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Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005
How to Sell at Amazon
Kevin Kelly at Cool Tools tells us how to sell our books, CDs, and DVDs at Amazon. For self-publishers, it could provide a lot of benefits not the least of which is letting Amazon warehouse your product.

It's a straightforward process involving getting an ISBN and a barcode, scanning the cover, and paying $30 a year to Amazon. It's a 55/45 split with Amazon taking the larger share but it's based on your 'cover' price and not an Amazon sale price.

via The Long Tail

Theater: Ten Thousand Things
We went to see the Ten Thousand Things Theater Company perform Antigone recently. The script was a new version written for the group by Emily Mann. I found it a bit strained in relating the ancient Greek times to our current President and his war but overall, the acting was excellent. It always is.

Ten Thousand Things (TTT) staged the play for the general public over two weekends (six performances) at two different venues and charged $20 for each ticket. Value-wise, the money is well-spent if you like excellent drama. No one else can out-perform this group overall.

But these few public performances are for fundraising. The company's mission is to bring theater to those who rarely see it. From their mission statement:
We perform at homeless shelters, prisons and other low-income centers, using the region's finest actors, to bring to life plays by Brecht, Shakespeare, Beckett and Fornes.
Their latest tour included six correctional facilities, a couple of homeless shelters, and work centers for disabled. Because their tours rarely include a real performing stage, sets are minimal, often consisting of common objects like a step ladder where they hang things to create the scene.

The actors and actresses that work with TTT are top-notch. Rumor has it that some have chosen parts in TTT over Guthrie work (and more money).

I'd give you some links to recent cast listings but their Web site doesn't list them. In fact, the site is seriously out of date. Best I can do is a production history page that hasn't been updated since 2002. It does go back to the very beginning though; Michelle Hensley started the troupe in Los Angeles in 1991. (We are so lucky that she migrated to our city.)

M. and I give some money to the group. I realized at this last performance that TTT is a very low overhead operation so our money likely goes a lot farther than it would if we made contributions to the Guthrie or some of the other MSTs (main-stream theaters) in our area. Plus they are bringing their art to prisoners and the poor.

Go to a show. Next up is Gertrude Stein's In a Garden. It's scheduled for March of next year.

Then consider a donation.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Movies: What I've Been Watching
Haven't been keeping up with my movie posts. Recently saw Good Night and Good Luck (liked it), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, so intense but very good), Kontroll (Hungarian film set in the Budapest Subway system, allegorical with great music), Captain Blood (1935, Errol Flynn, watched with the grandson, boring), Criss Cross (1949, directed by Robert Siodmak, stars Burt Lancaster, film-noir, OK), Claude Chabrol's Betty (a very strange story, well-acted, based on a novel by Georges Simenon), and Flightplan (Jodie Foster, my expectations were high and I was let down). All except Good Night and Good Luck and Flightplan were on DVD.


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Mabou Mines at Walker Art Center
M. and I saw Mabou Mines production of Ibsen's A Doll's House at the Walker Art Center recently. This was not your grandmother's Ibsen. In this version, director Lee Breuer has cast dwarf male actors against statuesque actresses. Much of it plays as a melodramatic comedy. If you have a chance to see this production, it is doubtful that it will be the one I saw as Breuer and crew are evolving the play from performance to performance.

Wikipedia on Mabou Mines (not much), Village Voice story on the production, Village Voice review, Walker Art Center blog review.

A long time ago, I played Torvald in a production of A Doll's House at a Junior College in Virginia, Minnesota.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
Cary Sherman Says Sony Handled DRM Situation Well
(Cary Sherman is the President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA))

Let's see. First Sony secretly installs a poorly programmed Rootkit on your PC. It's so secret that alpha geeks have a difficult time figuring out what's going on and when they do figure it out and uninstall, it makes their CD-ROM drive unusable. The rootkit also leaves your computer open to possible remote attacks.

Then Sony has the company that wrote the rootkit write an uninstaller. If you install the rootkit uninstaller and remove the rootkit, the uninstaller leaves your computer open to remote attack and the possible hijacking of your computer.

Sony is allowing you to return the CD. Of course, you've likely 'infected' your PC already so it's really not much consolation.

And before Sony did the (marginally) right thing, they said things like consumers don't really care about these rootkits anyway.

Mr. Sherman thinks that Sony's actions constituted "responsible" action. Here is what he said:

The problem with the SonyBMG situation is that the technology they used contained a security vulnerability of which they were unaware. They have apologized for their mistake, ceased manufacture of CDs with that technology,and pulled CDs with that technology from store shelves. Seems very responsible to me. How many times that software applications created the same problem? Lots. I wonder whether they've taken as aggressive steps as SonyBMG has when those vulnerabilities were discovered, or did they just post a patch on the Internet?

Mr. Sherman is glossing over a lot of facts and he really does not understand the nature of a rootkit. No, Mr. Sherman, lot of applications haven't "created the same problem." Yes, software does have security vulnerabilities that must be fixed or patched but generally, you can avoid any problems by not using the software once you become aware of the vulnerability. The rootkit is deeply embedded in the operating system itself and so the computer is useless until the rootkit is gone.

Highlights of the interview and a full transcript at the (ugly) Malbela blog.


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Editorial: Rebuilding New Orleans
The federal government wrapped levees around greater New Orleans so that the rest of the country could share in our bounty.

New Orleans Times-Picayune

via Scripting News

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Google Base Launch
Google has launched Google Base for hosting just about any data under the sun. Implications are unknown at this time and no one seems quite sure what it is and where all the data will go and where it will be displayed. Certainly will be worth watching and playing with.

Can't wait for Dave Winer's take on this.

Read the official launch announcement:

First Base

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Could the Web Save Arrested Development?
Fox's Arrested Development is the favorite joint show for M. and I. (She hardly stops laughing.) We don't watch the broadcast version; we watch a season later on DVD. We just finished season two.

Looks like it's ratings aren't good enough and it's in peril of cancellation.

The Lost Remote blog offers some excellent ideas for bringing the show to the Web with free initial distribution. After a show has been out for a month, you begin charging for the downloads and creating DVDs for sale. And how about this for generating cash: auction off walk-on parts on eBay.

It's good stuff and I'll guarantee that M. and I will download faithfully or buy the DVDs. This could be an excellent experiment in new media.

via The Long Tail.

The Sony Invasion
In line with pfhyper's recent posts on public libraries distributing Netlibrary's eAudiobooks with DRM hooks that prevent Mac usage, here is a report from USA Today about Sony CDs that make your (MS Windows) computer vulnerable to exploits (like, you know, viruses):
Sony... said it will offer exchanges for consumers who purchased the discs, which contain hidden files that leave them vulnerable to computer viruses when played on a PC.
There are about twenty titles that install software known as a 'rootkit' on your PC (trust me, rootkits are really bad). The purpose of the hidden files is to protect IP or intellectual property. This is another form of DRM (digital rights management).

The installation of the offending software is hidden from human eyes and even difficult for alpha geeks to find. Check Mark Russinovich's post here (really geeky), where he tries to figure out what's going on with his system. Here's a quote:
The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.
(Malware is like 'malevolent' ware, really bad stuff. I have no idea what an RKR scan is but the key point is if you know, and do it, and try to fix your PC, you will end up crippling it.)

If you live in the USA folks, your Congress is supporting this sort of thing because the entertainment industry has convinced them that the Internet really is about stealing intellectual property. There's no hard proof of this theft but it makes for headlines and the E! industry has plenty of money to spend on persuasion.

This is a scary thing. If I write and distribute a sneaky virus like Sony, I face criminal prosecution. So far, Sony has very little to say. They are pulling the CDs from store shelves and will offer an exchange to consumers. The problem is that this does nothing for compromised machines, estimated to be half-a-million computers. (See the Wired article.)

Corporations like Sony are hijacking a good portion of our artistic culture. They want to extend copyrights, locking down long-term profits for themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know, the artist needs to make a living. No problem. I agree. This has gone way beyond that. What we are looking at now is an industry -- mainly the music industry -- that must change significantly and doesn't want to. The Internet offers a very cheap way to distribute music and that's what the music industry is all about: distribution. Make those CDs and sell 'em. It's a very closed and feudal system.

Excuse me while I scream. This situation is so idiotic and most consumers aren't even aware of it. That may be the silver lining in the Sony cloud. Consumers (with MS Windows computers) are very aware of viruses and the damage they can cause. With that paragon of MSM (mainstream media), USA Today, reporting on this controversy, that average consumer should be able to understand that Sony is making their computers vulnerable to viruses.

That's all folks.


from the USA Today article, Bela Fleck is upset about Sony copy protection:

Frustrated when he bought a copy-protected Dave Matthews release and couldn't copy it to his Apple iPod, Fleck insisted that Sony not release his new album with such restrictions....
Methinks more artists need to speak out about DRM and copy protection. They also need to understand what happens to their music once it is in the hands of the label. What if Mr. Fleck had not purchased the Matthews CD? Would he be clueless as to how Sony is locking up his music? It looks to me, an average joe (well, actually an average pete), that the Artist is willing to hand over his creations to a very LARGE corporation to do with said creation as they wish.

(Bela Fleck and I are not related.)

Really, that's it for tonight.

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State of Web 2.0 in China
Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation discusses the tech boom and blogging in China.

China: resource scarcity, tech boom, and blogger disagreements

She has an experienced and reasoned take on the situration. Be sure to read this before MSM (main-stream media) writes the stories about how blogs will soon bring Democracy to Chinese shores.

She also blogs the weather! "You can taste Beijing’s air and it gave me a headache since I’m no longer used to it."

Yes. After a few weeks traveling in China, I blew my nose much more often and there was granular black things in the mucus.

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Weather Over Here
The current weather report:

Periods of rain before noon, then periods of rain and snow between noon and 4pm, then periods of snow after 4pm.

Current visuals: It's raining. (So far so good.)

Note to myself: Check for noon transition to rain-snow mixture.

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Monday, November 14, 2005
Citizen Journalism: H2OTown Blog
Lisa Williams, writer of the H2OTown blog in Watertown, MA, is guest writer at Jay Rosen's Pressthink.

If I Didn't Build it, They Wouldn't Come: Citizen Journalism is Discovered (Alive) in Watertown, MA

Ms. Williams is a very good writer. The Pressthink piece is entertaining but does an excellent job of looking at the issues involved with (new and trendy) Citizen Journalism. (Sorry, it's just become such a buzz phrase recently. Ms. Williams comments on this too.)

This should be required reading at Schools of Journalism globally.

Audiobooks: Detroit News Story
August story at the Detroit News Web site on using OCLC/NetLibrary AudioBooks in public libraries. It's a good overview of the issue and includes the fact that Apple iPod users are left out.

These articles aren't quite getting it though. It's not just the iPod issue, though important. The big issue is: You can't use Audiobooks on an Apple-branded computer.

I don't own an iPod. I would listen to Audiobooks on my Apple-branded laptop.

Sunday, November 13, 2005
Apple's DRM Sins
Lest we think Apple is any more progressive than Microsoft in the realm of digital rights, read John Robb's post.

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Minneapolis Public Library Offers Free Audio Books (Unless You Use a Mac)
[Update: Doc Searls speaks to the issue in Yo, Libraries: say No to DRM and also links to this Washington Post article from April '05. Turns out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed to the Online Computer Library Center, the parent group of NetLibrary.

Should our public libraries "say No" to rights-managed audio that leaves out a significant portion of their patrons? Seems the best course to me if you take open access for the Public seriously.

Apple is not without fault here. They have their own DRM system that won't play on any device except the iPod. As Mr. Searls says, both Apple and Microsoft have silos. If you're in one silo, you can't be in the other.

The Minneapolis (Minnesota US) Public Library now has free audio books for supporters of Microsoft. From the NetLibrary Audiobook FAQ:

Q: Can I download and play an audiobook on a Mac?
A: NetLibrary audiobooks cannot be played on Macs because the latest version of Window Media Player available for Macs (version 9) is based on Windows Media Rights Manager version 1.3. NetLibrary uses version 2.x licenses for eAudiobooks in order to maintain a high level of security. Because the latest version of Windows Media Player for Macs does not support 2.x licenses, NetLibrary audiobooks cannot be played on Macs at this point in time.

This is really hard to believe in the twenty-first century. I know there are still sites out there that don't support Macs but the last place I'd expect to see this is at my local library. Aren't libraries about free and open access?

This group that provides the service, NetLibrary, could make the books compatible with Macs by supporting Microsoft's version 1 DRM (digital rights management) license. But they don't so Mac users become second-class citizens at the Minneapolis Public Library.

The Library's audiobook entry page never mentions this. System requirements state I need Windows Media Player 9 or above and the Mac version is at 9. It does say I can't play it on my iPod but I assume that I can still play it on my laptop sporting that Media Player 9. Wrong. I finally stumbled on a FAQ (quoted above). Come on, Library, at least post this information up front! (The link to supported devices at the Netlibrary site doesn't mention the lack of Mac support either.)

To be fair, I did some searching for an alternative service that supports Macs and came up empty. It looks like Bill and the gang at Microsoft have succeeded in closing the door on the Mac users. Microsoft is "committed" to upgrading their Windows Media Player for the Mac and I hope that means they will make it compatible with their current DRM scheme.

I also hope my library will lobby Netlibrary to produce the books with support for the version 1 licenses so Mac users can benefit from the service.

(For a reasoned view of what's wrong with DRM in general, check out Cory Doctorow's talk at Microsoft Research.)

Friday, November 11, 2005
Moorish Girl on French Immigrants
Moorish Girl (Laila Lalami) on the unrest in France and the cluelessness of the media.

Moment(s) of Truth
And that's the problem in a nutshell: Referring to French-born people, some of whom have been there for three generations, as 'immigrants.' Could the attitude of the paper of record [New York Times] toward brown people in France be any clearer?"
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Adding Markers to a Google Map
I won't have time to try this tonight but I do want to plot my running routes through the neighborhood with markers on a Google map. This site looks like a good place to start.

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Juniper Tree: short fiction by Lorrie Moore
In the New Yorker (January 17, 2005, p. 77), this short story by Lorrie Moore. It is wonderfully written, sliding into a dream/fantasy segment without blinking and then back out again (or maybe, who knows). It speaks of the academic life of a middle-aged (unmarried) woman. We are in her head.

Let me provide a quote. In the course of discussing the man she is dating and why he is also seeing another woman at the same time, her friend tells her "'She's probably just really good in bed'" and provokes this reaction:
At this my heart sickened and plummeted down my left side and into my shoe. My appetite, too, shrank to a small pebble and sat in stony reserve in the place my heart had been and to which my heart would at some point return, but not in time for dessert.
So you must read this now. And then read this story (which I haven't had time to read yet so let me know if it's as good as Juniper Tree, please).

And then stroll over to Salon for an interview with the author. (Also still to be read on this end.)

New Yorker, August 29, 2005
Articles that interest me in some issue of the New Yorker that I read not too long ago even though the date on the magazine may be 10 months past. Sometimes I link to the article or let you know there is no Web version I can find. Sometimes I'm lazy and don't look. (Hey, I own the magazine already.) [Update: I added the links that I can find or noted 'no link'.]

Cover ("Beach Bum" by Peter de Séve) It has naked people on it including a really overweight man covered with tatoos of among other things, naked people. Guy's a good artist and the cover is fascinating. (No frontal nudity below the waist.) (Is this considered NSFW?)

Not a Word (by Henry Alford, p. 32) Encyclopedias include false entries to protect copyright and it's an old tradition. This piece details an investigation of the New Oxford American Dictionary to discover the false entry given the clue that it is of 3,128 "e" entries.

Right Hook (by Nicholas Lemann, p. 34) [Update: no link available] About Hugh Hewitt, "the Most Famous Conservative Journalist Whom Liberals Have Never Heard Of." Promotes a biases journalism (because, according to him, that's all there is) and has a blog. "Hewitt is absolutely unwilling to concede that the work of journalists isn't deeply affected by their opinions."

The Moral-Hazard Myth (by Malcolm Gladwell, p. 44) "The bad idea behind our failed health-care system." An indictment of the US health-care system where we spend, per capita, almost 2.5 times ($5,267) the industrialized world's median of $2,193 and have a life expectancy lower than the Western average. The 'moral hazard' of the title refers to the hazard of providing low-cost or free health coverage and risking that this might promote risky behaviour on the part of the insured person. (Like, I can run with scissors now because my insurance will cover me if I fall and get injured.) A good article as are most of Gladwell's.

The Shroud of Marin (by Tad Friend, p. 50) [Update: no link available to the article but here is an interview with Friend discussing the piece and over here a nice summary of the piece at the Pruned blog] Tyler Cassidy and green burials in California. A strange story about death.

Night of the Blog
Tonight is the Night of the Blog in the PF HYPER household. I will do my best not to read your blog and instead will blog away myself. I have posts I never finish; links to apply to old posts; and just some things to say that I hope someone, somewhere will find of interest. And if you do, please comment.

First up, an amendment to this New Yorker post wherein I stated that I'm not going to check for links to the articles I mentioned. Geez, how unweb can you be. So I'll check for links for you. I'm also going to check around on Technorati and for how the New Yorker is tagged. Stay tuned.

On tags... I just looked over the tags at the blog space and already have three relating to blogging. Damn.

Saturday, November 05, 2005
Wonders of the Internet: Amazon and the Mechanical Turk
Today I stumbled upon Amazon's answer to outsourcing, the Mechanical Turk. The Turk and its human helpers will complete small and boring jobs (HITs or Human Intelligence Tasks) that require some kind of human tending. In the giant scheme of all things monetary, it will be cheap.

Amazon's page reads like the flyers under the wipers: Earn Lots of Money in Your Spare Time!

Techcrunch's take

And make sure to check out Richard MacManus's top ten list of Web 2.0 tasks he wants The Turk to do (at Read/Write Web ).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Hindi Language Film
Netflix's new release feed has a bunch of Hindi language films that don't look like the typical Bollywood stuff. There are several suspense films.

The problem is I don't have a clue as to how to tell you to search out these films at Netflix except to check new releases (and I think my new release list is already not so new). There's no way to search on language or country, as far as I can see. Foreign is a genre with every country except the US jammed in it.

NETFLIX, give us a better search please.

Avian Flu at CTV
CTV has a good article about Avian Flu and it's various strains (mostly harmless to humans).

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