Boing Boing 

I wuz robbed

Today I was in a hurry, walking down to my local subway station, the 16th and Mission BART, and, as usual when I'm too late to take Valencia, this took me past the cluster of drug-dealers who hang out on my corner, in the north Mission. I was wearing the groovy MiG goggles I'd bought last month in London at the Camden Market and have been using as shades, and this big drug dealer cornered me and started harassing me to try them on. Then he started rambling about what he does for a living, just talking a load of really boring rounder horseshit that probably sounds good and Elmore Leonardy when you say it to yourself in your head but just sounds banal and incoherent when you're standing on a corner.

He's a big guy and so I "let" him try on my shades. Then it transpires that he wants me to buy drugs from him in exchange for my goggles. I explain that I'm not in the market for drugs, but he won't give back my shades and he's talking more bullshit. Finally I say, "So, you're robbing me, right?" and more bullshit ensues. I repeat the question a couple times, then walk off.

I'm really pissed. Really, really pissed. I really liked those goggles and clearly this guy decided he wanted to just fuck with me for the hell of it. Short of flying to London, I can't replace them, ever. (Update: an alert reader pointed out a mail-order site, so I've replaced them)

I could go to the cops, but here's the thing: if I do, he'll know who did it and he might shoot me.

If I don't go to the cops, though, I am going to walk past this guy twice a day for the rest of my tenure in this apartment and he's going to know that I'm a soft touch and I'm bound to be in for more harassment.

This corner is visible from a nearby police station -- cops who park their cars there can easily and continuously see the swarms of crack, heroin and grass dealers who congregate on my corner. It sure doesn't feel like reporting a petty robbery is going to make a difference.

I asked the advice of two transit cops whom I ran into on BART. They said that cops see busting the dealers in the north Mission as a futile exercise, since the system just dumps them back out on the street. They recommended writing to the SF District Attorney's office, just let him know that there's political will to do something about this.

This is the kind of thing that drives me completely nuts about San Francisco. There is visible corruption, felony crimes, and human degradation everywhere, far more so than any other city I've been to in North America or Europe (excluding Naples). There are people squatting and taking dumps, there are streets whose sidewalks are lined with tents and whose gutters are lined with sealed, fermenting 40 oz. malt liquor bottles filled with urine deposited by tent-dwellers who don't want to live in their own piss. Everywhere you go in the city, you step through drifts of discarded pipes, needles, condoms.

The taxes here are extraordinary -- comparable to Ontario, certainly -- but the evidence of government spending is nowhere to be seen, from the potholes to the prostitutes, from the limping transit to the visible and desperate pervasive poverty.

OK, I'm ranting here. Getting robbed -- even getting robbed in such a minor and meaningless way -- sucks, and it rattles you and makes you bitter and angry. This crap makes me want to move, if not back to Toronto then at least to some yuppies-and-dogs neighborhood like Noe Valley or Pacific Heights, where my rent will be even more extortionate (you would not believe how much money I pay for my tiny apartment in my filthy, dangerous, feces-strewn neighborhood).

OK. I'll stop now. Thanks for reading.

Update: a few hours later.

Let me clarify here that I'm not advocating any kind of round-em-up-and-ship-em-off policy. I am no great fan of the penal system, the war on some drugs, nor am I unaware of the social factors that give rise to the problems in my neighborhood.

But there are damned few places where these problems are this visible and dramatic. I don't have a solution, but I do know that other cities in this state, country and continent don't suffer to this degree. There must be a lesson in one of them.

There are many things to love about SF and about the Mission. First and foremost, there's the EFF, as good a reason to stay here as any I can imagine -- working for the EFF is a dream come true, and the benefits thereof far outweigh the problems of this neighborhood.

There's the concentration of amazing, witty, intelligent, thoughtful and technically literate people in the Bay Area. On a good day, SF is a geek's Shangri-La, with excellent nerd and art culture on every corner.

There's the vibrancy of the Mission, the vast majority of good people who are running small businesses, making merry and who greet me with a smile when I walk past.

Getting robbed makes you bitter. If I could have stepped around this guy, I would have, but I couldn't and I ended up getting robbed. I've written to the SF District Attorney's office to point out the drug-dealers on my corner and their seeming truce with law enforcement. There's a great sushi joint, Country Station Sushi, right on the corner where I was robbed. The family that runs it are world-champion taiko drummers, and I feel for them, feel for their struggling business that is effectively barricaded by the dealers on the corner. It's not fair.

I don't have a solution, but it doesn't seem like the city can go on like this. Link Discuss

OPENdj: Swarming streamer for Linux

Another swarming streamer, OPENdj, is also free and GPLed and runs under GNU/Linux. Grandiose prediction for a Sunday: swarming will standardize on a protocol in the next three-five years, abeit one with many implentations. Link Discuss (via /.)

Hollywood asks Congress for Letters of Marque

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif has called for a bill that would create a "safe harbor" for rights-holders who want to attack P2P networks to "protect" their works. A safe harbor is a checklist of qualifications that will guarantee you immunity from prosecution. An ISP that does x, y and z can't be prosecuted for secondary infringement under the DMCA's safe harbor.

Berman is asking Congress for a safe harbor for RIAA and MPAA attacks on P2P systems. At first, this actually seemed slightly reasonable to me. Berman says that his bill won't allow rights-holders to damage individual or ISP computers, and he says the kind of thing they're planning is flooding the network with bad rips, spoofy meta-data (mislabelling tracks) and so on. Hey, that's already a problem in the wild in P2P networks, so what's the big deal, right?

There's something fishy here. Bad meta-data and bad rips are not criminal acts. There's no need for a safe harbor to protect the labels if they want to put up Gnutella hosts with 20,000,000 bad tracks (there're already Christian groups that put up inspirational/chiding images with names that suggest that the files contain porn, and so put their material directly into sinners' hands).

Why does Big Content need a safe harbor for something that's not a criminal act? Safe harbors only exist to protect people who are engaged in an activity that would otherwise be illegal. When Hollywood seeks a safe harbor for its attacks on the Internet, you know that what it's really asking for are Letters of Marque -- a license to engage in criminal vigilantism.

So either Berman's blowing smoke or he's not telling the whole story. You don't need a safe harbor to protect yourself from bad metadata. Watch out for the text of the bill when it gets introduced -- 90 percent of its social harm is lurking below the surface. Link Discuss

Rob Flickenger explains WiFi

Rob "Community Wireless Networks" Flickenger has written an excellent primer on, well, community wireless networking for PC Magazine. He covers all the basics of technology and social phenomena, and imparts some of the vibrance of community networking, too.
The captive portal provides Web site redirection, which you may have encountered when surfing the Web from hotels that provide DSL access to rooms. When the Wi-Fi card in your laptop associates with the access point and you try to open a Web site, you are redirected to an introduction page that identifies the network and invites you to log on (sometimes after paying a nominal fee for access). Once cleared with the authentication service, you are redirected to the site requested.

The hot spot has its place in any community network project because it is relatively simple to set up and provides immediate benefits. For little more than the price of the hardware, homes and businesses can use the wireless network to access a high-speed DSL line (or other appropriate network connection), sharing its cost. Sponsors can charge competitive fees for Internet access to help offset the cost of operations.

The hot spot has one critical limitation: You can set it up only where high-speed Internet access is already available. What if you want to extend network access outside of DSL and cable range, or you want to bridge two networks together but can't afford a dedicated telco line?

Link Discuss (via 802.11b Networking News)

Swarming MP3 streamer -- never run out of bandwidth again!

Streamer is a swarming MP3 streamer. Every listener to a Streamer Internet radio station relays for other users, so that you can never run out of bandwidth -- think of Onion Networks' and Blue Falcon Networks' technology, except that this is free and GPLed. I wish that the CBC would adopt this for their Internet radio streams, which are 99 percent busied-out and have a lot of rebuffering problems. I've got tons of upstream bandwidth in San Francisco, so I could handily relay CBC Toronto for other Bay Areans who wanted to listen to it, giving everyone a faster connection and saving money for CBC besides. Link /.)

Minor-league hockey-team for sale on eBay

The Anchorage Aces, a bankrupt minor-league hockey team, is up for sale on eBay.
Within hours of its second listing, the minor league team had received four offers on the Internet auction site, including a $2 million offer.

The West Coast Hockey League franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. The team is more than $2 million in debt and owes more than 100 creditors. Last season, the Aces finished with a league-worst 19-44 record.

Link Discuss

Wham-O, we hardly knew ye

RIP, Arthur (Spud) Melin, inventor of the Frisbee and the Hula-Hoop.
"No sensation has ever swept the country like the Hula Hoop," author Richard Johnson wrote in his book American Fads. "(It) remains the standard against which all national crazes are measured."

Melin and Knerr started with slingshots and named their mail-order company after the sound a slingshot made when its projectile struck a target. They branched into other sporting goods, including pellet guns, crossbows and daggers.

They added toys in 1955, when building inspector Fred Morrison sold them a plastic flying disc he had developed after watching Yale University students toss pie tins. Wham-O began selling the disc they called the Pluto Platter two years later before modifying it and renaming it the Frisbee.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Amanda!)

Lab Notes

Nanotube pistons, tangible interfaces, and the invention of the mouse... all in my latest issue of Lab Notes: Research from the UC Berkeley College of Engineering! Link Discuss

Surrealflorality

Fellow wunderkammer-keeper Denise Czaja sent me this link to ultra-surreal flower prints by Dr. John Robert Thornton (circa 18th century). As Denise says, "the painting style of the flowers reminds me of Mark Ryden!" Link Discuss (Thanks, Denise!)

Silence is intellectual property

John Cage's 4'33", a lengthy silent track on composition from one of his avant-garde albums performances (thanks, Mark), constitutes an original work for copyright purposes. This means that other composers who include silent tracks have made a derivative work from Cage's silence. Cage's representatives have served producer Mike Batt with a legal nastygram asserting that he infringed on Cage's copyright with his 60-second silent track on the latest Planets album.
As my mother said when I told her, 'which part of the silence are they claiming you nicked?'.
Link Discuss (via MeFi)

Beware of falling cows

Austrian driver nearly killed by a cow that fell 15' off an overpass just as the car was passing through it. Cow does not survive. Link Discuss (Thanks, Gary!)

An international TV guide for public radio

Kevin Kelly (not this Kevin Kelly, this Kevin Kelly) wrote to tell us about the site he maintains at PublicRadioFan.com. Kevin's site has a massive and comprehensive guide to audio on hundreds of public radio sites around the world, with direct links to the audio streams, program home-pages and station sites. You can search by programming type, time and location. A little XML-RPC-fu and this could be the basis for a globe-spanning public-radio TiVo. Link Discuss (Thanks, Kevin!)

Propaganda posters remixed for the war on terror

Amazing and inflammatory gallery of remixed wartime propaganda posters. I chose this one in honor of Canada Day. Link Discuss (Thanks, Mark!)

Programming language pr0n


It all started with Raverporn's photo of two young women in lingerie, one spanking the other with an O'Reilly perl book. Joey, a legendary perl-hater, struck back with a photo of his own butt getting whacked with a Lisp book that Dan left behind when he moved to SF and went to work for the Vipul's Razor crowd. Now, Coderman adds his own contribution: a savage C++ book spanking. If only my HyperCard books weren't three thousand miles distant, I'd add my own contribution to the canon, yes I would. Link (perl), Link (Lisp), Link (C++) Discuss (via Ben Hammersley)

Telemarketer saves life

A hiker stranded in the Andes thought he would die, but then his cellular rang. It was a telemarketer calling to get him to top up his pre-paid plan. The telemarketer got emergency services on the line and called the hiker at regular intervals to make sure he didn't lose consciousness from hypothermia. When the hiker's battery died, he put it in the snow to cool it off and it came back to life. The article doesn't say why he didn't just call 911 to begin with. Link Discuss

Doggy blog

Dog News: Weird, inspiring dog tales. I have never seen this many dog-related snippets in one place. I'm not a dog person, but who can resist a headline like "Man quits day job to pick up dog poop all day long" and "Prozac hailed as potential cure for aggressive dogs?" Link Discuss

Clicks for mammograms

Meg sez: "The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'Fund Free Mammograms' for free (pink window in the middle). (There is nothing to sign up for and no cost to you.) The corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate a mammogram in exchange for advertising."

I dug around on Snopes and the About.com Urban Legends database and it appears that these folks are on the up-and-up. I think it's a rotten idea to publicize this with a chain letter (the original note asks you to tell ten friends and ask them to do the same), but the principle is sound. I just went and did my clicks; if you like this idea, why don't you do it, too? Link Discuss (Thanks, Meg!)

Sterling on Ubiquitous Computing and the canard of stalled innovation

Sterling's sent out the text of the speech he gave this week to the CRA Conference on Grand Research Challenges in Computer Science and Engineering in DC. Mostly, it's about ubiquitous computing, a subject near and dear to my utility-fogged heart, and that stuff is extremely choice, in high Sterling style:
I don't need a "smart" package or an "agent" package. I don't much want to "talk" to a package. I don't want a package tugging my sleeve, stalking me, or selfishly begging for attention and commitment. If a package really wants to please me and earn my respect, it needs to tell me three basic things: What is it? (It's the very thing I ordered, hopefully). Where is it? (It's on its way at location x). And what condition it is in? (It's functional, workable, unbroken, good to go). The shipping company already needs to know these three things for their own convenience. So they might as well tell me, too. So I don't have to swallow my ubicomp like castor oil. My ubicomp arrives in a subtle way, as a kind of value-added service.

So the object arrives in my possession with the ubicomp attached. It's a tracking tag. When I sign for that object, I keep the tracking tag. It's mine now. Ho ho ho!

Let's say that it's something I'm really anxious to have: it's a highly evolved mousetrap. The mice in my house are driving me nuts, because I'm a programmer. I eat nothing but take-out Szechuan food, and everything in my house is fatally disordered.

Luckily my new, computer-designed mousetrap quickly and horribly slaughters all my mice. Not one vermin is left alive. That's great service, but now I'm anxious to get rid of it. I really don't need a super-mousetrap attracting attention, if I get lucky and a hot date comes over to help me play "The Sims."

Given that I'm a congenital slob, of course the mice soon return. But by then, I've already forgotten my mousetrap. Out of sight, out of mind. I paid a lot of money for it, but I already forgot where I put it.

This is just the opening of a long, funny and thought-provoking riff on what a smart environment means, and it's very good indeed.

But Bruce opens with something that I think is dead-wrong, retrograde -- something that he talked about during our joint keynote at SXSW, that I've been thinking about ever since.

The computer is a gizmo, and it's a great gizmo, but it's not an ultimate gizmo. Computer science has been the slave of metaphysics ever since Alan Turing invented the Turing Test, but a computer is not a metaphysical entity. It's not free of objective reality. Its bits are bits of atoms. The only ultimate gizmo is a clock. The clock never stops ticking. The clock has been ticking for the computer for quite a while.

It's not just that the pace of basic innovation has slowed in your field, although it has. It's not just that computers have lost the lipstick of their geek gadget romance, although they have. That which was accomplished in the 1980s and 1990s is under attack. There is a backlash.

This ought to be obvious to anybody who uses the Internet. All you need to do is examine your email. Where is Al Gore's idealistic, civilized Information Superhighway? It's a red-light district. A crooked flea market. A nest of spies. An infowar battlefield. That is the state of cyberspace 2002. There are fire sales on every block. It has anything but grandeur. It's decadent and sinister.

I've had the same email address for 13 years, and I'm not budging. That's where I staked my little claim on the electronic frontier, and by gum, I remember the Alamo and I ain't a-goin' to go. Therefore, my email in 2002 is full of 419 fraudsters from Nigeria. And unsolicited porn ads. And a galaxy of farfetched medical scams from malignant, unlicensed quacks peddling Viagra and growth hormone. With unreadable, unicode, collateral bomb-damage from the gigantic spam mills in China, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.

I think Bruce is way off base here. The computer isn't a gizmo -- a particular computer may be a gizmo, but the computer is a universal machine. It's Turing's (or Von Neumann's) marvellous insight made real: it is as important to assisted cognition as the written word is. The fact that Universal Machines were constrained by their relative lack of power made it seem as though there was fundamental innovation taking place when machines got faster and smaller, but that was an illusion. Depending on your PoV, the innovation took place in Turing's day and stopped, or it has been continuous ever since, but the drop off Bruce describes just didn't happen.

The Internet is an insight as key as the computer. The Internet is a system for connecting anything to anything else. It is the sum total of millions of gentle-persons' agreements to follow some basic protocol, but beyond that, it is nothing more than a design philosophy.

There's a convenient way of visualizing the net: a cluster of thick "backbone" trunk-lines mated to one another with core-routers, ramifying into ever-finer pipes, down to the whiskers of copper that joins the "core" to the "edge" over the "last mile."

Like Newtonian physics, this is so much bullshit. Occassionally useful, but still: so much bullshit. The fundamental rule of the Internet is that any two points can talk to one another -- the end-to-end principle. What's more, anyone can join up, attach a computer to the network without securing permission from a central authority, and once connected, can talk to anyone else. The Internet's role in our world is to connect any two points. There is no "last mile" of the Internet, only millions (and soon, billions) of first miles.

The Internet isn't shaped like a tree. It's shaped like a bush that's contorted into Klein-bottle topology, a continuous plane whose every edge is mated to another edge.

On the Internet, we exchange messages with one another: please send me this file; please search for this record in your database, please display this file in your browser-window.

On the Internet your right to swing your fist never stops, because it only hits my nose if I execute the "hit your nose" instruction you sent me. On the Internet, it's my responsibility to decide whose instructions I want to execute.

Mozilla was designed for use by people who live on the net. It was written by people who live on the net. And because it was designed by the net/for the net, it has excellent features that would never make it into a technology designed by someone who gave a festering shit about "business models." Chief among these is the ability to right-click on any banner ad and select "block images from this server" from a pop-up menu. A little judicious right-clicking on the sites you visit most frequently and the Web is transformed in a kind of anarcho-utopoic marketing-free-zone. Where a decade ago, Mozilla's coders might have been publishing zines like AdBusters, today they're simply busting the ads.

This works because I can tell my browser to simply ignore the directives in the files that some Web server has provided me with. Those directives aren't orders, they're suggestions.

If Bruce is buried in spam, it's not because there are too many criminals sending out dumb come-ons; it's because Bruce has decided to execute the directives those criminals have sent his way. I don't execute those directives. I use Vipul's Razor and SpamAssassin; my inbox has virtually no spam in it (despite the 500-700 spams sent my way every day) because I take part in a collaborative filter, enabled by the network that lets anyone to talk to anyone else, which allows us all to aggregate unnoticeable wisps of effort that tracts the untractable. Link Discuss (Thanks, Stefan!)

Time-Warner's latest evil: Nastygramming open wireless operators

Time-Warner Cable is sending nastygrams to subscribers that have been snitched out for running open wireless access. The letter says that sharing your connection -- no matter what the circumstances -- is forbidden (I guess I won't plug in the next time I visit a neighbor's house, huh?), and throws a bunch of scare-tactic language about the possibility of an open WLAN being used to commit a crime, leaving you on the hook. Interestingly enough, the letter doesn't allege that anyone is actually using the subscriber's connection except the subscriber, just that someone might. It would be interesting to see what would happen if someone were to push on this and force Time-Warner to prove that anyone other than the owner had made use of the connection.

I hope that 802.11a mesh-networks without any connection to an ISP (other than at a major network interchange like MAE West) take off soon, and put these fools out of commission. The closer you get to MAE West, the cheaper bandwidth is, and when you're actually at a major interchange, the bandwidth isn't metered at all -- your only recurring cost is rack-space and service charges.

Meanwhile, it's time for wibos to continue their exodus from clue-free ISPs that frown on making best use of your pipe and switch to wireless-friendly ISPs. In San Francisco, Earthlink DSL allows wireless sharing, as does meer.net and Speakeasy. It costs a couple grand to acquire and connect a broadband customer; ISPs that try to keep broadband customers from enjoying the use of their links are going to find themselves in a pile of Northpoint-grade financial fertilizer.

Any other wireless-friendly ISPs? Post in the Discuss link. Link Discuss (via 802.11b Networking News)

Warchalking in government

The State of Utah's CIO writes that he plans to implement warchalking marks in and around his official buildings to alert state employees to the presence of wireless networks.
I'm the CIO of the State of Utah. We network over 250 buildings for 22,000 employees. We're also in the planning phase of deploying Wi-Fi access points at places where cops hang out so they can connect to the net during their shift (they use CDPD for low bandwidth ops, but need a high bandwidth option sometimes). In this kind of environment, warchalking has some important uses beyond finding a free net. I'm hoping to use th warchalking icons to alert employees to the existence of wireless nets in conference rooms and other places.
Link Discuss (via Let's Warchalk!)

Tim O'Reilly on the upcoming Open Source conference

Tim "O'Reilly" O'Reilly (heh) has written a hell of an editorial by way of introduction to the festivities at the upcoming O'Reilly Open Source convention in San Diego (which I will have to miss this year, as I'll be taking some much-needed vacation time then in Toronto and tying up some loose ends). Tim talks about the current state-of-the-industry, the fallacies that led up to the great crash and the enduring truths that survived it. Most of all, he addresses the ongoing clash between free software/open source advocates and the proprietary software world, as epitomized by the most recent, rotten FUD from Microsoft and their sock-puppet analysts.
The willingness to make scurrilous accusations ("open source might facilitate efforts to disrupt or sabotage electronic commerce, air-traffic control or even sensitive surveillance systems") is symptomatic of the disregard for the truth afflicting corporate America these days. The willingness to harness misinformation as a tool of corporate strategy springs from the same corporate "me first at all costs" mentality that led us to the Enron debacle. Just as Enron thought it was appropriate business practice to manipulate the California energy markets to raise its profits, Microsoft seeks to influence public policy to raise the costs of software and prohibit government support for a low-cost alternative.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Sara!)

Franco-Japanese high-concept interactive art

Bruce Sterling points out these amazing Japan-based French interactive artists. This is pure high-weirdness cyberpunk g0ld. Link Discuss (via Schism Matrix)

802.11a card for the price of dinner for two

802.11a cards drop to $70 after rebate. 802.11a is about 1600 percent faster than 802.11b (WiFi) and the chipsets are plummeting in price. At these speeds, 802.11a is well suited to home entertainment appllication (think of a TV that streams video and audio off a home server that you can set up anywhere by velcroing it to a wall) and more importantly, to providing point-to-point "wireless backbone" connections to build out alternative infrastructure to hang 802.11b "downlinks" off of.

This could drive the cost of WiFi cards down so low that they start selling 'em in blister-packs of 10 at the WalGreen's. Link Discuss (via Werblog)

Boombox Museum

The Boombox Museum is a wonderful pictorial history of the personal stereo, from the paleolithic 70s to the golden 80s and the decadent and declining 90s. Link Discuss (Thanks, Steve!)

Wired News on NPR redux

Wired News follows up on NPR's linking policy:
Examples of such "inappropriate" links include "certain kinds of commercial linking," [an NPR spokesperson] said.

"For example, if Salon.com writes a story about NPR and links to us, that would be fine," because the online magazine wouldn't be using the NPR link for its commercial benefit. "But what wouldn't be fine is if someone sets up a business to link to us and profit from that" -- for example, if someone sets up an online "radio station" whose main content was NPR's programs.

Funny, last time I checked, Salon was a commercial organization. Well, at least NASDAQ thinks so. Maybe NPR thinks than unprofitable is the same as noncommercial? Link Discuss

Legal scholars on linking

Here's an excellent lay summary of the legal issues surrounding links and frames:
Whether meta-sites like TotalNEWS "recast" original works depends on the manner in which "work" is defined. Consider, for example, two computers with monitors A and B. Both machines are running identical browser programs. The browser on Monitor A is displaying the Cable News Network ("CNN") home page and Monitor B is displaying the TotalNEWS site with the CNN page in its browsing window. The two displays reveal two significantly different appearances. The CNN page fills Monitor A’s entire browser display and has the words "cnn.com" in the "Location Window."151 The same page occupies a slightly smaller window on Monitor B and is bordered by two other narrow Web pages (the TotalNEWS ad and navigational frames), and displays a different URL ("www.totalnews.com"). If the "work" is what appears on the screen, then one could conclude that the original CNN display has been transformed by making it a component of a new creation and TotalNEWS has violated CNN’s copyright.

The objection to this "what you see is what you copyright" approach to meta-sites is that the authorship of the target page has not in fact been altered. Monitor B’s browser is displaying three works, not one. The screen is neatly trifurcated to allow viewing of multiple Web pages, each of which can be properly thought of as containing an "original work of authorship." Two of the pages are created by TotalNEWS, and the third and largest by CNN. Despite the interactivity of the navigational and browsing frames, there is no suggestion that they form one document. Two of the frames are stationary, while the third can be substituted at will, and all three are physically divided by the borders of the frames.152

Link Discuss (Thanks, Stan!)

Early Canada Day party tonight in SF

If you're a Canadian in the Bay Area, don't forget that there's a Canada Day party tonight at Kelly's Mission Rock in China Basin. I'm gonna try to make it. Link Discuss

Harper's Index for fair use freedom fighters

The DMCA Index: Harper's-style index of DMCA factoids:
1. Amount Cornell University Library pays for subscription to "Journal of Applied Polymer Science": $12,495.00

2. Amount charged to University Libraries for subscription to "Journal of Economic Studies": $13.40/page

3. Number of people who find the $13.40 per page ironic: 3 out of 4

4. Number of Project Gutenberg Etexts converted by voluteers: 3,551

5. Current "Cost" per Etext based on 3,481 texts: $2.87 per text

6. Number of Scientists worldwide boycotting Corporate Science Journals beginning September 2001: 26,000

7. Number of college and research institutions "Declaring Independence" by publishing themselves: 200

8. Number of days DMCA arrestee Dmitry Sklyarov spent in jail: 13

9. Number of jails he spent them in: 4

10. Amount charged to taxpayers for those 13 days: $4,000

Link Discuss (Thanks, Fiona!)

How much do you know about Dick?

The Guardian is running a multiple choice quiz to test your knowledge of Philip K. Dick. I only scored 6 out of 10. Link Discuss (Thanks, Tom!)

Automated Evil Overlord plot-generator

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Evil Overlord Plot Generator for writers who need to get some action into their works has been automated. Follow the link below to get a kind of I Ching reading for your sf story, ideas and elements and restrictions that come together to spur your plot. I just can't stop hitting reload.
I figured that if I could teach the students some low cheap tricks for coming up with plots, it would give them something to work with while Jim was teaching them how to do it for real. Unfortunately, I later mislaid all my notes except for the introduction, so I'm not sure what I told them.

Here's the introduction: "Plot is what maintains a decent separation between the front cover and the back cover of a book. Story is what gives the readers the incentive to read all the pages in order. Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature. And now that we've got that out of the way..."

I recall telling them some basic moves, like how you can get away with hokey crap a lot better if the story's moving fast and other cool things are happening, and how you can make two or three half-baked ideas look deceptively substantial by using them in combination. I fear I may have told them--this is like remembering what you said last night at the party--that it counts as originality if you try to do an outright imitation of some other writer but get it so wrong that no one can tell that's what you were trying to do.

Link Discuss (via Making Light)