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Month: August 2002

Much to my surprise

I’m among the top ten Google results for google://aimee+mann+lost+in+space. I didn’t do it on purpose, I swear! But since it’s done, I suppose I ought to be providing the poor seekers some sort of a review.

It is moody, even for an Aimee Mann album. Where Bachelor No. 2 was infused with a rather Paul Thomas Andersonesque sense of wistful hope, or at least the willingness to take chances, Lost in Space is sung from the perspective of someone who’s taken the chances and fallen hard. In that sense, it’s a return to the bitter pessimism of I’m With Stupid.

Not, mind you, that it’s an uninterrupted sequence of angstful love songs. I find myself listening to “Guys Like Me” a lot, which is a paean to the kind of guy who gets told “We’re such great friends.”

The music itself, however, continues in the stripped down mode of Bachelor No. 2. It’s gentle, without the heavy production of I’m With Stupid. At times I miss that era, but it’s hard to begrudge Aimee Mann her shimmering rhythms, and she finds more than enough variance to keep my interest.

In short, it’s not the same as any of her other albums while still being very much an album by Aimee Mann. You’ll find what’s probably a better review here.

On the nature of the press release

I don’t really have any objection to Bush announcing that his lawyers believe he has the authority to attack Iraq without a Congressional vote. I don’t know about the de jure, but I’d bet he has authority de facto.

The legal argument rests primarily on this Congressional resolution, passed last year, which authorizes the use of armed forces against those responsible for 9/11. They’re also citing H.J. Res. 77, a Congressional resolution passed in January 1991 which authorized the invasion of Iraq.

The argument there is that the resolution is still in force; one must admit, reading the resolution, that there was no time limit involved. I have not exhaustively determined whether or not Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677 have been implemented — said implementation being the specific end for which the use of armed forces was authorized. The Security Council Resolutions are available in PDF, if you want to do your own research. Most of them appear on a quick read to be quite specific to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which had ended the last time I looked. However, there’re also a couple of explicit injunctions requiring Iraq to fulfil its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and while a first glance at those shows no obvious current transgressions, this is about where I remember I don’t get paid for researching these things.

One counterargument may be found in the form of H.J Res. 109, Proposed House Resolution on Use of Force Against Iraq. Amusingly, it also cites the 1991 resolution. Unsurprisingly, since it predates today’s announcement from Bush, it doesn’t specifically address Bush’s claims.

Anyhow, as I said, I don’t object to Bush issuing press releases about what is in the end just the opinion of one set of lawyers. We’ll see what the judges say, I imagine. I just think if he’s going to make an announcement every time his lawyers back him up on a proposed plan of action, he ought to make an announcement every time his lawyers say “That’s not legal, George.”

How to develop character

I know I sound just as goofy when I’m talking about wrestling, but how can I resist linking to a review with a line like “this new series works hard to give Mekaneck the purpose he never really attained in the original; the fact that his neck can bend and twist will aid that goal a lot.”

Yes. Twisty necks, the key to all character development.

Artists, wizards, and craftsmen

Ernie the Attorney made an offhand comment about programmers as artists the other day, which got me thinking, although I half suspect it was meant to be tongue in cheek. Still… artists? I’m not sure; I think the various tribes of computer professionals (programmers, system administrators, network administrators) are more akin to court wizards.

We are comfortable and fluent with devices that almost everyone’s forced to interact with every day. It’s a prestigious position; the unwashed are constantly reminded how much they need us. It’s also a set of occupations that until fairly recently has been taught in the medieval style. All the best sysadmins I know learned from other skilled masters. We have no formal apprenticeship system, but the trappings are all there.

When your interaction with the public tends to center around confusion on the part of the public, it’s difficult not to become arrogant. (No, I don’t think I’ve avoided the temptation.) You see this in the traditional attitude towards sales and marketing, so I’ll use them as an example. Few computer geeks respect those departments, even though the average programmer would make a horrendous marketer or salesperson. Not surprising: it’s far more common for a salesperson to come down and ask for help with the network than it is for a network admin to wander up and ask for help with…

Well, with nothing. Sales and marketing isn’t a service organization, so when do we geeks have the chance to see their talents at work? And what you can’t see doesn’t exist. Human nature says so. The perceived power relationship is one-way.

I also suspect that the dot-com boom had some effect here. Out here in the Valley, becoming a marketing professional wasn’t particularly difficult for quite a few years. You can’t really argue that selling gewgaws to dot-coms was a hard sell, after all. So a lot of the sales and marketing folks were, in fact, inept.

Thus, when someone suggests that lawyers might have something to say about the nature of computer programming, the prickles rise. Every day, we deal with the inept and the helpless. It seems wrong that the helpless should dictate how we work, n’est pas? The court wizards dislike being ruled by the will of those less powerful.

I think there’s a term limit on this perception. On the one hand, we’ll inevitably reach a time when nobody personally remembers a time before computers. It’s easier if you grow up with them. Further, and probably before even that time, the interfaces will get easier and more natural. Ask Steve Jobs.

On the other hand, the art of computer programming and the art of system administration will become crafts, and they will become more and more automated. You see it in little flowerings of evolution here and there. Hypercard comes to mind, as an example of a brief explosion of ease of use. I won’t say Hypercard made programming easy, but it did open doors for some. Not all, but some. There will be other Hypercards.

There will also be Hypercards for system administration. The evolution of 1U servers (slim inexpensive rack computers) is an important part of that. As it becomes less important to maintain any one server’s uptime, it requires less skill to maintain the system as a whole. (There’s more to be said on this particular aspect of my topic but I think I’ll save it for another entry.)

Summary? The attitude of many (not all) computer geeks is inevitable given the current place of computers in our society, and can’t be easily changed by argument. Nor need it be. The path to change lies along the road of ease of use, and there are enough forces driving that progress so that I’m not overly worried.

4.x will get you anywhere

Bowing to popular demand, I’ve whacked up a barebones index page for Popone. No barebones archive or comments pages yet; if it’s very important to you, let me know and I will whip one up.

I’ve also switched over to using to maintain my blog list. This sacrifices the purity of keeping that list to just the important few blogs, but there are more than a few I want to keep track of, so what’s a boy to do?

Belated, but

Belated, but this is the sort of story I can’t resist. Namely, the “screw the popular wisdom, let’s be contrary” kind of a thing. I know that the Olypmic skating controversy is dead and gone, but I’m linking Joe Bob Briggs’ story on it anyway.

It’s a real story, actually, not written like the movie reviews. Wish I’d read it back then. I’d like to look at replays with his thoughts in mind. Mind you, the ISU did nail two French skating officials, so perhaps there’s not really so much of a case to be made after all.

Oh, and Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was indicted just the other day, so there you go. (He’s the Russian mobster who conspired to fix the pairs skating results. Or so it would seem.)