I have had enough of sacrificing my life for 1 per cent of the population" Duchable said. "I have had enough of participating in a musical system which, in France at least, functions badly and limits classical music to an elite."

Where did we go wrong, Mr. Whittle? How has humanity come to such a pass? Why is it that the closer we get to soaring into the stars, the more we yearn to live miserable thirty-year lives in primitive villages surrounded by wild beasts, fearful even to build a campfire for fear that it would pollute the air, or to murder an animal for food?

Why is it that rather than a dapper and urbane inventive adult on the brink of cosmic enlightenment, our species resembles nothing so much as a suicidal teenager?

(Via a commenter at LGF.)

Thursday, July 10, 2003
13:43 - Tetris is so unrealistic
http://bash.org/

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Blame Chris for this one. Actually I get the feeling I really should have known about this site for a long time, but it somehow slipped my attention. It's bash.org, a database of quips captured from IRC sessions. Some are obviously staged, but many aren't, and if you look at the Top 50 you'll get all the best ones right off.

<BombScare> i beat the internet
<BombScare> the end guy is hard

Wednesday, July 9, 2003
16:31 - So that's where we're going
http://www.buzzmachine.com/archives/2003_07.html#004146

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According to Andrew Sullivan, AOL will be unveiling blogging software soon; apparently whoever's in charge of the project "gets it", and that's all to the good. Far be it from me to cheer for AOL, but I've got to admit that even the ads are starting to get a little less annoying. (That one with the Franciscan Friars is actually pretty funny.) And now that they're in an earnest fight against MSN, they're actually starting to incorporate some useful features, like (gasp!) the ability to sort your e-mail. Trivial, one might say, yes-- but there's something to be said for keeping the interface even simpler than, say, a Mac's-- because for the vast silent majority of users, missing features are far less important than the ability to just do and understand the basics. All they have to do now is overhaul their pathologically dire support infrastructure, and they may have a fighting chance.

As for the blogging software: hey, good. Sure, maybe it means they're just giving birth to another LiveJournal; but if these reports are correct, they're not going after LiveJournal's target audience. They're going after the kinds of people who demand the sorts of features you get in Movable Type-style blogs, plus unique perks like the ability to post straight from IM clients. Cool.

Now, it must be said that blogging software is not rocket science. One thing that's mystified me for the past couple of years is just how difficult a time some of the blogging systems have had in keeping things straight. BlogSpot has had its perennial archiving/permalinking problems; Movable Type had some scandal recently. What's the problem, exactly? Blogging software is in fact stupefyingly easy to write. I wrote mine in just under three hours, a year and a half ago, and have barely had to modify it since then. I'm not saying the design of my system is any good, either-- there are some design decisions I might have made differently if I had it to do again, but that wouldn't have made the project materially more difficult. It's really a very simple concept. A blog is a degenerate case of a message board, itself a very straightforward piece of code to write. All you're doing is providing a schema whereby one or more people can write messages into a database, and then display the last few entries. Even the ancillary features aren't hard. Searching? Easy if you know how to do it. Comments? No problem. TrackBacks? Takes a little cleverness, but there's not much to it. Archiving? Depends on how you do it, but it can amount to almost nothing under the hood. XML? Easy. I'm not saying I speak from some kind of oracular position on the subject here, but compared to some database-driven web applications, blogging is an absurdly simple proposition. So how come some outfits have such a tough time of it?

Mostly load management, I think. Server-side execution can really kill things on a heavily centralized system, especially if a post gets Slashdotted; generating static pages is one solution, but it's not a total one. In order to really hold up, you've got to have a dedicated server farm with lots of redundancy and backups, and there aren't many services out there with more of those things than AOL.

So does this mean blogging is about to "grow up"? That the floodgates are about to be opened, with the legitimacy granted the Web upon the release of Netscape 1.1? Could be. Then again, it might be the death of the blogosphere as we know it; it might morph into something we don't recognize, something too big to handle, something where the current nexuses of attention lose their tether points and get washed away in the tide. I remember when AOL opened up USENET access to its users; the classic newsgroup structure was effectively useless from that day forward. It might have died the same death by spam and Me-Too-ism anyway, but AOL certainly hastened its demise.

I wonder if AOL's getting its hand into the game means a formalization of the tip-jar concept, too?

Nothing to do but wait and see, I suppose...

Monday, July 7, 2003
12:37 - What'd I miss?

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Now that's what I call a good long weekend.

Boy-howdy, did we ever get stuff done. We've cleaned out the garage, for one thing; that was sorely needed. With the help of doughty friends, we dragged everything out of there and sorted it in the driveway into piles of stuff to a) keep, b) give to Goodwill or someone, and c) hurl away. The third pile, it should surprise nobody, ended up dwarfing both the others. Enough so that I just ordered another 12-cubic-yard debris box to pile it all in. The sooner the better, too, because hidden in the piles of crap are lots of boards with nails in them and other such slobbering-alien-repelling weaponry, and there are inquisitive toddlers roaming around the cul-de-sac and just aching to discover new sharp objects on which to brain themselves. It'll be arriving tomorrow.

So then we were able to start moving the boxes from inside the house into the garage, which means we can now walk around more or less with standard human mobility, instead of navigating through towering cardboard canyons in every room. Naturally the dog is all used to the canyons now, so he's watching worriedly as the boxes gradually dissolve from his field of view. "What-- are we moving again?" he asks.

We got the major drapery done, too-- the living room now has our elegantly hung green curtains, with an 8-foot span across the bottom part of the picture window and then a peaked and stapled upper part that we're quite proud of. See, we (actually, Lance) took a six-foot curtain rod and mitre-cut it so it could be screwed together at a 90-degree angle. Then we hung that against the peaked top of the picture window, and hung curtains from the sloped sides so they sort of bunch together in the middle, but in a cool way. They can be separated and gathered at the corners of the peak so as to let in the sun, or pinned behind the TV to keep things cool. It works very well indeed, and it preserves the shape of the window even when closed. Slam-dunk.

My bathroom is just about done; I've finished untaping most of it, and the mirrors are up, with matching frosted edges against the green background. I still need to finish some touch-up painting, the door trim, and the crown molding up top; and the toilet could stand to be replaced. But that's something that can happen at our leisure. There's a new shower head, so I can now take showers without feeling like that shrieking guy at the end of the 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is pointing accusingly at me.

Oh! And I've gotten moving on the new book; at least, I've finished putting together the proposal TOC. This was an interesting adventure. See, the book is supposed to cover 10.3 "Panther"; and thanks to benevolent forces which shall remain nameless, I have such a beast in my hot little hands. So I thought I'd install it on my G4, which has two disks; see, the way the Panther DP works is that there's no upgrade path from it; you can't upgrade from it to the final shipping version of Panther, you can only do a wipe-clean installation, which will trash all your installed drivers and such. So I wanted to put 10.3 on the second disk, leaving the 10.2.6 on the primary disk untouched. But the installer didn't want to cooperate. Taking a cue from Windows 2000's installer, it seemed dead-set on thwarting me. Here's what happened: I would put in the CD; it would say, "Oh! you want to install, do you? Press Restart and the installation process will begin." And it would write to the boot blocks that it wanted to boot from CD, and restart. It would boot into CD. Or not. See, it would get to the gray Apple logo screen, and then freeze. It wasn't a hard freeze; the little twirly "wait" icon would still twirl. But it would never get anywhere. So I'd reset, and the same thing would happen; I'd reset and hold down "C" (to boot from CD); the same thing would happen. Or wait! No! It's actually booting-- though it took like half an hour for it to happen. So I don't know whether it would have finished booting all those other times if I'd just let it sit, or what. But it finally got to the installer screen, after nearly an hour, and plodded through the installer process unnecessarily slowly. In fact, it took some six hours to complete. (I know because I'd opened up the installer log, and it had convenient timestamps for all the events as they happened.) Then "Installer requested restart," said the log, and it rebooted. But apparently it hadn't cleanly installed, because it booted right back into the CD (it came right up this time), and started installing all over again. Crumbs.

So I aborted the process and tried booting from the hard disk. See, on a Mac, you can hold down Option after booting, and it will give you a listing of all bootable volumes. (You can bet this will get a special mention in the "Tips and Tricks You Probably Didn't Know About" chapter.) Select one of the icons and press the Boot button, and off it goes; it's non-persistent, though, and to permanently set the boot device, you have to use the Startup Disk preferences. Anyway-- so I tried booting from the half-installed 10.3 disk; and it ... got to the gray screen and froze. For hours. I went to sleep, got up later, and it was still there, twirling glumly away on the logo screen in the gray pre-dawn. So I shut it off and gave up.

Then it occurred to me: something that had been nagging at my mind ever since I'd read the Read Me file, absorbed its contents, and filed it away in the "Root around in later after you realize you threw something away that you needed" bin. And that was the stern warning that you could only install 10.3 on a Mac selected from a strict list (I was), that had an Apple-supplied video card and no third-party PCI cards (I wasn't). I knew it-- I knew I'd regret installing that new ATI card six months ago and throwing away my old factory Rage 128. Blah! Plus the machine has an Adaptec SCSI card in it. So I figured that had to be the culprit. The DP of Panther probably doesn't have all the third-party drivers done; since the system would occasionally boot (the freeze point was always right after it probed the USB devices, as I could tell from booting in Visual mode-- Command-V), and since it had the nice mouse drop-shadow and everything, I figured the video card probably wasn't to blame. It was probably that damned SCSI card.

I had a few options before me. I could try taking out the SCSI card, and maybe digging up video cards and swapping them in and out; but that just seemed so... so... exactly like what I was dealing with whenever I tried to install Win2K. Granted, this is a developer's preview, not even a public beta; but still, I felt I shouldn't have to do this. It was much simpler to just play by the stated rules.

This meant installing it on my iBook. But wait! The iBook only has one disk; and unlike Mac OS 9, where you could install lots of different copies of the OS onto the same disk (a bootable OS consisted solely of a System Folder that had been "blessed" properly-- it could exist anywhere on the system, deep inside folder trees, wherever), OS X can only be installed once per partition. (I hope they streamline this-- I've heard that they're working on it, but it's hard to get all those invisible UNIX directories to behave properly.) I was in no mood to try partitioning my disk. So then... what?

My iPod gleamed at me from the corner of my desk. Of course!

I plugged the iPod into the G4 and enabled manual mode, and deleted all the songs from it. Then I unplugged it and fired up the iBook, and plugged it in. Tossed in the Panther disk; rebooted to begin installation. It booted almost instantly. It asked which disk to install it on; with a flourish and a doffing of my flowing black cape, I selected the iPod. And it installed quickly and smoothly, taking less than 45 minutes all told. (I further suspect the SCSI card in the G4 as the culprit, now; it was behaving as though it had to keep waiting for the card to give it some kind of approval to continue, a signal that was never forthcoming.) It rebooted, the iPod clicking away in my hand, and asked for the second disc, which I happily fed it. It finished eating and spit out the bones of the CD, and rebooted again. O happy day! Behold: the joy of Panther!

Now I have a bootable copy of the OS in my pocket; I can take it to work and boot my iMac with it, so I can see the more video-intensive things like the hideously gratuitous (and therefore utterly delicious) Fast User Switching feature, and of course Exposé. I can take it to the park with my laptop, boot it into Panther, and explore the half-finished features and guess at what they'll eventually do. I can take it home, plug it into my G4, and watch it freeze at the gray logo screen. Then I can pretend it's the G5 that will be arriving just as soon as my bank account dips below the amount I'll need in order to pay for it.

This stuff's fun even when it goes kablooey!

Wednesday, July 2, 2003
18:59 - Virtual Friday!

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Since I'm still without net at home, and since there's no work tomorrow or Friday, that means there might be no blogging happening until... ugh. Monday. Maybe I'll sneak in to work to do some stuff, if interesting things happen. But most likely not.

Happy 4th, everybody!


12:51 - What Makes a Lie
http://www.rachellucas.com/archives/000682.html#000682

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While I wasn't looking, a few days ago Rachel Lucas posted Michael Moore's latest letter to the President in its entirety. She didn't really even have it in herself to fisk it, because-- and she's entirely right in this-- "it sort of takes care of itself anyway".

Your blatant refusal to back up your verbal deception with the kind of fake evidence we have become used to is a slap in our collective American face. It's as if you are saying, "These Americans are so damn apathetic and lazy, we won't have to produce any weapons to back up our claims!" If you had just dug a few silo holes in the last month outside Tikrit, or spread some anthrax around those Winnebagos near Basra, or "discovered" some plutonium with that stash of home movies of Uday Hussein feeding his tigers, then it would have said to us that you thought we might revolt if you were caught in a lie. It would have shown us some *respect*. We honestly wouldn't have cared if it later came out that you planted all the WMD -- sure, we'd be properly peeved, but at least we would have been proud to know that you knew you HAD to back up your phony claims with the real deal!

I guess you finally figured that out this week. It started to appear that millions of us were calling you on your bluff -- those "fictitious reasons for the fictitious war." So you quickly produced this man and his rose bush and some 12-year old piece of paper and some metal parts. CNN broke in at 5:15pm and screamed they had the exclusive! "IRAQI NUCLEAR PLANS FOUND!" But a few good reporters started asking some hard questions -- and, barely 3 hours later, your own administration was forced to admit the plans were "not the smoking gun” proving that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

She's right... I can't think of anything helpful to say either.

Except the obvious, which is this:

Moore finds it patently more plausible that: <deep breath> Bush and the Pentagon, the State Department, backed up by Clinton, the UN's weapons inspectors, France, Germany, Russia, Iran, and China, fabricated a case out of whole cloth for war against Saddam; sowed dissent within the ranks of the conspirators so that none but the Brits, Aussies, Poles, and Americans actually were willing to commit military troops, and the others were willing to damage their own economies and diplomatic standing out of the principle of blockading the enterprise; orchestrated and carried out the most stunning military operation, in scale and scope and civilian casualty rate and technological leverage and speed and efficiency, ever yet seen on Earth; and then, availed of all the technology and manpower that won the war in three weeks, failed for month after month to find any of the alleged weapons of mass destruction, which should have surprised nobody because it was all a massive sham, but it was surprising that the occupying force wasn't dedicating itself from day one to planting evidence for retroactive justification of the war; and then, late in the game, decided that they'd better get evidence-planting, and so they constructed a piece of contraband so flimsy and so old and so ambiguous in its background that it would have been totally useless even as propaganda and a shameful blight upon the record of any covert operative who was trying to create fake evidence, and which was indeed agreed by Bush's own administration to be "not a smoking gun" --

...than that the war was fought on the basis of intelligence that was thought to be valid at the time, and the lack of WMD findings today is indicative of nothing but the inadequacy of that intelligence.

No barber of Occam, Moore.

Isn't it fascinating how the more ridiculous a conspiracy theory appears, the more proof it represents to those who believe in it of the conspiracy's depth?

Monday, June 30, 2003
10:54 - Hello again

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It's Monday already? Damn.

We're almost done with the move-out/move-in. Almost. It's the last day of the month today, which means we turn in the keys tonight, which means we have to have the last few things moved out by then, plus everything scrubbed down to a reasonable approximation of livability.

They're talking like today will be nowhere near as hot as it was over the weekend, just for us, just for the move, thank you very much, whoever's still giggling at us from behind a cloud over that one. Heaving huge boxes full of books in and out of pickup trucks and washing machines up and down stairs in 106-degree heat is fun! Yeah! Well, c'mon, actually it was, sorta. There's always that feeling of accomplishment, which is made marginally less satisfying as time goes on and you realize that you're moving from a 2500-square-foot house to a 1700-square-foot one, and you're going to have to divest yourself of a good one-third to one-half of your possessions just in order to be able to sidle into your room between the door and the towering, nodding colonnades of cardboard boxes.

All of which is made even more interesting by our bizarre decision to pick up Capri before moving, which meant he got to acclimatize himself to the old house, thinking that was his new home, for like a month-- at which point we started shuttling him back and forth to the new place for lack of a dogsitter, and he really doesn't like driving, I don't think. Oh, sure, he'll do it, but he'll be sulky and passive-aggressive about it, and he keeps falling over once he's in the back seat and the car starts lurching from street to street. So then he gets to this new place, full of the smells of new paint and new carpet and new other dogs in the neighborhood, and then he gets left alone for hours on end while we do more shuttle runs, each of which involves about an hour's turnaround-- so what's a dog to do for amusement but pee on the carpets? Hey, gotta work off all that stress somehow. So in the midst of so much else, I've got to do emergency Resolve treatments to keep these brand-new carpets from being ruined before we've even had a chance to put any furniture on them. (He's settling down now, though-- after we started slowing down the frantic pace. We're in the home stretch now, and I think he senses that.)

Oh, and there's no network at home now. After packing up my computer on Saturday and bringing it over, there's no more communication from me to the outside world from home for like another two to three weeks while they wait for the phone company to set up the T1. (Presumbly somewhere deep within the SBC offices they have one of those big crudely-painted "thermometer" signboards that keeps track of the levels of bribery necessary to get them to go out and do some given task; right now the red is just inching past the "You gotta be kidding me" level, with "Right as soon as we finish the World Championship Spitball Tournament" near in sight.) So I get no opportunity to do e-mail or blog or anything except at work, which means no outside communication on weekends at all. What'd I miss?

Katharine Hepburn died, I heard.

Somebody shot up a hotel in San Francisco, the "sideshows" in Oakland (which nobody on the news bothered to define, apparently assuming that everybody's watched 2 Fast, 2 Furious by now-- the police guy they interviewed talked like "We had reports of sideshow activity around 3rd and Lexington, and we responded and found that sideshow activity was indeed in evidence, and the sideshow activity had been in progress for some time"-- thank you, now what the %^#$ is it? Quit talking like Space Ghost describing sex!) are going unchecked because the police aren't funded to try to keep the rice-boys from doing doughnuts on people's lawns, and someone with a sword hacked up a grocery store in Irvine. Quick! Ban all swords! Think of the children!

I understand the Palestinians couldn't keep their "truce" for even a single day. Suck my butt, Palestinians.

iSight can be used to capture raw DV footage for use in iMovie, according to Damien and this thread. Also, those same ad-hoc networks that have already exploded into existence for iCal and (until someone went ahem iTunes Music Sharing are now popping up for iChat AV too. Now you can browse chatter lists by name and see who's open for audio or video sessions. I do believe network effect has a part to play here.

589 e-mail messages. Mostly spam and error bounces, I'm sure, but some are bound to be things I need to pay attention to, like for work. So that'll be it for now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
17:21 - If only they made cars out of bumper sticker glue
http://www.msnbc.com/news/931304.asp?0cm=c10

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I hope those BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED bumper stickers were made with that environmentally-friendly mucilage that lets you peel them off without damaging your car (a derivative, no doubt, of the non-freon-based Space Shuttle foam that falls off and destroys thermal tiles).

Eventually the left will come to understand that just because a cute slogan rhymes doesn't mean it's true. Somehow, however, it's not looking like they'll realize it in time for the 2004 elections.

Fortunately, they captured Baghdad Bob too, so we'll have plenty of alternate explanations in short order. Or are all these sudden successes just a little too convenient?


16:12 - Does this mean they've gone mainstream?
http://www.sideshowtoy.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?category=rabbits&item=7901R&type=sto

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Calling all fans of Michel Gagné's Insanely Twisted Rabbits! Yeah, you know who you are.



Snerk. Heh. Gotta-- n-n-HAH! Gotta catch 'em all! Hee hee heeee.

(Too bad there's only the one. So far.)

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© Brian Tiemann