inessential by Brent Simmons

January 2002


Morning at Fishermen’s Terminal.


Okay, so you shot the sheriff—and I can’t say I blame you, sheriff John Brown always hated me too—but if you didn’t shoot the deputy, then who did?


Years ago I picked up a habit from Worf on Star Trek. Whenever some people did something sneaky or treacherous, especially if they tried to hide, Worf would say something like, They are without honor.

So that’s what I do. I’m watching TV news about the Enron scandal. Sheila and I are just speechless, flabbergasted, bewildered. Suddenly I say, affecting a deep voice and enunciating clearly, “They are cowards and they have no honor.”


Papa’s first snow!


Flash == <blink>

How to tell if your ass is too small.


Either the robins are back early or they haven’t left. There’s one outside my window. Hello, mister robin. I hope you don’t mind eating cold worms. They’re okay? Good.


Happy Birthday to usernum 1011!

Yesterday usernum 1011 wrote: “I think that Microsoft will eventually gain the trust of consumers. After all, won’t it be cool to go to eBay and be able to buy something using your Passport? Think five years from now when there are hundreds of thousands of sites that accept Passport.”

My response? No goddamn way. I think consumer trust of Microsoft is eroding on a daily basis.

Rome fell. Napoleon lost. Empires end.

Hippie Freak

Sometimes I think of that old Three Dog Night song Joy to the World, and I think of that line: “If I were king of the world, tell you what I’d do—I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the wars and make sweet love to you.”

Now that’s certainly a romantic sentiment.

But I can’t help thinking it wouldn’t work out so well.

You’d get six billion people staring at you as you’re doing it with your significant other. They’d all be glaring at you, real mad.

They’d be like, “Damn, we can’t even go get a drink since you threw away the bars. And even if there were bars, we couldn’t drive to one, since you threw away all the cars. And we can’t stage a coup, and get all the cars and the bars back, since you threw away all the wars. All we can do is stand around and watch you plow away at your stringy skank queen. Great, just great dude, you hippie freak.”


Some mornings when I wake up I think, wow, this would be a great day to go duckpin bowling.


A couple more Radio tips that I’ve found useful:

1. If you’re running Radio on a Mac, and you have two machines, try connecting to your desktop website from another machine. That’s what I usually do—I’ve found it’s faster, even when running Radio on OS X.

2. In the News Aggregator prefs, on the Where to go after Post? page, check the box and click Submit. This way, after you post an item from the News page, you’ll return to the News page so you can post more items.

Hippo birdies two ewes to Daniel Berlinger! I’ve known Daniel for a bunch of years now, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rational, creative, and generous person anywhere.


Sometimes I think to myself: I’m a mutant; I was born without a tail.


I’ve been having so much fun watching people’s new Radio weblogs.

I’ve been using Radio to build for a few months now, and here are a few of my favorite tips. These work for me, but your mileage may vary, of course.

1. Tell Radio to run a news scan on startup. It’s in the Prefs section, the second page in the News Aggregator section.

This way you don’t have to wait until the top of the hour or whatever for a news scan when you first launch Radio.

2. Another pref to change: when the scan runs. By default it runs at the top of the hour. But if everybody’s scan is running then, that means all this extra traffic that you’re contributing to, and it means your scans may be slower. So change this to any other minute but 0.

3. Go to the Checkboxes on or off? prefs page and turn them on. What this means is that, on the News Aggregator page, everything is checked automatically. It’s just one click to delete everything. It’s easier to un-check the news items you want to keep than to check the news items you want to delete.

4. Subscribe to only the channels you really want to read. At first I made the mistake of subscribing to every channel that might be remotely interesting, or that I thought I should be interested in—but then I found I couldn’t follow it all. So I cut back to the channels I actually read and I’m slow to add new channels.

5. Edit your templates. Web design is fun! And your weblog stands out more if it doesn’t look like everybody else’s.

6. When posting news from a news channel, quote anything that you didn’t say. What I mean is, sometimes I see something on a weblog that sounds familiar, and then I remember I saw it on Scripting News. Then I realize that person has posted a paragraph from Scripting News’ news feed. See how it can be confusing? I’m not always sure who wrote what I’m reading.

There are lots of different ways to make it more obvious, and you’ll find your own way, as long as you remember to keep your readers in mind, remember to think about how they’ll read your weblog.


Now shipping.


Geek’s-Eye View of iPhoto

It wasn’t until I got a kitten that I realized there might be a use for my giant mutant hand.


I downloaded and used iPhoto last night. Not really to put it through its paces, but because I needed a way to process screen shots for a story on Radio UserLand and OS X.

I’m happy to report it worked fine: it has what’s needed to put together screen shots. Which is three things:

1. A way to import a .tiff file (a screen shot file).

2. A way to crop a picture.

3. A way to save it as a JPEG.

iPhoto is very different from any other image editing app I’ve used. It doesn’t do much editing besides cropping, rotating, and making a picture black-and-white. And instead of working on a file-by-file basis, it’s more like a database of pictures.

I didn’t think I’d care about the database part, but now I see that it’s pretty nice. I’ll have a browseable, categorized history of screen shots. That could be useful.

Here’s a {pictureLink ("screen shot", "iPhotoScreenShots.jpg")} of iPhoto running on my machine with a bunch of screen shots imported.

(You’ll know I’ve gone looney if I order a book of screen shots.)

I still think a simple, low-cost image editor for OS X would be useful. Something with just the very basic features of Photoshop at a tenth the price. iPhoto is not that app. (Which is okay; it’s not meant to be.)

Since posting the above, some people have sent me suggestions for apps to try:

Snapz Pro for doing screen shots.

GraphicConverter for editing and converting.

Bosco’s Foto Trimmer for editing.


It’s weird how my kitten Papa knows instinctively where to bite me, he knows where the blood vessels are thickest and nearest the skin—on my wrist for instance. Sheila suggested that he can probably smell it. Well that’s pretty cool, to have an animal smelling my blood through my skin. Wow.

Everyone should live with predators.

I would just like to say that it is my conviction that longer hair and other flamboyant affectations of appearance are nothing more than the male’s emergence from his drab camouflage into the gaudy plumage that is the birthright of his sex.

There is a prevailing notion that elegant plumage and fine feathers are not proper for the male.

But aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaactually.

That is the way things are in most species.

(I still remember all the words to Hair. Holy cow. Let the sun shine in!)

(Hair—written and performed by, well, hippies, radicals, liberals at least—is most definitely not politically correct in 2002. Hmm. So much so that I’m not even going to quote the songs I’m thinking of.)


Where’s the beef? In heaven.


MacWorld keynote notes...


Apple announces iPhoto. It’s part of the digital hub thing. Plug in your camera, iPhoto launches automatically, iPhoto imports, creates thumbnails. Editing: cropping. Has a print command: special print panel for iPhoto designed to hide complexity of getting your printer settings best for printing photos.

“Digital shoebox” for storing and organizing picture files. Create virtual photo albums.

Make photos black and white.

You can choose the editing app, can choose Photoshop, for instance. It’s a pref setting.

Create slideshows with dissolves and music.

Create photo galleries on the Web, hosted by Apple, with just a few clicks.

Print contact sheets.

You can order prints of your photos directly from iPhoto.

You can order a hard-bound book of your photos. iPhoto includes a page-layout program for designing your book. Automatic layout. Six different book designs. Place your order without ever leaving iPhoto.

Books cost $29.99 and up. iPhoto itself is free. Available today.


Price drops with existing models.

New 14 inch iBook. 600Mhz, under 6 lbs, combo drive. $1799. 256MB RAM. Available today.


Good-bye to the old iMac.

New iMac designed to be the ultimate digital hub.

Flat screen. 15 inch LCD screen. Same viewing area as 17 inch CRT. No flicker. 1024 x 768. Millions of colors.

Now with a 700 or 800 Mhz G4.

SuperDrive. Read and write CDs. Read and write DVDs.

nVidia GeForce2 MX graphics. 5 USB ports. Firewire ports. Airport ready. Apple Pro speakers. Optical mouse. Etc.

All-in-one design. It looks like a half-sphere with an LCD screen sticking out of the top. You’ll have to see pictures.

The base is just barely taller than a CD case. Even the power supply is contained in the base. 10.5 inch diameter.

The screen moves, tilts, swivels, etc. apparently very easily.

Up to 1GB RAM.

Three models.

1. 700 Mhz G4 128 MB RAM 40 GB drive CD-RW. $1299.

2. 700 Mhz G4 256 MB RAM 40 GB drive Combo. $1499.

3. 800 Mhz G4 256 MB RAM 60 GB drive Superdrive. $1799.

Superdrive model available before end of month.

$1499 in February.

$1299 model in March.

Genentech has already ordered 1000 iMacs.

Reminds me a little of the computers in Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil.

Here’s a photo and article about it.

That’s it, keynote over.


I Want to Believe.


Apple’s home page says: To go where no PC has gone before.

And my first thought is: To the bathroom? Is it a bathroom computer?

I’m not sure that’s what Apple means me to think.

I mean, where haven’t PCs gone? What with colonoscopy and all they’ve gone pretty much everywhere.

A number of people asked me what yesterday’s story meant. Answer: nothing in particular, it’s just a story I hoped would be funny. For me it’s funny to imagine Bill Gates as a cranky, impulse-ridden pothead with delusions of grandeur. There’s no other meaning to decode.

Ken Dow sent me email pointing to the Canadian World Domination website. Apparently all American hopes now rest with that great patriot Bill Gates. Only he can save us from marauding hockey players and eh-sayers.

I don’t smoke pot, by the way. Not out of any conviction, but due to an unfortunate quirk of body chemistry. Here’s what happens to me. I get quiet and paranoid, then I get angry and even more paranoid (but still quiet), then I go throw up, then I go to sleep. All in the space of about 30 minutes. Ugh. Who needs that? I’d rather get punched in the face.


I got a call from Bill after he read yesterday’s post. He’s all, “Dude, you don’t get it, do you.”

“Dude, what?” I said.

“You don’t know me. You don’t know the real me. So why don’t you get down off your high horse and take a bath, you stupid flapjack.”

He’s always like all weird like that when he’s high. I could tell he was maddeningly high, his mind had gone ker-plunk, he was running around in left field without snowshoes.

I go, “Dude, calm down. Simmer.

And then there’s a long pause, and then he goes, in this real small voice, sounding like a little transistor radio picking up signals from space, “Nobody knows the real me.”

“Dude,” I say, “Dude, listen. You have an empire to keep tabs on. So lay off the weed during the day, at least, would ya?”

“Yeah, whatever,” he goes. Then another long pause. Then he goes, real fast, “Say hi to Sheila.” Then click. He’s hung up.

Bong Hits with Bill Gates

So we were all over at Bill Gates’ doing bong hits and hanging out on his giant couch and then I’m all, “Dude, why are you so pushy?”

He starts laughing in that weird high-pitched voice he gets when he’s like totally baked, and his eyes are red behind those wire-frames, and he goes, “Pushy? I’m pushy? A-ha-ha-ha-ha...”

“Totally, dude,” I go, suddenly all serious and shit. I’m all, “Dude, you are so pushy, Mr. Pushmeister, the pushiest dude ever. All push, no beatin’ around the bush, pushy like smooshy.”

He laughs. “A-ha-ha-ha-ha.” Then he sniffles and wipes his nose on his sleeve and collects himself. He goes, “Dude, I will give you a billion dollars to shut the hell up.”

And I’m all, “Cool by me. You go, Billy boy.”

So he writes me a check for a billion dollars, signs his name and all, and I shut up.

Then he launches into this rant about Dot Net, “It’s so great, blah blah blah I’m so brilliant, blah blah blah, next generation n tier Web Services blah blah blah...”

He goes on and on. I start to doze, I’m just kinda mellow now, I don’t mind his boring rap too much since my mind is just kinda wandering. But then I realize he’s talking about something else now: Canada.

He goes, “I could bring down Canada. Like right now, if I wanted to. Every man, woman, and child in Canada. Not that I’d ever want to, but I could, that’s my point. I like own Canada, only they don’t know it, but they’re mine. Bring ’em down, I could.”

Well, I’ve got a check for a billion dollars in my pocket, so I could give a rat’s ass about our neighbors to the north, but I figured somebody might want to know.


Papa’s taught himself how to play fetch. He licks my face. He follows me everywhere around the house.

Is he a dog in cat’s clothing?

I have no idea what Apple’s coming out with at MacWorld.

But I know what I want: a wireless web pad. A big tablet with a pen and a browser. Light weight. I carry my iBook around the house, but it’s overkill for just reading.

Some other ideas, off the top of my head, totally not based on anything but my own imagination:

1.5 Ghz Macs

A new pda, son of Newton

An Apple-branded Palm OS pda

iPhoto (Photoshop for the rest of us)

Son of iMac—LCD screen iMacs

G4 Sphere—like a cube but round

weblog tool that publishes to iDisk

OS X for x86

iMusic—music mixer, editor

skinnable OS X

Apple-branded Wacom tablet

HyperCard Carbon

Aqua/Cocoa/ProjectBuilder for Linux

iNews—some kind of fancy RSS news reader

My official prediction: none of the above.