better than the smell of cardboard
This is an archived page. (current posts)

11.24.2004  
Bureaucracies Suck.

Suck. Suck. Suck.


There, I said it.

We're currently in the abyssmal purgatory* of waiting for two major decisions, each of which must come from the indecipherable will of a bureaucratic system. (I'll leave out the details, to protect the guilty.) No wonder the powerlessness of the individual is such a persistent theme in books and movies. Not to mention the desire to rebel against authority. And so we wait -- and theorize about what might be happening behind the Wizard's curtain, and hope for the best but secretly expect the worst.

It reminds me of this poster by Despair.com: "None of us is as dumb as all of us." - pure genius. (Nearly everything on their site kills me - sort of a similar world-view as The Onion. Next time you're feeling particularly depressed about the dayjob, have a look.)

Then there's this convincing yet faux-mathematical proof of my primary assertion. I think describing the bureaucracy as an information system, and the probability of successful data transfer from one point to another, is particularly apt. Aren't we always looking at big, complex decision making devices (such as a PC) and wondering how in the hell it took input A and returned output B? For me, it always reinforces that feeling of being a mere cog; perhaps even a particularly unusual, ill-fitting cog at that. (Normally, I describe this complex range of emotional response thusly: "What the fuck?"). An even more sleep-loss-inducing thought is that each individual in the system can have generally good intentions, but that the net result is still bad. Ug. Hello Entropy!

So if these systems really are so bad a doing what we expect them to, why are they so good at persisting?** Is it because merely perpetuating themselves is their real goal, shrouded in the imaginary goal of achieving good things? God, I hope not. But then again, the ring of truth is easy to hear but hard to accept.

* Yes, here I'm mixing two distinct cultural metaphors for the idea of a really bad place; what's worse, the Abyss is more equivilent to Hell, whereas Purgatory is the metaphysical waiting room in the sky. Maybe that's the point: things are so dismal that I'm not sure if I'm in Hades yet, or just waiting to find out.

** An evolutionary view would expect them to die out as a result of their failures. For example, conventional wisdom is that Soviet-style Communism died because it was bad and we were good. Slightly more sophisticated wisdom is that the U.S. just outspent the fark out of them on "defense", and the resulting arms race undermined their economy. I think they simply lacked enough Wal*Marts and Blockbusters to distract the populace from its discontent.

~ scott @ 10:03 AM [link]
11.22.2004  
Man Down!

Normally when a co-worker leaves in search of greener pastures, it's time for a bit of secret celebration, even if you generally liked them:

"At least I won't have to listen to that annoying, throat-clearing snort sound anymore."
"That bastard could code like the devil himself, but he was a bit too chipper in the mornings for my taste."
"If I'm never forced to overhear her call her boyfriend 'Sugar' on the phone again I can die in peace."
"Video Killed the Radio Star five times in a row?! Puh-leeze!"

And so on.

But -- rarely -- somebody leaves where you can't think of anything that improves in their absence. There was no excess of smells, hostility, ego or emails. No great lack of humility, friendliness, skill or taste in music. Just an empty desk next door where somebody you really grew to like used to live for 40 hours a week.

Byron is gone. {sigh} Good luck, man - we hardly knew ya.
~ scott @ 3:27 PM [link]
11.19.2004  
Blog About Blog

New color scheme for questo Blogo, hastily hacked together; as of this writing, it's now a grey-green background and minty-colored link text, replacing the previous maroonish-brown. I seemed to need a change, and it's cheaper and less aesthetically repugnant than wallpaper. I've made a mental note (soon to be forgotten, but what the hell ..) to save a screenshot each time I muck with the design, so that eight or ten changes down the road I can go back and see if it's gotten better or worse. Somehow, it's liberating to have a site that I care about enough to work on, but not so much that I can't get screwy with it and not have to worry much about the consequences. Sort of like all that creativity advice that says you should let yourself "play" at your work, and so on. If I can't do it on the the "real" work, I may as well do some "fake" work and apply the principle there, eh?
~ scott @ 12:07 PM [link]
11.15.2004  
F the S

Here's a provocative, profanity-laden tirade delineating the differences between our Red and Blue states*: Fuck the South.

Oh yeah, it's funny too. (And did I mention the profanity? And it's laden-ness of such? And that it could serve as a first-rate tutorial on using the word "fuck" as nearly every part of speech?)

My problems with the idea of letting the Reds go their own way are as follows: 1) Wyoming and Idaho have all the nukes; 2) They'd retain George W. as their President, and immediately go into crushing debt in order to finance an invasion of the Blues; 3) I live in a Red state.

* If you object, gentle reader, let's blame it all on Halarooney, who sent me the link.
~ scott @ 8:40 AM [link]
11.12.2004  
Our Futures

I just bought Jimmy Eat World "Futures" off the iTunes store, and it may be really great... the first track is real nice so far, and the pre-release single "Pain" worked it's way into my subconscious without much effort over the past month. Man, I love these guys. They feel like a real band -- a group of guys playing instruments in the same room; there's a cohesiveness to it that is exactly what I've loved about playing music with other people. (Not that there's anything wrong with overdub-crazy one-man bands, ahem, but... ) Their songs have a way of taking hold of my mind and not letting go - the kind of music you hear automatically upon waking up, and wonder if it was the soundtrack to an interrupted dream. Really good stuff.

>
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p.s. oh yeah, i think we're buying that house.
~ scott @ 10:31 AM [link]
11.08.2004  
More Mac

Friday coffee talk has seen some discussion of large monitor purchases, and computer upgrades, and even theoretical platform switches (this is tantamount to religious conversion, for the geeky types I associate with).

In an interesting, up to date comparison between Macs and PCs, the author (seemingly unbiased at the outset, although it is a Linux site) sees a lot of advantages in the Mac. His findings about hardware power vs. cost really surprised me, but I guess it makes sense. Apple designs in all the stuff that have to be considered frills in the hot competition of the generic Wintel market. Apparently, you can get a Dell with all the same stuff, but after the upgrades it'll cost more than the comparable Mac. Who knew?

I think that at the end of the day, it all depends on what you want to do with the computer, and that the more general the plan, the harder it is to choose. There are bits to the Windows interface that I've come to depend on at work, and miss at home on my iMac, and vice versa. My long term heart is with Mac, but certain parts of the interface and functionality drive me nuts. Having iTunes on both sure makes it a harder choice! (That was a big Mac draw for a while) For video and audio editing, it'd be a no-brainer - Mac. But if I wanted to expand my lifestyle to include games played sitting up (instead of lying horizontal in front of the PS2) it'd be great to have a PC around. For everything else? Hhuurrmm...

Do I have to choose?
~ scott @ 9:48 AM [link]
 
And Now.. Back to the Usual Fluff! (iTunes iDeas)

Whew - I'm glad the seriousness of the election is over, so we can now return to the frivilous non-issues of yester-year, such as the latest itineration of iTunes.

I upgraded to iTunes 4.7.0.42 (Win) this morning, and the notable new feature is Find Duplicate Songs. I saw that on the list and thought "wow, how great!", but in practice it feels like a throw-away beta version of a good future idea. It just uses artist and track name, which does very little; this flags songs where there are tracks from multiple releases (like a live album, or rerelease), and you can't specify other sort criteria -- length, filesize, date added, bitrate. Why, Apple, why? Why dangle such sweet potential in front of us, only to disappoint? It is a shell to justify a incremental upgrade, by way of hiding bug fixes? If so, that seems so Microsoft; the Mac idealist in me would hope for better. Or at least, coming clean about what was previously screwy.

I still love smart playlists, but am wondering when the hell they'll add nested playlist folders... I need some way to sort the chaos in that left-hand bar! My "Not Heard at All" smartlist tells me that I have 9666 songs in my library that I've never even listened to on this computer. iTunes calls that 27.6 days of continuous listening. But what will I do in late December?

What iTunes still can't do, one of the killer apps waiting out there for Apple to invent, is tell me What I Want to Listen to Right Now; that which I don't know I want to hear; or that I haven't heard yet; or that will match my mood, improve it, focus it, etc. A tall order, yes? But surely doable, somehow. Collaborative filters, perhaps using the neat iMix feature in the Store, that find related and highly rated tunes in my local library and sort them together? "Today's Playlist" - "iRadio" - "Now Hear This" - ?

All of which brings to mind the sorry fact that my work computer and home computer have become seriously unsynched, not to mention my paltry 5gb iPod, still-sprawling CD collection, and numerous backup configurations on firewire drives, cd, etc. Like seemingly everything else that enters the digital realm, I now have the burden of required maintenance; this tangible feeling of being behind the curve. Some cave in my mind resonates with the task of sorting playlists, fixing ID3 tags, separating the wheat from the inevitable chaff... proof that every gain exacts a cost. But I'm not bitching (really!) - digital music has saved music for me, returned listening to a regular activity, restarted my buying habits, generated new fuel for a variety of inspirations. That's worth every 'Get Info' click and CD rip... honest.

RELATED READING
Apparently, some people are having trouble with the randomization feature:
"I have the latest iTunes, and it seems to have the same randomization problem as the previous versions: it is only capable of playing those songs that I have on my computer. Songs not on my computer never seem to be played when in random mode."
- Anonymous Coward, Macslash.org

...

Some great bits from iPod Nation (Newsweek, July '04):
"...computer users have discovered that its vast storage space makes it a useful vault for huge digital files—the makers of the "Lord of the Rings" movies used iPods to shuttle dailies from the set to the studio."

"People define their own narrative through their music collection"

"Shuffle winds up helping people make connections between different genres of music. "People feel they're walking through musicology," says rock-er John Mayer. These abilities have a predictable effect: peo-ple who use iPods wind up listening to more music, and with more passion."

"There are lots of examples where not the best product wins," Jobs says. "Windows would be one of those, but there are examples where the best product wins. And the iPod is a great example of that."
~ scott @ 8:39 AM [link]
11.03.2004  
Crap!

We're doomed. I foolishly got my hopes up, and now have little. All I can wonder is, what would it have taken for this guy to lose?
~ scott @ 11:48 AM [link]
 
Deja Screwed

If this thing goes to the Supreme Court again, I'm moving to New Zealand.
~ scott @ 8:31 AM [link]

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