Tomorrow Is An Anniversary

Tomorrow is December 30, 2007.

Two years ago tomorrow (besides being “December 30, 2005”, you clever girls) is the day on which (I believe) my ongoing physical difficulties began.

I noted this because Ronald called me yesterday—having remembered that it was my day to return from Pennsylvania after nearly a month and remembered that I told him about December 30—left me a voicemail while I was on the plane returning here.

I’m not having difficulty with tomorrow. I’m having difficulty with today—and nearly every today since that day—because I’m having difficulties being so far away from my family. Back there, I had difficulty sleeping well. There was just as much (or more) physical pain. It was cold with winter’s blatant cruelties. Gays are invisible there.

But it’s where I grew up. It’s where my family lives—except for me. It was a beautiful time because being with my family—including extended family—more than made up for all the detractions. I got to spend time with several of my childhood friends and, for the first time since we were back there in High School, the time-spent was more about the present than our past. Any trips down Memory Lane were of choice and not of lack of things to talk about. That was beautiful. They were beautiful, those friends of mine, for having carved out existences they obviously enjoyed or accepted with pride and for having silently forgiven any and all of the distances I have kept or created over the past quarter century.

Don’t get me wrong. I am Home now. But I have always felt that Home is where you hang your head, so to speak: you choose where Home is.

But I haven’t felt this far from Home since Never.

Verloren in Translation

I am a huge (if fledgling) fan of the works of Rainer Maria Rilke. My interest began in a session with Ronald. Weeks before he presented me with the quote that would start the love affair with the Werks of a turn of the century German poet, I had imparted my “How I came to respect psychotherapy” story: essentially, I figured that both therapist and patient were humans, and there was no possible way for objectivity to enter into it because the caregiver could escape his own human frailties no better than any patient could.

He understood, because he understood me. That normally would be enough to say of any patient/doctor relationship, but Ronald is a beautiful, special case. He came back with an answer for me by quoting Rilke, and I was so affected I asked if he had the source. And it was from “Letters to a Young Poet”.

Immediately I went out and bought the book. I read the book through, and the quote was near the end. It was a quite satisfying (and quite emotional) experience. I told Jenniebear about all of this and of course she was way ahead of me, and recommended the Stephen Mitchell translation, and further, his translation of the Duino Elegies.

Lee is here for Christmas, because family belongs together at Christmas-Hannukah-Ramadan-Duali-Kwaanza. He wanted to get to a book store. We got to a Barnes & Noble near “up the mall” and I’d remembered I had wanted the Mitchell translations (the translation I’d bought was not Mitchell’s). I texted Jenniebear and asked her to verify the translations I should be looking for and ended up buying “Letters to a Young Poet” again, and added another book of selected poetry of Rilke, including the Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. An added bonus: each poem is printed auf Deutsch and on the facing page, Mitchell’s translation into English.

So anyhoo, this all gave me a chance to compare one person’s translation of a given text to another translation. In the quote Ronald gave me that so touched me, only a few seemingly insignificant words were different between the two, but even those few (and relatively common) words were enough to produce a noticeably improve adsorption, their sentiment pressed more perfectly to my own mind.

Mitchell’s translation of the quote Ronald gave me, recall, as response to my now long-gone hesitations about therapy:

Don’t think that the person who is trying to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes give you pleasure. His life has much trouble and sadness, and remains far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.

The emphasis is mine. For the dearth of good will in the world, for all those who steal it away like a niggardly coward in the night, the only way to restore our world may be to remember Rilke’s words and inhabit them, either as the comforter and comforted.

And to me, Good Will is nothing more than being both comforter and comforted simultaneously and in like company.

Update: I thought it might be a good idea to include the other translation of the same section. It’s not that I think less of Reginald Snell’s translations skills, just that Mitchell’s seem more habitable to me. Here’s Snell’s translation; perhaps you will find his choices more to your liking:

Do not think that the man who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words which sometimes do you good. His life has much hardship and sadness and lags far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he could never have found those words.

For me, it just may come down to a “would” instead of a “could”.

The Second Emendment

Via Gruber:

Beautiful movie poster for Taxi to the Dark Side, banned by the MPAA because it features a U.S. Army detainee in a hood. Which is something that actually happened and happens.

What a world. If any of you out there still think that the RIAA and the MPAA and all those front-and-center “entertainment” regulators aren’t blatantly censorious, you’re fooling yourselves.

I could propose a 28th Amendment to the Constitution, but why not bird two birds with one set of binocs?

The detestability of the NRA leads me to take liberties (while we can) with the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Truth, being necessary to the security of a safe State, the right of the people to keep and bear Delusions, shall not be be infringed.

It has an ugly, accurate ring to it, doesn’t it?

Seriously, in times like these, when even the current denizens Executive Branch even even stoop to selling a Police Action“War” with such rarities of truth, the fucking Motion Picture Association of America bans a poster (read: advertisement) because it shows an American G.I. in a hood, something “inappropriate for all audiences”. (from monoscope.com).

The MPAA’s official statement:

We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.

Thank God (of Biscuits) that the MPAA doesn’t get to review the national news before it goes out. We have FOXNEWS for that sort of thing.

Mac Users Three Times More Likely…

The NPD Group’s quarterly “Digital Music Monitor” has some interesting—but not surprising to me—data about music purchasing habits. From AppleInsider:

Data extracted from the firm’s quarterly Digital Music Monitor revealed that half of all Mac users paid to download music tracks from sites like iTunes during the third quarter of 2007, compared to just 16 percent of PC owners. In addition, Mac users were also more more likely to purchase CDs, the data showed. <br/><br/> “There’s still a cultural divide between Apple consumers and the rest of the computing world, and that’s especially apparent when it comes to the way they interact with music,” said Russ Crupnick, vice president and entertainment industry analyst for the NPD Group. “Mac users are not only more active in digital music, they are also more likely to buy CDs, which helps debunk the myth that digital music consumers stop buying music in CD format.”

Oh, and here’s some special information for NBC-Universal who, if you remember, pulled its content from iTunes and placed it in places which don’t support Mac users:

Overall, more than 32 percent of Mac users report purchasing CDs in the third quarter of 2007, compared to just 28 percent of PC users. In addition to purchasing CDs and downloading music, Mac users are also more likely to listen to music and watch videos on their MP3-players and computers, according to NPD. While 34 percent of Mac users had uploaded music to their MP3 players, just 16 percent of PC users had done the same. Mac users are also much more likely to listen to music files on their computers (56 percent) than are PC users (31 percent). <br/><br/> “While the market for digital music is growing, it’s growing slower than many would like it to — CD sales are still declining and digital music has not entirely replaced those lost sales,” Crupnick added. “The more consumers become comfortable paying for digital music, the more chance they will evangelize to others. And at this point in the game, it’s the growing base of Apple consumers that are the industry’s low-hanging fruit when it comes to migrating from physical CDs to digital music.”

No one said NBC-Universal was smart; many say they’re tyrannical. I just think they’re colossally stupid and short-sighted.

Bush: Not All Created Equal

9/11: he hears: “Mr. President, the country is under attack.” and does nothing for several minutes.

The Flooding of New Orleans: drags his feet (and the rest of his carcass) in helping people with food, water and housing.

Eisenhower Executive Building fire where no one was hurt: immediate visit and press opportunity, along with Cheney and photo ops with firemen.

Priceless.

The Extended Self

I’m in a mood.

That doesn’t seem like the proper word for my condition, but I’m at a loss to find another better suited.

I’m in the (literal) bowels of Port Authority in New York City sitting on a bus waiting to depart from, well, you already know from where, but I’m also departing from Bill & Edgar, my Jennie, Mr. Superman (who accompanied me to the gate). To? Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but also to my family.

There’s a special alchemy that comes to the familiar. Or from the familiar. Or both. A “visit” back to the folks is not the same thing as sticking around for nearly a month. The strong bonds of family—or even of friendship—are always there, but the nuances and the idiosyncratic come out when you stick around long enough to be familiar with those people again.

We’ve just gotten out of Manhattan and through the tollbooths out of the Lincoln tunnel and already feel like I’ve lost the familiarity with Bill & Edgar, Jennie, and even Michael, to whom I said good-bye not even 30 minutes ago. They’re “over there” now and it’s a thought that’s going to fester for a while—until I’m past the half-way point and this trip away-from becomes a trip towards.

Prepositions are underrated in the English language and that colors our collective and individual views of our own lives. We stick to nouns and verbs, tenses and voices, singulars and plurals. We run from our where’s and that casts a long shadow over our why’s.

We remember our histories as events, causes-and-effects, simultaneities, and never the paths and wildernesses, ebbs and flows. We fall out of habit of motion in the geographical, mental, teleological axes. We cast away colors to avoid orthogonalities in favor of orthographies.

Text messaging, email, cellphones—the ubiquity of electronic commnunication—lead us down the garden path of believing the world is getting smaller and we, upon the floes, seem closer because of it.

But stand all that up against a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back. A smile, a smirk, gaze-meeting-gaze and the IMs and SMSs suddenly revert to mere pixels and glyphs, packets and datagrams, streams of ones and zeroes. The Smaller-World illusion fails and we curse the lie of it, the cruel insufficiency, the kind to be cruel and the more than kind and less than kin quality to the shortcuts that have worked their technological trickery on us.

Missing someone arrives more quickly than it departs and there is no easy answer to living with a there and a there and a there and a there always tugging at some part of ourselves.

It is as if Home is a concept created to shield us from the horrors of itinerancy just as Progress is a concept which shields us from the terrors of the unknown future. Given a dialog over iChat or AIM and a chat over a cup of coffee, there is a terrible in-between, the world becoming the smaller and then the larger, a tug o’ war that none of us are elastic enough to endure without some kind of damage.

Perhaps this is why some of us choose a stubborn plasticity, choosing Home, clinging to Home like a piece of drift wood in an angry sea while others of us stand apart and embrace the potential horrors of our own unknowns because it’s easier than mourning our inevitable losses and left-behinds: the flotsam and jetsam in the torrent cannot choose.

As I literally, immediately inhabit a kind of terrible in-between on this busride, I begin to think that the reason I so love trains is because the future is fixed mark at the end of the rails, removed from choice and the confusing Outside yet still moving us from one place to another, making us feel fluid rather than plastic-elastic, solid rather than a damnable ephemera of the brain.

I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish that There and There and There were always Here. I also wish I could stop wishing.

And maybe that’s a better picture of my state of mind than just “mood”.

Do They Make Anti-TUMS®?

Wow. Touched a nerve with those Rixstep folks.

Trouble is, their aim is as bad as their logic. Wait, they don’t use logic.

See, I tried to register for their forum, because, like all the blogging cowards out there, they provide no trackbacking, no commenting. I’m going to have to assume, like all those other cowards out there, they can’t take criticism. Since my approval to join their forums was subject to review by a “moderator”, what I did get back was that they’d changed my username to “GodOfBacksides” and went ahead and filled out my profile page with all sorts of belittling crap I assume they found amusing.

When I wrote that they appeared to be….lacking…in the ability write a simple installer script, they chose to interpret it as “Barbozo has gone on the record to state he’s befuddled with the Rixstep Xfile Test Drive in that it requires two mouse drags instead of one to ‘install’.”

Huh. Think about that. Actually, don’t. You’ll get whiplash. Or at least stretch marks.

So you’d think that they’d worry that people would read such vituperation from them and follow the link to my original article to see just how much of a lame-ass I really am. You’d think. But they didn’t: under the auspices of

Although Rixstep won’t assist the hapless Apple UE ‘engineer’ in upping his page rank they will help you find him if you really feel you must. Here’s a clue: he considers himself a deity when it comes to men’s backsides and chose his domain name with that in mind.

Ow, my sides from laughter.

Nice to know they call men’s backsides “biscuits”, so at least we have that in common. And, “God of Backsides”? How embarrassing that they end up paying me a compliment instead of a homophobic bon mot.

They wrote up a whole page about lil ol’ me, a self-confessed brandishing of wit (though their wit is not so much in the soul as in the limbs and outward flourishes). It has a piquant, Usual Suspects theme, replete with Photoshop (sorry, more likely GIMP) embellishments.

Apparently I don’t know anything about anything. So why am I writing here? Well, at the risk of reanimating their exquisite ire, I’m pointing out just how embittered these folks are.

They accuse my ilk, the much-fabled “Landed Gentry” of Mac development, of “committing murder” and getting away with it. All those tiny, harmless files they eviscerate Daniel Jalkut for are quite easy to overlook if you’re smart enough to know how to construct an installer package. Which they don’t, so again with the ignoratio elenchi. Tediousness of limb, indeed. And for the record, if you use a utility application to build your installer package, the utility typically takes care to remove these “sloppy” files.

For the record, I do not know Jalkut personally, just by (high) reputation, but I do love MarsEdit and that’s all that should matter, is all that matters to me.

They bitch about other developers embedding copies of frameworks into app bundles instead of installing those frameworks in a place where they can be shared among multiple applications, which saves disk space (infinitesimal amounts, considering the sizes of hard drives), but then rixstep bundles all of it’s filesystem glue into its own framework, when, if they really were possessed of spirit of sharing and optimizing, they’d have built out MacFUSE plugins for each filesystem type so that Mac users could transparently work with all those other filesystems without having to know the difference.

But then that might cut into their sales of Xfile. And it’s just too bad because, just the other day my mom called me up, crying, asking me why oh WHY! couldn’t the finder show file inodes? She started calling me all sorts of names because the Finder couldn’t do this for her.

O, the Humanity.

Anyhoo, I was thinking that maybe I should just post a link to the webpage they spent so much time creating in my honor. But you’d follow that link and read their masterpiece and probably become angry or maybe just roll your eyes—or maybe even agree with them. Your choice. But since they insulate themselves from criticism (you can’t comment; you can’t trackback to them; you can’t even post in their forums because they’ll just delete what you wrote. You’ll just have to ingest the fecal matter and end up diarrheic and have to eat a lot of yogurt and then have constipation and then gas and, well, that all will just turn you into a rixstep devotee.

Why these people even bother with a platform they clearly so despise, selling a product that’s useful only to other propeller heads or, worse, IT folks, is beyond me. But they’re welcome to write software for the platform. If they make real money off of a tiny niche of users of a minority platform, more power to them. But then, who really has respect for anyone who bites the hand that feeds them? That disses the thing which owns the hands that they bite? (word has it they block all traffic coming from within Apple’s IP number range). I sure don’t.

And rixstep guys? Xfile’s not a drop-in replacement for the Finder any more than fink->download-package->compile->link->install->read man pages is a replacement for dragging an app into the Applications folder.

The best software is the software that people use and love using by choice and not because they’ve been locked into that software by proprietary file formats or because they invested so much time in learning an inscrutable command set and refuse to let the time-spent go to waste.

You wrote

Everybody loves MarsEdit - but that’s not the issue.

That actually is the issue. The only issue if you’re writing software that you want people to use. If you’ve not learned that, you don’t deserve even whatever small successes you might have.

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People Who Write Lame Software

My full disclosure: I work for the company that this guy has been flaming at and he’s been doing it for a while now.

Disclaimer: Everything I say in response to this guy comes from years of experience with software development before I started working for Apple and in no way nor context am I disclosing internal specifics about my employer.

There was an old hypocrite who lived in a shoe. And by shoe, I mean glass house. And by old hypocrite, I mean, well, a lame, hypocritical stone-maker who throws stones.

Here’s a little background information on software development. Development is more than just writing a program. It involves interaction with ‘domain experts’, in other words, those people who will be using the software and who know best the tasks they need the software to accomplish. It’s also up to engineers who either have a background in the domain or at least do some seriously legwork in learning about the domain. This is the fundamental catch-22 that’s usually one of the most difficult parts of software development. Think of it as, say, a Tibetan historian trying to communicate with an American engineer alone in a room with no moderator nor translator. This stage is arguably also the most important. Software exists to enable or enact…people, businesses, teams, other computers..whatever. Software’s purpose is to accomplish something.

People usually pay far too little attention to this. From small developers to large ones: Microsoft doesn’t care about people who need to produce documents so much as they care about the marketing people who need add extra features bullets on their Powerpoint slides.

The software itself—that is, the final product that goes out to the public—often lives or dies mainly on how much care was spent at this stage of the game. The short version of all this: know your audience!

•••

There’s a piece of software out there called Xfile, written by a guy who also has lately been on a tear taking potshots at Apple for their lack of attention to his own needs. Does he file bug reports to Apple? No, he says, because they don’t pay attention to them. So instead he expects a large corporation to pay attention to his strident rants and ad hominem sarcasms and that’s the better way to get things fixed. Uhhhh, what?

Here’s how software product development works in every development house I’ve ever worked for:

  1. Create a proposal for a feature set based on what you expect the app should do.
  2. Speak to domain experts before and/or during this process.
  3. Prioritize those features, again using the expertise of the domain experts’ assistance
  4. Produce a schedule and have engineers write the appropriate code, designers produce the graphics, HCI/UE people approve or create workflow scenarios within the app
  5. Have QA people come up to speed on all these things and along the way, test and file bugs against each interim build of the app.
  6. Jettison features for which there is no time to implement or get working acceptably.
  7. Continue QA, including filing bugs against errors and broken features
  8. Along the way, all bugs filed into a database are reviewed by managers and engineers. When bugs are fixed, they are re-categorized so that the QA people can verify the fixes.
  9. Eventually, all high-priority bugs are fixed and decisions are made whether to release the software or not, with remaining bugs deferred until a future release (like Mac OS X was released as 10.5.0, quickly followed by a 10.5.1 version which included fixes for many of those bugs that were deferred from 10.5.0.

The point here is that there are so many people involved in a significant software product that all defects (bugs) in the software—and in the documentation, packaging, etc.—must live in a central repository so that they aren’t lost and so that anyone can access not only the bug itself, but information on how it can be reproduced, what its history has been, who has worked on it, what its priority is, etc. That’s the only way it all works. The bug database is god: if it’s not in the database, it doesn’t exist. period. This is a matter of logistics, not ideals. Of necessity, not convenience or excusability.

In many cases, it’s a user out in the field that has discovered a bug. And for reasons already explained, those users are encouraged to file the bugs through official channels. That almost always means filing the bug directly to the company, which adds the bug directly to the aforementioned database of bugs, which means they go to god, which means they end up in the only place they can possibly be found and tracked.

So this guy at Rixstep hasn’t gotten fast-enough satisfaction when he’s filed bugs, so he stopped submitting bug reports for the bugs that bug him. Completely illogical, unless he actually believes his cheap potshots posted solely on his own little website is going to be more effective in getting Apple to fix bugs than actually getting bugs entered into a bugs database. Then it’s not illogical, it’s delusional.

But I read most of these rants and found them a bit hysterical (unraveled, not funny). After a while I discovered that he puts out his own software, one of which is called Xfile. He touts it as a replacement for the Finder because he hates the Finder and its bugs.

Fair enough. That’s what official SDKs are for: writing software as a third-party. I even applaud him for it, did applaud him for it. Until I started on the path to obtain and install and use it.

The software downloads as you’d expect, and the Finder (irony!) uncompresses the file, leaving you with a folder. Ok, we’re still well within a user’s expected experience, all’s familiar.

But what’s in the folder? A bunch of applications, a “readme.html” file, and something called APC.framework.

Most of my friends don’t know what to do with a .framework item. Certainly my mom has no idea what the hell ACP.framework might be. Most Mac users might have heard of a framework, but only from a certain distance, thanks to Apple for shielding as much of the techie stuff as possible from a user.

But there’s that “readme.html” You have to drag the ACP.framework into the /Library/Frameworks folder and you have to create that folder if it doesn’t yet exist. Then you drag all the other contents (other than the framework and the readme.html) into your Applications folder.

Does the Rixstep guy know that the Mac comes with an Installer.app? Does he understand how to build one? The behind-the-scenes reasons why it’s preferable to build an installer package?

So I ran the app, cuz I’m a software guy and I happen to know how and why those steps exist (even while I fail to understand why I must perform them manually), and this is what showed up (click for full-size):

thanks for putting so many icons in the toolbar that you had to set it to Icon-only just so that they’ll all fit in the toolbar. And for moving, willy-nilly, the standard user folders from a sidebar (where both icon and text label can be shown) to the toolbar, a non-standard location for any Mac application. There’s no use of space to group icons by function or meaning. (see iWork’s Numbers app for an excellent example of toolbar icon grouping).

And thank you so, so, so much for the frequent modal nag dialogs that remind me I haven’t yet purchased it. Or are you going to blame the Dock for bouncing at me every time any app puts up alerts?

I should have asked you rixstep folks for the webpage wherein I could formally submit bugs, but hell, you’ll just ignore those because you believe that petulant, petty ranting on a blog is the better way to go to get your concerns addressed.

Rixstep doesn’t stop there with all the duplicity, they have a page with the incredibly misnamed “Industry Watch”.

A sample, about a well-loved and popular blog editor called MarsEdit:

Everybody loves MarsEdit - but that’s not the issue. A lot of people loved their Fords before those Firestone tyres started exploding. It’s not about what you see - it’s about what you don’t see. And the likes of the Macosphere are not good at seeing these things. Irretrievable tards like Jonathan Wight, Gruber, and all the people Malcor hates simply don’t have the chops to do a lot more than use good old MarsEdit to write more blogposts about everybody else’s blogposts and crisscross links.

This is about as productive as it gets there.

They did offer some help, tho:

Do not accept half-arsed half-baked pieces of shit software from the Landed Gentry of Mac Development™. They want you to sit down and shut the fuck up. They’re used to getting away with murder. Don’t do it. Don’t sit down, don’t shut the fuck up, don’t let them get away with it.<br/> <br/> There’s only one way you’re going to get quality software from this crew: by demanding it. They’ll never give it to you for free.

Ok, so here I go…

So the developer of MarsEdit left a few tiny and harmless files within the shipping application bundle? You fucktards at rixstep don’t even know how to build an installer package! When I tried to quit the POS that is Xfile, first I had to answer the nag alert one more time that I most certainly didn’t want to buy their lame-ass software.

Rix-dicks, your own back yard is a pestilent swamp. How’s about you dry that up and remove the that contagion from the world before you go taking unfounded and overblown potshots at people who actually write software that people love to use?

But hey, at least your terminal-window-with-a-toolbar “application” can count the number of files in a man-pages directory lickety-split! Well done you.

My OverDU VUDU ReVU

A few weeks ago I was invited to join an “Evangelist” program for vudu.com. All it took was that I watch a gazillion movies, that I have kick-ass internet speeds and an extra Cat6 patch cable available within a few feet of my home theater. That and my charming personality, my scintillating conversational skills, my world-class argumentative skills and my Pied-Piper-esque ability to cast affinity spells from the comfort of my sofa and my blog.

No, not really. At least not all of it.

<br/> <br/><br/><br/>

I could start off with all the tech specs, cuz you know how I am about the geek stuff, but honestly, first and foremost, the vudu box is not about the box, nor about its remote (sexy and simple as it is), nor about the vudu service, per se.

It’s about the experience.

There’s almost nothing between you and watching a movie you want to watch.

There’s instant-starting of the movie after you’ve chosen the movie to rent or to own. The remote control beats Apple by one button: it has only the five buttons, one of which isn’t used for anything but future expansion. The remote is RF (radio frequency), so you don’t need line-of-sight between the box and you. The box is minimalist, so you can put it somewhere out of the way if you like.

Thanks to vudu, I just hit the “Video 1” button on the remote for my receiver and I find me a movie to watch. The remote is easy enough to navigate by feel, in the dark. It’s the quintessential Apple experience, doing everything possible to remove the barriers between your intent and its fulfillment.

They’ve just added HD content, inaugurating it by the surprise gift of the first two Bourne movies in HD already pushed down to the vudu box.

I’ll continue to write about vudu, even moreso when I get back to San Francisco and back to using it, but I wanted to get the ball rolling and start spreading the word. But I’ll leave it with this: find a movie, watch a movie. It’s better than Comcast’s “On Demand”; it’s more direct than iTunes to Apple TV. It’s more convenient even than choosing a DVD from your own collection to watch. It’s just There.