Fun fact for the day

Apparently when penicillin was first discovered, it was difficult to produce in large quantities, thus making it necessary for people to spend lots of time procuring it. Those in charge of manufacturing and getting penicillin were often dubbed “penicillin czar.”

Thanks to Courtney for this interesting fact!

Subdued, for the most part

  • Five for Fighting, America Town

  • They Might Be Giants, The Spine

  • Bill Morrissey, Something I Saw (or thought I saw)

No Clue

To borrow a phrase from Yellow Dog on Ivan Tribble: The only thing revealing in this piece is that, once again, The Chronicle PC solicits or accepts work by folks who have No clue. There’s an editorial by John Dvorak (whose other pieces I’ve read don’t really show the same blindness that this piece does) about how stupid creative commons is.

He starts by admitting that he doesn’t understand why creative commons has been created. Maybe he should read Free Culture. Then he wouldn’t have written this stupid editorial. He says:

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous “fair use” provisos of existing copyright law.

At first glance, we might be intrigued–threatens fair use? Yipes!

Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws. In fact, the suggestion is dangerous, because if someone were sued by the Creative Commons folks over normal fair use and Creative Commons won the suit, then we’d all pay the price, as fair use would be eroded further.

The Creative Commons is a way to assert public domain use. Current copyright law says, as he rightly points out, that you have to ask. It also thus implies that if you don’t ask you’re violating copyright, unless you’re within the notoriously fuzzy limits of fair use. Most CC licenses extend rights far beyond what normal fair use allows and, by offering that right (rather than waiting to be asked), the licesnses put the stuff out there to use.

The difference, Lessig points out in Free Culture is between a ‘free culture’ in which some things are restricted and a ‘permission culture’ in which most things are restricted.

The most misleading part of this discussion is Dvorak’s suggestion that fair use offers much of a shield. In fact, it does not—defence against copyright infringement is expensive. “Fair use” may let you win your court case, but you have to go to court. Lawyers aren’t free and you won’t recover your court costs. Creative Commons is a good response to an overzealous copyright law that makes it essentially illegal to copy anything.

At the end of the essay, Dvorak reiterates that he doesn’t understand:

Years ago, to gain a copyright, you had to fill out a form and send in the material to the Library of Congress. Now you just use the word “copyright,” add your name and a date, and publish it. What could be easier? Apparently simplicity was more than some people could handle, so they invented Creative Commons to add some artificial paperwork and complexity to the mechanism. And it seems to actually weaken the copyrights you have coming to you without Creative Commons. Oh, brother!

Lessig suggests that the first bit–about the form–is the way copyright should still work. The second sentence–about the name–is dead wrong. Copyright does not need to be asserted. It’s on everything. It might be hard to defend copyright without it, but it certainly makes it complicated to re-use bits of text and data. Creative Commons is a way to assert copyright in a way that actively allows for re-use. It’s an important mechanism in a culture whose default perms are set to “no.”

Leaping Lizards!

Month 3:

Interplanetary Lizards of the Texas Plains Cover

This title is your standard Western adventure story, but with alien reptiles as the heroes. Hence, Interplanetary Lizards of the Texas Plains.

I didn’t find a sub-story in this one to arrange here, but there are lots of amusing panels. Check ’em out:

3: IPL_racket_sm.jpg

  1. Do Gauchos really pee on cacti?

  2. Lucas wasn’t stealing from Streetcar, but from IPLotTP. In a classic sign that a writer isn’t confident in his artist, the narrator box tells us what the picture obviously shows.

  3. I find the last panel of this part really funny. The authors constantly give the old man lines like this, to make him seem more “Western”, I guess. At one point he says “Don’t forget all that stuff I teached ya.” ‘Teached‘?

  4. I like the overhead shot. The contrast between the top panel and the bottom one in the quality of the art show that this guy would be really good drawing landscapes and backgrounds with a partner to draw the action. Also, this is one of several places the authors use “Yikes”, which makes me laugh.


Saturday Dylan

They say I shot a man named Grey
and took his wife to Italy
Well she inherited a million bucks
and when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky
–“Idiot Wind”

Brand Loyalty OR: Shilling for free

When I was looking for webhosting service (for my own domain,, I asked a friend what he recommended, and he said DreamHost. Since then, I have always recommended Dreamhost to others, and I hereby recommend them to you. Here’s my anecdote:

A while back, DH had a sale they called the “triple everything” sale. In it, they said their plans now included three times as much of everything, three times as much bandwidth, storage, etc. My plan went from 800mb and 40Gb/mo to 2.4Gb and 120Gb/mo. At first I thought it would be like cell phone companies, where only new subscribers get the new deal but nope, I got it too. For the same price.

Along with their fantastic customer service, I thought that was great. Now they send this in their newsletter:

2. Watch your disk and bandwidth quotas GROW!

The reason I mentioned getting scratched across the eye was because MY
own personal dog, Salt (named after his taste), scratched ME across the
eye last night! How did a 2′ 3″ dog scratch a 6′ 5″ sexy human across
the eye you might ask? THAT is a very good question.

Perhaps Salt grew, as only living things do? Only living things until
NOW that is! Because right now, or maybe yesterday, depending on when I
find that script to send this newsletter, all DreamHost shared hosting
customers’ disk and bandwidth quotas are GROWING CONSTANTLY!

That’s right! Every week, your plan limits will grow as follows, at
absolutely no charge:

L1: 20MB disk and 1GB bandwidth each week!

L2: 40MB disk and 1.5GB bandwidth each week!

L3: 60MB disk and 2GB bandwidth each week!

L4: 80MB disk and 2.5GB bandwidth each week!

So, the longer you host with us, the more you’ve got! AND, we’re so nice
we’ve even retroactively grown your limits based on how long you’ve been
hosting with us already (up to a one year max)!

They’d already given me plenty of reasons to stick with them. Now I’m even shilling. For free.

Damn straight

From The Economist:

The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents. (via Slashdot)

Solid article portraying a more reasoned approach to the Grokster decision. Of course, I’m cynical that the congressmen feeding at the big media campaign finance trough will cut off the slop.

Too much multitasking

When I was out walking Loki today, we saw another man walking his dog. Strangely, he was holding the leash with his left hand and holding his other hand to his face. As we got closer, I realized he had his electric shaver and was shaving while he walked his dog. It’s a strange world.