13 May 2008

Just as Dead as That Squirrel

Just a few miscellaneous items today.

  • I promised more posting yesterday. The local squirrels and wind had other ideas... The line-repair tech came out, and it took over 45 minutes to replace the line going into the house. The squirrels — probably in retaliation for Lucy chasing (and occasionally catching and eating) them — had begun the process by chewing up the insulation and nibbling on the wires. The wind finished it by forcing one of the wires out of the connector, leaving it to flap against the connector and tantilize me with occasional connections. It wasn't that big a deal to replace the line, and it was probably necessary: The last service date noted on the connector was over fifty years ago.
  • Charlie Stross explains why your "broadband" 'net connection still takes forever to download articles. As a rather disturbing corollary, it's been my experience (backed up by data, not just anecdotes) that there's a lot less bloat associated with more-bandwidth-intense content, such as music and videos. Thus, by being "efficient" in demanding textual content, all I'm doing is enabling the advertisers to waste an even higher proportion of the bandwidth.
  • Perhaps some of those who believe that "lit crit should embrace science" should try understanding both literature and the scientific method before they begin making such proscriptive claims. The point of the scientific method is that it enables one to reason from data to a theory; to then test that theory with different data, and determine whether the theory is satisfactory or requires revision (or even, as in the case of the ether, derision). However, one of the key points of literature — and, for that matter, literary criticism — is that the "data sets" have only coincidental congruence at best. That's not to say that neither field can learn from the other; it is only to say that such learning is by analogy, not by direct application.

    Of course, it would be a good idea if a few more lit majors (and, for that matter, biz/econ majors) took some serious, math-based science, and if a few more scientists took some serious, high-level (that is, non-survey) literature courses. They might learn something about communication if they did.

  • When an overseas paper that's as normally insensitive to nuances in IP as The Times begins to accept that the Harry Potter Lexicon lawsuit is about trademark as much as about copyright, one would ordinarily sit up at take notice... except that this is a guest article written by actual attorneys, so perhaps doing so is premature. That said, one might almost think they'd read my initial take on the lawsuit, which is quite similar in the end (allowing for the translation to UK terms and perceptions). Plagiarism is hardly a new concern... but neither does it fit comfortably within either the "copyright infringment" or "trademark infringement" rubrics.
  • Last, and far from least, I'd like to add some emphasis to Mr Gaiman's comments in this embedded video. I spent several years in Mr Gaiman's homeland during the reign of Margaret I, and on free-speech issues it was extremely embarassing. At one point, in order to do my job I had to go abroad and buy copies of an English-language book by a former UK government servant. (I cannot confirm or deny what that involved; some of the people most interested in reading it were my UK colleagues...) And, compared to other parts of the world, the UK is a veritable paradise of free speech; at least one can identify the Official Secrets Act without going to jail for merely identifying the government authority.

    I won't go so far as to say "America — love it or leave it." I have no patience with that kind of jingoism, especially since the very point of the construct "America" is that dissent is not merely tolerated, but embraced... and that necessarily means admitting that the union is, at present (and in the past), less perfect. But I will say "The First Amendment — use it or lose it," because I cannot conceive of a long-term self-perpetuating functional democratic republic without it (or something very close indeed). That should be a hint of what I predict in the long term for the "democracies" in Europe... and Russia since The Wall fell is merely an accelerated example.