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September 27, 2003

Krugman Webcast

I haven’t seen it, but people who have say that the Paul Krugman webcast at Berkeley yesterday was hard-hitting and worth watching.


Fresh Start

Happy 5764!

We Jews get to throw away our sins today. We have to ask forgiveness of those we’ve wronged. (If they don’t accept our apology after we’ve offered it sincerely three times, it’s on them.) More important, we have to make amends.

I don’t think we can blog away our sins, but if I mistreated you in this blog this past year, I am truly sorry. Let me know and I will try to make it right and will try not to do it again.

BTW, if you’re going to start a cult, “To heal the world” wouldn’t be such a bad mission. Feel free to use it, but make sure you express it as follows:

“Tikkun Olam” © copyright 3761 BCE, The Jews

Don’t think our lawyers won’t come after you. And believe you me, we have lawyers.


September 26, 2003

Monopoly’s Weakness and the Need for Copyright Reform

Here‘s a PDF of a report that argues that:

The presence of this single, dominant operating system in the hands of nearly all end users is inherently dangerous. The increased migration of that same operating system into the server world increases the danger even more.

Dan Gillmor cites a Washington Post story that one of the contributors to the story was sacked and that CIO Magazine refused to rent its subscriber list to the group that sponsored the report once the magazine saw the contents, which the magazine deemed “too one-sided.” This feels like the implicit power of Big Advertisers at work. [Disclosure: I’m a columnist for Darwin, a “companion site” of]

Anyway, the report is worth skimming/reading.

Meanwhile, at Darwin, Jonathan Zittrain has a superb article on what’s wrong with copyright law. Here’s a bit of it:

For example, bars and restaurants that measure no more than 3,750 square feet (not including the parking lot, so long as the parking lot is used exclusively for parking purposes) can contain no more than four TVs of no more than 55 inches diagonally for their patrons to watch, so long as there is only one TV per room. The radio can be played through no more than six loudspeakers, with a limit of four per room. That is, unless the restaurant in question is run by “a governmental body or a nonprofit agricultural or horticultural organization, in the course of an annual agricultural or horticultural fair or exhibition conducted by such body or organization.” Then it’s OK to use more speakers.


We are in the midst of a cultural war over copyright, in which the salvos show the complete disconnect between the colliding copyright regimes of statute and practicality, law and life. A formal report by a commission chartered by the British Patent and Trademark Office suggests, without a trace of self-consciousness, that we encourage schoolchildren to include the (c) symbol on all their homework. The Business Software Alliance, a commercial software industry group, just unveiled, a website for kids to inculcate the values of Title 17 over those of consumer praxis. There a kid can play Piracy Deepfreeze, becoming a crusading, well, ferret. “Stop the pirates from freezing the city! Throw your ball into the pirates and their stolen software before they hit the ground.”


The cost of making no change at all must also be soberly assessed, all the more so because the Internet heralds such a staggering potential for the rapid transformation and evolution of ideas. This is not about the crass ripping-off of CD tracks but about a possible Jazz Age of creation enabled by technology.

IMO, it’s a must read.

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How can you be in two places at once…

Jeneane apparently ran into me in a Publix (whatever that is) when I was actually in a different time zone. So, apparently I am now not only getting psychic flashes about earthquakes but am astrally projecting myself without my knowledge.

Since Jeneane and I have never met the 3D way – I look forward to the day – it makes me wonder how she identified me. Was it the duck-like waddle? The weasel eyes that are so close-set that they look crossed beneath my glasses? The stench of half-digested Milky Ways? Jeneane, do me a favor and don’t tell me! Thank you.


And sometimes it’s just a coincidence

I woke up a few minutes after 6 this morning because I was having a dream that was interrupted by a strong, physical sense that the earth beneath me had swayed a few feet. It was a distinct enough sensation that I woke wondering if it had had a physical cause, the way sometimes you’ll incorporate the sound of a car passing by as the gurgle of digestive juices as you’re trapped in your mother’s lower intestinal tract. (You’ve all had that dream, right?)

I got up, checked the computer and found out that just a few minutes before, there had been a force 8 earthquake in Japan.

Back in the day, when I was teaching logic or philosophy of science I’d take my students through an exercise. How many times in your life have you had a dream involving a plane crash? Take that as a percentage of the number of dreams in a single night within the population of the US above the age of 5. On any day in which a plane is reported to have crashed, that’s how many Americans will be tempted to believe that they foresaw it in their dreams.

Ah, coincidence. What can’t it do?!


The Problem with Social Networks

Jerry Michalski has a piece in RedHerring about why the explicitness of social networks such as Friendster get in their way. So true. And a theme — the price of explicitness — that’s looming larger and larger in my own thinking about stuff. That and confusing clarity with truth. A

Ambiguity sort of rulz!


September 25, 2003

[Vanguard] Vanguard

The TTI Vanguard conference I was at for the past two days is a configuration of elements I hadn’t seen before. And it worked well.

You’ve got the guaranteed presence of celebrity technologists because the Advisory Board consists of genuine luminaries. And because it’s a persistent body, their interactions had depth.

You’ve got carefully selected speakers almost all of whom combined domain expertise with presentation skills. (Leaving me out of it, of course.)

You’ve got a microphone in front of each and every person and a culture of interrupting speakers to ask questions. And if a speaker drifted off topic, or the audience wanted her/him to go somewhere the speaker didn’t intend, the mics were like oars by which the audience could steer.

You’ve got an audience of about 100 people well-informed enough that baby-step introductions weren’t necessary. The level of questions was high.

You’ve got no panels, plenty of break time, and excellent food.

It was a good mix of the formal and the informal, the prepared and the impromptu, the speaker-focused and the audience-focused. It worked.

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Avoid the frumious cashew shell

The syndicated column “Ask Dr. Knowledge” addresses the question of what a cashew shell looks like, with scary results. Since I can’t find the column on line (i.e., it wasn’t in the top ten Google results) here are some other answers to a question you’ll wish you hadn’t asked:

Detailed description of the nut and how to harvest it (with sightly pornographic photo)

Edible poison ivy (“Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac belong to the cashew family…”)

Why cashew harvesters aren’t paid enough (“So, handling the shell or eating a nut with shell oil on it can cause the reaction. “)

You really don’t want to touch the stuff between the two layers of shell (“…extremely caustic and can cause blistering of the skin upon contact … is used in the making … varnish, insecticide, paint, and even rocket lubricant”

If you have poison ivy, don’t eat cashews (“Sometimes people who are very sensitive to poison ivy will also react to mangoes and cashews while they are suffering from the rash …”)

Cashew nut dermatitis (“During April 1982, a poison ivy-like dermatitis affected 54 persons who consumed cashew nut pieces sold by a Little League organization…”)

Don’t buy el cheapo brands (“While cashews purchased from a reputable store are free of risk, poorly processed cashews retaining traces of oil from the shells can cause allergic dermatitis.”)

The bright side of the cashew shell (“One of the best of fuels…”)

Now back to your regulalry scheduled fears…


September 24, 2003

[Vanguard] Dublin Core

Stuart Weibel gives us an update on the Dublin Core, a metadata standard that can succeed because it’s resolutely maintained its simplicity: 15 attributes of documents. You can imagine how interesting the conversations must have been about exactly which metadata to capture: Rating and Price aren’t in, but Rights Management is. (The standard is extensible so if you want ’em, you can put ’em in yourself.)

[Note: I’ve been totally spotty in blogging this conference. My fault, not the conference’s. Sorry.]

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The good of file sharing

As we try to balance the rights of artists to be compensated, let’s be willling to blurt out a plain truth: It is good that we can find millions of songs on the Internet and listen to them for free. This is a good thing.

That’s not to say that it is the ultimate good that must be honored or that it’s more important compared with the rights of creators. But can we at least acknowledge that living in a world where we can listen to the world’s music is a good thing?


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