Late this morning, as I was eating my fried eggs and toast, I turned on CNN. The story being covered at the moment was General Ricardo Sanchez criticism yesterday of the Bush Administration's handling of the War on Iraq.
After reporting on what he said, a segment came titled "Who is Sanchez?"
"Ah, good," I thought, "it will be nice to get to know a little bit more about this guy."
This segment made three points. While Gen. Sanchez commanded forces in Iraq, from June 2004 to June 2004,
Is this what in-depth reporting has come to?
I'm a big fan of Mexican food. Unfortunately there aren't a wealth of Mexican restaurants around here. One I've been going to regularly for years is El Azteca, a very fine BYO place in Northeast Philadelphia. Another that's closer but a much smaller (and cheaper) operation is La Morena in nearby Hatboro, also BYO. I've also eaten at Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken and though the food is very good, it's a bit out of the way for me.
Recently Las Maracas opened up even nearer by in Southampton. Last night I ate there for the first time. The food was quite good (I ordered chicken enchiladas with a mole sauce). I was telling my waiter—who, it turned out, was the brother of the owner—about these other two good Mexican restaurants I knew about and learned that his sister the owner had sold La Morena in order to open up Las Maracas. I'll have to go back to La Morena and see if the quality remains good. When I spoke his sister later, she told me she hopes this is the beginning of a chain of Mexican restaurants.
BTW, they have a big banner across their window trumpeting "Complimentary Margaritas" and I was indeed offered one, but after leaving with a take-out version of the menu, noticed that it's a BYO kind of place too, so I'm not sure what kind of Margaritas those would be.
Michele Tafoya's secret assignment
In case you don't recognize the name, she is a sideline commentator for Monday Night Football. Did you know that before each game, she gets a challenge to include a specified word or phrase into her telecast? And if she succeeds, $100 goes to charity. So far in her career she's raised about $2,000 this way. Read all about it here. Pretty cool! Just don't let it get in the way of reporting on the game, Michele (actually, I understand she's determined to do just this, i.e. not let it get in the way). [I learned about this from a sidebar in a recent issue Sports Illustrated.]
There are many examples of this kind of advertising around, but the ones that are currently bugging me are from Temple University. You can find several examples of what I'm talking about on the special website they set up for this marketing campaign. I'd like to quote the one I've been hearing on the Temple radio station, WRTI, but I can't find it, so instead I've transcribed one for radio that I found on the website:
What a bunch of malarkey! If any college or university had come anywhere close to figuring out how to ensure that any set of positive characteristics—let alone these particular ones—could be used to describe their graduates, we'd all know about. Not that we'd all want to attend that school. Thinking about it now in this way reminds me of Hitler Youth, a Communist Youth League, the People's Temple, or the Moonies, where indeed the effort is to convince everybody to believe in a common set of values. Is this what a university education is all about? Ironically, I believe that Temple does a very good job of not providing the kind of education that this marketing campaign claims they do.
The coming fate newly available broadcast spectrum
Much of the debate that goes on over what the FCC should or should not be doing leaves me confused and ambivalent. I hate not having an opinion, preferably a strong one, and especially on such an important set of topics. So when I read something on one of these debates that I makes a strong case, I'm happy.
I was very happy indeed to read Scott Bradner's article, FCC ignores the lesson of Wi-Fi's history, in the 13 Aug 2007 issue of Network World1. Mr Bradner is Harvard University's technology security officer. That's good too; I tend to trust academics. He writes about the FCC's proposed rules for splitting up of broadcast spectrum that will become available after end of analog television on 17 Feb 20092:
Well I haven't paid a lot of attention, but I know that what he says about what's happened in unlicensed spectrum is true. And, wow! does his anti-government slant ever appeal to the libertarian in me! And boy! does the infinitesimal likelihood of anyone but the big spenders (i.e. communications companies) benefiting in any significant way ever appeal to the cynic and the pessimist in me!
Well, now I've got at least one strong opinion on this set of issues.
1Interestingly enough, you'll never learn who the author is by reading the article on Network World's web site.
2Oh yeah! Did you know your non-digital television will become obsolete in 16 months? This is the date when non-digital broadcasts will cease, by Act of Congress. I have a feeling a lot of people are in for a rude surprise. Even if, unlike me, you do have a digital set, you probably have at least one analog set you still use.
White hat phishing expeditions
Phishing for the Good Guys [found in the 13 Aug 2007 issue of Network World] is an interesting article about Markus Jakobsson, a cybersecurity researcher and professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, who
Among his conclusions are that many people:
Like others mentioned in the story, I have my doubts about the ethics of going about this the way Jakobsson is. But I also would probably be happy to volunteer to be one of his guinea pigs. But that would spoil the results, wouldn't it?
Windows to Linux—e-mail
I took a major step in my plan to avoid ever having, for any personal reason, to install Windows Vista: I switched my primary active e-mail client from Thunderbird on Windows XP to Evolution under Gnome on Ubuntu Linux. It actually went quite easily. The way I saw it there were three things I wanted to accomplish before making the switch:
The first was the hardest. Years ago I started collected quotations that appealed to me. Shortly thereafter I wrote a Perl script to modify a quotation at the end of a standard signature file. Then I wrote a bash script (using Cygwin) to do this every 60 seconds on Windows. Then I modified the bash script to recognize which of my several computers I was on, specify the location of the quotation and signature files on that system and run the Perl script, again every 60 seconds. It's actually quite a bit simpler with Evolution than on Windows (with whatever e-mail client I've had). I've documented what I had to do in a thread at the Ubuntu forums.
The second was the easiest. Evolutions came with 31 plugins. For some reason, both the Bogofilter junk and Spamassassin junk plugins were enabled. At first I thought all I had to do was turn off one. I gave the filters some time to start learning. After I'd marked several hundred SPAM messages, it didn't seem like any were being filtered directly to my Junk folder. Then I read another thread on the Ubuntu forums about how to enable both of them. I followed the instructions but then realized the instructions were for an earlier Ubuntu release and that most of what I had done had somehow been disabled behind my back. Around this same time, I noticed that SPAM was beginning to be filtered to my Junk folder automatically, so I let it be. It's still learning, but the amount of SPAM I have to handle manually is down to something reasonable.
The third step was quite easy too, though I had identified 13 accounts/pseudo-accounts/subscriptions to deal with. (By pseudo-accounts, I mean accounts without their own e-mail servers—particularly without SMTP servers—that I use to generate messages for different purposes; e.g., one for my business, one for personal use, one for a volunteer organization I work for, one for an anonymous blog I write, a no-spam one to which any message replies will be sent to bit limbo, etc.) It only took me a few minutes for each one of these.
For now, I've got a bunch of saved e-mail on my Windows system that I haven't gotten onto my Ubuntu system. I know it's possible, but my hope is to delete all but the really essential stuff before I copy those messages over. I've also got a bunch of contacts that I do want to copy, and I'll deal with that sooner.
By the way, I've been regularly browsing the Web from both systems for quite a while. I found a nifty Firefox add-on called Foxmarks Bookmarks Synchronizer that keeps bookmarks on the two systems synchronized almost seamlessly. Once or twice I've had to manually choose between different sets of bookmarks in a folder because I had changed them on both computers within a short amount of time. But it was easy to figure out the right answer and it's totally lovely to have the same set of bookmarks on both systems. Now if I could only synchronize them with "foreign" computers, like those at my clients', even if it meant going to my own personal Foxmarks page and clicking on links from there.
Note: I originally drafted this post on 2 Sep 2007 ~20:30. Today I've added a bunch of links and added some newer information about my experience battling SPAM. I've since made some additional progress on the Windows-to-Linux conversion, which I hope to post about soon.
I'm reading e-mail via Outlook at a client's system. A message I want to respond to has some content that's been blocked: "To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of some pictures in this message." No problem. When I click on Reply, I get the following message in a dialog box:
To complete this action, Outlook must download content from a server other than your e-mail server. This could verify to the sender that your e-mail address is valid and increase the amount of junk e-mail you receive in the future.
I can check a box labeled, "Please do not show me this dialog again," but other than that, the only two choices are OK and Cancel. OK means, "Go ahead; download the blocked content and let me reply." Cancel means, "I changed my mind, I don't want to reply." Where's the choice that says, "Don't download the blocked content, but let me reply to the content that isn't blocked"?
Not only isn't there one, there's simply no way to reply without downloading the blocked content. Here's what Microsoft's Support website says on the subject:
If you have the Don’t download pictures or other content automatically in HTML e-mail option turned on, and you want to forward, reply to, or edit an e-mail message that contains blocked external content, you must download the full body contents of the e-mail message.... If you click OK to the warning message, and subsequently download the previously blocked content, Outlook 2003 does not provide any method to block or re-protect the message as it was originally presented.
Note the word must. What Microsoft is saying here is, "It's potentially harmful, so we'll block it for you, but if you want to do anything with the non-harmful parts, you must load the potentially harmful parts first." Phooey!
Bin Laden videotape?
Tonight's so-called "breaking news" is that an Islamist website may soon post a videotaped message from Osama bin Laden to mark the 6th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Can you tell I'm not impressed? Why does so much news involved things that "may" happen or are "going" to happen?
But it got me thinking: If Bin Laden is so vehemently anti-Western and such a good Muslim, why would he commemorate such an event based on the Western and Christian Gregorian calendar? Why not commemorate it on the anniversary based on the Islamic calendar? The attacks occurred on Tuesday 23 Jumaada al-THaany 1422 A.H. according to the Islamic calendar. The 6th anniversary by the Islamic calendar would have been several weeks ago (Sunday 8 July by the Gregorian calendar). What's up with that, Osama?
Another view on Larry Craig
From Sam Frantz, who's on an e-mail list I'm on:
You caught me being a homo but I don't want people to know I'm a homo so I'll plead guilty to a charge that doesn't indicate I'm a homo, but whoops everybody will know I'm a homo anyway, dang, I shouldn't have pleaded guilty, oh shit, I guess I'll announce my resignation, but wait, maybe it doesn't matter if everybody thinks I'm a homo, they can't fire me for that, so why give up the Republican vote? OK, I'm not resigning! And I'm NOT a homo either! As proof, look at my record, and see how much I hate homos! So there.
A hero for the 21st Century
Senator Larry Craig
OK, I try not to come to conclusions about people before I know all the facts (perhaps I should say "as many as possibly can be known" since no one can know all the facts). If you've ever been involved in an event that was covered by the media, you know how difficult it is to know much that's accurate from them (not to be overly critical—to a large degree it's inherent in the nature of things). So I start by looking at a source document: the police report filed by Sgt. Karsnia, the arresting officer. Here are some excerpts:
At this point, according to Sgt. Karsnia, they go to the Police Operations Center although Craig is reluctant and even resistant (nothing indicates that he resisted arrest).
I've omitted what seem to me to be less important details—in the interest of brevity—and a statement of Sgt. Karsina's experience as to behavior commonly exhibited by persons engaged in "lewd conduct"—not to say that this not relevant, but I myself would probably have remained totally clueless about any such behavior for the rest of my life, but for this story (so I can easily believe there are many people who were, till now, similarly clueless, including Sen. Craig).
There are additional documents available at the link above. The only other one I want to excerpt is the Petition to Enter Plea of Guilty—Misdemeanor:
Is this behavior and the behavior reported all over the news media, such as not informing anyone in his life about these events, consistent with the denials that Sen. Craig is making? It's hard to believe. I understand him wanting to make it go away quickly and quietly. Easily. But putting myself in his shoes, if it had happened the way he describes, I have a hard time imagining myself accepting this plea agreement without even talking to an attorney (who, by the way, is ethically bound to confidentiality) or anyone else.
Rioters in business suits
I came across a picture of lawyers in Lahore protesting the firing of Pakistan's chief justice by Gen Musharraf. It looked more like a riot than a protest to me, though I suppose riots are a subset of protests. What struck me was that the participants were wearing business suits. I don't think I've ever seen such a thing. Not particularly newsworthy almost six months later, but interesting. The picture to the left is related to a 12 March 2007 article on the BBC website. Clicking on the image will take you to the BBC story in pictures.
Lying about Gonzales's resignation
There will comment a-plenty on this resignation. But I found something that won't get much attention but interests me. It's in today's New York Times story, (at the end of course):
There had been rumblings over the weekend that Mr. Gonzales’s departure was imminent, although the White House sought to quell the rumors....
In other words, during the 1½ days between Mr Gonzales submitting his resignation and Mr Bush accepting it, it seems that reporters who asked if the rumor was true was lied to or at the very least intentionlly misled. Not necessarily by the various spokespersons, but certainly by everyone who was giving them information. Mr Gonzales himself for one. And if not Mr Bush for another, he does an appallingly poor job of managing his staff.
Is it any wonder nobody trusts government or the media these days?
Billion light-year void in the universe
It appears to be 6-10 billion light-years distant and is described is this paper, which has reportedly been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. If I've made the right assumptions and done the calculations right, this void is about twice as big as the biggest known void. From today's Astronomy Picture of the Day:
The void is not a hole in space like a black hole, but rather a vast region of the universe that appears to be mostly devoid of normal matter and even dark matter. The void is still thought to contain dark energy, though, and is clearly traversable by light. The void's existence is being postulated following scientific curiosity about how unusually cold spots came to appear on WMAP's map of cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. One possibility was that this CMB region was not actually very cold but light from the spot somehow became less cosmologically redshifted than normal along the way. Other voids in the universe are known to exist, but this void appears to have an unusually large gravitational effect, and so might possibly be the largest in our entire visible universe.
This eclipse (there's a minor error on the page that means you'll have to scroll up a little to see everything) will occur in less than 24 hours. Some aspect this event will be visible pretty much everywhere except most of Antarctica, Alaska, Hawaii, New South Wales and Queensland. Totality will be visible only from the Arctic, Africa, Europe, Greenland and Western Asia. Maximum eclipse will occur at 10:37:22 UT (6:37 AM here on the East Cost of the U.S.). Totality begins 0:45:00 earlier and ends 0:45:02 later, while the Moon enters Earth's umbra 1:46:06 earlier and leaves 1:46:08 later.
I wonder, "Why the 2-second difference? And the even bigger difference between times when the Moon enters and leaves Earth's penumbra? Also, why won't the Moon be full until 2 minutes after maximum totality?"
If you miss it, or the weather is bad, don't worry; the next one is in less than six months.
Somebody to Love
Queen star Brian May has gained his doctorate in Astronomy—36 years after starting his thesis. The rock guitarist... abandoned his studies to pursue a career in music...
Count me a fan of many Queen songs. One I like is Somebody to Love. To celebrate Dr May's new status, have a listen to this fantastic cover (.mp3) by Jim Boggia (pronounced BOH-zha). It's the first of several podcasts he's put up.
I'm giving away my cover of Queen's 'Somebody to Love' that I recorded to honor WXPN's Helen Leicht on her 30th year in radio.
If you live in Philadelphia and listen to WXPN (88.5 FM) like I do, or if you listen to their webcast, you are probably familiar with it. As Mr Boggia says, "you have seemingly not been able to escape from [hearing it]." He has an interesting post about the production of this unreleased number on his blog. Apparently he performed all 48 tracks by himself.
If I were one of those people who add music that automatically starts playing to their blogs or websites, this is probably the song I'd put up. But those sites annoy me terribly. So I won't impose my musical taste on you.
Hole punch clouds
It's a day for weather I guess. I saw a picture of a cloud formation in September's issues of National Geographic. I've neither seen nor heard of this kind of formation before. Aussie School House has a whole collection of pictures of 'em. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has an explanation, but National Geographic says,
I substituted the National Geographic's actual words for my paraphrase.
PoP (Probability of Precipitation)Speaking of the weather, I've invested a fair amount of time over the years trying to understand exactly what this means. Based largely on my own sense of who and what are reliable, I've concluded that this definition from the National Weather Service is a good one, despite the obvious bit of awkwardness:
12-hour Probability of Precipitation (PoP12)It would read so much better if it ended "during the indicated 12 hours." There's a much longer but useful explanation consistent with the definiton at this University of Texas page (attributed to the NWS but unavailable anywhere else, at least that Google knows about anyway).
Weather Forecast AccuracyWho gives the best weather forecasts? ForecastAdvisor offers a free service that compares Accuweather, MyForecast, the National Weather Service (whose forecasts the Weather Underground repackages), the Weather Channel and others (Intellicast in SE PA). According to them, the Weather Channel was most accurate last month, being ¼% more accurate than Intellicast (and 1½% more accurate last year). Other services trail by 2% or more.
Customer service livesA while ago I bought a General Electric USB 2.0 4-port hub. For the last couple of months my webcam and printer have only been working intermittently. I finally figured out the problem is with this hub, through which I was connecting both to my computer. My first clue was that the hub overheated almost to the point of being too hot to handle, literally.
I spent a while trying to locate a way to contact G.E. about this problem over the Internet. When I finally found a web page that seemed suitable, I got numerous errors saying I had filled in the form with French characters, which, for some mysterious reason, was unacceptable. It also wasn't true. I finally got around that problem by eliminating all non-alphanumeric characters from what I was entering (i.e. no periods, commas, dashes, etc.). Then I started getting 404 (page not found) errors.
Next I attempted to contact the webmaster via a similar fill-in form. It worked! Several days later I got a response, telling me to call a toll-free number. I did and got someone who was obviously overseas. He kept giving me information then retracting it. Finally he said, "Oh, you have to call a different toll-free number for that part" and gave me the number. Which he then retracted. And gave me yet another. Without much hope of success I dialed it and got a recorded message saying they were closed.
Today I called again. None of the automated options seemed to fit my case, so I hit '0' to speak with an operator. She said, "Oh, you want the service department" and transferred me. Skeptical, when the service rep picked up (which was immediately), I started to explain apologetically exactly how I had come to be calling. She interrupted pleasantly and said, "What part number?" I gave her the part number and the next thing I knew she was taking my shipping address so she could mail me a new hub. No hassle! No more being put on hold! No more retractions!
Now all I have to do is wait for my replacement hub to show up. If I have problems, she told me to call her back. I would too, if I had bothered to note her name. What a surprisingly pleasant experience it was once I reached this company that I had never heard of. Who is it? Jasco Products, apparently a great company to do business with.
Whose September report on Iraq?
Here are a couple of questions and answers from a White House press briefing on 1 Aug 2007 [full transcript]:
Q I'm asking how he [General Petraeus] can give an objective assessment of his own work.
Now, according to a report on NPR, "the White House has indicated that it will write the report which Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deliver to Congress..."
Needless to say, the difference between these two possibilities is huge.
Electronic voting machines decertified in CA
I must have missed this item in the news.
Ouch! There is a page of links to many more resources concerning this on the Secretary of State's website. Matt Blaze, one of the member of the review team, posted a blog entry describing events leading up to this decertification/recertification, as well as his personal observations. He concludes
I fear for the deserved lack of public confidence that seems to be creeping into the electoral process in the U.Ṡ. We had problems in 2000 (did you know that "[a]lmost two million ballots were disqualified in the 2000 election because [electronic voting machines] registered multiple votes or none when run through vote-counting machines"?), in 2004 (more "lost votes, [votes] subtracted... instead of adding them, and doubled votes"), and now this?
America the fearful
"All we have to fear, is fear itself" enjoined President Roosevelt in the face of truly fearsome circumstances. Ever since politicians have worked hard at building a deep reservoir of fear upon which they can prey to gain even more power. But Americans are not wusses, we have shown admirable bravery in the face of extreme danger, so why is this tactic so successful in politics?
I didn't get the political kind of answer to this question that I was hoping for, but perhaps the answer given is the only one that will really be effective in the long run, namely, for each of us to look at and deal with the fear within ourselves. That's certainly consistent with my overall view of reality.
Dark matter imaged?
Here's something I never thought I'd see: an image that shows dark matter in and around a cloud of hot gas (normal matter). Of course, it's from the good folks at the Astronomy Picture of the Day and, no, it's not a real image, only a simulated image, inferred from the way light from more distant galaxies is gravitationally distorted. Still, I'm amazed that anyone could come up with any kind of image that might bear a close relation to reality (whatever that it is). Click on the picture to go to the source and read a fuller explanation.
When will they ever learn?
Earlier this month Congress enacted legislation, requested by the administration, that supposedly brought the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) up to date. But according to a New York Times article, now that Congress and everyone else has had time to study what the legislation actually says, "Democratic Congressional officials and other experts" say that this law "could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include—without court approval—certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans' business records."
The Times article continues, "Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns... [b]ut they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation." In fact the White House says, "This Act Is A Temporary, Narrowly Focused Statute To Deal With The Most Immediate Needs Of The Intelligence Community To Protect The Country" [bold and capitals from original]. Are You Surprised That I'm Extremely Skeptical?
Given government's history of abuse of powers—and I don't mean merely by the Bush administration, or by administrations of the U.S. government, but by governments everywhere, throughout history—we the people ought to be afraid, very afraid, of just how harshly government officials will interpret this law when they see a need for it.
What will it take for Congress to learn to start reading and understanding legislation they pass before voting for it, rather than waiting till after it's already signed into law?
News photos from 2005
A friend e-mailed me a slideshow of 2005 news photos from MSNBC. Some were quite spectacular. I Googled for and found the original and larger slideshow on the MSNBC website. For your viewing pleasure, here are thumbnails to what I thought, in order, were the fifteen best (I'm sure if I went through them again, I'd pick a few different ones and put them in different order). Click on the thumbnail to see a larger (16-103K) version.
All images © their respective owners
Double spaceship flybys
The ISS by itself is quite a sight, and unmistakable. If skies are clear, do have a look.
19 Aug 2007 12:36 Eastern time UPDATE:
Due to the threat posed by Hurricane Dean, NASA has moved Endeavour's undocking up by one day to today. Unfortunately, forecasts call for several days of cloudy weather here in Southeast PA, so I'll probably miss it.
The Jose Padilla conviction
Jose Padilla became something of a poster child for the Bush administration's abuse of civil rights in fighting terrorism. Now that he's been convicted&mdashnot of the original charge of plotting to set off a dirty bomb, but on the charge of conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country—some will be tempted to see in it justification for the means the administration used. But it is not.
The crimes committed against due process of law by the U.S. government are of far more concern to me as a citizen than that committed by Jose Padilla.
The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq
I hear a lot of really good interviews on the Charley Rose show on PBS. Particularly concerning Iraq. Last night, Dr. Anthony Cordesman was Charlie's guest and opined extremely well, I thought. I highly recommend watching the segment (by the way, he sounds uncannily like former President Gerald Ford).
Among the exchanges between them is the following:
CR: What is our moral responsibility in this circumstance? Because so many people, Iraqis and others, have depended on the United States?
Dr. Cordesman has just returned from Iraq and published a trip report titled The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq, which further outlines his case.
The power of sensory illusion
Are square A and B the same color? They are. Are too. To verify this, click on the above image to see them connected. The above illusion, called the same color illusion, illustrates that purely human observations in science may be ambiguous or inaccurate. Even such a seemingly direct perception as relative color.
Now that it's becoming overwhelmingly obvious that we'll be starting to get out of Iraq before Bush's 2nd term ends,I'm glad to see that even the Democrats are becoming wary about the consequences, according to the New York Times:
I've opposed both wars on Iraq from the start, but I've also consistently opposed a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq War II for the reasons these politicians are beginning to cite. Too bad about Bill Richardson's position; I think he's an otherwise very good candidate.
Despite the fact that this war was a bad idea from the very beginning, despite the fact that there was completely inadequate planning for how it would end, the United States still bears responsibility for instigating the whole horrid sequence of events that leaves us in the impossibly difficult situation in which we find ourselves today. There's a lot of blood on our hands, and it's imperative that we minimize the amount of blood still to come, including that shed by any government that replaces the one we toppled.
Let your mobile carrier subsidize any phone you want
I saw this scheme in Dave Farber's IP List; he got it from Brad Templeton's blog, and Brad got it from Al Chang. The following just the essence of it; see Brad's blog entry for more details and related suggestions.
Nifty, eh? Aren't free markets great?
Senate hearings on Surgeon General nominee
SURGEON GENERAL: FORGET SCIENCE, GET THE POLITICS STRAIGHT.
Whither Internet radio?
In the Fall of 2005, I noticed a problem. My favorite radio station was counting down the top 885 albums of all time, both over-the-air and on the Internet. They played two tracks from each album numbered 885 - 501, three from each of 500 - 26 and the entire album for each of the top 25. I was listening as much as I could at work, over headphones. But due to certain provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, WXPN was not permitted to broadcast more than three songs from any one album—or was it from any one artist—over a certain period of time (one hour I think). So for each of the top 25 albums, I got to hear only three tracks. They played some other filler over the Internet for the rest of the time.
Then on June 26, WXPN joined thousands of other US-based webcasters in a "Day of Silence" to protest a retroactive royalty rate increase imposed by the Copyright Royalty Board that goes into effect tomorrow.
Two days ago, a Federal appeals court denied a petition from many of these Internet ratio stations to delay the rate increase, saying it could kill the medium. For an idea of how significant this increase is, consider this: "the six biggest Internet radio stations—Pandora, Yahoo, Live365, RealNetworks Inc., AOL and MTV Online—will pay 47 percent of their anticipated 2006 combined revenue of $37.5 million in performance royalties" (from Reuters UK, "U.S. court denies Webcasters' stay petition" Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:15 PM BST144).
I tried, but failed, to find the actual ruling by the Court. If you want to know more, there's some interesting discussion on this topic over at Slashdot. There's also SaveNetRadio, a coalition artists, labels, listeners, and webcasters that "believes strongly in compensating artists," but thinks that "[t]he recent ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board to increase webcasters' royalty rates between 300 and 1200 percent over the next 5 years jeopardizes the industry and threatens to homogenize Internet radio."
[Thanks to Michael Geist's Internet Law News from 13 July.]
I left off one of the most important points I wanted to make in my original post: that there's no reason to believe the future of Internet radio isn't bright—it just won't happen here in the US.
Furthermore, it now appears that there is still some hope of averting disaster here. According to Eliot Van Buskirk, writing in Wired:
Calling all amateur (and wannabe) astronomers
According to the BBC:
A new project known as Galaxy Zoo is calling on members of the public to log on to its website and help classify one million galaxies.
Go to the Galaxy Zoo website to sign up and take a short tutorial. If you pass—no matter how many tries it takes you—you can contribute to this largest-ever census of galaxies in the universe [thanks to today's Morning Show on WXPN].
Telephone privacy risk
Think the contents of your phone calls are secure? Not only are they susceptible to authorized (or unauthorized?) tapping by government officials, but the same software that makes these taps possible can be used by unscrupulous hackers, as demonstrated in an article titled The Athens Affair in the July 2007 issue of the IEEE's Spectrum
[Via Dave Farber's IP list]