You know how the hypesters like to hype something up and make you think it’s a really really big deal that’s really really easy to do? Like meth. It’s supposed to be really damn simple to make methamphetamine — hell, you can feed a simple search query into Google and get back a whole whack of results, some of which are even kinda plausible. (The one that mentions the Isomer Fairy is my favorite, and no doubt there are people out there who are wholly unaware of the chirality issue with desoxyephedrine.) It’s so simple, the press gushes, except for the part where you have to do 48 hours of refluxing and know how to use a sep funnel properly and how to handle hydroiotic acid, and.. well, okay, maybe the meth gangs are pretty sophisticated.

Regardless, according to the hypesters, you can cook up a batch of meth in your basement, blow the whole neighborhood to hell, get the local kids hooked on the stuff, and then convert them all to Satanism, or something, in some small amount of easy, trivial steps. It’s so easy the bikers have figured it out. Uh-huh. Somehow, I guarantee you that if you or I tried to do it, we’d end up with the wrong isomer of the wrong compound and synthesize something that makes your hair fall out and calls the cops for you.

Crime, it seems, not only makes you stupid, but has stupidity as a prerequisite, too. Or, alternatively, maybe making meth isn’t as easy as it seems, and it’s not as big a problem as people seem to think it is. It’s not like they have a reason to make you afraid of meth or anything, do they?

So it goes with piracy. You know how people downloading TV offa the Innernet is going to be the downfall of the modern television network? And how you’re supposed to be able to turn on your machine and suck back all the TV you want, without those annoying commercials? How come this doesn’t actually work on any Internet I’ve ever used? I’m in the process of downloading some episodes of Six Feet Under, the damn BT session’s been running for two friggin’ days, and we’re still only 43% done. I totally don’t get it. 700 MB, and I’m downloading it about as fast as I would have over a 14.4k dialup link. This is so not the piracy haven I’ve been lead to believe exists on the network at large.

Yeah, we’re really gonna wreck your business model at frickin’ 483 B/sec. Yes, four hundred and eighty three bytes per second. What decade is this, again?

It's not an operating system, it's a <i>cult</i>

It seems that you can’t trash Macintoshes — or dismiss them as a useful platform for your computing — without legions of idiot fanboys coming out to defend their favorite toy computer. This problem always existed to one extent or another, but now that OS X is basically some kinda Unix, it means that you get the self-righteousness of Mac users coupled with the aggressive advocacy dumbassery of Unix dweebs.

(Funny that these new Unix dweebs don’t seem to see the irony in how they came to their particular Damascus: Their Favorite Toy Hardware Vendor decided to improve their modern hardware product by.. hauling a 35 year-old operating system design out and porting it. Um, yeah. That’s progress. Uh-huh. Yup.)

Philip is finding this out right now. He made some disparaging comments wondering why, if OS X is so great, how come none of the really important software applications from the world’s most innovative software company have been ported to it. (It wasn’t phrased this way, but that’s certainly the thrust of his questioning.) The comments are, predictably, a collection of people attempting to educate Philip on the importance of using a Macintosh. Lots of luck, fellas.

So he follows up on the friggin’ thread, and says this: “Commenters have been talking about how it is worth spending extra $$ to have a Macintosh instead of a Windows machine, or, more likely, in addition to because one still needs the Windows machine. The implication is that money is infinite that there is nothing better to spend it on that a high-style personal computer. So what would I buy in the next month or two instead of the Mac? (We can call this “the straight guy’s dividend” — money that one saves by not having to invest in a fancy wardrobe and an iBook.)” He then lists a whole bunch of cool toys you could buy with the price differential between a PC and a Mac.

As you might have expected, the Macfanboys have found this thread, too, and begun not to offer suggestions about what to buy, but rather to advance their own particular view, which is that there is nothing better to spend it on [than] a high-style personal computer.” The comments crack me up, and I’m sure you’ve ssen them somewhere, but this one just leaves me breathless:

walk up to a mac, open a console window, and type “which python”. Feel free to type “which perl”, “which java”, and try a few others. If you don’t know what any of this means, then the other gizmos will matter more to you. If you do know what that means, then you *might* want the mac more than the other toys. Kind of depends on what floats your boat.

ooh. Bring it, yo. Quothe the Greenspunster:

It is nice that Apple includes these 1960s-style computer languages, thus saving folks who want to run Perl the two minutes that it takes to install Perl on an XP box ( came up from a Google search for “Perl and Windows XP”; maybe if you work at a hedge fund a two-minute savings is worth paying $500 extra). But it would be more interesting if Apple included a good language from the era (Lisp!) or even tried to move its customers into the modern era with Haskell or ML. I found Perl pretty useful back in 1994 when doing a CGI programming project but it was free then and I’m not sure why I would want to pay Apple big $$ to get me back to the tools of 1994…

Oh, snap! He did not! say that. Did he? Oh yes he did. You just got served, fanboy. But wait, as the ads say, there’s more!

By the way, I’m not sure that “perl” is the most pleasing thing about “which perl”. It’s the “which” – that you are working in UNIX (OK, freeBSD) rather than DOS. I agree that it is a sad state of affairs when you’re delighted to pay big bucks to be restored to old tools. But when you’ve taken ten steps back, it’s still gratifying to take a few steps forward, yes?

I’m sorry, but did an OS X fanboy just say that which(1) is the killer example of why OS X will take over the world? which(1)? Good lord. “which(1) means you’re running on Unix!” (Cue the scene from Jurassic Park with that hella cool SGI application.) OK, that’s enough of that. Time for a New Rule. Anyone who says they’re a Unix guru by virtue of using OS X — i.e., anyone who claims to be a Unix guru but never had to cut their teeth on a version of Unix where the GUI was horribly painful to use, and I’m looking at the both of you, GNOME and KDE — gets taken out back and beaten with a hose. By Linux fanboys incensed at Apple’s pilfering.

I want to put my head down and cry, but I’m afraid that if I do I might not get up in the morning.

Too much geography, lots of (fake) history


It’s been said that Canada has “too much geography and not enough history.” I don’t entirely agree, but I do know that Canada doesn’t have nearly enough alternate history. And it’s a shame. Bookshelves groan with Nazi alternates (alterNazis?) and Civil War alternates; I’ve never seen an alternate Canada. Of course, Canada is kind of an alternate version of the United States already. What if the Thirteen Colonies had not revolted in 1776? Well, four colonies didn’t—skip ahead a couple of centuries and they’re legalizing swinging and queer marriages and smoking the chronic.

I give you five journeys north of the border gone astray: five alternate Canadas.

The first one is kinda short, the second one is fucking hilarious. I won’t spoil the punch line, but let’s just say it combines many of the best and worst elements of the 20th century into one seriously huge ball, and includes, as a comment, the concept of “GURPS WWI: Blame Canada,” which I would pay good money to see, play, and enjoy.

Articles of faith

I frequently joke that there’s a Simpsons analogy for virtually every situation in life, even if it’s one that only hard-core fans of the show are likely to get. This frequently amuses me, though people who don’t have my encyclopedic knowledge of the series typically find these analogies painful, useless, and incomprehensible. In my own mind, though, I process at least a substantial chunk of the world through the lens that is the Simpsons. (Chris Turner’s excellent book is a more thorough examination of the topic, and the more general phenomenon of the Simpsons as a form of social currency.)

Well, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but it turns out that you can use the Simpsons as a method to understand the 2005 baseball season. This guy did the heavy lifting, and now I find myself rolling my eyes at the adventures of Bumblebee Man and Barney Gumble. Who’da thought?

PS: The Season Six DVD set is wonderrific. Go buy it immediately.

Jeez, Speez

I try not be judgmental about people with tattoos. I mean, I have one, so it’s not like I’m in a position to shake my head and wonder how it is that people can be so friggin’ dumb as to have ink permanently embedded in their skin — and I’m hardly one to talk about stupid reasons for getting a tattoo, or what those stupid reasons and stupid designs say about a particular person. The stereotype, however, persists for better or worse, and I’m periodically embarrassed by the degree to which it has been cultivated in my subconscious. “That’s a pretty ugl–wait, who the hell am I to talk?” It’s not that I can’t pass judgment, my brain says, it’s that I shouldn’t. And, for the most part, I manage just fine.

Enter Scott Spiezio, proud owner of a 2005 batting average of 0.064 — I think I have a dog somewhere who can hit better than that — and newly unemployed, since the Mariners released him on Friday for having 3 hits in 47 AB. That’s a sorry-assed line, kids. Speez hasn’t just been bad, he’s been teeth-gnashingly, mind-bogglingly, historically awful. So when the Mariners finally fired him (and, in the process, finished throwing out the entirety of 2004’s starting infield) last week, there was much rejoycing in Marinerland. The front office, it would seem, learned something and ate a contract on a crappy player!

(On the other hand, they did call up Greg Dobbs, owner of a very empty .200 BA and a real pretty swing, so maybe they didn’t learn as much as we would have liked.)

The day before he was released, Spiezio was the subject of a column by the Worst Sports Columnist in Seattle (Jim Moore) about his new tattoo. As the Go2Gimp explains, Speez got himself a new tattoo to get out of his funk caused by owning a two-digit batting average. It’s a terribly article, combining all the things I can’t stand about sportswriting in one package. (The only thing missing was a lengthy moralistic tirade.) I think we’re supposed to feel some combination of sympathy for Scott because of his problems with the Mariners, and maybe some envy that he has a 27 year-old model named Jenn (with two Ns) for a girlfriend, whose image he can tattoo on his bicep. (Also, that he has a bicep big enough to accept said tattoo.) But I can’t really tell — I don’t know what sort of emotion the article was intended to engender, and I’m also not really sure what the point of the article was.

Attached to the article is a picture of the tattoo. I went and looked at the thing, and I’m seriously starting to re-think my “no picking on tattooed people” policy — if this is what people are going to be doing to themselves, well, maybe it is OK to tease them and be judgmental about it. Yeah, yeah, it takes all kinds and all that junk, but really. That’s just terrible. Gyech.

So there you have it. Two reasons to dislike Scott Spiezio: (1) Crappy BA. (2) Ugly-assed tattoo.

Low-threshold links

  • Herewith, a compendium of some of the best bad movie reviews Roger Ebert’s ever written.
  • A mindbogglingly comprehensive guide (?) to Japan’s railways. Includes audio (the subject of another post for another day) and — this is the part I really love — photographs of station exteriors, signage, and platforms. Question: Could I have used something like this while I was over there? Answer: YES! Indispensible for anyone planning a trip to Japan and thinking of using the trains to get around (which is basically everybody).
  • Lara Specialty Tools has some awfully interesting stuff and a very thorough primer on screw types.
  • Cindy Sheehan bashers: Idiots or misogynists? You
    decide. (No, I still can’t shake my blog punditry habit. It sucks. I need help.)

  • Anyone who hasn’t been reading The Poor Man is to be pitied and then ridiculed mercilessly. Andrew’s been on fire (to re-use a stupid and hoary blog cliche).
  • I’m probably a loser for admitting this, but the best time waster in the world after Yarchive is probably some combination of Wikipedia and Wikitravel. When did these things go from being “merely interesting” to “shockingly useful”?