Dispatches from Andyland "Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!" — The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

August 28, 2008

A bunch of random copyright concerns

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 6:55 am

My older daughter and her friends used to make some little figurines called Wagabos (pronounced wa-JUH-boos). This morning, my younger daughter wanted to make some, but the older daughter started yelling that she couldn’t. She said it would be illegal to make them without permission of her and her friends. Its part of Copyright law. I tried to go through my mind what I could use of the four factors of fair use defense that the younger one could use. (Its not transformative, its not factual, it is not just a portion of the work, etc.) The only excuse that I could come up with was “copyright was created to encourage writers and artists to create works. It wasn’t created to make your little sister cry!”

I just saw this article about a man arrested for leaking songs from Guns n’ Roses supposedly upcoming album, Chinese Democracy. It makes me wish we could go a step further and stop all distribution of Guns n’ Roses music.

Andy Oram from O’Reilly had an interesting article a few weeks back describing how copyright got into its current state. I found it interesting. I tend to rail against some of the more recent changes in copyright law (excessive extension of terms, erosion of fair use, etc.) but Andy points to changes as far back as 1909, and how those changes started to set in motion copyright as it is today.

August 12, 2008

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and meet my younger self …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 10:47 pm

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and meet my younger self and give him a swift kick in the shins.

One of the stories that my parents that my parents tell about our childhood was one Christmas, it might have been Christmas of ’74 or ’75. I had an interest in science and that Christmas my parents bought me a ton of science equipment and supplies. They really pulled out all of the stops. Not just a microscope, but a binocular microscope. The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. A starting set of small glass jars and metal tins of chemicals. Litmus strips, test tubes, beaker, and flasks, etc. They went all out to get everything they could for my budding interest. They expected me to be overjoyed, but some time after the ripping open all of these gift wrapped items, they found me moping around. Asking me what was wrong, I replied “Every gift I got was about the same thing.” Yes, I wanted this chemistry equipment, but it wasn’t a singular obsession. They wanted to give me the biggest head start possible in an interest in science, and wasn’t going to spend every afternoon in my brand new chemistry lab. I probably would have been spent some afternoon playing with Hot Wheels cars, playing with Big Jim action figures, playing outside, etc.

Looking back at that event, I’m embarrassed at how ungrateful I was. Not only did my parents spend a fair amount of money on all of this stuff, but they also took the time to find out what some of my real interests were and try to fulfill them.

What is funny about this is I don’t remember that Christmas that way. I don’t remember that conversation with my parents, I just remember getting a lot of neat stuff. I spent many an afternoon and weekend at the spot in the basement set aside for my lab (later to become a combined photographic darkroom and chemistry lab.) I hope besides that disappointed little child at Christmas, my parents also remember the dozen or so trips to Youldens in Westwood to spend my allowance money on additional supplies. They may not have seen the smile at Christmas that they wanted, but that time in my little chemistry lab may have been a major component of the steps that lead me from there to where I am today.

I wish I realized how lucky I was. I may have been the last generation of American kids who were allowed to have home science labs.

I don’t know if Youldens is still on 109 in Westwood, but I doubt the chemical supply section is still there. Chemcraft chemistry sets have long since gone. (On the other hand, my kids have access to things like Scratch and Microworlds, Mindstorms, USB powered microscopes, and other things I probably couldn’t have imagined at the time. So they won’t get away with telling me they were being deprived.)

Not only are kits for children (or even parent supervised children) nearly gone now. But it seems a home chemistry lab itself is now close to being illegal. In Chemist allowed to go home, sans his lab the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reports about a man from Marlboro, a retired chemist, who was barred from his house for three days while they removed and dismantled a chemistry lab. (coverage on Slashdot, Make, etc.) The paper describes the contents as Some of the compounds are potentially explosive, but no more dangerous than typical household cleaning products. This seems even worse than the Kevin McCormick episode. It seems that frostbyte lived a fairly wild life, and unfortunately his death gave the state an opportunity to examine the artifacts of that life pretty closely. (Closing off Congress St for three days crowing that they found some sort of major meth lab, then finally admitting there wasn’t anything more than a small package of pseudofed in the medicine cabinet.)

The events in Marlboro scare me a more than a bit. It implies that without being charged for any crime, the government can forcibly evict me from my house and seize any property they find undesirable (yet aren’t willing to legislate as being illegal.) Marlboro’s code enforcement officer was quoted in the Worcester T&G article as saying This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. What do they consider a customary home occupation? A flat screen TV with American Idol on?

August 10, 2008

No accounting for taste

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 8:01 pm

My older daughter was trying to talk me into buying a waterproof ipod speaker dock for the bathroom, so she could listen to music in the shower:

Three out of four of the people in the house have iPods. I have a bunch of cool music on my ipod, my sister has a bunch of cool music on her iPod. You (pause) um, you have a bunch of music that you think is cool on your iPod.

And then kept rubbing it in with bringing up music a couple of other times and putting the words “cool music” in sarcasm quotes ( sometimes called air quotes)

I paid her back for that remark by listening to Girl Talk all the way home. We got home in the middle of “Give Me a Beat“and when I turned off the car and the music my younger daughter asked “I wonder: just give me a what?” I was a bit surprised she was paying attention, but awfully pleased.

August 8, 2008

Outlook will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 9:02 pm

co-worker: The render processing was hogging up the machine. It took me 5 minutes just to bring up task manager, so then I started indiscriminately killing processes. I killed Outlook …

me (interrupting): That wasn’t indiscriminate.

August 2, 2008

Jounalism at Internet speed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 11:14 am

I came across this An Infuriating Exchange With Another Reporter article the other day, and thought it was an interesting in a couple of ways.

The  basic gist of it was that Jonah Spangenthal-Lee from Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger wrote to a reporter of a daily Seattle news paper, complaining that their coverage was on a story was more than little biased. The reporter denies it and points to some of his later revisions of the article. Jonah clarifies that he meant some of the first reports, not the later edits. The reporter from the daily paper then admits those earlier versions were entirely one-sided”, but didn’t have enough time for the story.

First of all, it lets me know that I should never send any private correspondence to  Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. I think publishing it (even after taking the names off of it) was wrong.

I can understand  that news publishing for web sites has thrown news reporters into a big uncharted territory. The needs are different. The deadlines are different. The rules may be different, etc. But it really seems to me that the reporter is missing a couple of things:

Once something is published on the web, it should be considered published and they need to stand behind each version of the story. Following up the article with updates doesn’t take away the fact that people saw and read the earlier versions. They may in many cases only see the early copies and not the later ones. (I remember looking at traffic of most articles at boston.com when I was there would usually show a significant decline day after day. I’d guess that the first day traffic would be greater than the next 29 combined.)

If the web has turned news reporting into a mode where reporters have to publish multiple versions of a story with increasing level of detail, maybe the fact gathering has to be done in a different way so that a story gets produced with increasing level of detail, rather than from one side to the other. Maybe in this case, if some of the people to interview include the police, the hospital, the driver, the bicycle riders involved, and other critical mass riders, and you may not get to them all before first publication, then maybe that would be the wrong order to use.

(updates: because the subject of this post is a bit snarky, this above most other ones I probably don’t want to play fast and loose with any updates. The title of the post first had an awful typo that I fixed, “Journalism in at Internet speed”.  Then in the last sentence I clarified “the riders involved” to “the bicycle riders involved” and more importantly added the phrase “and you may not get to them all before first publication” which changes the conclusion somewhat.)

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