Archive for December, 2006

Our tax dollars at work

After I read “Homeland Security tracks travelers’ meals” and discovered that only fifteen public comments had been made, I decided to do my civic duty.

After half an hour I gave up on figuring out how to do my civic duty, and leveraged Adam for some help. He’s my go-to guy for this kind of thing.

He has the kind of readership that provides answers in as little as forty earth minutes, making him look pretty good in the process, but none of that was the point to my story. This was all just background.

The best part is that the Federal Register entry describing how to comment publicly on this farce of a proposal contains the wrong docket number. If you search the web site for the docket number they published, you get bupkis. Presumably if you send a paper letter referencing that nonexistent number, it goes in the circular file.

Only fifteen comments, you say? No kidding. Imagine that. It almost seems like they don’t care about the opinions of the people they serve rule.

If you’re interested in doing your civic duty — and I dearly hope that you will — visit and search for docket DHS-2006-0060. It’ll take you five minutes to write about how compiling huge databases about law-abiding citizens does nothing to prevent terrorism or terrorist immigrants who aren’t law-abiding, or about the lack of due process related to this probably-erroneous data, or about the privacy and identity theft implications. Or any number of other concerns.

Go ahead, be creative. You can even write anonymously.

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A helpful clarification

Dear Mugshot Team,

When Chris writes β€œnon-geek friends,” he could also be interpreted to mean β€œfriends, geek and otherwise, who no longer believe that adding or removing a display should require a restart, or suspending and resuming be an operation for which odds of success are assigned.”

But I may have misinterpreted him. I will ask our mutual geek friends what they think, during the upcoming video conference, which we will set up with four clicks.




Now it’s unanimous

Once it’s printed in America’s Finest News Source, its basic truthiness has been generally recognized:

No team in America deserves to even step on the same field as Ohio State, let alone actually play in a game against them.

For weeks, Robert has been waiting for Lee Corso to don the head of Brutus Buckeye. I guess the Onion’s editors agree.

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Waste not, want not

It looks like I’m going to end 2006 with three extra United system-wide upgrades. They’ll expire at the end of January, and it seems an unconscionable waste.

So if you or someone you know is going to be 1K with United next year, and traveling internationally before the end of January 2007, I would love to exchange one of my about-to-expire SWUs for one of the expires-a-year-later variety. I would even offer some moderate compensation, except that to do so is forbidden. What I can offer you is that smug sense of well-being that you receive when you commit a truly selfless act.

I can do this on one of the various frequent flier forums, I guess, but for some reason it seems like random people that read my web site are more trustworthy than random people on an internet message board? I don’t know.

If you can help, drop me a note.


For so many reasons, it is vital that they fund a commercial featuring Gov. Schwarzenegger

For a layman, I consider myself reasonably well-read on the various ins and outs of modern US copyright law, but I confess that I knew absolutely nothing about the Termination of Transfer provisions enacted during the great galactic copyright reforms of 1978. These effectively allow original rightsholders to cancel and/or renegotiate some agreements after 35 (or 40, or 56) years.

It can of course be very difficult to accurately estimate something’s worth when it’s first created, and I think it’s generally accepted that these agreements tend to be lopsided towards the publisher, record label, &c. But after 35-56 years, the market has established a pretty fair value for a creation, and an artist (or their heirs) can renegotiate on perhaps substantially improved terms.

Or a particularly enlightened author could decide that a copyright term of “lifetime plus 70 plus Congressional whim” is short-changing the public interest, and make appropriate amends. Especially for a creation that is no longer being exploited, like so many out-of-print books and records, locked up behind copyright assignment or exclusive licensing deals to publishers who no longer care, or can’t exploit them profitably — if, indeed, the licensee even still exists. If these works could now be placed in the public domain by the original author, we would take one tiny step back towards the public interest benefit for which copyright laws were originally intended.

Creative Commons put together a tool to try to help (former) rightsholders determine whether (and when) they could terminate an assignment or license. The FAQ is highly interesting, if your brain is wired that way.

Assignments and exclusive licenses created in the period 1946-1951 are potentially in their termination window right now, and I can imagine all sorts of interesting content created in and after that period that a progressive original author might wish to reclaim for themselves or the public.


For everyone who didn’t understand any of my jokes at Seneca

Dearest Readers,

If you act with all speed, the Amazon Corporation will courier directly to your home a complete collection of what is without question the finest television comedy series ever produced by humans. They will do this for a feverishly low price, but do not mistake this for low quality, for it is the mark of true value.

It is vitally important that you view them from beginning to end in the correct order, for each builds upon the entirety of all that have come before. Do not be alarmed when you discover that the writing staff have taken the patience and the care to resume a running joke that references something said 25 episodes prior. This will happen with some frequency, and there is little that you can do apart from learning to pay close attention.

Indeed the only problem, if it can be said to possess any whatsoever, is that it is surely impossible to grasp in a single pass the entirety of the comedic nuance layered throughout. Each sentence is so densely packed that it strains against its moorings, such that you cannot believe what you are hearing, and only upon repeated viewings can one truly discover the subtlety and skill with which these artists practiced their craft. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for an episode to end with a plot twist sufficient to change the entire meaning of the program upon a second viewing, something with which you will simply have to contend.

However, it cannot be overlooked that even writing of this quality and substance would have been relegated to the dustbin of history had it been presented by a lesser cast. An ensemble such as this, harmonious and complementary, might easily be the most rare and unattainable sort of filmmaking. It is clear that we are blessed to witness true greats in the Pantheon of comedic delivery, for their combined talents raise even their youngest members to a startling level. Not since NewsRadio have we had it so good.

Although there are certainly other ensembles that rise to such a level — by which I refer to the critically acclaimed HBO drama Deadwood, for example — such excellence has not, in my opinion, been previously equaled in a television comedy.

Finally, as an initial suggestion to start you on your path of discovery, I propose that you consume the Extended Pilot as the first installment, and bypass the ordinary Pilot altogether. The extended version will introduce the story and characters in an altogether more satisfactory manner.

Yours In Science,


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