September 01, 2004 10:28 PM

R.A.W. doings

A couple of my friends have recently re-discovered the brilliantly surreal Illuminatus Trilogy, co-written by Discordian Robert Anton Wilson. One of them even wore a Sacred Chao shirt to last Sunday's anti-Bush march in New York City.

This lead me to poke around on the net a bit after R.A.W.'s latest doings.

He has his own web site these days, which is a bit of a mixed bag. However, it links to the web site for his Guns and Dope Party, which among other things advocates replacement of 1/3rd of the U.S. Congress with ostriches. So far, I agree vigorously with the whole of their platform. I give them a thumbs up.

R.A.W. also has a Cafe Press shop where you can buy such wondrous swag as the "Hannibal Lecter for White House Physician" baseball hat.

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August 26, 2004 2:20 PM

Next Steps for Apple

A few years ago, I mistakenly wrote off Apple as dead. Their sales were falling, their technology was stagnant, and I honestly didn't see where they could go. I was wrong.

As usual, Steve Jobs demonstrated he's still got amazing business and aesthetic sense. Apple's new technology, which is an improved version of the software created by Jobs' startup NeXT, is a seamless fusion of the Unix operating system with the prettiest GUI in existence.

Macs are easier to use than Windows for novices, and they are now very pleasant for experienced users and programmers, too. Apple by all rights should be selling product hand over fist. However, their market share has not taken off — it is still only a few percent of the market.

I think that is because Macs are perceived as too expensive. A lot of the market for personal computers is now in the deep sub-$1000 range, and Apple doesn't really offer much there. They have one product under $1000, the eMac, and the lowest price you can buy one for is $800. Add a few needed accessories and you're way more expensive than the $500 low end machines being flogged these days by Dell. Apple doesn't promote the eMac at all, either — it is largely a stealth product.

Apple might well be saying "we don't need that low margin business" but I think that's a big mistake. Selling much lower priced machines will not cut into Apple's sales or margins at the high end, but it will drive a market for Apple software and accessories that Apple needs. Just as importantly, it will get many people who never thought about Apple seriously addicted to the ease of use and quality of the Mac, which (over the years) will drive a lot more sales at the high end of the market. People who buy Macs never look back, but people who buy Windows boxes often don't know what they're missing. In the long run, gaining a solid presence at the low end would be very good for Apple's market share.

I think Apple should design a very low cost offering, aimed at the $500 to $800 market segment. Minimally configured, such a machine should provide a user with acceptable performance but very few frills, much like the low end Dells. Unlike Dell, Apple fully controls the price of their own operating system, so they can likely shave an extra $50 off of Dell's cost basis. Dell has to pay Microsoft, and Apple does not. Apple can also likely count on lower support costs, since their machines are much easier to use. They might not even have to sacrifice much in terms of aesthetics — an ugly case and a pretty one can often be the same price.

Such a machine would not make Apple very much money, but it would not need to. It would serve to re-establish Apple as the brand of choice for new computer users, students and schools, and then, ultimately, addict lots of those people to Macs for the long term. The product line would not cannibalize Apple's existing market at all. Power users who can pay $2000 would not be interested in a no-frills computer. It would, however, greatly interest software vendors to see Apple's market share rising, as it would encourage them to develop more for the platform. All in all, I think it would be a great win.

Now if only Apple would listen to me.

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August 26, 2004 1:03 PM

Weebl and Bob

Net Entertainment Link of the Day:

Weebl and Bob is an ongoing series of flash animations depicting the lives of two ellipsoids who rock rhythmically back and forth and lust after pie. They are occasionally joined by a mushroom-shaped ninja pirate named Chris, a wooden donkey named Donkey, a wee bull named Wee Bull, political activist jars of jam, a monkey with mean D.J. skills but no toilet training, and many others.

I suggest starting at the oldest episode in the full list and working forwards.

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August 09, 2004 9:42 PM

A Softer World

I was looking at Warren Ellis' blog this evening, where I came across "A Softer World". I've never seen anyone so thoroughly understand the feline mind before.

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August 04, 2004 8:49 AM

Optometrist for Visionaries

Today's Dilbert is nothing short of brilliant.

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July 30, 2004 11:41 PM

With God, All Things Are Possible

The BBC reports on the bizarre case of a Swedish priest who convinced his ex-nanny to kill his wife by sending her SMS messages which purported to be from "God".


"Suddenly Helge said to me: 'If God were to tell you to kill a human being, would you do it?'" Miss Svensson said.

"I thought it was a very strange question, but thought that if I really knew it was God saying it, I would have to obey. There would be no alternative," she said.

What I find interesting about this, and about the sorts of stories one hears about in books like "Under the Banner of Heaven" (disclaimer: I haven't read that book, I've just heard the author speak), is that they confirm my ancient hypothesis that once you allow yourself to be guided by "faith", to accept "truths" conveyed to you without evidence and indeed to deny evidence and rationality as a basis for understanding reality, you can be convinced to do nearly anything.

This is not to say that I believe all religious people are readily capable of murder. Rather, I claim that once you structure your life around ideas that you are not permitted to test, but which you accept as beyond testing (that is, on "faith"), you've abandoned your most important survival tool, namely reason.

Introduce a bad axiom into a mathematical formal system, you can prove anything. Similarly, if you abandon reason for "faith", you lose your only tool with which to distinguish the truth. This could leave you helpless to escape the idea that "God" demands that you kill, and from there it is a short step to shooting abortion doctors or flying planes into skyscrapers.

Some religious people will argue that "God" doesn't want you to shoot doctors or fly planes into skyscrapers, but how are we to assess whether that is true or not? We are told that we can't apply the scientific method to the question of the existence "God", let alone to the determination of the "divine" will. We are supposed to go by "faith". If you have to go by "faith", why is the "faith" of the person who kills because "God" has commanded it any less correct than the "faith" of the person who claims "God" did not command it? The answer "it just is" will get you sent to the back of the class. So will references to the "self evident" truth of any holy book you care to name.

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July 30, 2004 3:00 PM

What You Can't Say

I've discovered that Paul Graham isn't to some people's tastes, but I rather like his essays. He's got one up that I hadn't read before called What You Can't Say.


No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.

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July 28, 2004 9:39 PM

Neologism of the Day

Blogorrhea: excessive, obsessive and often incoherent blogging.

I wonder if I'm a victim of this devastating syndrome.

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July 24, 2004 5:14 PM

Welcome to Diminished Capacity

Welcome to "Diminished Capacity", the brand new home for my extended fits of blathering.

I've kept saying I was going to set up a blog for a long time, but I never actually got in a large enough supply of "round tuits" before now.

More to the point, I've finally found a blogging program that does things roughly the way I like. (Actually, it doesn't quite do what I want, so I'll probably rewrite it when it becomes irritating enough to me. That's a different story, though.)

My intent is to republish all the rants I currently post to various other places here, and to use this as a home base for new ones. Usenet is dead, and mailing lists are pretty limited in scope. Blogs seem to be taking over the role of providing places for people to express themselves. I'm hoping this is a better medium for archiving my thoughts.

Will I write regularly for this thing? Maybe, maybe not. I suppose it depends on how it feels. We'll see how it goes.

You will note that the blog doesn't contain a "comments" mechanism. Part of that is because I wanted to start with a blogging system that produced purely static content. Part is that I also prefer to decide on what goes up on this site. If you want to say something about things I've posted, send me email.

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