Year: 2002

Apple nomenclature

Macintouch today had an item on Apple’s infernal model nomenclature

Continuing a tradition of absurdly awkward computer names, Apple has posted technical specifications for the new iBook (Opaque 16 VRAM), iBook (32 VRAM), and iBook (14.1 LCD 32 VRAM). [This naming silliness has gone so far, Apple’s Knowledge Base actually has to use footnotes to help define its iBook names! “Note 1. The parenthetical product description (Summer 2000) refers to the summer of the Northern Hemisphere.”]

While I like the initial attempt at simplicity–just calling models “iBook” or “Powermac” without four-digit numbers added on to the end to impress you–they need to come up with a better way of distinguishing variants of a model. I propose putting a few simple shapes in a discreet (but not inaccessible) spot on the machines, so they can refer to them instead as the “iBook (○△△ circle-triangle-triangle model).

Software find du jour: Calendar

While there’s no shortage of calendar apps for every taste, it seems that this is the only one that caters to mine. Calendar is very simple. I have it sitting in the background, all but invisible on top of my desktop picture. It has minimal functionality for adding events. And it displays five days worth of weather information, although it’s questionable when compared to other forecasts.

Microsoft and the market

A couple days ago, a final decree was issued in the interminable Microsoft anti-trust suit. Microsoft got off with a slap on the wrist. Unsurprisingly, this boosted Microsoft’s stock. More surprisingly, the market rallied overall.

Microsoft lifted many other technology stocks with it today, including Cisco Systems, I.B.M., Intel and Dell Computer.

This baffles me. Microsoft is a convicted monopolist, with predatory business policies. Investors appear to be operating under the principle that “what’s good for Microsoft is good for the market.” The opposite is the case. Although one company’s success need not be at the expense of another’s in general, Microsoft operates according to Gore Vidal’s maxim: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

Bowling for Columbine

Saw Michael Moore’s new movie, Bowling for Columbine yesterday. This is a documentary about gun violence in the USA. It asks a lot more questions than it answers, the central question being “why is there so much gun violence in America?” Moore trots out the counter-example of Canada, which has widespread gun ownership, a similar culture, and very few gun-related deaths. He doesn’t have an answer to this question, but gives a lot of food for thought. Is America’s bellicose foreign policy somehow related to street violence? He suggests that it is, but doesn’t say how (if at all), and it doesn’t quite ring true for me.

One review I read before seeing the movie criticized Moore for his argumentative interview with Charlton Heston at the end of the movie. I had a different reaction: If Heston didn’t already know that Moore is a rabble-rouser, he had time (and a publicist on-hand) to find out between the time he made the appointment for the interview and the time of the interview itself. But more to the point, Heston clearly did not have the moxie to defend his position. If someone is a prominent representative of a controversial viewpoint, as Heston is, that person should have the intellectual courage to defend it. Heston didn’t–he allowed himself to be backed into a corner very easily. If I had any respect for him before, I lost it there.

Election time 2002

Mid-term elections attract something like 20% voter turnout. Pretty sad, and ripe fodder for jokes, but perhaps things won’t be quite so bad this time. News is that early voting has been unusually active, which may be cause for optimism.

At any rate, I do believe it’s important to vote, and to be an educated voter. With that in mind, here are a couple of scooby-snacks for the interested voter: Open Secrets and Vote Smart.

Halloween

Went down with Gwen to Cafe Mundi for what is now a tradition–the Tantien Halloween Show. I was one of the safeties, and I think more than half the fire-folk in Austin were involved in some capacity. It was a good show, and a good crowd–excellent people-watching. Unfortunately, I got almost no photos.

Gwen’s costume, which involved a liquid-latex top, took quite a long time to apply, so we missed out on the 6th-Street experience.

The California Coastline Project

This is brilliant. A guy who got rich during the dotcom era is photographing every inch of the California coastline from a helicopter

The camera is linked with a cable to the helicopter’s global positioning system, and to an Apple Power Book laptop. Every three seconds, he snaps a picture, and the exact longitude, latitude and altitude are recorded.

Adelman said he will spend about $20,000 to photograph the whole coast, and take about 10,000 pictures in all. He has finished about 60 percent, including nearly everything from Marin County to Los Angeles. He expects to finish the rest of Southern California this week. One area, over Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, is in restricted air space and Adelman is still working to get permission to photograph

This is what computers and the Internet are for. The fact that this project can be undertaken–and made universally available–for so little money amazes me.

Why is he doing this? I’m sure that once he is done, people will find all kinds of fascinating but unintended uses for it. His motive is environmental preservation. Check it out at californiacoastline.org.

Punch-Drunk Love

Saw Punch-Drunk Love last night. Excellent movie. Very weird, jarring audio throughout. Very studied use of symmetric framing, apparently to reinforce the sense of soul-crushing artificiality. This is perhaps only the second good movie that Adam Sandler has been in (Shakes the Clown would be the first), and he really goes beyond himself in this role, as Jim Carrey did in the Truman Show. But I’ll see just about anything from P.T. Anderson on spec.

Caetano Veloso

Saw Caetano Veloso last night at Bass Concert Hall with Gwen and another friend (who just happened to know the cellist). The local alternative weekly did an interesting piece on him recently.

The show was great. Although he played a number of old standards, there was nothing stale about his show, or about him. Unlike some musical acts that have been around as long, he clearly continues to innovate musically, not resting on his laurels. He’s also just damned talented.

Kung-log

Just downloaded a specialized OS-X tool for posting to Movable Type blogs: Kung-log. This is a test post using the program. Seems to work OK, although BBEdit is still a better writing environment.

The Internet and the ADA

In an important decision, a judge has ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to the Internet. A blind man sued Southwest Airlines over the fact that their website was difficult to use with his screen reader.

What to make of this? I’m sympathetic to the plaintiff. And it would be sensible, both from business and aesthetic standpoints, for the Southwest website to be more universally accessible, but bringing the Internet within the ADA’s purview could open a huge can of worms.

Hail

Austin occasionally gets a violent hailstorm. Last night was one–hailstones the size of ping-pong balls. My car now has six small dimples on the hood. Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t worse.

Now to figure out how to smooth out the dimples…

Towering hypocrisy?

Out running errands yesterday, I stopped by the Tower Records near the UT campus, which had marked down a lot of CDs to $8.99.

Although a lot of the marked-down items were best-of collections, there were some good standbys lacking from my collection, so I took the opportunity to fill these gaps–things like Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, Neil Young’s Harvest, and Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream. While not cheap, $8.99 starts getting into the range of what I’d consider a fair price for CDs (of course, I buy a lot of music at what I consider unfair prices, too).

Right next to the checkout counter, I noticed a big floor display of blank CD-Rs. By all rights, the RIAA should be outraged that a major music outlet is essentially condoning and profiting from piracy, but I haven’t heard any cries of indignation on this subject. I’ve messaged them–if I get any feedback, I’ll post it here.

Orange Mothers & Meat Purveyors at the Cactus

Last night, Gwen and I saw the Orange Mothers and the Meat Purveyors at the Cactus Cafe. Gwen and I had seen the same line-up at the Continental Club when we had been dating for about two weeks. We’ve been dating for just about six months now.

The show was good. There was a bizarre opening act–three white guys doing traditional Indian (err, Native American) chants. Can’t say as it did much for me. But the Orange Mothers are fun, and the Meat Purveyors are fun as well as being really talented, energetic musicians. The Cactus has the advantage (to us) of being cigarette-free–the only bar I know of that is. And it is convenient. As is so often the case, we had several tempting options for Saturday-night activities, but the show at the Cactus won out.

Paper Tiger

Although I have little interest in Tiger Woods and less in the sport of golf, there was an interesting story surrounding him in the paper today.

Apparently he is being called upon by civil-rights campaigners to take a stand regarding the policy at Augusta National that only men can be members. The policy strikes me as equally (and very) anachronistic, silly, and inexcusable. Tiger’s comments are interesting.

In his most extensive comments on the Augusta’s membership, Mr. Woods rejected the suggestion that he steers clear of political controversy for fear it will harm his corporate interests or affect his income from endorsements. “There’s no validity to that at all,” he said. “I’ll say what I believe, but I’ll choose when.”

Then Mr. Woods took his cap off and rubbed his forehead in frustration.

“I’m also trying to win tournaments here,” he said. “Do people understand that?”

Fair enough. He’s an athlete (if you call golf “athletic”).

But he also said “It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it.”

Now, I don’t know much about the whole power structure of the pro-golf world. Perhaps he doesn’t have as much pull as I imagine he does. But I suspect he’s being either na├»ve or disingenuous when he says that. I get the impression he has a huge amount of clout in the golf world, and that if he said “I cannot in good conscience play golf at a club with such blatantly unfair policies,” the board members at Augusta National would convene an emergency session and reverse their policy fast enough to give us all whiplash. The only way these things change is when people “do something about it.”

But there are other interesting issues at work. Tiger Woods, simply because of the circumstances of his birth, attracts issues like this that no other golfer does.

Mr. Woods smiled when he was asked if he thought it unfair that he constantly heard the question of whether women should be admitted to Augusta National, especially since legendary white golfers like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus — who are members of Augusta National — are seldom asked about it.

Forget about race for a moment. Tiger Woods is basically an entertainer. He’s got a lot of exposure, money, and public support. Does that mean that he is obliged to be politically outspoken? A role model? It’s not clear to me that we should put that freight on our entertainers, and frankly, it can get pretty tedious when they assume that mantle anyhow.

Parsing problem

Spotted a banner at a resale shop today that read “Formerly Good Samaritan Thrift.”

The bad samaritans are more fun anyhow.