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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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
The New York Post reports that Mike Nichols plans to take a revue of Monty Python material (performed by other actors) to Broadway.

Monday, July 28, 2003
Inkjet printer owners, read this.
Inkjet printer manufacturers make money the way razor maker Gillette did (and does): sell the razors/printers very cheap and make your profits on the blades/ink refills. But today when anybody smells a market with high profits, they pile in, and ink refillers and even office supply stores have been doing that -- they now account for 15% of the market. And used inkjet cartridges can be worth as much a $7 apiece. Read more.

Pet peeve.
Lots of people get upset when government officials, including our current president, pronounce "nuclear" as "nucular." It's just one of those things that rubs them the wrong way. (Apparently Merriam-Webster has caved in and now accepts it as a valid pronounciation. Go here and click on the third speaker symbol.)

I have a different fixation, however, and that is Republicans who are apparently too stupid to know the name of the opposition party (and no, I'm not a member by any means, just someone who understands grammar). I'm not talking about slips of the tongue; I mean people who are consistently unable to refer to an organization by its correct name.

Here are five examples from House majority leader Tom DeLay last Friday, speaking to a group of young Republicans (emphasis added):
So in the interests of clarity, I have a simple message to pass along: the national Democrat party seems to have lost its marbles.


To try to gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier.


I will never call the Democrat Party unpatriotic, but I will call their current leadership unfit to face the serious challenges of the 21st century.


Ridiculous as it sounds, the logical extension of the Democrat leadership's assertion is that President Bush is an international war criminal.


But as extreme, hateful, and bizarre as their leaders' rhetoric has become, we can never forget that the Democrat Party is still a mammoth institution with a strong and proud heritage.

It's the Democratic Party, you idiot. A Democrat is someone who belongs to the Democratic Party. Or don't they teach you that stuff in the Republic Party?

Dick Armey says it the same way. Maybe it's a Texas thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2003
Wait 'til next year. Er, make that a few years from now. Maybe.
Detroit News sportwriter Lynn Henning sees no end to the pathetic performance of our Detroit Tigers (28-75 as of today; current standings):
[S]ome of us who think we have a sense for where an organization is headed have darker views today than existed a year ago. The lack of minor-league talent, due to shockingly bad drafting, is frightening. One position talent -- Cody Ross, not by any means a game-breaker -- is at Triple A. One pitcher of significance -- Rob Henkel, who figures to be in Detroit in September -- is working at Double A. You have to go to the lower minor-league levels to see any kind of hitting potential in the entire Tigers system. It is staggering how little talent exists.

Fresh start.
I've finally had it with Windows ME on my home computer, so I installed Windows 2000 today. I've known for a long time that 2000 is a superior OS (much more stable), and quite honestly the only thing holding me back was the pain in the ass factor of keeping my data safe, reinstalling applications, etc. The latter is particularly difficult when you can't find your discs; in this case, Photoshop Elements, which is not critical, and Office 2000, which most definitely is. They're around here somewhere (sigh). Yes, it's a major pain ... but it's always so nice to have a computer that flies thanks to a fresh install.

Saturday, July 26, 2003
"Copyright deserves infinite protection"?!?
Yale Law's "Law Meme" blog takes apart a truly stupid argument made by a law student at Duke. (Background: Eldred v. Ashcroft was an attempt to declare the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled for the defendant, upholding the act.) So far, two Duke grads have added comments effectively apologizing for their soon to be fellow alumna.

There's a lot of silliness going around in technology law these days. So much, in fact, that responding individually to every logical fallacy or faulty analogy would be a recipe for an early ulcer. But every so often, something comes in over the transom that's so profoundly wrongheaded that it can't be left alone. Today, while poring through the last few months of articles in tech law journals, I came across a case comment in need of a thorough deconstruction.

Our text today is Shalisha Francis, iBRIEF: Eldred v. Ashcroft: How Artists and Creators Finally Got Their Due, 2003 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0014, a chipper little student note advancing the thesis that Eldred v. Ashcroft was rightly decided. Now, this is not, by itself, an absurd statement. The seven justices who decided Eldred certainly think it was rightly decided. Rather, what distinguishes this piece is its dedication to the proposition that the public domain is openly dangerous. Since the purpose of articles is to spur discussion on the issues they raise, let the discussion commence . . .

"Trusted computing" ... for a price.
Buried near the end of an NYT article about Microsoft's effort to continue growing during the current slump in computer sales is this sentence: "Mr. Gates said the company was considering the possibility of charging for some of its software updates that are now made available free over the Internet."

Three quick thoughts:

1. It's fair to charge for functional improvements. It's not fair to charge for bug fixes, nor to drop support early to effective force people to upgrade.

2. It appears that MS wants to be immune from the economic forces that drive the computer industry (i.e., declining prices). Windows never gets any cheaper, and consequently it's the most expensive component in today's PCs. (Office never got any cheaper until a week or two ago.) Of course, this was pointed out during the federal antitrust case, but you know how effective that was.

3. If MS is truly worried about the growing movement toward low/no-cost open source software such as Linux and OpenOffice, wouldn't charging for updates be counterproductive? Wouldn't it provide additional incentive for consumers to investigate lower-cost alternatives?

Monday, July 21, 2003
O. Henry for the 21st century.
There's a short story and probably a movie that could be based upon this report from Taiwan about a guy who killed himself after his girlfriend dumped him for a guy she had been corresponding with on the Internet. (via Daypop)

Sunday, July 20, 2003
Republicans vs. Scientists.
I noted last year how the Bush administration only picks scientists who agree with their views to fill government positions. The Washington Monthly takes a broader look at the subject:
The administration's stem-cell stand is just one of many examples, from climate change to abstinence-only sex-education programs, in which the White House has made policies that defy widely accepted scientific opinion. Why this administration feels unbound by the consensus of academic scientists can be gleaned, in part, from a telling anecdote in Nicholas Lemann's recent New Yorker profile of Karl Rove. When asked by Lemann to define a Democrat, Bush's chief political strategist replied, "Somebody with a doctorate." Lemann noted, "This he said with perhaps the suggestion of a smirk." Fundamentally, much of today's GOP, like Rove, seems to smirkingly equate academics, including scientists, with liberals.


Why nothing serious gets done about outlawing spam.
From Fast Company, The Dirty Little Secret About Spam:
When it comes to email marketing, this is the reality: What the good guys want and what the bad guys want are more or less the same thing. J.P. Morgan Chase and Kraft U.S.A. promote credit cards and coffee in ways that aren't so different from the tactics employed by anonymous peddlers of porn and gambling. "Legitimate" marketers would rather the spammers disappear -- but not if that means quashing the opportunity that both groups enjoy.

And so the good guys let the bad guys go. It is an unspoken collusion, a sort of state-sponsored terrorism directed at our inboxes. Sernovitz makes big-name marketers and ad agencies nervous, because they're not sure if his nascent effort would ultimately target them. Likewise, the marketing industry has fought federal and state antispam legislation that would compromise its own ability to blanket us with email pitches.

Monday, July 14, 2003
It's not nice to fool Harvard.
How far would you go to stop being hit up for money from your alma mater? Erik Humphrey Gordon "killed" himself. (via Metafilter)

Deja vu.
The controversial Terrorism Information Awareness program, which would troll Americans' personal records to find terrorists before they strike, may soon face the same fate Congress meted out to John Ashcroft in his attempt to create a corps of volunteer domestic spies: death by legislation.

The Senate's $368 billion version of the 2004 defense appropriations bill, released from committee to the full Senate on Wednesday, contains a provision that would deny all funds to, and thus would effectively kill, the Terrorism Information Awareness program, formerly known as Total Information Awareness. TIA's projected budget for 2004 is $169 million.

TIA is the brainchild of John Poindexter, a key figure from the Iran-Contra scandal, who now heads the research effort at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Well, I guess that settles it then, since Poindexter has such a great track record of respecting the will of Congress when it comes to funding his pet projects.

Saturday, July 12, 2003
Monsanto vs. the First Amendment.
This story in today's NYT has me concerned. Monsanto is suing a small Maine dairy because they pledge not to use artificial growth hormones -- which Monsanto makes -- in their milk.

That's it. They're are suing because this dairy pledges not to use their products (though not by name).

I don't have an opinion about growth hormones in milk. That's incidental to me. What's troubling is the bizarre logic Monsanto wants to apply. "If you publicly promise not to use things we sell, we'll sue you." (It's probably giving the RIAA some new ideas, because after all, once you sue your customers, the only people left are those who aren't your customers.)

If the dairy had actually said something libellous, mind you, that would be something different. In fact their web site, which provides much more detail than their milk carton, points out that the FDA has no problem with growth hormones. But, they explain, our customers prefer not to have them.

Allow me to make my own public promise:

I hereby pledge not to use Monsanto products in the creation of this website.

What say ye to that?

Addendum: Argh -- it turns out that Monsanto makes Roundup weed killer. Guess I'll need to find another one.