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Year: 2006

Brenthaven MacBook "Slim"?

Apparently I’m not the only one:

I went to and what do I see but their featured laptop bag, the MacBook Slim. The name evoked compactness, and the picture appeared to be a clone of my Pro File 12, so I mustered up the will to spend $100 on a bag, and ordered one.

It came Friday, and it is beautiful, and well constructed. And I sent it back Saturday morning. The thing is huge. Great for frequent travelers who keep their office in their bag, not so great for me, who slips his laptop into its case every morning and every evening and needs only enough extra storage for an iPod.

Virtually the same thing here. I had a Pro File 12 for my PowerBook G4 12″ that I loved; I went back to Brenthaven, saw the MacBook Slim, assumed it was the same thing, and bought it just before a week-long cross-country trip.

And … it is huge. It has a “removable” padded sleeve, but in practice you wouldn’t want to use it as a lightweight sleeve, because (a) it’s Velcroed in there pretty good; (b) it doesn’t have much of a carrying handle; and (c) it’s really too big for the MacBook — I would guess it was a standard Brenthaven part that was the smallest one big enough to hold the MacBook, and then they built the rest of the case around it.

For that cross-country trip, it was decent — at least in the airplane; lugging it from the hotel to the convention center and back again was feasible but not much fun. But for going back and forth to work, it’s overkill. I guess I could have tried to return it, even after using it for a week, but that didn’t seem right to me, and by the time I got really unhappy with it my return period was long since past.

So what I ended up doing was buying a Pro File 15 from the same place I’d bought the Pro File 12 — and for virtually the same clearance price. The Pro File 15 is a little too tall for the MacBook but otherwise works fine, and is much lighter weight to boot.

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What We’ve Lost

Everyone should read this piece at Andrew Sullivan’s blog titled What We’ve Lost. In summary, a reserve soldier who served in Iraq during the invasion writes of Iraqi soldiers surrendering to the Americans because they knew the Americans would treat them fairly. (But don’t take my summary at face value; read the piece.)

But now that’s gone:

I can’t get past that image of the Iraqi, in the hood with the wires and I’m not what you’d call a sensitive type. You know the picture. And now we have a total bust-out in the White House, and a bunch of rubber-stamps in the House, trying to make it so that half-drowning people isn’t torture. That hypothermia isn’t torture. That degradation isn’t torture. We don’t have that reputation for fairness anymore. Just the opposite, I think. And the next real enemy we face will fight like only the cornered and desperate fight. How many Marines’ lives will be lost in the war ahead just because of this asshole who never once risked anything for this country?

To which Andrew replies:

This president must never be forgiven for what he has done to the reputation of this country.

Amen. And not just the reputation but the security of this country. Every candidate for president in 2008 — Democrat or Republican — should be made to address this issue.

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Arrrh! September 19th be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

This be yer only reminder, ye scurvy knave! Now get yer [pirate name]( and get to work — th’ decks don’t swab themselves! ARRRH!

— Mad Russ Graybeard

[Be ye never heerd o’ Talk Like a Pirate Day? Then [get clicking](!]

_Update_: Arrrh! There be _two_ [sites!](

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Just Imagine… Stan Lee's Watchmen

[Dr. Manhattan:] As an alienated Syn-Man who was created by gamma rays, I find myself confused by mankind.

[The Comedian:] Ha! What’s so confusing about kicking the Commies back to Red China where they belong, Blue Boy?

Just for people like me that spent more time in the eighties reading comic books than he’d like to admit: Stan Lee’s bold reimagining of Watchmen.

[Caption:] You’ve always heard that TV was bad for you, but can it be bad for the entire world? Find out in 30 when “Savage” Stan Lee and “Dashing” Dave Gibbons bring you an issue that had to be called… THIS MAN… THIS WATCHMAN!

Too rich. (Via BoingBoing.)

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School laptops

While I’m generally in favor of access to computers in school (ideally Macs), I recognize that it’s not just as simple as handing out a bunch of laptops to middle-schoolers and saying “Here you go, now learn something”; so it’s not surprising that a backlash to school laptops is being reported. Glenn Fleishmann, in particular, has been outspoken about this subject. (2007-08-28: Added references and corrected spelling of Glenn’s last name.)

I would have to place among the undesirable side-effects listed in the linked WSJ article (kids wasting their time chatting over IM or building MySpace pages) the following, cited by a parent who favors the program:

Anne Carson, a 49-year-old parent in Glen Allen, Va., says the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation. “He’s really picking up on a lot of opportunities I don’t think he would have gotten without the laptop,” she says.

That’s not the sort of opportunity I’m hoping my kids will experience…

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Ruby vs. Python (take 147)

Tim Bray, a new student of Ruby, admires it for its readability, and compares it to Python:

In theory, Python ought to do better, lacking all those silly end statements cluttering up the screen. But in practice, when I look at Python code I find my eyes distracted by a barrage of underscores and double-quote marks. Typography is an important component of human communication, and Ruby’s, on balance, is cleaner.

John Gruber concurs:

Now that I think about, those underscores and extra quotes are exactly why Python does not appeal to me. I find Python’s indentation-as-block rule to be quite elegant, but its use of punctuation feels clumsy.

As a Python programmer (but not a Ruby programmer), I have to say:


I respect both Bray and Gruber, but I don’t see their point. At all.

When I look at my Python code, I see underscores in two contexts. The first is in the names of “special” methods and attributes. In practice for me, this is largely limited to __init__, since I rarely need to overload operators. (And this syntax makes such identifiers stand out as “special”. Who’s to say that this is less attractive than Ruby’s use of $ to mark global variables? Are underscores uglier than dollar signs?)

The second, more common use of underscores in my code is in long Cocoa method names, because by convention in PyObjC they replace the colons in the Objective-C selectors. Those underscores are generally acknowledged as ugly by the PyObjC community, but accepted as a necessary evil. I suspect Tim Bray is not writing PyObjC code. (Maybe he’s writing more special operators than I am.)

As for quote marks (single or double), the only “barrages” I can think of are in multi-line string literals, which are frequently used as documentation strings (or comments, effectively). I suppose this criticism might come from the common use of string literals as symbols — e.g., as keys in dictionaries (hash tables) — where Ruby has an actual symbol type, whose syntax is borrowed from Lisp keywords (a prefixed colon).

Whereas if one wanted to criticize a language for “clumsy” punctuation, one might point to any of the fourteen-odd uses of non-alphanumeric symbols in Ruby found here: marking different kinds of variables with $, @, @@, and &; four kinds of “quoting mechanisms” with %X{..}; etc. (Is that Perl I hear calling?)

Perhaps that’s why neither Bray nor Gruber commented on the controversial use of @ in Python to mark the user of a decorator function.

So I have to say I just don’t get it. To each his own, I guess. I see that Ruby is getting a lot of buzz these days, in large part because of the success of Rails, and that’s fine; if I had to throw together a quick web application I might investigate Rails too. Perhaps it’s just that I came to Python first and don’t really know Ruby very well.

Still, to me, saying Ruby’s use of punctuation is “cleaner” than Python’s is (to paraphrase Gruber) like criticizing the iPod because it doesn’t come in white…

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It's official: the Orioles stink (update: so does Tampa)

That must have been the worst half-inning in ten years.

Double, single, homer, triple, single, single, single, strikeout.

Exit R. Lopez. Hope we can get a sack of baseballs for you now…

Enter Birkins. Fly ball, homer, walk, homer, double. Exit Birkins.

The fourteenth batter of the inning strikes out. 10 runs, 10 hits. Break up the Rays…

you know, this could be a pretty good team if the pitching shaped up a little. we oughta get a good pitching coach, like the one the braves used to have all those years … what was his name again?

Update: apparently while I was writing this very entry the O’s went single, single (pitching change), walk, sac fly, walk, single, single (pitching change), walk, single, RBI ground out, single (pitching change), single, single, strikeout. Not as much power, but more productive outs. Sadly, one run fewer: 9 runs, 8 hits.

Then the Orioles got the bases loaded with no out the next inning and couldn’t score. And that leads to your final: 13-12, Tampa. (Apparently the O’s couldn’t quite get into field goal range before time ran out in the 9th.)

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To boldly split infinitives is fine

From [Coudal]( via [John Gruber]() comes this [list of common non-errors]( in English. The first item on the list is split infinitives, and of course they give as an example the most famous split infinitive in Modern English: *”… to boldly go where no man has gone before”* (to give it its original, non-PC reading).

I can’t be the first person to notice that this phrase is (nearly) in [iambic pentameter](, which is the standard meter for blank verse in English. So “correcting” the grammar ruins the poetry of the phrase (such as it is), but I rarely see this pointed out. Both [William Shatner]( and [Patrick Stewart]( were classically trained, so *they* must have noticed…

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The O'Grady Factor

Item on The Unofficial Apple Weblog: Apple Genius says: Moo’ing normal.

Same item as quoted on Powerpage: Apple: It’s Normal for MacBooks to Moo.

Now I’m not a professional journalist, but even I can tell the difference between one offhand comment by one employee at one Apple store, and an official position by Apple the corporation.

Also omitted from the quote on Powerpage: the part where the TUAW writer then called AppleCare and is having his MacBook repaired under warranty. (Of course, the Apple Genius should have handled this…)

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to take Jason O’Grady seriously. How he ends up writing for ZDNet is beyond me.

(By the way, my new black MacBook does not moo.)

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In response to a challenge in the Mac forum at Ars Technica, I’ve banged out a quick service that adds “Search With Wikipedia” to your Services menu (right below “Search With Google”). It’s called PyWikit because (a) somebody suggested “Wikit” for the name and (b) I wrote it in Python, using PyObjC. To use it, download it and move it to your ~/Library/Services folder. At the moment you will probably have to log out and log in again to update your Services menu. If I get motivated I’ll build an installer, someday. (Unlikely since I’ve only spent about an hour on this, most of which was taken up building a universal binary for PyObjC. While it is true that PyObjC rocks, its universalness is still a little, uh, rocky.)