February 2004

SuperBowl Scandal


After reviewing the highlights of the game (which, for me, were the few good commercials), I used my DishPlayer to hunt for the Justin-strips-Janet scene that’s getting lots of negative attention today.

When we originally watched it, it looked very deliberate. If we hadn’t had the volume muted, the fact that his last words were “…gonna have you naked by the end of this song” would have supported that impression.

Watching it again, though, I’m convinced that Justin’s grab-and-yank was actually intended to remove the rest of her costume, leaving the bra intact. He just grabbed a little higher than he had during rehearsals.

The clincher was seeing the still photos that make it clear that she wasn’t wearing pasties. It was a nipple shield, held on by a piercing, not something the FCC would be happy to see.

I figure that by tomorrow, every fetish shop on the planet will be advertising “Janet’s Sunburst”.

Update: The official word from Janet’s fetishist, er, publicist is that it was in fact the bra cup that was supposed to tear off, but the red lace was supposed to stay behind, covering the breast. She also claims that it was set up after final rehearsals, without the knowledge of MTV or CBS.

Update: Sure enough, sales of nipple shields, and the piercings to wear them with, have gone way up.

If it saves one bird…


Propagandists for various causes are fond of taking an annual statistic and dividing it by the number of days/hours/minutes in a year to create A Scary Statistic. I have a new one for them:

Every second, 32 birds are murdered in the US by plate-glass windows.

Kinda puts that whole silent-spring, DDT-egg-thinning flap into perspective, don’t ya think?

More GarageBand resource usage


I finally got around to testing my piano overload song on my other Mac, a dual 1GHz G4 tower with 768MB of RAM, booted off of a 4200 RPM external FireWire drive. The second CPU more than made up for the slower hard drive and lower memory, allowing me to add four more software pianos than I could use on the PowerBook.

Final total: nine software pianos, five software percussion instruments, a software acoustic bass, and seven sampled loops. I’ll try again when I finish rebuilding the fast internal hard drive, to see if that will let me squeeze in another piano.

Update: Nope, the faster hard drive didn’t make a difference. It looks like CPU and RAM dominate, and dual CPUs make a big difference (as they should).

Update: Past a certain point, more RAM doesn’t make a big difference, either (says the guy who just bumped his PowerBook to 2GB). It looks like 512MB is a good working minimum, and 768MB or so will handle just about anything a G4 or two can keep up with. Above that, you’re basically adding buffer cache to compensate for the speed of your hard drive.

“I disbelieve”


The more they try to explain it away, the harder it is to swallow:

Freston, whose company produced the halftime show for CBS, said Timberlake was informed of the stunt just moments before he took the stage with Jackson.

Bond franchise doomed, film at 11.


Latest rumor is that Britney Spears wants to be the next Bond girl.

I suppose the only sane response is to hold a competition to name her character. I nominate Trampona Streetcorner.

Spammers For Jesus


Apparently that ends-justifies-the-means thing isn’t just for sinners any more. Actually, now that I think about it, spam-witnesses are less annoying than the ones who show up at my door with vacant stares, carrying logic-free tracts that proclaim “science textbooks are for burning.”

Update: and another one! Apparently spam-witnessing is sufficiently different that it evades my Bayesian spam filtering. A bit more of this tripe, though, and I’m sure it will decide that “Jesus”, “church”, and “Bible” are just as spammy as “penis” and “Viagra”. If that’s what they want, I don’t mind.

By the way, if God is actually stupid enough to want mindless prayers like the one this clown promises will save me, I’d rather be damned. And a hearty “nyah, nyah” to the twerps who get all warm and fuzzy from the thought that they’ve accomplished something with this email masturbation. If their cause was worthwhile, they’d be pursuing it honestly.

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Minor GarageBand update


It’s not on Software Update yet, and it’s not prominently linked on the support site, but GarageBand 1.0.1 was released today.

It looks like they’re just clearing up the performance warning dialog boxes (many of which were either confusing or just plain wrong).

Update: Some folks are reporting other improvements, such as performance of some keyboards. I noticed that the online Help includes some new FAQs (and a working link to the keyboard shortcuts), but nothing else yet. The error dialogs are definitely clearer, though:

new GB error dialog

Apple hardware service


2/3/2004 — well-known “white spots on PowerBook display” issue finally annoying enough that I call AppleCare.

2/4/2004 — box arrives at house, driver waits while I pack it up.

2/5/2004 — AppleCare web site acknowledges receipt of unit.

2/7/2004 — AppleCare confirms problem, orders part.

2/13/2004 — AppleCare web site updated with “Begin testing” and “Ready to ship”.

2/13/2004 (cont.) — box arrives, brand-new screen installed. J verifies absence of white spots, and lack of dead pixels (better than the original).

2/13/2003 (cont.) — Overjoyed, J splurges on additional gigabyte of RAM.

Even when it’s free, they’ve got to cheat


Some people have figured out how to examine Pepsi bottles to find the ones that contain codes for free songs from the iTunes Music Store. At least one high-profile site has a detailed how-to on the subject, demonstrating their affection for gaming the system.

Should Pepsi have been more clever about securing the codes? Sure. The technique has probably been used against them for years, but it didn’t get publicity until it combined two of the Internet’s favorite obsessions: downloading music and outsmarting a large corporation. Fucking over your neighbors is just a bonus; after all, if they were plugged in, they’d be able to do it, too. Feh.

[Oh, and the site I found the link on is the same one that once posted a link to a site in France that contained a large archive of Playboy centerfolds; they thought it was just so cool that someone had made it possible to compare twenty years of Playmates online. They were so thrilled by this service that I almost didn’t have the heart to point out that the people who actually owned the pictures did it first. And better. And legally. Made me want to ask them if that EFF group they’re so fond of was really called Easy Freebies Forever.]

Morons with Flash


Happened to stumble across Siobhan Donaghy’s web site. It opened a new window that used Flash to pretend to be a music magazine. I cannot imagine a less useful metaphor for navigating a web site, especially since it is completely unreadable without extensive use of the supplied zoom button and jump-scroll arrows.

It is the stupidest site design I’ve ever seen. Slow to load, hard to read, hard to navigate, effectively impossible to link to or quote from, and actively hostile to large and/or high-resolution displays. It is a remarkable exercise in “polishing a turd.”

It will probably win an award, which the designer will cherish forever and leverage to justify even greater sins.

Fun with subtitles


Pardon me while I giggle myself to death:

Bon Voyage

A week with Neilsen


I’ve spent the past week filling in my Neilsen Ratings diary. It’s been interesting to actually participate in the numbers that have shaped television programming for so many years.

The basic system is simple: for every fifteen minutes that each TV in your house is on, write in the channel it was tuned to, the show that was on, and who (if anyone) was watching. I live alone and didn’t have any guests this week, so it was pretty easy.

What was difficult was dealing with the fact that Neilsen hasn’t caught up with the times. For several years, I’ve had a Dish Network DishPlayer, which has PVR functionality. Like TiVO and Replay, this box completely changes the way you watch television. You no longer care when the station chooses to air a show, and with your favorite programs regularly recorded to disk, you spend less time watching random crap.

Neilsen’s diary can’t cope with this. There’s a single page at the back that lets you write in up to ten programs that you recorded on a VCR or DVD-R, but that’s ten for the entire week. I recorded only 26 different shows last week, and that’s primarily because it was a dull week and I had a lot of anime DVDs to catch up on. And it doesn’t account for the shows that I’d normally save up for a few weeks and then watch all at once.

It was easy for them to add DVD-R recorders to their data, because it fits in with the model they understand: time-shifting as the exception, not the rule. As PVRs increase in popularity, Neilsen runs the risk of becoming irrelevant, and TiVo’s much-hyped ability to count how many people “rewound” to check out Janet Jackson’s nipple shield is not a replacement. TiVo’s data gathering, like WebTV’s before it, is missing the critical data: the number and demographic breakdown of the people watching.

Darn good cookware


Calphalon One is not hype. It really is good stuff, better than their previous non-stick and hard-anodized lines. It browns beautifully, deglazes nicely, and cleans up with little or no effort. I bought the 4-Quart Chef’s Multipan to try it out, and now I’m seriously considering replacing my comprehensive collection of older Calphalon cookware. About the only things I really need to keep are the cast-iron skillet and the Le Creuset casseroles.

Moving songs from GarageBand to Logic


Another potentially useful hack for GB: BandToLogic.

iPod mini


I found myself near an Apple Store on Friday afternoon, and saw the line forming for the new iPod mini. I’d been thinking of buying one, using the failure of the wired remote on my existing iPod (poor strain relief) as an excuse. “Hey, it’s like a $40 discount.”

Sadly, the mini doesn’t come with a wired remote, so I had to invent a new excuse. “Now I can leave the 30GB model in the car all the time, and not have to fiddle with cables when I want to go for a walk or get on the cross-trainer.”

Not as compelling a reason, but it does at least include the practical advantages of the mini. Smaller, lighter, much better controls, full compatibility with my existing iTunes library (including playlists and iTMS purchases), and compatibility with most 3G iPod accessories.

Sadly, the accessory I’d most like to use it with, the Belkin Voice Recorder, is not currently supported by the mini’s firmware. Hopefully Apple will fix that soon, since I’d love to take notes while I’m out walking. Dodging traffic seems to stimulate my creativity. :-)

New accessory I’d most like to see: a horizontal version of the clip-on holster it comes with. I’ve got one of these for my cellphone (which is about the same size…), and it’s very nice.

Oh, and by my rough count, there were 150 people waiting in line at the Valley Fair Apple Store at 6pm to buy a mini. There were eight people in line at 4:30pm, which I know because I was number nine. Fortunately I had my other iPod and a large stack of magazines to read.

Scam spam


Not only did I finally get one of the “you use illegal file sharing” extortion scam spams, it actually slipped past OS X Mail’s filters. Just the once, of course, now that I’ve told the system about it.

I’d love to know where they came up with the phony IP address they claim I’ve been using, though. I suspect it’s just boilerplate, since even if I were using a file sharing app, there’s no way they could associate it with that email address. Unless they (gasp!) really did manage to confiscate the contents of my computer. Tee hee.

Of course, there’s also a trojan attachment for infecting Windows boxes, which pretty neatly undercuts any claim that they ever got anywhere near the contents of my Macintosh…

Best part: the use of a phony Italian email address (from a machine that really is in Italy) while claiming to be associated with the FBI’s Department for “Illegal Internet Downloads”. They even supply a phone number.

Worst part: according to multiple news reports, there are quite a few people who are dumb enough (or, to be charitable, “sufficiently unsophisticated about the Internet and con artists”) to fall for this cheesy scam, and the associated “we found illegal porn on your computer” version.

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Trudeau opens mouth, inserts foot, shoots self in foot


As the evidence piles up that George W. Bush’s military service record was completely satisfactory, with no irregularities (certainly nothing on the scale of John Kerry awarding himself a medal for beaching his boat and abandoning his crew to chase down a wounded enemy soldier), Garry Trudeau offers to pay ten grand to anyone who can confirm the President’s service.

The only question I have is, will he give ten grand to each person who has already come forward? You know, all the folks that this hip, sophisticated media critic hasn’t managed to notice?

Global Warming and Intelligent Design: Separated At Birth?


This commentary in The Washington Times struck me as being precisely the right approach to take when biblical literalists attempt to force their beliefs into the science classroom.

Actually, if you could count on the existence of quality science teachers in the public schools, I’d be delighted to see “Intelligent Design” brought up in class, as an object lesson in how to distinguish between scientific theories and religion.

This article might be useful as well, applied to both types of hot air.

Dear Terry McAuliffe,


I’m writing today to thank you for your recent pre-approved offer for The NEW Democratic Party VISA Card, and to explain why I won’t be applying for one.

It’s not that I dislike the “five attractive card designs,” although as a former Boy Scout I find it a bit offensive to swipe a flag through a card reader.

It’s not that I find the 11.99% interest rate too high, although it’s higher than any other credit card offer I’ve received in the past two years. For that matter, even though the 19.99% cash advance rate is higher than I’ve seen from any non-sucker offer, that’s not it, either. Nor is it the 3% balance transfer fee.

It’s not even the optional “donate my 1% rebate to the Democratic National Committee” feature, even though I never have, and never will, donate money directly to any national political party.

No, it’s the fact that I plan to vote for George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election.

Why? Because, while I strongly disagree with many of the Bush administration’s domestic policies, I believe that American liberty is safer in the hands of John Ashcroft than American lives are in the hands of Johns Kerry or Edwards.

Smoking gun on obesity?


While reading the entertaining (if occasionally credulous) book Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, I was struck by the repeated mention of nicotine’s role as an appetite suppressant. As a non-smoker, I was vaguely aware of this trait, and the problem many people experience with weight gain when they attempt to quit, but I hadn’t thought to tie it to the current hysterical claims of an obesity “epidemic”.

Some of the available data argues against this connection, but other sources are rather coy about weight gain by former smokers. It’s pretty hard to accept the NIDDK’s simplistic approach to the subject after they admit that 10% of former smokers gain 30 pounds or more.

Do I think the anti-smoking movement has a causal relationship with the obesity “epidemic” (which, by the way, is also plagued by sins of omission when it comes to data quality)? No, not really. It’s simply one of the many lifestyle changes that took place during the same period, all of which undermine the simplistic cause-and-effect scenarios put forth by greedy lawyers, nitwit busybodies, and activists with thinly-veiled agendas.

But it does make me wonder, especially since so much of the data on both subjects is based on self-reports over long periods, rather than actual measurement. The nicest thing I can say about them is that the claims aren’t as far-fetched as the ones made for second-hand smoke, red meat, carbs, fat, grilling, butter, salt, etc.

On gay marriage


I’m starting to think that the best response to an amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and woman would be one defining marriage as a relationship requiring emotional commitment and sexual fidelity. That’d shut everybody up.

What a difference a few years makes…


This from the people who basically invented the concept of the Asshole Player-Killer:

"EA owns your gold, your swords, your characters --- they are all just digital bits. If your entertainment is to destroy other peoples' entertainment, you're going to be tossed."

(in fairness, I should note that they pretty much dumped the entire UO team sometime after all of my friends gave up in disgust)

Dear San Francisco Chronicle,


Please hire at least one writer who is vaguely familiar with guns. In this story, in response to their suspicion that a woman’s car window was shot out by a “sniper,” it is reported that the police were “combing the woman’s vehicle in an attempt to find bullet casings.”

So, either they think she shot out her own window, the quote was seriously garbled over the phone, or the reporters were deeply clueless. Bullets, sure. Bullet holes, absolutely. Bullet casings?

And what exactly makes the person responsible for these (so far death-free, fortunately) shooting incidents a “sniper”? Ooh, there’s a rant we can save for another day.