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June 29, 2002


I can't believe this. "The Who" will be performing Monday night at the Hollywood Bowl, despite the death early Thursday of 40-year band member John Entwistle.

I can't tell when Entwistle's funeral will be, but I'm doubtful he'll even be lain to rest before the show.

June 29, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 28, 2002

Eye of the storm - The Who's Entwistle dead at 57

Entwistle's biography and discography

It's hard to say you're shocked when somebody nearing 60 dies, but I'm surprised and disappointed -- I was looking forward to seeing The Who again this year. I hope they'll resist pressure to make this a "tribute tour" and just close the band down.

I got into the Who when I was in high school. They had just done their first farewell tour, and a friend of mine had "Who's Next". He swore the solo at the end of Baba O'Riley was a harmonica, since he had seen the song performed live (maybe in The Kids are Alright), and the live solo was a harmonica. It must have taken another friend and me 2 hours to convince him that the studio track features a violin solo.

The band reunited in 1989 for a concert tour, and I got tickets for the show at Lakewood in July. I graduated from college in June, and took my first job, working the night shift running a campus computer lab.

I didn't have any leave built up, and couldn't really afford unpaid time off, so I prevailed on my day-shift equivalent to fill in this one night, so I could see my (by then) favorite band. Unfortunately, my co-worker was a Jehovah's Witness with 2 kids, and wasn't about to make her husband watch the kids so I could go to a rock concert.

I sold the tickets and hid the body, hoping I would get another chance to see them live. Finally, in 1997, I got my chance, and a bonus -- the tour would feature Quadrophenia, my favorite Who album.

Could Daltrey and Townshend stay civil long enough to play Atlanta? Could men in their '50s with English manors pull off snarling, teen-angst rock? Yes, on both counts -- the show was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and even my Who-tolerating wife had a good time.

Jonn Entwistle was a tremendous musician (he also played French horn on most of the Who tracks that feature the instrument), and one of the best technical bass players that rock has turned out.

Within the band, Townshend and Daltrey always have fought to be the leader, and Keith Moon was always the crazy little brother who would do anything for attention. Entwistle was the craftsman who does his job every day, better than anyone else.

I know this band has dealt with the death of someone it didn't seem they could possibly replace before, and successfully, but I hope they don't do it again.

I'll be listening to a lot of music really loudly this weekend.

June 28, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2002

Him, Al Franken...

Al Franken has a new book out, Oh, The Things I Know, which he's flogging on the talk shows.

I'll likely pick it up, since his first book, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, is the funniest single book I have ever read. The index is funnier than most ostensibly humorous books.

His second political book, Why Not Me?, struck me at the time as the most disappointing follow-up since Crash Test Dummies' A Worm's Life. Not that it's terrible; just no match for Rush.

Why Not Me? follows a fictional Franken run for the presidency on the issue of "confiscatory ATM fees". The opening chapters, when Franken is trying to decide whether to run, are very funny, as Franken spins his family and professional history and those of his likely opponents. The account of the campaign is made up of "primary materials", like on-air transcripts, the candidate's personal diary, and newsmagazine stories.

The balance of the book is made up of a Bob Woodward book on Franken's first 100 days, "The Void", and a report by the "Joint Committee to Investigate the President's Mood Swings".

I may have to go back and re-read these, as the passage of time may have affected their impact. Rush, published in 1996, spends a lot of time on folks like Newt Gingrich and Oliver North, who aren't on the national scene any more, while Why Not Me? follows a Nader-like campaign that actually pulls off the upset in a close presidential race, which seems more plausible today than it did when the book was published in 1999.

June 27, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 26, 2002

Ashcroft gets new top priority - Court rules Pledge of Allegiance 'unconstitutional'

History of the Pledge of Allegiance

PDF of the decision

The article mentions that the 9th Circuit is the most liberal and the most overturned appeals court in the US, and I'm sure the current Supreme Court would be likely to overturn this, but hurray to the 2 judges in the majority.

For the government to claim that "one nation under God" has minimal religious content is ridiculous. They really mean that it has minimal sectarian content -- that it won't be offensive to any of the world's major religions.

It's the same perspective that leads to the label "atheist", with its suggestion that to be so is to be against something, presumably the natural order.

'Atheist' is a word intended to marginalize and minimalize folks who have no use for gods, in the exact same way some people label lesbians as man-haters.

Perhaps a better label would be "rationalist", where a rationalist has a world view that relies entirely on explainable causes for its creation and maintenance.

The folks prosecuting this case for the government apparently can't perceive of a universe that works that way.

According to this link, the pledge was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist, who opposed the change from "my flag" to "the flag of the United States of America", and whose family say he would have opposed the change adding "under God" in 1954.

Update: The Senate has jumped into the fray, voting 99-0 for motherhood and apple pie, "racing" to the steps of the Capitol to show their support by reciting the "theists' pledge". Sen. Zell Miller (R/D-Ga.) is right in the middle of it, calling the ruling "disgraceful".

June 26, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Xserve benchmarks

Xinet Benchmarked Configurations

Xinet publishes pre-press software and a Unix implementation of AppleShare. They've just published the first benchmarks of the Xserve that I've seen, though they only benchmarked it running their software...

June 26, 2002 in Apple, Apple - Xserve | Permalink | Comments (0)

Color plus wireless plus PalmOS

Kyocera previewing new Palm smartphone

This is the first phone I've seen that would really make me want to trade in my nearly 3-year-old Motorola Timeport (and my Palm VII at the same time)...

June 26, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where did I put that $3.8 billion?

Yahoo! News - WorldCom Finds $3.8 Billion Error, Fires CFO

I think it's a fair cause for concern if your CFO either can't tell the difference between capital expenditures and expenses or intentionally commingles the two....

Strangely enough, Arthur Andersen had audited their 2001 financials.

June 26, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2002

Making up for losses with volume

Microsoft takes heavy losses on the Xbox

A mostly on-target explanation of how much money Microsoft is blowing on the XBox, while Sony is either profitable or nearly so on every PS2 they sell.

I thought it was a little funny that the author attributes Microsoft's trouble making the console profitable to the requirement for "an expensive hard drive". At the volumes Microsoft is ordering (3.5 million so far), 8 GB 5400-rpm hard drives can't cost more than $30 apiece, less than 10% of the system's cost to build.

Apparently, Microsoft is spending about $325 on each XBox's parts and assembly, not counting promotions, game development, shipping, and other incidentals, versus $185 for Sony's PlayStation 2. Both sell for $199, so Microsoft is losing about $150 per system.

Initally, the strategy was to sell at $299, and make up the small loss through game sales, where Microsoft makes at least $5 per title (more on in-house titles), but at the lower price, every consumer would have to buy upwards of 20 games for that console to be a profitable sale.

Sony hasn't been sitting on its hands -- they've brought out a new revision to the PS2 that's less expensive to manufacture, and are making money, or at least breaking even, on sales at $199. Further cost-reduction revisions are planned, as more functions get moved onto fewer chips.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, their use of PC commodity hardware developed by outside companies means they'll have to negotiate prices down, and they're apparently in arbitration with nVidia to try and drop their cost for the XBox graphics processing unit.

Certainly, Microsoft can afford to lose money on every console -- they have about $42 billion in cash on hand -- but it's hard to imagine a scenario where they start making money on the systems, and that's the name of the game.

June 25, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Still twiddling...

Daily OS X installs:

OmniWeb 4.1

AppleScript 1.8.3

I also downloaded the Network Update 1.0 package from Apple, which installed, optimized, then never quit. I had to force-quit Software Update and reboot, but everything was fine.

I also turned off Silk, which just seemed to consume too many resources...

June 25, 2002 in Apple, Apple - Software | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 24, 2002

Not your typical beach read

Recommended geek summer reading: Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

At 910 pages, this is a big book, and the story sprawls out to fill it, leaping from Seattle to the Phillipines to Tokyo to Sweden to London and back. When it came out in 1999, I lost several nights' sleep reading it, as the author weaved factual (appearances by Alan Turing, Douglas MacArthur, Imelda Marcos) and fanciful (the island kingdom of Qwghlm, a primitive computer made like a pipe organ).

The two interwoven stories concern World War II and the dot-com bubble, still at its height, and the importance of encryption to both. Stephenson is best known for his science fiction, but this book has a more generalized appeal, with elements of spy fiction, war novels, and even caper novels all between two covers.

Stephenson has a talent for finding the human interest in the mundane and technical -- he wrote the longest magazine article I've ever read on undersea cables.

The World War II episodes revolve around "Detachment 2702", a unit responsible for coming up with plausible reasons for enemy information lapses other than insecure codes.

The modern episodes revolve around a grandson of a Detachment 2702 codebreaker involved in a startup creating a data haven in Southeast Asia.

Stephenson has said that this is the first book of a trilogy, but there's no more information on further books on his site.

The site does mention the typos in the book, and my 1st edition has more than its share. Stephenson mentions that his publisher is working to clear them up for a subsequent printing at his site, and I would hope the paperback was that printing.

Full reviews:

The Modern Word


June 24, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (1)