Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray [at]

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Monday, July 29, 2002
Another misguided politician. The music and movie industries have acquired another mercenary member of Congress: Sen. Joseph Biden (D - DE), who has quietly amended a bill to make it more all-encompassing:
Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense.

"Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play," says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. "It is certainly the case that if I pass that around, I could be trafficking (in violation of the law)."

Most of the bill's sponsors are Democrats, lending more support to Glenn Harlan Reynolds' contention that they have sold out to Hollywood and and are willing to allow Big-Brother type measures.

And need we add that Biden sponsoring a bill to prevent copying is somewhat ironic?

Such a deal!

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
And you thought a respected Yale University information designer would have no sense of humor. Edward Tufte redesigns the Pioneer spacecraft plaque designed to communicate with any alien beings that might find it. (via

I have all three of Tufte's books. Someday I may have the time to read them.

Monday, July 15, 2002
Were there accountants involved? In 1999, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory had announced the discovery of two new elements, numbers 116 and 118. Last year, they retracted the announcement's claim about element 118, saying that they were unable to reproduce the experiment. It's come out now that one member of the team involved fabricated his research. (via Slashdot)

Sunday, July 14, 2002
They're at it again. Reps. Howard Coble (R - NC) and Howard Berman (D - CA) are introducing a bill to take away some of your fair use rights of copyrighted material. Don't believe me, ask the experts:
Under current copyright law, Americans who record a TV program or radio segment generally may "sell or otherwise dispose of" that analog recording or digital file as they wish.

The proposed bill would end that exemption, handing copyright owners substantial new control over the distribution of their works by curtailing copying rights granted to consumers under a doctrine known as "fair use."

"If you were to take today's episode of 'E.R.' and tape it and give it to your mother, it would be copyright infringement under this bill," said Jessica Litman, a professor at Wayne State University who specializes in copyright law.


R. Polk Wagner, who teaches intellectual property law at the University of Pennsylvania, says the proposal has "the potential to cut back fair use rather substantially."

"Let's say I obtained a copyrighted work under fair use, say a photo of Mickey Mouse," Wagner said. "If I wanted to discuss, criticize or share that work, I need to interact with other people. Yet section one of the draft bill quite clearly says I have no rights to distribute the work, which would seem to rather severely limit my use. In the digital era, interaction takes place by transferring and copying files."

And disturbingly, my representative, John Conyers (D - MI) has apparently helped. Mr. Conyers will be hearing from me very soon.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002
This has nothing to do with anything. I just discovered that one of my all-time favorite science-fiction stories is available online. "-- And He Built a Crooked House" was written by Robert Heinlein in 1940, and is about an architect who designs and builds a four-dimensional house.

Instincts vs. focus groups. When "60 Minutes" did a profile of him as his sitcom was windong down, Jerry Seinfeld gleefully pointed out the framed document hanging on his wall from NBC, criticizing his new show. "Supporting cast weak" was one of the comments. It seems that my current favorite show experienced the same thing. The LA Times reports that focus groups did not love "Everybody Loves Raymond." I'm glad that CBS didn't pull the plug too quickly -- and now they are too.

Sunday, July 07, 2002
No need to leave. Despite having ethical questions raised about a typical number of Bush Administration officials, none have resigned. (The only one so far who was forced to resign committed the unpardonable sin of disloyalty -- he publicly criticized the budget.) Even Secretary of the Army Thomas White, tangled up in the Enron mess, remains. This Washington Monthly article analyzes why.

Saturday, July 06, 2002
Ted Williams, R.I.P. Take a few minutes to read this fascinating NYT obituary of one of baseball's greatest hitters -- arguably the greatest. I'd like to see some of today's steroid-enhanced players try and top his records... most notably, being the last man to bat .400 in a season (.406 in 1941). Fat chance. (Tony Gwynn and George Brett have come the closest, as you can learn from the related articles linked from that page.)

And happy birthday to me. It's my first 39th birthday.