Out of the Loop

John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio, has pulled Howard Stern off the air.  “Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content, and Howard Stern’s show blew right through it,” Hogan said.  “It was vulgar, offensive and insulting, not just to women and African-Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency.”

I guess Hogan, and all those employees who should have alerted him to this amazing discovery, never listened to one of their top rated shows if they are just now learning this.

Coincidence?  Perhaps

I started working on a posting had me bogged down in what to say about copyright issues.  I was reflecting on what would happen if the controls that the music industry has were used on other intellectual property.  For music I must pay royalties if I want to publish (read as post on the web) the lyrics I figured out from a song, publish the chords or musical melody, preform the song on my guitar or even sing the song in a public place.  (That’s why they have those stupid birthday songs in resaurants – Happy Birthday is copyrighted.)  I can’t write a song based on another song (create a derivitive work), even if I never heard the other song or don’t realize that I’m copying it (ask George Harrison).  I can’t use part of it by sampling a tiny bit of it.

What if these restrictions were placed on other intellectual property?  There are lot’s of recent cases, such as the Chamberlain Group suing its competitor for making a garage door opener that was compatible with its own.  But what if it went further:  to equations.  How much progress would have been delayed if it had been illegal to create derivitive works from the Pythagorian Theorem?  Or to teach it (liking singing a song) or write it down (like in a textbook).

So you can see how I was getting stuck, when all I really wanted to do was talk about Illegal-Art.org.  It has a collection of art based on others’ art, some of which has inspired copyright lawsuits.  There’s a copy of the classic “Disneyland Memorial Orgy” poster, for example. 

While exploring the site Sunday or Monday, I ran across DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, which is a remix of Jay-Z’s the Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album.  It sounded interesting, and since these things tend to get taken quickly off the net, I downloaded it to listen to later.  Of course, I’ll destroy it as soon as I hear it:  please don’t sue me RIAA! 

Today I learn that yesterday was Grey Tuesday, “a day of coordinated civil disobedience: websites will post Danger Mouse’s Grey Album on their site for 24 hours in protest of EMI’s attempts to censor this work.” Over 170 sites posted the entire album, and Illegal Art appears to have been one of the first.  Coincidence?  Yeah, but at least it made me finally do the Illegal Art blog entry.

Poor Ed Felton

On his Freedom to Tinker blog, Ed asked readers to send in the “five science and technology books you would have every student read.”  The lists are coming in, but unfortunately for Ed people love to see themselves write as much as they like to hear themselves speak.  Why else would there be blogs?

Now Ed has to figure out how to tally the votes.  The problem is that some people can’t just give a list of five books.  Some have to have ties for second place.  Some refer to other peoples’ lists.  Some give more or fewer than five books.  Because of this it’s not possible to just tally up the votes from the lists and determine the most popular.  Ed has to work harder at it, and maybe do some interpretation.

I ran into a similar problem when a group of friends did a blind champagne taste test.  They were told to rate the bottles, in four categories, from 1 to 5.  Lets ignore the problem of illegible handwriting towards the ends of the ballots.  Some people rated bottles twice.  Some people rated on a scale of 1 to 10.  Some people rated different categories on different scales.  Some just wrote “I like this one.” 

We never could determine the real winner, only make a guess at it.  Tott’s beat out Mumm’s by a tiny amount, and did it at ¼ the price.  But the purpose of this post was for the book lists, so go read them.


TerraServer gives quick access to aerial images and topo maps.  They also used up part of my day by providing links to these other cool mapping pages:

Maptech has USGS Topo Maps, NOAA Nautical Charts, Aeronautical Charts, and Aerial Photos.  Maps can be found for cities and states, zip codes, or by latitude and longitude.

TerraFly lets you “fly” over an area.  Pick a starting point and a magnification, and then maneuver using directional controls.  Very entertaining, but it stops after just a couple of minutes due to “user load”.  It’s also linked to the census data:  clicking on the image brings up another page of the data for the area, including a map of the data boundaries. 

I found my house and data for an area of only 483 housing units that includes income, population, ethnicity and time travel to work, among others.  82½% in my area work within 45 minutes of home and none use public transportation.  Not too surprising when the 1999 median household income was $96,300 and 86% have two or more vehicles per household.  I don’t think I’m doing my part.

Very Useful!

A lot of sites want you to sign up with your email to gain access.  It used to be easy enough to give a fake one, but now they tend to send a link or password to your address so they can confirm that it’s a real one.  Sometimes I don’t mind, but not if I’m just trying to check out if their site is any good.

For 24 hours, anybody can email me at wruleati7xf@jetable.org, courtesy of Disposable Email.  When you use the service, you can pick how long the address will be valid, and then it goes away.  And you don’t get weekly advertising from yet another company.

I just used it to check out a site that I don’t want them sending me stuff in the future.  Got their confirmation code, and then got access.  And after 24 hours they won’t be able to bother me.  Way cool!

A Corny Solution

In some alternate universe, a memorable conversation in the movie The Graduate might have gone like this:

Mr. McGuire: I just wanna say one word to you. Just one word.
Ben Braddock: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben Braddock: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: “Corn.”

It now seems that ‘corn’ may replace ‘plastics’ in some areas of this universe as well.  Containers which look like plastic but are made from corn have been tested in Colorado and Oregon, and will hit all stores by the end of March.  Although corn containers cost 2 or 3 cents more, making them uses fewer amounts of fossil fuels and emits lower levels of greenhouse gases.  Under the right conditions they can decompose in 30 to 50 days, far different from the 1000 years it can take for a plastic beverage bottle to decompose.

Goodbye Privacy

A couple of new examples of the government checking into our lives in ways they are not supposed to:

Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted Thursday that doctor-patient privacy is not threatened by a government attempt to subpoena medical records in a lawsuit over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.  At stake are records documenting certain late-term abortions performed by doctors who have joined in a legal challenge of the disputed ban.

The subpoenas seemed to be a tactic of intimidation comparable to a subpoena issued recently in a federal grand jury probe ordering Drake University to turn over names of certain anti-war activists.

And this is without the help of the Patriot Act.

The Breast of Times…

According to TiVo, the Super Bowl halftime half-exposure of Janet Jackson’s breasts was the most-watched moment to date on its device.  No surprise there:  recently the Super Bowl has been the most watched show every year.  TiVo also said users had watched the few seconds nearly three times more than any other moment during the Super Bowl broadcast.  No surprise there either:  that’s what rewind is for.

The only surprise for me was that they knew not only what you watched while it downloaded, but also what was played back.  Down to the second.

Courtesy of Terry:  If you missed the most over discussed moment in recent TV history, here is a still of the moment, and here is where to buy the jewelry.