Apple Confidential

I’ve been sortof sick this weekend, although I think drinking a fuckload of grapefruit juice and sleeping 14 or 15 hours a day has mostly stemmed it off. It was that kind of sore throat, coated tongue, back of throat crap that is usually the first stage of something worse. What’s weird is that I have only had this sort of sickness all year, and not a full-blown cold. I hope I did not jinx things by saying that. Anyway, the three-day weekend plan has been to mostly sleep, and do some reading and other vagueness around the house.

The other day I read Apple Confidential 2.0 by Owen Linzmayer. It’s a very good history of Apple, from the birth of the two Steves up to the present. It was just published in 2004 by No Starch Press. I enjoyed reading this book a lot, because it reminded me so much of the “ancient” history of ten years ago when I supported the Mac at IU. I read through the various timelines and it made me think back to when we got our first PowerMac, when I first saw a Newton, when I first got to mess with a color Mac, and all of the other intersections with my computing past. Anyway, it’s an excellent book. I paypaled Owen twenty bucks and he sent me an autographed copy. You really should go to his site and do the same.

I had to get out of the house today, so I went to Union Square to shop for books. I went to The Strand, which for the first time ever was actually too cold instead of too hot, but didn’t buy anything. I also bought tickets to see that new hockey movie about the 1980 Olympic team, but I chickened out and decided I’d rather sit around the house for two hours instead. I know that sounds stupid, and even I can’t figure it out. Anyway, I hate sports, but I really like sports movies. I know that makes no sense, but it’s true. I have never sat through a college football game in my life, and I’d rather jam a pencil into my ear than do so, but I really loved the movie Rudy. Go figure.

I won’t go into the whole Valentine’s Day/anti-Valentine’s Day because things are just too far gone for me to deal with it, and I realize that it’s totally my fault. So I did not leave the house on the 14th, and then today I went to Duane Reade and bought about two pounds of candy for 50% off and ate them until I was sick, then I downloaded a lot of really sick pornography. That did not really solve any of my problems, but it took up as much time as the hockey movie would have.

It’s freezing outside, but it’s not bad in here, and it will be even better when I’m in bed reading and staying up late because I have the day off tomorrow. So here’s to that.

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The most popular poet of the 20th century

I think one of the fundamental problems when I read too much is that I find out facts that make me essentially think that my worldview is completely fucked, and I am the only person alive who is not a robot, or possibly I am really in a coma or a heavy dream after taking too much Tylenol PM and Robitussen and I’m just imagining everything around me, like some kind of Twilight Zone episode, and I’ll suddenly be awakened by space alien people with pig faces.

For example, did you know who, by publication number, is the most popular published poet of the entire 20th century? Put down your drink before you read any further. It is JEWEL. No shit. Not Robert Frost. Not Ezra Pound. Not William Carlos Williams. JEWEL. Jewel Kilcher, the Alaskan elf folk singer. SHE SPELLED BUKOWSKI’S NAME WRONG IN THE GOD DAMNED BOOK AND SHE SOLD MORE COPIES THAN HE DID OF HIS STUFF.

That is all.

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Moore’s Law bitchfest

People often say that the world gets better as technology progresses; they preach about Moore’s Law, how things keep getting smaller and better and faster and more complex and cheaper, as if the fact that my current computer has something like 200 Gigabytes of disk space within it and my computer ten years ago had a single 40 Megabyte drive means anything. Because everything that becomes exponentially better means something else becomes exponentially worse, and even though people throw out purposely ironic and therefore cliche examples like “why don’t I have a jetpack yet?”, I think that people don’t understand this, and simply think if we throw enough money and enough computers at any problem, that it will be solved. And if there is one thing I learned working at Juno, is that it takes so much money and momentum to put a good solution in place, EVEN if it is cheap and EVEN if it is easy and EVEN if it will make money, that most of the time, it won’t happen.

Case in point: Domino’s does not deliver in 30 minutes anymore. It’s ingrained in our culture that they do, and horrible hacks that were once comedians that many people consider comedians even though they are nothing but shills that make corporations money (i.e. Jay Leno) still do jokes about Domino’s delivering in 30 minutes or less, they haven’t done this in years, maybe in over a decade (although I can’t find a good source on when they stopped doing this, since google searches on “Dominos”+”30 minutes” brings up more search results than putting in “amateur sluts”.) Anyway, it seems like Domino’s could do pizzas faster; they could move to vans, or use computer-controlled mobile ovens, or robotic pizza construction machines, or high-end GPS-based roadmap solutions or something to keep the system going. But really, when they got a few bad lawsuits due to driver accidents, they threw the whole thing away, while keeping the price the same. We still pay for the image of a quickly distributed pizza, although it now takes me anywhere from 45 to 768 minutes to get a fucking pie from the place just down the road.

My friend Ray is the master of not understanding the basic fundamentals of how business works and why someone would cease to offer a service to the public, which is ironic because he technically owns a business and as the only employee, should be a master at this stuff. One in six phone conversations I have with Ray involves him saying something like “I don’t see why somebody doesn’t release that Venom live concert on DVD. It would be so cheap for them to just press like 5,000 of them for like $4,000 and they would totally sell them for $15 apiece and make like $75,000.” (Replace the Venom live concert with whatever arcane metal concert or obscure movie you want.) This is, of course, completely asinine, and the reason they don’t do it is because companies see better things to do with their cash then light two or three piles big enough to buy new cars on fire. I’ll break it down for you based on the stuff I vaguely know about working for big companies.

First, someone would have to get together and decide to do it. That team is going to consist of a project manager, a writer, an artist, a marketing manager, and anywhere from two to twenty other people. (I don’t know the exact numbers for marketing a DVD – I only deal with software people, and I’m just guessing.) Anyway, all of these people make semi-okay money – maybe thirty grand a year for peons, maybe a hundred grand for a hot-shit VP of marketing or whatever. This isnt’ their only project of the year, but you’re going to add up all of those salaries and divide by the number of projects they do a year, and that’s a number bigger than zero. In fact, if a half-dozen people work on this project, and they do a dozen releases a year, and they make about fifty grand a year, that’s $25K.

Next, they have to get the rights to sell the thing. I don’t know how much that will cost, and maybe you can get the guys in Venom to settle for a percentage of the profits with a chunk up front. Or maybe Venom signed some deal in 1988 when they were totally high and gave some division of Time-Warner exclusive rights to every video they ever did, and TW, even though they don’t even remember who Venom is, won’t break out the masters unless you put six figures on the table. All of this will once again cost you some amount of money, and even to be conservative and everything else, if you press 5,000 of these things and sell them for $15 each, it’s fair to say the band might want something like a buck a DVD up front.

Then you actually make the DVD. There comes that $4,000, which better also cover the packaging, and probably doesn’t cover shipping or a bar code or DVD authoring or remastering. Then you have to get the thing out to every Venom fan with $15 to spend. I don’t think they have chips implanted to tell them to come to your house with the cash, so you’re going to have to get a distributor, and they’re going to have to deal with product returns if you want this thing to go to any record store, and that plus the distributor’s cut is going to take away at least half of each $15. Some kind of ad campaign is going to have to be done, and you’ll have to pay a publicist to send out copies to zines and write up press releases and crap. Ray likes to conveniently overlook all of this by saying something like, “well, they could just put it on their web site and say it’s an internet-only thing and send out an email.” But that involves having a web site, and paying someone to set up the pages for you, and having a fulfillment system so it can take credit cards and so someone can staff the mailroom and send out orders when they come in. Plus, those internet-only releases suck, and all of the zines (like Ray) will be bitching that the band is too cheap to give them a copy. And are there even enough people out there that give a fuck about Venom to buy this? I mean, Google Directory shows only six Venom fan sites, and the official Venom fan club site is on geocities, which is pretty much the mark of shit. I’m guessing you’d end up paying warehousing costs on 3,476 copies of the DVD until you finally dumped them in a landfill and cut your losses.

On top of all of that, add shipping, taxes, the cost of keeping a roof over your head, workman’s comp, parking, janitorial services, phone lines, and whatever overhead, and I don’t even see how you could break even on something like this, let alone handle it while trying to keep a bunch of other projects afloat. And no matter how much I explain this, I will probably have a conversation with Ray a week from now about why nobody hasn’t released some obscure Japanese robot cartoon on DVD.

I was going to make some greater point about all of this aside from just making fun of Ray. And I’m not making fun of Ray as much as I am wishing that he would see all of this and think of scams that take all of this into consideration so he can legitimately make some money. Anyway, this was all precipitated by an order to Domino’s, and the bastards actually showed up in less than thirty minutes, so now I must go eat.

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Pearl Harbor and the Grammies

I turned off the TV and vowed not to play any of the Simpsons game tonight and to actually focus on getting some work done, but I think the work may involve editing a DVD. I hate working on DVDs because I have to reboot my machine into Windows, and I now don’t have an easy way to do that; I have to manually unplug the main Linux drive and plug in the Windows one, with a reboot on either side of that. It’s enough of a pain in the ass that I don’t do it regularly, so maybe I’ll pick at some short stories instead, or just read.

I watched most of the Pearl Harbor movie on Sunday night. I guess ABC was running it as a loss-leader since every brainless idiot out there was watching the Grammies, hoping for another boob shot or something. I really don’t understand the Grammies (or is it Grammys?) but then I don’t grok the music industry anyway. Pretty much everything out there these days is just a highly polished R&B or rap derivitave co-opted by a bunch of Gap models and used by large corporations to brainwash kids into buying more fast food and cell phones. On Monday, everyone at work was talking about how talented Justin Timberlake is. I don’t think anybody who has a top 40 hit is talented, because to have one you pretty much need to play someone else’s song and you need to play by this total formula so that you maximize the number of people that like your song. None of those people write music that challenges people or touches the edge of the envelope; it’s the same three chords in the same major key and it’s mostly about what you look like and what you wear. I thought this was a given twenty years ago and we could get past it, but now it’s ten times worse. People: if you can play the hit song on your touchtone telephone, it is not musically interesting at all. End of story.

So anyway, Pearl Harbor. This was about 40 minutes of really interesting stuff mixed with about two hours of bullshit. The stuff with the love story didn’t do anything for me, and the end stuff with the Doolittle raid wasn’t that great either. I thought they should have just ended on December 7th with the guys crawling out of the oil and onto shore with a Charlton Heston voice-over of “in the years to come, these fine men would fight for their country and turn back the tide of blah blah blah”, roll credits. Add to that the fact that Alec Baldwin cannot act for shit, and it really killed the movie. My advice is to skip around the first half, watch the battle twice, and then rent Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo to get the B-25 raiders stuff in there.

That said, I did put the super-deluxe version of the DVD on my wish list because from what I have heard, the extra discs of background stuff make it worthwhile. And as corny as it may sound, those shots of Waikiki and Ford Island really reminded me of how incredible my trip there last year was, and how much I want to go back. It’s not in the cards in the near future, because of money and I have to go back to Indiana when the new niece/nephew shows up, but maybe in the next few years.

I’ve been thinking too much about money lately, budgeting things down to the penny and repeating to myself “it’s not the timing of the market, it’s the time in the market” as much as possible to justify spending the least amount possible on food so I can put every penny I can into e*trade. I caught Coke on a market order at the start of the day on Monday, and got a grand in at 52.10. It went up about two bucks on speculation about some goldman report on their earnings call tomorrow, but it went soft today and I’m about where I started. I have always thought Coke was a good long-haul stock though, since it has split a fuckload of times over the years and always pays dividends. I have my eye on a lot of other stuff, and about two grand of loose cash to throw into something else, but I need to think about other stuff and not worry about it. My new year’s resolution last year was never to sell any more stock, and I hit that by not buying any stock. This year I hope to buy in a bit more and hang onto it for as long as possible.

Not much else. It’s 9:00 and time to get to work.

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Snow Crash

I’m getting so restless around the house, I actually cleaned. I really want to go out and do something, but it’s freezing again, and I don’t really want to blow any money, either. So I’m watching Die Hard with a Vengence on TV, although I missed the part where they digitally edited McClane’s sign that says “I hate n-words” to “I hate everyone”. I did just catch the part where the 7 train is at the fake 2-3 Wall Street station and blew up in a way that completely defies physics. Despite about 20,000 goofs, this is still a good movie. If I ever see it in the $7 bin, I’ll have to pick up the DVD.

One fun thing about watching the Sunday afternoon movie is you see the most pathetic, low-budget infomercials for junk As Seen on TV products. There was just one for the Eggstractor or something like that. It starts out with black and white footage of a woman with really crappy, frizzed out hair and no makeup, trying to peel eggs in the most pathetic way possible. Then they switch to full color and show the woman with totally Jenny Jones makeover hair, full makeup, and happily plugging eggs into this device that looks like a plastic squeze tube and another piece of plastic that extrudes off the egg shell. She’s happily de-shelling eggs like the thing’s giving her ten orgasms per egg. Then it shows the kids using it, and it’s the greatest thing since GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip. They also use the phrase “high protein” about 80 times in 30 seconds to placate the Atkins freaks. I never knew peeling eggs was such a god damned problem.

Anyway, I finished reading Snow Crash, and I was really happy with it. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and something so completely different. I’ve always wanted to like cyberpunk, but the Gibsonesque stuff wasn’t that great too me. It was good, passable, but too much like the crappy SciFi shows that they make to fill up time on the WB network on Saturday afternoons, and not enough like the very first time I saw Star Wars or something like that. But this book really blew me away, because it was like one part Mark Leyner’s humor with one part Kurt Vonnegut’s ability to take a couple of disparate stories and slowly weave them together by the end of the book. It’s also got all of this weird religious theory in it that almost threw me, but was still very interesting, and I wish I could learn more about that without tackling some giant, 1200-page theory/reference book I will never read.

I’m now reading a book about the Nazi POW camps in the US. It seems like a lot of people didn’t know this, but during WW2, we captured a lot of German soldiers in the course of battle, and since we did not occupy the land we captured in places like Africa or Italy or France or whatever, we then sent these guys to the US to be interred until the end of the war. And they had something like 500 camps all over the US (but mostly in southern states like Texas and New Mexico) where they held something like a quarter-million Nazis. What’s even more strange is that American guards let the Germans continue to keep their military order and Nazi rule among themselves, because this created a much more secure situation that was easier to oversee with a number of guards severely limited because of the draft sending able-bodied men overseas. It was actually easier to have the Nazi officers brow-beat the enlisted men and discipline the people than to have listless and heavily disciplined men fight back against guards and sabotage everything in the camps.

And this was not any sort of atrocity or concentration camp or anything that a liberal apologist would cry over. The military was very strict about upholding the Geneva convention, because they were hoping that this would mean their enemies would reciprocate and treat American POWs fairly. (Germany tried, for the most part within their means to treat American prisoners okay. The Japanese totally did not.) So this meant that POWs received roughly the same treatment that an American enlisted man would: clean beds, hygenic facilities, three squares a day, libraries and books, chapels and bibles, soccer games and shuffleboard, and even college credit for English courses. All of this meant few POWs escaped, and those that did were more interested in staying in the land of plenty, as opposed to going back to Germany after the war. POWs even got hired on as farmhands and in non-war-related factories, working (sometimes unguarded) with the local farmers to replace their sons and brothers who were away fighting the war. They got paid for their labor, and worked well, considering the German military discipline and the fact that many troops were farmers back in Germany.

Anyway, I’m about halfway through the book (I forget the title – I’ll post it later) and it’s pretty good. Lots of photos and testimony from former POWs and guards. The funniest story in the whole thing is that the author received a phone call from someone late one night, after the first edition had been published. They were talking about the camps, and then they confessed that they were in fact that last escaped Nazi prisoner, who had been on the lam for nearly 40 years! The author co-wrote a book with him about his tale, and I will have to look that up sometime.

Nothing else going on here…

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In the library, Djibouti

I found out something interesting today: the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington has ordered a copy of Summer Rain! This is, as far as I know, my first library sale. It’s very strange that ten years ago, I was picking through their used book sale books trying to find something to write about, and now they have one of my books. So if you go to their site, do a search on “Konrath”, and there it is.

Two copies of the annotated Rumored just went to Djibouti. Try to find that one on your globe. Hopefully, I will get some good photos to add to my collection.

Not much else is going on. I got a metric assload of new CDs this weekend, and got the new Simpsons game. Plus I had a ton of books show up today, so I’ve got a lot of media to consume. But now, I need to shut down this machine to put in a hard drive switch, so I can boot from Windows or Linux without having to swap cables each time.

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