Archive for March, 2008
Section 108 report released

The Section 108 study group has finally released their report. See:

For those who are not copyright or library geeks, Section 108 is one of the most important parts of the Copyright Act for libraries.

For those who are having trouble reading the medium-grey on light blue summaries of recommendations in the Executive Summary (what were they thinking?), here’s my summary of the summary:

  • Museums should be covered by Section 108
  • Recommending stricter criteria for eligibility for libraries, including “possessing a public service mission, employing a trained library or archives staff, providing professional services normally associated with libraries and archives, and possessing a collection comprising lawfully acquired and/or licensed materials.” Hmm.
  • Section 108 should be amended to permit some outsourcing of library & archive exceptions.
  • Ease up on the restrictions for replacement copies in 108(c), to include fragile copies, but also some strengthening of requirements — for instance, libraries are required to look for copies available at a fair price, and the Committee recommends that can include “licensed” copies. Hmm.
  • Recommendations about preservation of unpublished works, including limiting this to “unpublished works that have not been publicly disseminated.” They include a definition of “not publicly disseminated”, but I wonder how tenable these distinctions are going to remain. Also noting that borrowed copies may not be archived by the borrowing institution.
  • An exception should be added to permit preservation of “publicly disseminated works” whether published or otherwise publicly disseminated. These are dark archives, so access is specifically restricted: “The library or archives restricts access to the preservation copies to that which is necessary to effectively maintain and preserve the work”. A long list of requirements to qualify here; this is really quite bloated IMO.
  • An Internet Archive exception “to permit … capture and reproduce publicly available online content for preservation purposes and to make those copies accessible to users for purposes of private study, scholarship, or research.” There should be an opt out, libraries and archives should not interfere with material exploitation, and labeling is required.
  • The television news exception should be amended to permit streaming of archives, but not “downloadable copies.”
  • 108(f)(1) should be amended to clarify that libraries do not have liability for unsupervised use of reproduction equipment, e.g., library users’ personal cameras, scanners, etc. And reorganize the darn section logically.

Well, I could have hoped for a lot more, but there are some improvements here. Good luck getting them through Congress, though, especially in an election year. Maybe we’ll see some substantive reforms in 2009, but I’m not going to bet the farm on it.
(cross-posted @ sivacracy)
followup 4/28: Here’s a link to Mary Minow’s post of Peter Hirtle’s analysis: posted at Stanford Library fair use website.

another way that EULAs/TOS/etc can suck

2:45 to 4:55 a.m.

So I was up too late at night (or too early in the morning) writing out my thoughts and ideas and plans and investigating various and sundry burning questions, as one does at 3 in the morning, and I found myself signing up to Zune. Really, I found myself doing it, because I had just randomly clicked through someone’s profile to their zune account, and without fully registering zune = microsoft, I thought oh yes, another media sharing site, zune — so familiar, I must have heard of it before. (I was a tiny bit sleep-addled, and yes, my family owns mp3 players of at least two non-Microsoft varieties. Zune, like Kindle, is one of those interesting devices that arouse my professional curiosity but not enough to spend money on them, and so over time the details, and apparently even the name, get filed to some lower-level-of-detail storage in my brain.)

And, because I have been spending a little time logging onto various media sharing / social networks and examining their properties and features (all without much if any media to share, I might add, so don’t bother checking out my stuff on these various accounts), I started the account creation process at zune. I had a moment of suspicion as I realized they used Microsoft’s Live ID (Who uses that?), and then was like, Oh, Zune, and I cancelled out but then thought, well, what the hell, and started the account creation process again.

Which was at live.com, by the way, so it’s not just zune, you’re signing your whole life over to Microsoft. But it’s okay, because in addition to the “service agreement” Microsoft makes you sign, privacy is very important to Microsoft so you have to agree to a privacy agreement, too. As is my wont, I decided to save copies of the things they made me agree to. In this case, it was “Microsoft Service Agreement Last Updated: October 2007″ (this was the document’s actual title, with no linebreaks where you might think they would be) and Privacy Statement (whose actual title I don’t quite recall for reasons to be described later). So I opened up both those documents to separate tabs, rather than just clicking “I agree”. Firefox helpfully informed me that both documents wanted to save cookies on my hard drive, because I have Firefox set to that high privacy notification standard although it gets pretty annoying sometimes. Why do these documents need to set cookies, I wondered, annoyed. For example.

Rather than actually reading the whole Service Agreement right then, I decided to save a copy of it. It was in one of those inset frames — a scrolling window — which I hate, but Microsoft conveniently had a “print” icon for the document. Huh, I thought, clicking the print icon and saving a PDF (because I save PDFs instead of printing, to save trees and to permit better searching and personal mark-up and so on), maybe Microsoft has learned something about privacy, and EULA usability. Maybe the constant scrutiny by their critics makes them improve and be responsive. Maybe I’m wrong about giant corporations. Maybe Microsoft will become the new App— and then I opened up the PDF of the license, just to see what it looked like.

And realized that it only had one page, page one, through point six of the agreement (“6. If You Are an Associated Account User. If you are the user of an associated account, then the holder of the service account has full control over your associated account. …”). Dawning suspicion. But, still, maybe I, without realizing it, clicked to just print one page. So I went back, hit the print icon again, up popped the print window, I did not do any page selection, I saved the PDF, opened the PDF, and voilá — still just one page, the first page.

Well, now I’m really irritated, because it’s hard as hell to save the contents of those little scrolling windows, especially if you want formatting. You either have to get the browser to open up the frame in a separate window of its own, which they don’t always want to do (there’s probably some proprietary anti-open-up-separate-window code or script that can be applied), or you have to do multiple screenshots which of course doesn’t preserve the editable text, or you have to try to save the HTML separately which requires a browser to render it, or you can try to select-copy just the text out of the iframe but then you don’t get any of the italics or bolds — etc.

I decide to blog about this, because I think it’s really deceptive. Screw my personal annoyance; this is a vital political issue and it must be blogged! People save a copy of the agreement and then only have one page! So, these license agreements which are basically impossible to read onscreen because of the fine print, boring legaleze, long paragraphs, and difficult-to-read formatting, can’t be easily printed or saved for later reading or even to have one’s own copy of putatively legally-binding agreements. This particular document took fourteen screenshots to save it, I kid you not. And when I wanted to save the text for searching purposes I had to deal with the inset frame again, because if you select-all it selects ALL, as in all the contents on the master page, so one has to go through that process and then remember, oh yeah I have to click in the goddamned inset frame.

So I pop open wordpress, start this post and describe the events up until that moment. Then I command-tab back from Preview to the Firefox window to do whatever it takes to save a copy of the Microsoft document so that I can actually read it. (I really hate those inset frames.)

And Firefox crashes.Yes, once again Microsoft has managed to crash something on my computer. Usually it’s just MS Word or Excel or PowerPoint but since I compulsively command-S my work like, literally, after every sentence or two or at most after a paragraph if I’m really on a roll, I rarely lose much work. Except in Excel or PowerPoint, if I’m mucking about with graphs or graphics or whatever. But it’s wordpress, through a browser, so cmd-S doesn’t work. So I had probably several paragraphs of brilliant prose written without being saved.

So, I began the tedious process of recreating everything, and finishing my Zune application. This was helped because Firefox stores your sessions when your browser crashes, although it doesn’t save one’s precious prose or anything else temporarily stored in HTML form elements. It also can’t or won’t permit you to go back in form submissions from a resurrected session after a browser crash, so I could never get back to the Zune/Live/Microsoft sign-on page two from whence I clicked the “Privacy Agreement/Statement” link, and so I could never verify the actual text of that original link.

The story continues for a while with various misadventures of WordPress formatting (WordPress! Why does your code view always lose my paragraphing, in firefox and safari, at least? SO annoying.), browser crashing, session timeouts, pondering the mysterious user interface design issues of Microsoft’s live.com website (why does the service agreement include, outside of the frame inset on the left side of the page, a “FAQ” that links to the same service agreement? Why is there a “Table of Contents” link at the bottom, which, when clicked, switches the word “FAQ” to the bottom and the phrase “Table of Contents” to the top, but leaves the exact same link to the exact same service agreement in place?), laughing sardonically at the other tab, the privacy statement/agreement which you may have forgotten about and which, it turns out, actually just drops you on “Microsoft’s Online Privacy Notice Highlights”, also “last updated October 2007″, which then further links to “fullnotice.aspx”, aka “Microsoft Online Privacy Statement”. And more user agreements, like the Zune terms of service, which actually is in its own, user-friendly browser window, without inset frames.

But the rest of it was pretty boring, and it’s almost 5 am, and I think my demons are laid to rest and I might be able to get back to sleep. So, the take-home: Don’t just save copies of agreements; open them up to make sure they are the full monty. Because otherwise you’re still at the mercy of the company not just for what you agreed to, but for what they said you agreed to when you clicked “I agree” without reading it.

“Expelled” music licensed or not?

Josh Timonen wrote a detailed synopsis of the movie “Expelled”, the creationist film that tries to argue that creationist views are “unfairly” excluded from the academy.

What piqued my interest about this particular post (there have been hundreds by now about how bad the movie is, the deceptiveness of the filmmakers, P.Z. Myers’ being prevented from attending, the NCSE’s excellent “Expelled, Exposed” website, and so on) was that Timonen noted the proliferation of popular commercial music, including John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and a song from “The Killers”; maybe others. Timonen says:

Either Expelled has a disproportionately-large music budget (for how bad of a film it is), or they are using songs they haven’t paid for in their Director’s Cut private screenings (that may be changed before the official nationwide release). John Lennon’s “Imagine” is played (original version) over B&W scenes of what looked like communist China, with a parade of soldiers. The lyrics to the song were subtitled on the bottom of the screen. I think I remember a shot of Stalin saluting somewhere in here as well. The part of the song played was of course “…and no religion too…”, implying that no religion equals communist China. Does Yoko know about this? I doubt she’d be pleased.

The excellent “Mad Hot Ballroom Dancing” got dinged for a lot of money for a lot less music use than this. Could the Expelled filmmakers really not have known they needed to license music? Did they have a giant music budget? Are they relying on fair use? Maybe one could make a fair use case for using “Imagine” to illustrate communist China, although it seems a bit of a stretch to me since the point of the film isn’t China or John Lennon, or even atheism per se.

I’ll be interested to see what happens when it’s officially released. Same music? And what’s the story with the licensing? Does Yoko Ono not control the Lennon estate? Would she really license the music for that purpose? Questions, questions.

Supposedly, the film also includes animations of cellular functions. There have been lots of such animations made in the last few years. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula described one such animation out of Harvard and XVIVO being edited and used without in creationist lecture tours. What’s the licensing on these, I wonder? Studio Daily describes the animation process and says they can’t provide it, because it belongs to Harvard & XVIVO; there’s a version at Harvard’s MCB website. These were funded by the HHMI and the licensing notes the copyright to Robert Lue & Alain Viel, Harvard University, and says “For educational use only. The use, duplication, or distribution of this material for any commercial purpose is strictly prohibited.” Well, creationist lectures are arguably “educational”, at least in the broadest possible sense, but editing it to create a derivative work — that seems a bit different.

parents pray; kid dies

These Wisconsin parents prayed while their kid lapsed into a diabetic coma and died. So, Madeline Neumann was born to parents who let her die only eleven years later. Her parents think she may be resurrected yet.

I usually think of religion as inherently funny, but it’s also stupidity, and stupidity is dangerous and not particularly funny.

link from pharyngula

the missing voices in the sex scandals

My partner and i were discussing today the massive downloads of her music file that spitzer’s partner-in-sex-scandal had (“Kristen” aka Ashley Dupre). Her MP3s increased in price from 13c to 98c, and had over 200,000 downloads by Thursday March 13. (MSNBC 3/14)

We were happy for her, but wondered if the other women over the years that he’s paid for sex felt a bit of resentment that THEY didn’t get this attention. Or, maybe they felt relieved — safely closeted, perhaps.

Anyway, I’d like to hear from these other women. What do they think about the sex scandal? How do they feel about their work? What I’d really like to see is an anthology of writings from the women in these scandals over the years: the ones who’ve sued later on, or gotten big bucks for a Playboy spread, or used it to launch a career. And let’s hear from the women who’ve been paid for sex by politicians, whether or not they got embroiled in a sex scandal, but got no benefit from it.

adultery and the “alpha male”

Natalie Angier began an article on sexual monogamy in the natural world by reference to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. The entire article is a rebuke to the evolutionary psych hogwash that has been bandied about the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, although I particularly enjoyed the first sentence of the second paragraph:

You can accuse the disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of many things in his decision to flout the law by soliciting the services of a pricey prostitute: hypocrisy, egomania, sophomoric impulsiveness and self-indulgence, delusional ineptitude and boneheadedness. But one trait decidedly not on display in Mr. Spitzer’s splashy act of whole-life catabolism was originality.

It’s all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful “risk-taking” alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It’s been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy. Oh, there are plenty of animals in which males and females team up to raise young, as we do, that form “pair bonds” of impressive endurance and apparent mutual affection, spending hours reaffirming their partnership by snuggling together like prairie voles or singing hooty, doo-wop love songs like gibbons, or dancing goofily like blue-footed boobies.

Yet as biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.

She just smoothly demolishes, with evidence, all the claptrap and bloviating about men in power and their testosterone and their alpha-ness and their prostitutes. It’s everywhere, not just in the circles of the powerful, and not just in men.

Read the whole thing, because like all of Natalie Angier’s work, it’s a pleasure simply to peruse the prose, while appreciating the elegance and humor of the natural world.

ferraro and why the media sucks

So Geraldine Ferraro revealed her cluelessness about race issues with her “I’m being attacked for being white” comment. She also revealed, as my partner astutely pointed out, that she must have almost no people of color in her close circle who could help her out by explaining exactly what was wrong about the comment about Barack Obama succeeding because he is black.

But somehow lost in all of this fulmination about race is any fulmination at all about gender, which is pretty much the story of this 2008 campaign. For all the “women voters are doing X” and “Hillary played the sexism card” and so on, we have heard very little media analysis about whether there actually is sexism in the electorate, punditocracy, handling, or media coverage of the race. Ferraro’s comment is a perfect example: Her comment had multiple parts, including the clueless and offensive part about Barack Obama’s race, that was rightly jumped on by people who pointed out that it was clueless and offensive. Her follow-up implying some sort of “reverse racism” demonstrated thoroughly that she doesn’t understand the systematic and systemic effects of racism, and how it is not simply about “noticing skin color”.

But Ferraro also commented about sexism in the campaign when she noted that Barack Obama would not have been so successful had he been a black woman — or for that matter a white woman or a woman of any race — and that observation has gone completely unremarked upon. Which is really unfortunate, because this part of her comment was much more astute. Can we imagine for a minute that a woman who was a junior senator, with good lefty credentials and remarkable oratory, could have done this well? Having seen the outright way people talk about Hillary’s voice and whether a woman could run the country — presumably a question of experience and temperament — would a woman with only four years on the national scene even be treated seriously? even by her own party? I honestly doubt it, and I wish that — instead of simply relishing the catfight aspect of politicians and their staff sniping at each other and then being outraged and then ritually firing their outspoken staffmembers — instead of all that, I wish the media would actually, occasionally, examine the issues that they bring up.

Wouldn’t we all be a lot better if, instead of reporting that Ferraro said this, and Obama’s campaign expressed that, and then the Clinton campaign responded, and blah blah blah ad nauseum — if the media said, “is it true that Obama would not have done so well if he weren’t black?” and then analyzed it and did some talking about race in this country and how it is hardly a benefit no matter how much some white people blather on about so-called reverse racism, and looked at the studies about unconscious beliefs that people form about other people based on knowledge or presumptions about race. And while we’re at it we could look at the classism that infects discussions of Obama’s family, too.

And the media could also then analyze the comment about whether Obama would do as well if he were a woman, and look at sexism and how that affects things, and you know there are actually quite a lot of studies that show that editors are less likely to accept a paper if they think it’s by a woman, and reference writers are more likely to talk about the person’s family credentials if it’s a woman, and professional musician auditions are less likely to hire a woman unless the audition is done “blind”, and oh yeah people routinely allow themselves to be filmed on national television saying things like they just don’t believe a woman can really run the country, and what kind of effect does that have on people when another study has shown that simply hearing some unknown person in another room describe people as “like animals” makes one much more likely to administer higher-level shocks to people.

Couldn’t we have some interesting conversations if we looked at the issues and the substance?

Isn’t this just another lament about the horse-race aspect of the campaign? Yes, it is.
update: See, this is why I love Katha Pollitt. Pollitt wrote:

that the “sulfurous emanations” about Mrs. Clinton made her want to write a check to her campaign, knock on doors, vote for her twice — even though she’d probably choose another candidate on policy grounds. “The hysterical insults flung at Hillary Clinton are just a franker, crazier version of the everyday insults — shrill, strident, angry, ranting, unattractive — that are flung at any vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman who shows a bit of spirit and independence,” she wrote, “who puts herself out in the public realm, who doesn’t fumble and look up coyly from underneath her hair and give her declarative sentences the cadence of a question.”

That’s pretty much exactly how I feel. And although Hillary isn’t interesting enough for me to read a whole book about her, I might try to get this essay by Pollitt.

To make things even better, this quote was actually from an article in the NYT that is actually on this exact topic: Postfeminism and Other Fairy Tales by Kate Zernike. It’s just a start but it’s good to see it, and maybe a little NYT coverage (albeit in Week in Review) will start at least a little self-reflection in other media.

clinton & obama on global warming

Joseph Romm analyzed both Clinton and Obama’s plans on global warming, noting that they are much better than McCain’s, who has begun teetering toward a Bush position. salon 3/15

Compare Romm’s earlier analysis of McCain’s proposals (salon 2/8)

geyser of icy particles

I just love the imagery in these descriptions of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, in Friday’s NYT 3/13:

Cassini Gets a Cool Shower From an Ice-Spewing Moon

Then again, no other 310-mile-wide ice-ball moon in the solar system has a geyser of icy particles shooting out of its south pole.

Geysers of ice. Truly, this world is more wondrous than dreams could ever be.

… That some folks think this is somehow not enough to contemplate, by itself, but that they also have to concoct something even more amazing — makes me sad. Icy geysers draw out the reverent in me. Adding, “… this is proof of the magnificence of God who is even more awesome” is just sad, like an emotionally damaged person who can’t hear of someone else’s success without trying to talk about their own.

boys read boys in the New York Times Book Review

A friend‘s FaceBook entry pointed me to an amazing article in Bitch Magazine: “Hard Times” by Sarah Seltzer. Seltzer defines and describes the pattern and statistics of the reviews of books by women, describing both the gender disproportionality, and an editorial pattern of assigning writers who are likely to dismiss feminist works.

electronic provenance

I was checking out Tor’s new wallpapers and thinking about the uses of provenance in the art world. Tor is a science fiction publisher, and they’ve been doing one of those Publisher Experiments with the new digital world. (In fact, Tor released this week Farthing by Jo Walton for free — this was an amazing alternate history book. If you can still get the copy, do it! I already had my print-and-ink copy but was delighted to have an electronic one as well.)

Tor’s model is to release something on their website, and then take it off. No DRM on the released wallpapers or the PDF of the book so far as I know (don’t take my word on that: I didn’t test it out or go looking for testimonials; I just took a bare look at the file format & basic ability to do what I wanted, namely, copy-and-paste). But they make a big deal out of “get it this week, because this it’ll be gone”.

Of course, for the desperate or enterprising fan, they will still be able to get it, somewhere, on the Internet, or from some fan or was a bit more on the ball. But it got me thinking (as I often do, anyway) about this kind of model of distribution. Tor is using the carrot approach to bringing traffic to their website and to their writers and artists, as opposed to the stick approach. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the fabulous & tech-savvy Nielsen Hayden’s were responsible in part for this approach.) They Might Be Giants has done this sort of thing for a while, too, and other artists as well.

Signed-and-numbered prints or casts of works of art are a slightly different take on creating scarcity. Rather than time-limited, the works are quantity-limited. FaceBook just happened on this calculus too: my partner and I were recently amused to see FaceBook hawking icons of flowers and chocolates and what-not for a dollar apiece, noting that they are limited! Only a hundred thousand available! I guess in a network of millions a hundred thousand is limited. And there’s no question that FaceBook would be pretty darn happy if a hundred thousand people pony up a buck apiece for an icon of a chocolate. Hell, even if only a tiny fraction do it, it’s spam economics: Practically free for FaceBook to offer it, so any income generated is 99.999% pure profit.

Tor, or any artist or group trying to create scarcity, could easily do this too, and you’d never need DRM: Electronically number each copy, and maintain a provenance database. That’s the simple version. You could also do something fancier, like provide a unique hash of the original download data trail, for instance. Whatever you did, the point is to make the copies unique in some fashion, and to “officially” verify and/or track the unique copies. Sure people would copy the items, but without proving provenance, you wouldn’t have the original. The knock-offs are every bit as good as the original, except to the collectors and fans — who would be driven by the strange economics of fannish obsession to acquire originals. Or maybe even multiple originals.

In theory the general market for commercial software — which is typically licensed with their “unique” serial numbers — could operate this way, but MS Word just doesn’t have collectability. Functionality is ever the enemy of collectability.1 Or in the case of MS Word, semi-functionality. Games could build this in, I imagine. Maybe they have!

While this idea is wholly my derivation and assemblage of the constituent components ™, ©, etc., I’m sure it has probably been independently invented and may even be out there in other publisher or artist or musician experiments somewhere. If any readers know of such a distribution, I’d be delighted to hear about it in comments or email.


1 – Spellcheck suggests that “collectibility” is probably more correct, but that just irks me. Collectibles is fine, but the attraction of collectibles should be collectAbility.

west coast salmon collapse

Federal officials have indicated that they are likely to close the Pacific salmon fishery from northern Oregon to the Mexican border because of the collapse of crucial stocks in California’s major watershed.That would be the most extensive closing on the West Coast since the federal government started regulating fisheries.

“The Central Valley fall Chinook salmon are in the worst condition since records began to be kept,” Robert Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Ore., said Wednesday in an interview. “This is the largest collapse of salmon stocks in 40 years.”

Counts of young salmon, whose numbers have dwindled sharply for two years, were the first major indication of the problem. The number of fish that survive more than a year in the ocean, or jacks, is a marker for the abundance of full-grown salmon the next year. The 2007 count of the fall Chinook jacks from the Sacramento River was less than 6 percent of the long-term average, Mr. Lohn said.

The Central Valley salmon runs are concentrated in the Sacramento River, the focus of a water struggle between farmers and irrigation districts on one hand and environmental groups and fishermen on the other.

NYT, 3/13

Washington & Alaska fisheries are still okay, but of course this will put major pressure on them.

but what are the baby-engineering applications?

the awesome new blog from annalee & charlie (and others) io9 profiled research today on growing extra fingers. think of the piano competition bump on the resume that aggressive yuppie parents can give their six-fingered offspring!

how eliot spitzer could help us all

Eliot Spitzer could help us all, right now, by not resigning. It would do a huge favor to the ordinary non-politician people who have to live in America to resist the stupidity of letting the personal sex lives of our politicians affect our government. He could show a little “leadership” to his peer politicians in this respect.

He’s fought corporate greed and malfeasance. Will he also fight the utter fucking triviality and hypocrisy that infests American politics?

… 2008/03/14: no, of course not.

2010/11/04: I was interested to read this review of the new documentary, ‘Client 9′, about the Eliot Spitzer takedown. The reviewer, O’Hehir, describes it as, “an act that in retrospect looks an awful lot like a political assassination.” Ya think?

barking dogs != relaxation (or security)

For the record, the menacing presence of very large german shepherds is not a plus at a train station. And when you hear their barks, whimpers, and howls nearby it makes you worry whether they’re attacking someone, upset or excited at someone’s lunch, etc. Word is they’re sniffing for bombs but I don’t think for a minute that that barking was a bomb. Pot or someone’s lunch or maybe someone traveling with a pet. I do noto feel safer, and I do not believe that this makes me safer.

Second train station this year that I’ve seen dogs — Philly and now Penn Station.

the unimaginative world of whorecraft(TM)

A few days ago, the Village Voice wrote an article about a series of World of Warcraft-inspired porn; their article was duly picked up by BoingBoing.

Strangely, BoingBoing missed the IP angle — that “Whorelore”‘s original name was “Whorecraft” but they ran into an “IP” issue, presumably trademark. You can still see “Whorecraft” on some of the pictures at the Village Voice article. (see caption and photo)

In theory, the article makes it sound promising: Attempts to act, an ongoing storyline, warrior women, etc. But sadly, the photo gallery demonstrates that the porn is about as “inspired” and “imaginative” as Star Trek’s aliens: Heterotastic, male-centered, dominant-paradigm-of-female-beauty, and very white. Ho hum.

breadcrumb trail: Village Voice 3/2BoingBoing 3/3 [cross-posted at feminist SF the blog]

could we use spy satellites for something USEFUL, please?

Satellite photos reveal the depredations of illegal loggers in Mexican forests, particularly in the winter home of the migratory monarch butterflies.

Is there any reason at all that we cannot have real-time monitoring of the freakin’ environment to ensure that wide-scale clearcutting, burning, stripmining, and other land and sea uses do not happen? It seems like a much more useful use of the already-existing satellite spy technologies. Instead of trying to zoom in on plots of pot or coca trees or the various personal activities of individuals, we could stop the poachers and other people who are destroying — and appropriating for their personal profit — our common natural heritage. I mean, come on. Here we have the frickin’ photographs that show large-scale abuses over the last year. But too little, too late. Those trees are gone, the butterfly habitat is gone, and it’s just frankly pure neglect and waste. We have the technology to do so much more, but we’ve chosen to deploy it — how? As toys for boys with silly war games and spy games. That waste, too, is some sort of environmental crime.

These are the kinds of bad choices and misplaced priorities that national governments are making. Entrusted with a significant portion of the resources and decisionmaking power of the world’s people, and squandering them.

lolturandots

It’s like peanut butter cups: two great ideas that were destined to join and become better than anything else, ever. Opera, and lolcats.

lolturandots (link from one of wendy‘s sites)

atheist’s creed

i like this atheist’s creed pretty well. it was posted at pharyngula and i suspect that pz myers wrote it.

An atheist’s creed

I believe in time,
matter, and energy,
which make up the whole of the world.

I believe in reason, evidence and the human mind,
the only tools we have;
they are the product of natural forces
in a majestic but impersonal universe,
grander and richer than we can imagine,
a source of endless opportunities for discovery.

I believe in the power of doubt;
I do not seek out reassurances,
but embrace the question,
and strive to challenge my own beliefs.v

I accept human mortality.

We have but one life,
brief and full of struggle,
leavened with love and community,
learning and exploration,
beauty and the creation of
new life, new art, and new ideas.

I rejoice in this life that I have,
and in the grandeur of a world that preceded me,
and an earth that will abide without me.

The post was in response to a sad illustration by someone who thinks that atheists are sad people and that atheism is depressing. In response, Myers titled his post: “Actually, it’s theists who believe in nothing, quite fervently”, which is a nice point that unfortunately didn’t get followed up on in the post itself. But it’s such an elegantly expressed truth: Theists believe in non-existent things, or no-things; theists believe in nothing, and that belief in nothing crowds out so much of what there is in the world.

telescoping action at the San Diego Zoo

This is one of my favorite sets of photos from Michele’s

and my visit to the San Diego Zoo in January, 2008. (Feel free to engage me in a conversation about the ethics of zoos.)

If I had more of these I’d make an awesome flip-book.

Zebra 1
Zebra 2
Zebra 3
zebra 4
zebra 6

Okay, call me puerile. The best part about this was the scene outside the wall. The women were all chuckling and pointing. The men, not so much. They really seemed a bit embarrassed.