Monthly Archives: November 2007

A couple interesting stories that are related in my mind as they pertain to IP and the level of control that IP owners exert over their product:

Verizon Plans Wider Options for Cellphone Users

Carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which is a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone, have spent billions on cell towers and other infrastructure, and traditionally they have tightly controlled what happens on their networks.

They decide what phones subscribers can use and then steer them toward ring tones, television shows and other products they can buy.

I’m not sure that this will be better for the providers, but in the long term I think it’ll be good for the industry. There has been a lot of frustration at the unwillingness of consumers to spend a lot of money for things to put on their phone. They’ll pay $2.50 for a ringtone, sure, but when it comes to music and games sales have been anemic. The main reason for this, I think, is that these things are often not transferrable from one phone to the next and it further locks them into their provider. I know that’s one of the big reasons that I’ve stayed away from investing in my phone. Giving customers more confidence in this regard will be a good thing, saying nothing of the benefits of increased competition.

Report: EMI looking to slash funding for RIAA, IFPI

One of the Big Four labels is apparently unhappy with its return on investment when it comes to funding industry trade groups such as the IFPI and RIAA. British label EMI, which was recently purchased by a private equity fund, is reportedly considering a significant cut to the amount of money it provides the trade groups on an annual basis.

According to figures seen by Reuters, each of the Big Four contributes approximately $132.3 million to fund the operations of the IFPI, RIAA, and other national recording industry trade groups. That money is used in part to fund the industry’s antipiracy efforts—including the close to 30,000 file-sharing lawsuits filed by the record labels in the US alone.

I’m not as unsympathetic as many are when it comes to efforts on the part of the record labels to prevent wholesale piracy, but even if one grants the validity of their cause (a concession I don’t make) the RIAA has been wildly unsuccessful. The RIAA’s interests have been diverging from the labels’ interests themselves for some time now and I think it’s wise for labels to start looking at other options.

Category: Newsroom

When I was dating Julie, I spent a lot of time in the city of Phillippi. Phillippi {pronounced FILL-PEE} is a blue-collar city on the outskirts of Colosse and by far the city’s largest suburb. North Phillippi is mostly known for being a heavily industrial area where most of the inhabitants spend their days working in the chemical plants in eastern Colosse and spend their nights breathing in the fumes. Unfortunately the factories are technically in Colosse, so while they get the fumes, they don’t get the tax dollars. The south part of town is more middle class and upper middle class.

Julie’s father was a volunteer with the Phillippi Volunteer Fire Department and most of his friends were firemen and a lot of them were cops. Julie’s grandfather was a businessman and an aide to former Mayor Mack Kramer. Because of this, I happened to become rather knowledgeable about Phillippi politics despite not living in the city.

I noticed, shortly after dating Julie, that there seemed to be two different people asking to be re-elected mayor. There were “Return Mack Kramer” and “Re-elect Bill Rose” signs. When I finally thought about it, I was able to put the pieces together. Rose had deposed Kramer from office and they were running against one another. I asked Mrs. Bernard and got an earful because of her father’s work with Mayor Kramer.

The two apparently absolutely hated one another. Rose was Kramer’s nemesis while the former was on city council and the later mayor. When Kramer was term-limited out of office, Rose won and promptly took Kramer’s name off all of the things that Kramer had helped the city build (Kramer Fairgrounds because the Rose Fairgrounds, for instance). Then Rose was term-limited out, Kramer was elected, and we were back to the Kramer Fairgrounds. Rose ran against Kramer, knocked him out of office, and the city council finally settled on the Phillippi Fairgrounds. Rose was seeking re-election and Kramer was running against him by the time that I started becoming familiar with the area.

Rose won, and when he was term-limited out, Kramer ran for the post against a proxy from Rose’s camp and lost, the city finally had a new mayor. Kramer died a couple of years later and Rose ran for a City Commissioner post. All of Kramer’s families lined up behind Rose’s opponent, City Comptroller Marge Calvert, and all at once the war was renewed with Calvert running by proxy. It being a slightly Democratic district, the Calvert won and Rose, a Republican, went to work campaigning for his son who was running for Justice of the Peace and then went back to doing whatever he did when he wasn’t mayor.

In addition to ego, one of the differences between the two was style. Mack Kramer represented the industrial northside. He was an old-school conservative Democrat with a populist streak. Bill Rose, and his ascendency in local politics, represented the city’s shift from an industrial Flint-like town to a posh suburban enclave. Rose was a business-friendly Republican who seemed as uncomfortable around poor people as Kramer did around educated people. They really came by their dislike quite honestly. Kramer was fighting the Republicanization of Phillippi and lost that fight.

I was reminded of the battle as Clancy and I left for Beyreuth. The mayor that succeeded Rose resigned because (as he claimed) God told him that he was destined to run for Delosa Congressional District 6. Mayoral signs were everywhere: local businessman Pete Kramer vs. State Representative Buddy Rose.

Category: Statehouse

I was in Delosa last week for the Thanksgiving holidays visiting family. Instead of flying I chose to drive because we’re going to get my car thoroughly inspected and decide whether or not I should keep it or will drive back in my parents car. That’s a separate story, though. It also helped because we spent part of the week in Colosse visiting my family and the other part in Beyreuth across the state visiting Clancy’s.

The inside of my car was messy as it so often is and I needed to clean it out because it’s more difficult for people that handle your car to take things from your car if anything missing would be conspicuous. I made the mistake of telling my father that I was going to clean out my car. I knew it was a mistake the minute I said, because I knew that he would say “I’ll help!”

Ordinarily such assistence would be graciously accepted. The problem is that my father believes that I have quit smoking and the pack of cigarettes I had on the drive had disappeared from my pocket, meaning that they were somewhere in my car. I desperately wanted to avoid a conversation on the matter. Cleaning out my car was one of the ways I was hoping to do that because in addition to cleaning it for the inspectors, I wanted to clean it for my father because I knew that if I didn’t, he would. But the second I said that I would clean it and he offered to help, I had inadvertently made the conversation more rather than less likely.

I told him not to worry about it and that I would take care of it. He said it was no worry at all. Then I said that I didn’t want to do it right away so I would do it later. He said that he wouldn’t mind at all getting started while I decompressed from the drive. I told him that I was a bit embarassed by the state of my car and wanted to take care of it myself and that seemed to be the magic rationale. The magic quickly faded. I wasn’t out there five minutes before he was saying that he was going to help me. I told him that he should go to bed since it was past his bedtime, but he was insistant.

I wasn’t really sure what to do. I couldn’t insist any more loudly than I already had without incurring real suspicion. Further, he was sitting in the driver’s seat near which the cigarette pack was most likely to be found. I quickly cleaned out the passenger’s side and then as inconspicuously as I could I moved on to the back seat behind him, hoping that the cigarette pack was underneath the seat. Thankfully, it was. Not wanting to put it in my pocket, I stuck it in the trash bag figuring that I could get it out later.

When we finished, Dad volunteered to take care of the garbage sack for me. Not wanting him to look inside to make sure that I didn’t throw away anything I shouldn’t have and seeing the cigarettes, I told him that I would take care of it. He insisted, I insisted. I then said that I needed to clean out the trunk of my car and I would put the garbage sack in the trash can myself when I finished. He offered to help with the trunk. He insisted, I insisted. He won and he helped me with the trunk. I figured at least the extra junk from the trunk would make it harder for him to find the cigarette pack and that I would do whatever I could to make sure that the garbage bag did not leave my hands.

As we finished, he said that I should leave the trash bag out because he wanted to look through it and make sure that I hadn’t thrown away anything that I shouldn’t. Before I could say anything, he said that he would take a look in the morning because he was getting tired. Thanks to the extra junk from the trunk meant to hinder Dad’s search through the trash bag, it took me more than half an hour to find the pack.

The next morning he said that he was going to take a look in the trash bag and seemed surprised when I didn’t object.

Category: Home, Road

A UN “study group” has decided that Tasers are a form of torture with the capability to cause death.

Aside from illustrating some of the mind-numbing stupidity I’ve come to associate the UN with by default, it reopens a long debate on what tools and rights the police should have.

In the 1990s, many “civil rights” organizations were pushing for the police to be given (and presumably, forced to use) more ‘nonlethal’ methods of solving violent confrontations. Minority-rights groups especially contended that police were “too quick” to draw weapons and fire on members of their races, who may or may not have been bloodthirsty killers and axe murderers who attacked the cops. The Taser was the inevitable result; a weapon capable of incapacitating someone, quickly drawn and fired like a gun, and which would (at least in most cases) leave someone alive to be handcuffed and taken to jail rather than dead at the scene.

A brief side note – in Colosse, we have our own cop problems. Of the cops I’ve met, given that the city has a police force 1/2 the size of cities 1/4 its population, there seem to be precisely 2 types of cop: the overworked ones (let’s face it, if you’ve worked 16+ hour days for months on end with no vacation, you’re not at your best) and the corrupt ones. Still, I’d rather be tased by either than wind up in a grave.

The Taser is not completely nonlethal, nor should any weapon ever be considered to be; even handcuffs can be lethal. It is not un-painful, but again, the purpose of any weapon is to inflict enough pain to incapacitate someone. A quick look at a Youtube search will pull up plenty on it, including demonstrations of people being tasered and explanations of how it works. However, it is a far sight better than the alternative “nonlethal” means of sandbag shotguns, pepper spray, and the “old reliable” metal nightstick.

The Taser is better than the nightstick because it does not require the officer to enter melee with someone, quite probably someone either (a) armed with a gun or knife or other melee weapon, (b) physically capable of attempting to take a weapon from the officer, (c) troubled enough by drug abuse or some other illness that may or may not be physically capable of being transferred to the cop, or (d) some frightening combination of the previous.

The Taser is better than the pepper spray because it is less likely to affect nearby people as well; I’ve been in a room when a young girl mistakenly sat on (and cracked) the pepper spray cartridge on her keychain, and it was enough to clear out a room of 50 people with their eyes watering. It also has a better range than the pepper spray and can more easily be used while keeping the officer at a safe distance.

The Taser is better than the sandbag shotgun because, instead of inflicting physical bruising, it inflicts a shock that incapacitates muscles directly. If someone is mentally ill or on many forms of drugs, their pain response to the physical bruising will likely be minimal (heck, just an adrenaline rush can cause people to ignore all sorts of pain). The Taser bypasses this and goes directly to the neuromuscular level, at least knocking someone over (by causing convulsions of the leg muscles) even if they do get up again. The Taser also does not require such precise aim as the sandbag shotgun.

And yet, we are now barraged with various news stories of why cops are “abusing” Tasers, and how they should be taken away. My suspicion is that most of the groups responsible for these stories simply have an agenda of stopping the cops from doing their jobs. Yes, I recognize (living in Colosse, it’s hard not to as I noted above) that there are times cops will overreach their authority. But I’m also painfully aware that there is a sizable population that are quite willing to attempt to kill cops merely for being cops, or in an attempt to evade arrest, and that the cops need to have the tools necessary to take these people in and defend not only their own lives but the communities they are sworn to protect.

Prior to the issuance of tasers, the default cop option was not the sandbag shotgun, or the pepper spray, or the nightstick. Why not? For all the reasons previously stated – each of them opens up the cop to more risk of being physically assaulted or killed. The default option was to pull the gun and be prepared to shoot.

When a cop is forced by a situation to draw their gun, the likelihood is someone is going to get shot with a weapon intended to kill by someone who is trained to shoot to kill in self-defense. When a cop is forced by a situation to draw a taser, the likelihood is that someone is going to get hit by a weapon intended to leave them alive.

I think the tasers should remain, and I think the UN idiots who called them “torture” need to have their heads examined.

Category: Courthouse

Earlier this year I wrote about the University of Delaware’s refusal to schedule Delaware State, the state’s HBCU. As fate would have it the two were forced to face off in Division I-AA’s playoffs. Delaware won 44-7, so they got a good excuse to avoid playing Delaware State in the future.

Category: Theater

Considering that it’s Thanksgiving and I’m with the folks, posting will not resume until next week.

In the meantime, if you have to have a trumwill fix, I’ve been meaning to mention that I have been assisting Bob Vis over at his blog while he’s been doing thesis work. The posts over there consist of issues that are more divisive in tone than I like to keep things at Hit Coffee. I’ve written three thus far:

Who Tha Daddy? (11/19/07): An open-ended look at how the law should handle paternity when the husband of the mother and assumed father of the child or children is not actually the father.

Free Speech & Nuisance (11/6/07): When does free speech become nuisance? Does free speech guarantee the right to be heard (or seen, in the cases mentioned) by people that don’t consent to it?

More of Less Human: The Abortion Divide (10/11/07): A post about abortion. I don’t make the case for the pro-life or pro-choice point of view but rather look at what I perceive to be the differences between how each side says they approach the issue and how each side actually seems to.

Category: Server Room

One of the things that drives my lovely wife crazy is how lax I am about keeping my windshield view clear while driving. I finally got around to replacing my windshield wipers, which took a severe beating from the drive from Deseret to Estacado when we made the move down in the middle of last year. Also at issue is that I choose to wipe my windshield manually rather than use the wiper speeds (or even intermittent wiping) and I am not as diligent about wiping the windshield as she would like.

One would think that this issue would be of particular importance to me, because in 1982 it almost cost my father his life.

A house down the road from our was having its roof replaced. They kept a large, yellow bin on the road. Generally speaking there are almost no cars parked on our street because it’s banned from 2-6am due in part so that the police can more easily track down escapees from the juvie hall right down the way and due in part to a somewhat aggressive HOA. The roofers got a variance and thus parked their bin on the road.

Dad got up that June morning – we remember it to be June because that’s when the sun shines directly into a driver’s eyes on the way out of the neighborhood – and left for work as usual. The windshield was unusually dirty and with the glare from the sun made vision very difficult. As he was turning on the windshield sprays to clear his view, he got just enough vision to see that he was about to run straight into the large yellow bin. He swerved and narrowly averted near-certain death.

The roofers were very generous, considering that Dad never evaded responsibility. They paid the insurance deductible, paid Dad’s nominal health costs, and moved the bin off the street. Ahhh, the power of a feared lawsuit.

Category: Ghostland, Road

Driving in to work today, I saw four trucks with the brand name “ATOYOT” on their front grilles.

It took me until I got to work 45 minutes later to work out that they were not an inexplicably popular new automotive brand that I’d somehow never heard of.

Category: Road

A new study says that coffeehouses discriminate against women. Slate’s Tim Harford writes:

I’m a real cappuccino lover myself, but many of my female colleagues don’t seem to go for the stuff. I’d never thought too much about it until recently. I suppose I carelessly assumed that men and women have different tastes, probably as a result of different social influences. Now I know better: My female colleagues don’t go to coffee shops because they’re shabbily treated when they get there.

That’s the conclusion of American economist Caitlin Knowles Myers. She, with her students as research assistants, staked out eight coffee shops (PDF) in the Boston area and watched how long it took men and women to be served. Her conclusion: Men get their coffee 20 seconds earlier than do women. (There is also evidence that blacks wait longer than whites, the young wait longer than the old, and the ugly wait longer than the beautiful. But these effects are statistically not as persuasive.)

The study goes on to show that it’s not because of frou-frou drinks and, perhaps most significantly, the lag evaporates when the coffee is served by a female barista.

That last part is the most puzzling. In most cases where sexual discrimination is apparent, it’s not usually just the men that do it. Women fall prey to the same assumptions, sometimes to a lesser extent but sometimes even moreso.

Alan Jacobs has a theory:

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to give off every possible signal that they’re in a hurry. They stand closer to the people in line in front of them, they have their payment ready before it’s asked for, they plant themselves as near as possible to the barista and in some cases stare down the poor coffee-craftsperson until their drinks are ready, at which point they snatch up the cups and bolt from the store.

It seems to me that baristas, then, might be responding to these signals by hustling to serve the obviously impatient men, and relaxing a bit when they’re making drinks for women. And it also seems likely that male baristas would be more sensitive to the signals given off by their fellow men, more eager to show them that they share their emphasis on speed.

This is an excellent explanation! I wouldn’t be surprised if, when I was a service worker, that I acted with more diligence with men than with women. Not only are men more likely to be in a hurry, but they’re also more likely to get irate if they wait too long and likely to be more unpleasant if they get irate… but that doesn’t explain why the difference evaporates when women are the servers.

Category: Market

Stephen Rodrick thinks that college football is awful:

On Saturday, millions wasted a perfectly good fall afternoon watching Miami and Florida State struggle for football-factory supremacy. In the end, the game wasn’t decided by a brilliant run or catch, but by Seminole kicker Xavier Beitia hooking a 43-yard field goal in perfect conditions. No one was surprised, particularly since Florida State’s earlier loss to Louisville was predicated on quarterback Chris Rix’s dying quail interception in overtime. After Saturday’s Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas, few were talking about the Sooners’ defensive prowess. Instead, sports radio was packed with Longhorn fans bemoaning that Heisman-hyped Chris Simms has never ever thrown a touchdown pass against a Top-10 team. He threw three interceptions against OU, only to be outdone by Sooner quarterback Nate Hybl, who threw four.

Things were hopping at the other end of the food chain, too. Temple, a team so woeful that if it was a horse it would be shot and its remains deemed unsafe for dogs or glue-eating kids, scored a 17-16 victory over Syracuse when the Orangemen’s kicker missed an extra point in the final minutes. The conversion, a mere formality in the NFL, has plagued America’s top amateurs all year. Last week, USC lost to Washington State after missing an extra point, and two weeks ago, Texas A&M fell to Texas Tech after their kicker botched two extra points, one in regulation and one in overtime. Both losing teams were ranked in the Top 25.

College football is really the only sport that I am a real fan of. What’s funny, to me, is that the very things that other people hate about college football are what I love about it.

Complaint #1: The players aren’t good. It’s all relative, really. Sure, the players aren’t as good as those in the NFL or even the Arena League, but then again if you contracted the NFL to only two teams you’d have even better play. That wouldn’t make it more entertaining, though, because what matters more are how teams are stacked up against one another and despite what Rodrick says better players don’t necessarily make for a better game. My main problem with the NFL is that the players are too good, or too consistently good anyway. Specifically, the defenses are too good. The talent is more uniform so there’s a ruthless efficiency to it all.

This is especially true when it comes to defense and special teams. In the NFL, kicks returned for touchdowns seem considerably less frequent because a superstar returner is less likely to breakaway from 11 superstar defenders. It doesn’t matter, though, because the kickers are better at the NFL level so there are more touchbacks and fewer actual returns to begin with (even before the NCAA changed the rules to force more returns and fewer touchbacks). The running game is almost relegated to supporting the passing game because it’s so hard for a superstar running back to dodge 11 superstar defenders.

In my experience high school football is often too run-heavy. The quarterbacks often aren’t good enough for the long passes. At the professional level, the games are too pass-heavy. College football, on the other hand, has it about right with quarterbacks that can really throw but defenses that aren’t too strong to stuff the running game. Further, because of the uneven distribution of talent, there is a lot more variety in styles of offense as coaches are constantly trying to figure out ways to throw the defense off-balance. That’s a lot harder to do with defenses as good as the NFL offers. The NFL tried variety and for a while the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Oilers, and Phoenix Cardinals were running gimmick offenses… but in the longer run they didn’t bring home national championships and at that talent level you didn’t need to pull off the trickery.

At the college level, on the other hand, there are a lot of schools that are at such a systemic disadvantage (more on this later) that they have to pull every rabbit out of a hat that they can find. Hawaii, whose offensive coordinator till this year used to coach the Oilers and Falcons) spreads out its offense greatly and they’re a blast to watch. They’ll never be able to bring in the recruits because of their non-BCS status, so they try to compensate for it in other ways. Texas Tech does play in a BCS conference, but it has trouble competing for recruits with the other Texas schools so they spread out their offense too and try to hang on by their chinny-chin-chin.

Rodrick is right that players make a lot more dumb mistakes. Extra points are not a formality. Fumbles are far more frequent. That, too, is part of its charm because fumbles are exciting and nothing in sports that can be described as a “formality” is at all interesting.

Complaint #2: There is no playoff system. This is a can of worms that would have been #1 were I not launching from an article about the level-of-play complaint. In any case, it’s something that a lot of people really, really hate. That of course means that I think it’s awesome. A college system with a playoff would interest me far less. Right now every single game matters. The entire season is a playoff in a way. If you lose a game… any game… your chances at the national championship are seriously diminished. If you lose two, you’re not going to be a champion. Doesn’t matter if you win a tournament at the end of the season or not. With a playoff system you’re playing to make the playoffs or get better seeding, which just isn’t nearly as interesting to me. I can avoid paying attention to the entire NFL regular season and I haven’t missed much of great importance.

Not only is each game of each team important in itself, but it’s important to every other team. I spent part of the day tracking the Oregon-ASU game. Not because I care about either of those teams, I don’t. But if Arizona State remained undefeated, that meant that LSU, a team I do care about, wouldn’t get to play in the national championship. In short, the current system forces me to care about a lot more games than I would if I knew that LSU was going to make the playoffs anyhow. Each week I sort through games in several conferences for the repercussions about how they affect my favored teams. To me, the primary function of a playoff system would be to abet laziness.

Complain #3: College football lacks parity. To me this is also great because it means that you never know what to expect. Is there any NFL equivalent to Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State (which, to go back to #2, singlehandedly dashed their national championship hopes)? Or when Troy beat Oklahoma State? Or even Boise State and Oklahoma last year? Sure, most of the time Big State School beats East Jesus Tech by the expected forty points, but sometimes it surprises you and when it does it is either euphoric or humiliating in a way that no other sport really provides.


None of this is to say that I think that college football is perfect in every way. There is a lot that I would do differently. I just find it interesting that some of the things that I point to that make college football unique and special are the things that other either want to change or cite as their reason for not caring about it.

Category: Theater