Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick Point

I'd like to point you to something that made me feel better, at least: God's Ex-Boyfriend shows us that "person of the year" isn't necessarily an honor.

Updates later. Things go well. I'd like to do a "year in review", too, soo hang on for that. Ciao.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Autonomy - Freedom of Thought

Jean-Michael Smith

Freedom of Thought, the first in Jean-Michael Smith's Autonomy series, is the first novel-length work of fiction I have read that was released under a Creative Commons license. When I first found it, almost a year ago, I believe, I was immediately entranced, which is not something that happens to me often when I am just beginning to read a book. Normally, a book is recommended to me or is by an author I already know I like, and so I allow a good number of pages before I can be hooked. But Jean-Michael is a very skillful writer, and knows how to allow a story to unfold at just the right pace.

Freedom of Thought is a science-fiction novel, set in the near future and located in the Physical and the Virtual. We are told two interwoven stories, that of Kyle Tate, Dr. Nolen, and Marguerite, and the virtual community that they establish, wherein subjective time is longer than in the Physical, and that of an FBI agent, Katy, who stumbles upon them and tries to destroy them before trying to understand them.

Throughout the story, the author uses suspense very well, letting us know just enough about what is happening to make us worry, without enough to be quite sure why. One can never know for certain what's around the next bend, but I, at least, was pulled through the story to the end, though a move and change of computers caused me to lose the URL for the book for some time.

Unlike Le Guin's The Dispossessed, however, this virtual Utopia is not ambiguous. The author has a clearly marked agenda with this story: it is an effort to warn against too much power being given to copyright and patent holders, and the dangers involved therein, as well as what can happen in an autonomous society, both good and bad, though the emphasis is clearly on the good.

All in all, a very compelling story, with plenty of things to think about, both in terms of technology and in terms of society. I recommend it highly, and since you can read it for free on the internet, as well as download it, print it, copy it, etc. due to the Creative Commons license, it's a pocketbook-friendly diversion.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Seizure!

On Thursday I had a seizure.

I hadn't been feeling well, but I thought it was just a fever coming on. I had had feelings of being overwhelmed twice before that day, one in bed and then one coming home from lunch. Each time, I also started having something that was akin to false memories... not hallucinations, though. Anyway, both passed without incident, so I kept going on my way.

Then, my dad and I were working on getting the "development center" set up in my parents' office. This basically involved moving some computers and desks around, which we had just finished and were working on getting them set up correctly. I got up to leave the room and was nearly out the door when I was overcome, again. Apparently, I fell against the door and was convulsing. I don't remember much, except the fever-dreams. I do remember Steve standing out in them, but I don't remember why. Or much else about them, either. I awoke, briefly, in the ambulance, strapped to a board to keep my body straight. They asked some questions, I think about my age and the day, before I lost consciousness again.

Once in the hospital, I woke up and waited a little bit with my parents before a nurse took me off for a CAT scan and X-rays. Then they unstrapped me from that painful board. I'm not sure about the order, but Amy and Brendan came, and so did Steve. The hospital staff also had me hooked up to an IV and I drained two whole bags of fluid rather rapidly. Finally, the doctor came back and told me that it looked like it was just a seizure from dehydration, which was plausible, because I hadn't had as much water as usual the past few days, and discharged me.

Afterward, we came home and had pizza (and water!). And I've been alright since, though a bit sore, and there's a big scrape on my back from where I must've hit the door. And, I've learned, and I hope you will take away, a valuable lesson: don't get dehydrated!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Yo ho ho, and a bottle of Schnapps! -- The Dread Captain Whitebeard (aka Santa Claus)

Jolly CringleWell, it's almost Christmas again. Right now, I'm sitting in my parents' living room, right next to the "Christmas Palm". It's an artificial Christmas (fir) tree, put together... slightly different. Doesn't look half-bad, if you ask me. We even wrapped the trunk with gold/brown ribbon. The lights on it make it look pretty cool... they're wrapped up the trunk, and form a kind of net in the branches... from outside, in the dark, you can't see the tree, but you can see the lights. Makes me think of the World-tree. I'll see if I can get a picture up.

Now, you might be wondering what all of this is about. Well, my family, at least for the past couple years, has had a 'theme' of the holidays. Last year's was 'Merry Freakin' Christmas'. This year's is... Pirates of the Arctic Circle.

Arrr!

Unfortunately, I didn't buy (or make) any gifts to go along with the theme this year... I was considering getting my sister a pirates coloring book (she likes coloring books), but I got her something else instead (just in case she reads this, which I doubt she will).

Now, for lifeupdate:

I finished my exams last Wednesday, with the Modern Physics. I think I did alright, but I am still awaiting my grade for that class. For the others, I did both better and worse than I thought (or was afraid) I would: straight 'B's so far. That's good for EM1, but I was hoping for better in Morphosyntax. German Cultures, eh. I don't care. I could've gotten better, except that I didn't do about a third of the homework. ^_^

Because school's been out, I've been attempting to work more. There's one problem, though: they haven't been paying me or mom regularly since the end of September. Mom finally did get a paycheck the other day, but I haven't seen one for a while. Probably won't until the new year, which is good and bad. On the plus side, I don't think it counts as income for this year, so I won't have to pay taxes on it until next year, and that will also keep me in a lower tax bracket (potentially). Unfortunately, and obviously, I won't have the money.

Steve and I have been spending quite a bit of time together recently. We decided the other day that we both wanted to have the Civ 3 multiplayer expansion (well... and I wanted the game :-p), so we went to Best Buy and got each other the game for Christmas. It's fun; I think I do like it better than Alpha Centauri, though I still like Alpha Centauri, too.

He's off of school for a couple of weeks, so he's working full-time at the bank, and, come March, he's going to be taking online courses and working full-time with a promotion. That'll be good for him in terms of money, but I'm partly afraid that it'll make him much more stressed. And, I think it would probably be pretty easy for me to distract him from his studies, which isn't something I want to do consciously, but could very well end up being the case.

I spent the night at his place last night, and he asked me some questions about our relationship, as usual. Which is good, I suppose, except that I've been thinking about something that bothers me about him and trying to decide whether I'm just being silly, or if I need to take action of some kind. And, no, I'm not ready to discuss it here, yet, either. It bothers me, though, because I don't think he slept well because he was thinking about it, what it might be. And that was not what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to lie to him, either. He claims that he still doesn't find anything that bothers him about me. It's not that I don't believe him, but I do find it incredible that he can't think of anything. I don't think I deserve to be thought of the way he seems to think of me. Anyway.

Amy's back. She came in late at night last Thursday. I went out with my parents and her fiance to get her. She's going to be staying in Colorado, going to Front Range in the spring, and then CU come fall. It's both happy and sad. I'm glad that she'll be here, but I know that one of her big dreams was to go to MIT. Which she did, technically. And she still could do graduate work or postdoc work there, so it's not all over. But, still.

I've finally gotten my laptop to nearly work just right with Linux. (The biggest problem was the video card, which I finally got replaced not too long ago). It makes me happy. I've also been playing with my desktop, grendel. I installed a mail server on it, for fun, and also a jabber server on it, which is an open instant messaging protocol. It's actually pretty cool. I also started an account with the jabber.org server. You could, in theory, reach me through jabber (not email) at emeraldimp (at) jabber (dot) org . I also had to install a dns server on grendel, so that names would resolve properly inside the network at my apartment (this is important for jabber, because I can't point the client at just an IP address; it has to be a FQDN). And, I was having a problem using jabber at all from the windows portion of my laptop, and I finally figured out why: it was the Norton Firewall that was blocking it, even though it wasn't configured to actually do anything. There was also no way (that I found) to tell it to allow the jabber stuff. So, I turned off the firewall. And, since my subscription is expired anyway, I think I'll choose another program. I didn't find any reports of the same problem with McAfee, but my parents have a copy on their computer, so I'll be able to try jabber there, before I make any purchases.

That's about all for now. Best!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Autonomy - Freedom of Thought - A Passage

Just thought I'd share a passage from a draft of a book I just finished reading. I enjoyed it very much, and thought you might like to read it as well. There are many passages which I find well-written (though there are still a [relatively small, but noticable to a pedant like me ;-) ] number of grammatical errors that need to be corrected), but I thought the following was interesting.

The following excerpt is from Autonomy - Freedom of Thought (warning: large file, on an encrypted server) by Jean-Michel Smith, and is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Ms. Katy Sinclair

Special Agent, Intellectual Property Crimes

Federal Bureau of Investigation


I apologize that our conversation earlier upset you so much. No one can be expected to take the passing of a family member lightly, even one that happened so many years ago.


However, I believe you to be an honorable person, and if we find we cannot be friends, and are destined by our differing philosophies to be enemies, let it at least be for the right reasons, based upon an honest intellectual and philosophical disagreement rather than a misunderstanding exacerbated by incorrect information.


First, on the subject of your grandfather's financial difficulties which led to his suicide. Please find attached the text of his recording contract. You will notice that, while his compensation for CD (“compact disk,” a form of media in widespread use during the late 20th and early 21st century) was standard for the industry of the day (at USD $0.49 per copy sold), no compensation for songs and albums sold in electronic format was specified. As a result, he was only compensated USD $0.0023[6] per download. That is less than one quarter of a cent per copy! Worse, as the consumer market moved from CD to SmartChip media, the lack of a contractual clause specifying new and emerging media resulted in his compensation remaining low for physical sales (also USD $0.0023).


Look at the sale's figures of your grandfather's albums. His sales were at the top of the charts for several years after his royalties fell off to only a few thousand dollars per year. Not because his fans weren't buying his music (they were, in record numbers!), but because he had the misfortune of having most of his music sold after compact disks had been phased out by the industry in favor of DRM copy restricted SmartChips, sales of which his recording company compensated him less than a quarter penny per copy! I urge you to use your own investigative resources to verify what I have written here. The contract is still being honored, and is still on file with Media Associates, and may be easily compared with the copy I have provided here.


Once you have satisfied yourself on this account, I urge you to ponder the greater question of just how much the cost, to our society and our economy, of creating an artificial scarcity of information, be it human knowledge, through patents, or human expression, through copyright, can be justified.


You may not realize this, but copyright was originally created as a means of censorship by the British crown, to combat the free expression that threatened their control of public information with the advent of the printing press. The number of books printed were reduced to one third their former number immediately, and publishers were able to create a cartel which they continue to enjoy today. This concept was extended later to recorded music, video, and ultimately the creation of 'virtual machines' in the form of software. Indeed, in the technology sector the line between copyrighted expression and patented invention has been completely blurred.


At the turn of the century, with the passage of the now-infamous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by the United States congress, at the behest of the media and copyright cartels of New York and Hollywood, copyright law came full circle, returning to its origins and once again becoming an effective tool of corporate and government censorship on what was at that time a new publishing medium: the Internet. This censorship persists to this day.


Not only has copyright failed to protect artists like your grandfather from the depredations of the recording industry, but it has crippled the ability of generations of artists from pursing their craft by fostering a cartel of publishers which maintain an iron fisted control of the marketplace. No author can be published, no musician heard, no filmmaker regarded, but through the channels controlled by their respective publishing cartels. The promise of the Internet as a means to bridge the divide between artists and their fans has all but been destroyed, thanks to legislation passed by your government and later integrated into our international accords, at the behest of the very cartels it should have circumvented.


Even more appalling, consider Brazil's successful battle against AIDS, waged in direct violation of international patent law, against tremendous pressures brought to bear on them by the American and European governments at the behest of western pharmaceutical companies.[7] Recall the number of researches who had to give up their scientific inquiries in search of treatment for AIDS, and breast cancer, when presented with Cease and Desist letters from patent attorneys employed by pharmaceutical companies alleging that such research violated patents already granted. This delayed a cure for AIDS by several years, at least, and still ties up cancer research to this day.[8] We know today that patents nearly always stifle rather than promote research, and that privatized, twenty year monopolies locking down new lines of technical and scientific development have a profound, domino effect in restricting and even preventing progress.


If our current technical lead over your crippled industry, as represented by the equipment which you and your colleagues already have in their possession, isn't enough to underscore this point, allow me to present one more historical reference: the airplane. Invented at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Wright Brothers, it was truly an invention worthy of a patent by any standard. New, innovative, truly an invention the world had not seen before. Anyone believing that the patent system is an appropriate methodology for compensating inventors would surely agree that the inventors of powered flight more than deserved the patent they were granted.


Yet, with the onset of the First World War it became very clear to the United States Government that aviation technology in the Unites States lagged woefully behind that of Europe, which was not encumbered by the a patent on airplanes. This was such a concern that the United States government, in an unprecedented action and a tacit admission that patents impair, rather than promote, progress, essentially nationalized the Wright Brothers' patent, granted them a default 1% royalty, and threw the technology open for competing companies to develop and improve upon.[9] The result as a tremendous leap forward in aviation technology, so much so that, in later decades, the United States became the world leader in the production of aircraft.


No one creates in a vacuum. All of us, whether we are artists, researchers, inventors, or scientists, stand upon the shoulders of others. No novel can be written, no movie filmed, no song recorded, no device invented, without it incorporating some aspect of another's work, some early bit of human expression or knowledge. Copyright locks up expression for generations ... with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the US Congresses propensity for retroactively extending it, virtually forever.[10] Patents cripple progress in a variety of fields, from software development to medical research, locking down the building blocks for each successive step in development for twenty years in a government mandated and enforced, twenty year monopoly entitlement. There was a time when progress was thought to be exponential, but as each new area of human endeavor fell beneath the yoke of the US and world patent system, this exponential progress was lost. Pundits and intellectual property attorneys euphemistically refer to this as a “maturing market,” but in truth none of the technologies have ever had a real chance to mature, even today, and the markets in question would more accurately be described not as mature, but as stagnant.

So long as we take the shared knowledge of humankind and treat it as a private possession limited to a few through patents, so long as we take the common culture we all share and treat its expression as a private possession through copyright, we will as a society find our technological progress stifled and our ability to express ourselves subject to corporate and government censorship of the worst kind.

I, and others, have chosen to reject this. Our reward for doing so has been a return to exponential scientific and technological progress, our punishment has been to become hunted, by you and your colleagues.

We mean you no harm, we offer you no threat. We only asked to be left alone, to pursue our own interests and our own destiny, independent of the one you have chosen for yourselves.

Please, leave us in peace and allow us to do the same for you.

Thank you, and best regards,

Marguerite


More linkage tomorrow. It's bedtime.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Plus, a petition

A petition asking California Senator Barbara Boxer to contest the 2004 election results when the US Congress reconvenes in 2005. For those of you who have seen Farenheit 9/11, you remember how there wasn't even one senator that time? I think all the trouble in Ohio is worth a look, don't you?

In addition, petition your own senators! For Colorado. I have prepared a simple text; you may, of course, modify it or write your own!

Senator [name],

After reading about the continued problems in Ohio, not only involving the actual election but also the recount, including Secretary Blackwell's illegal (under Ohio state law) sealing of ballots, I urge you to contest the 2004 election in the United States Congress before inauguration. Because of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, one senator and one House Representative are required to contest an election prior to inauguration.

Please show [state name] that you support fair and auditable elections.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

Happy Agnostica!

In addition to being the start of Agnostica, and in particular, Quantum Mechanics Day (according to Nukees, anyway), today is my very own two-month anniversary with Steve. w00t!

I should probably write something more, something interesting or informative about my own life here... but I'm not going to.

Instead, it's linkage again!

Atland, a funny webcomic, but not for children!

Jabber is an open-source instant messaging system, servers and clients both. XMPP is the recentely-approved IETF spec. I'm in the process of setting up my own jabber server, I'll let you all know how it goes.

It's not a birth defect, dummy, in which RadGeek argues that homosexuality, whether innate or choice, or even influenced by medications taken while pregnent, isn't something that's wrong.

Without a nation, in which Denny Henke of Where We're Bound expresses his lack of national allegience, which I find echoing within me.

How to secure your emails with GnuPG and Enigmail discusses how to install and use Enigmail and GnuPG (the GNU Privacy Guard) in conjunction with Mozilla Mail or Thunderbird. Security and Encryption are fun!

Spammmimic, which turns short messages into spam and back again!

Okay, that's all. I'm going to meet Chad for lunch today... wish me luck, it's been two years since I've seen him and, well, he is a mormon.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen...

...In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead.

I smell sex and candy here...

Okay!

Thursday was okay. After work, I went to Parm's house to work on our final project for linguistics.

Friday was school, as usual. Then, I got to work as a parade marshal with Phi Sigma Pi. I was the Transportation/Utility Marshal, which meant I had a golf cart and basically sat around most of the time. Ah, well, the cookies and hot chocolate were tasty. After the parade was over, I went to Steve's to stay the night. As he mentions in his journal, we were intimate in a new (and very pleasurable) way.

Saturday I met mom, dad, aunt Lauri, Terry, Mandy, Mandy's Steve, and Ms. Hickenbach (can't remember her first name) with her boyfriend for breakfast. At 7:30am. Too early for my tastes, but since it was my birthday, I guessed I probably should come. Went back to my parents' house for a bit (after adding some oil to the car) and got presents! Two things, in fact. A nice small George Foreman grill (with bun warmer!) and a microwave steamer. I can finally make ground hamburger for tacos or such! And George is very useful. After that, I came back up to Boulder for the DelPhi community service project, which was supposed to be showing people from high school GSAs around CU, partly to show them what Boulder is like, partially to get them to come to CU (Go Buffs!). Unfortunately, no one (from the high schools) showed up. So, we went home. Sigh. Good idea, but didn't quite work out.

Then, I did a few things at my apartment before heading over to Steve's. We sat on the couch and watched TV poker for a little while, cuddling. The philanthropist player won, which made me happy. Then, we caught the bus downtown (and it was a pretty long ride... that's one of the problems with public transport: you have to wait for it to show up and then it takes a while. Oh well). We were going to go straight to Arby's, but there was a parade in the way. We had to walk around the entire parade route to find a place where we could get to the INSIDE of the route, which is where Arby's was. Anyway, then we got there and got food and rushed outside to meet Barry... and ended up walking around and waiting on the sidewalk for quite some time due to traffic and his getting lost. Sigh. Well, maybe next time it'll be better.

When he did pick us up, we went over and parked in front of Dream while eating. Then we stood outside for a while before we could go inside. The bouncer seemed really nice. Anyway, on Saturdays Dream has two specials: the first 100 people get in free, and then there are free drinks from 9-10. Well, who could pass up an offer like that? I was supposed to keep up with Steve, but it'd been a while since I'd done any serious drinking, so I only managed about 4 before ten and then another (received from Barry before ten) afterward. The sequence of events is not so great after that, but there was a tiny bit of dancing, a lot of talking, some crying on my part (vodka does that sometimes), and considerations of taking home one of the shirtless boys in the club for some fun. To drink, I had: 3 Long Island Peach Trees (Long Island Iced Teas with some Peach Schnapps), a "purple rain" and something that tasted like lemonade to me. I also ran into Tony Boyer, (formerly) one of the colony mentors, and Jake. Outside the club, there was a burrito lady selling what turned out to be very tasty burritos.

When Steve and I got back to his place, we cuddled/mildly fooled around a bit before going to sleep. In the morning we made love.

After that, it was time for me to get going for Kathie Sanquist's 80th birthday party. It's too bad that Steve wasn't invited, because it would've been nice to have him along. Anyway, the party was nice. I didn't articulate it well at the time, but Kathie really is a very neat and inspiring person. She went to CU during the second world war and I'm not sure what all else she's done in her life. Also a very good piano player, though her arthritis has, unfortunately, put a stop to that.

May she see many more birthdays.

After that, it was over to Old Chicago for some dinner with the 'rents. I ordered a glass of wine and the waitress didn't even card me (not that it would've mattered now!). Then, back to the parents' house before coming up to Boulder for the DelPhi meeting, which went decently, though there were many folks not there. And back home, and computer stuff, and here I am! Finally got a check from LaFarge the other day, so I have more money again. Yay!

That's all for now. No linkage tonight because I don't feel like it. :-P

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Quesadilla!

Well, Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course, and I spent Wednesday night at my parents' house. I picked Steve up at the airport, and I had a big surprise. I wasn't expecting to be as happy to see him as I actually was. I knew I would be happy, but not that happy. Anyway, then we had ham sandwiches and played Killer Bunnies & the Quest for the Magic Carrot for a while, before going to Steve's grandmothers' house for their dinner (Thanksgiving Dinner Count after Thursday evening: 4 done, one to go). It was alright, though Steve's cousins were a little unruly (as children are wont to be) and apparently his "uncle" (grandmother's boyfriend. eh?) took offense to the little bit of cuddling we did (just cuddling! No making out and only one kiss when we were the only ones in the basement). The food was decent, though the game of Killer Bunnies afterward was a bit long (probably shouldn't have tried to get the kids to play it. It isn't exactly a children's person with a short attention span's game.

Friday, Steve had to work, so I went back to my parents' house for a while, did some laundry and we (my sister and I) eventually closed our accounts with CFNB. Later, I went over to get Steve and spend the night.

Saturday was dress rehearsal for the concerts Sunday, and then dinner with my nuclear family and Aunt Lauri, Terry and Mandy (and Brendan, Amy's fiancee, and Steve, Mandy's boyfriend). And, of course (after a good deal of thought and worrying), my Steve as well. I was terribly afraid that Terry would cause a problem with having Steve there, but not a word was said on the matter. I don't know whether Terry even knew, since we didn't bring it up. After dinner, we played Scattergories, which was fun. I didn't do as well as I would've liked, but "them's the breaks" or something.

Anyway, I spent Saturday night with Steve, and then went to Brighton for the concerts. Steve didn't come, which is understandable, given that he would've had to stay for both concerts, which even I didn't really want to do. But, the concerts actually went pretty well (we desperately need a better concert hall than the church. If the orchestra keeps growing, then there won't be enough room anymore!). I directed Sleigh Ride (with the choir), a medley from The Sound of Music and Tintinnabulations, which was one more than Kat directed (Christmas Festival and Fantasia on Greensleeves). She's offered me direction of the orchestra next season, and I think I'm going to do it, but I want to be sure that the orchestra wants me to direct and is democratically done, not by simple fiat.

Anyway, the roads were ugly and not fun, so I drove to my parents' house and spent the night there, and drove to class on Monday. Since, things have been alright.

I made spaghetti on Monday, and discovered that it was all moldy. I had put it in the pantry, which was an extremely bad idea. Sigh. So I had to throw it out.

I've also developed a great taste for quesadillas, which are very easy to make. Salsa is especially tasty.

And now, linkage:

Blogsites:
Blogshares, a fantasy blog stock market.
Blogwise, a "collection of blogs grouped by keyword".
Blogarama, a blog directory.
BlogTree, a blog genealogy.

Others:

The Alternative Press Review, specifically an article on the Collapse of the petroleum delusion / Rise of the DIY movement.

And, lastly, I have been listening to an Indymedia On Air broadcast from The A-Infos Radio Project, Anarchism, Anthropology and historical analysis, and I am hopeful, not only because of the program, but because of the very beginning, when they're discussing how anarchist discussions tend to be more practical, I was reminded of my post Defacation, in which I discuss precisely these matters. Now I need to actually act.