Seth thinks I look a lot like Fernando Lorenzo Lamas.

Lorenzo Lamas Me

Believe what you have to believe. All I’m sayin’ is, nobody’s ever seen the two of us in the same place at the same time.

It’s been a very non-nerdy weekend so far. I’ve barely even fired up my news aggregator. This morning was the usual grocery shopping. The following simple rule seems to work well for weekend treks to the Porter Square Star Market: show up before 10am, no waiting in long checkout lines. This afternoon was replacing the horrible painted-blue-by-the-previous-owners electrical outlets and light switches that don’t match the new and lovely burnt sienna paint in my home office. This evening was making chocolate chip ice cream which should be ready to eat about now. Yes, I’ve been on an ice cream making kick for the last few weeks. Yum yum yum. Oh, and finishing up Attack of the Clones which we’ve finally gotten around to watching thanks to a little help from TiVo. Ah, parenthood. Anyway, I can’t believe it’s so lame. They could have cut the entire first hour. And did you notice that it took rougly a year for this movie to go from threatrical release to home video? I can’t seem to find the dates now, but the transition for Episode IV must have taken 10 or 15 years. Perhaps an indication of the relative quality of each for their time…

It’s a beautiful, Fall-like day in New England. Watching my daughter Talia play at the park this morning, I found myself caught up in waves of nostalgia for Falls past. The mix of bright sunshine and chill wind, particularly in contrast to the heat and rain of recent days, must have had something to do with it. Apple picking, a Fall tradition I grew up with, is just around the corner. Talia is growing up with that tradition too. Her first apple picking trip was at 4 weeks, her second at 13 months. She’ll be turning 2 in September, with her third trip to the orchard not far behind.
Apple picking at 4 weeks Apple picking at 13 months

Of human folly

Jerome Groopman writes in this week’s New Yorker:

The study also yielded many ancillary insights. For example, several participants experienced what doctors call the ‘‘nocebo effect”: even though these patients were in the group randomly assigned to take a chemically inert placebo, they reported suffering from side effects associated with taking Prozac, like insomnia and indigestion.

In the “placebo effect”, a subject feels better because they expect to feel better, even if no drugs are involved. It’s easy to get a kick out of this because, hey, if the person feels better that’s just great, whatever the reason. The nocebo effected subjects, by contrast, felt worse because they expected to feel worse. Not only that, they felt worse in specific ways that they’d gone out of their way to discover. Here there is also an element of human folly, but it is at once more tragic and more delicious.

The Copyright Cage

There is so much good material in Jonathan Zittrain’s The Copyright Cage that I find it hard to quote without copying half the article.

Yes, copyright is important for ensuring that creative works get created. But yes, we’ve got our priorties all screwed up when the Girl Scouts have to pay royalties for singing “Puff, The Magic Dragon” around the campfire.

I am so glad that Zittrain raises the issue of complacency:

…we do ourselves a disservice by fixating on current income structures and not thinking about future possibilities premised on amazing technological advances, especially when the rights at issue concern the flows of ideas, something fundamental to free societies.

Of course artists and their backers should be able to make money doing what they do, but we have no evidence to support the claim that yesterday’s economic model, whereby record companies collect revenue directly from consumers, one copy at a time, makes sense any more.

The question of viable alternatives has been much in my thoughts lately. I think you have to start from the opposite end of reality to get your head around it. Imagine a world where all recorded music ever made was instantly at your fingertips. You could stream, copy, play and share to your heart’s content with no restrictions. Cover art, liner notes and copious hyperlinks to musician databases (“see other recordings in which Wes Montgomery appears”) would all be readily available.

With that it mind, you can start to ask questions like how would people use it, and how would we pay for it? The closest I’ve been able to come is some sort of bandwidth-based solution. The more you copy, the more you pay. It leverages all that file-swapping energy rather than fighting it head-on. Apparently others are thinking along these lines too. Again from Zittrain:

Scholars like William Fisher of Harvard Law School have floated ideas as sensible as they are radical—not to mention offensive to almost every interest in the copyright debates, from publisher to middleman to anarchist. He suggests in an upcoming book that ISPs remit to publishers a fee loosely based on the amount of copyrighted digital content that they are roughly calculated to be carrying, at which point people can trade music to their hearts’ content.

Amazing. I would pay for it. In light of the differences in capitalization, I find it odd that one of the larger ISPs or even Microsoft hasn’t simply bought out a record label and attempted the experiment.

Thanks, Ben, for pointing to this one.

Back from the Cape

I’m just back from a few days on Cape Cod. There was a little bit of rain but not nearly as much as forecast for Boston. The sand was wonderful, the ocean lovely and warm. I got through about half of Ishiguro’s “When We Were Orphans” yesterday. It’s a little dry and heavily introspective, but nevertheless entertaining. Memory plays a big role. I find myself digging through my own memories of childhood, like the protagonist. As I read, I have a recurring suspicion that some critical aspect of the protagonist’s existence, hinted at but heretofore missed by us and the protagonist, is going to suddenly be revealed. Like John Nash’s mental illness in “A Beautiful Mind”.

Half-baked idea

SO we’ve started thinking about actually planning out our meals for the week before we go grocery shopping. Think about this and you realize that there is a lot of information management involved. You pick a recipe for each meal, break the recipes down to their ingredient lists, add up all of the ingredients for all meals, sum up the quantities, subtract what you already have in the pantry and finally you have your shopping list.

Computers could help here, couldn’t they? We haven’t used an online grocery site in quite a while, but as far as I recall the interface was a recapitulation of the brick and mortar version (food categories, aisles, etc). That seems wrong to me. I want to pick my menu and have the server generate my shopping list from it. Do any of the online grocers do that now?

Baby Mo arrives

I have a new neice. Congratulations to proud parents Adam and Renee!

Welcome to the party, guys. The water’s pretty nice, once you get used to it :->