inessential by Brent Simmons


Just last night Sheila and I were going to order from WebVan. But their servers weren't responding. So I looked around for news about WebVan and couldn't find any.

And then this morning I see they've ceased to be, they're an ex-dotcom.


I have a theory about why they're gone. It's that Americans, no matter what they say, are cheapskates and penny-pinchers. They always go for the lowest prices.

This is why Walmart wins over all the smaller chains and mom-and-pop shops. This is why giant suburban outlet malls suck the life out of downtowns and Main Streets.

This is why corporations move their jobs out of the U.S., to where labor is cheaper -- because you have to compete on price.

Nothing else matters. People will drive farther, shop in an ugly crowded environment -- they'll do whatever it takes to shave a nickel off the price of baked beans, or two-fifty off the price of Air Jordans, or whatever.

So WebVan was a little more expensive. For the convenience of it I would expect so. I didn't mind paying the extra -- it was a wonderful service, and I was a regular customer.

Now, I know that some people have to shave pennies. I was very poor for many years myself. I know how to do it; I know all about it.

But the majority of Americans don't have to be so cheap.

It's almost like a moral thing. If you don't go for the best deal, there's something wrong with you.

And so what hope is there to end sweatshops, habitat destruction, chain-store homogenization, etc. etc.? None. None at all. It all comes down to the sickness of consumer demand for... Everyday Low Prices!

And so, you know what, I'm bugged. Now I actually have to spend time at the grocery store. I don't like it. It takes time. It's boring. People there act like oblivious idiots. I like to ram them with my cart.

The store is always out of stuff. How come I can't get dill pickle spears, they always have to be halves or minis? Everyone knows spears are best.


GUIdo generates user interfaces from XML files. It allows one to create GUIs for command-line tasks on OS X.

I doubt that I'll actually use it -- since I'm okay with the command line, myself -- but I'm a fan of generating interfaces from XML.

One of my favorite Simpsons jokes is this.

An old lady at the grocery store is getting her groceries bagged. The bag boy has put them in about five bags -- there's lots of groceries.

So she says -- start over! Put them all in one bag. And don't make that bag too heavy!

Last week there was a lot of talk about air rage and bad service on the airlines. Well, people may complain about service, bad food or no food, lost bags, etc. -- but the airlines know damn well that when it comes to buying tickets, which is all that matters, the lowest price wins.

The airlines can't afford things like good service, because we won't pay for it.


I would say get a clue, but you'd go get a shoddy clue, poorly crafted, made by prison labor with sub-standard materials -- just so you can save a buck or two. So I won't say it, since it's pointless.

Good feedback in the discussion group.