Hostages and Ransoms of Our Time

Hostages and Ransoms of Our Time or

What people do to make money these days

Owners of Scores
Currently there is a court battle on whether Major League scores are copyrightable. The major leagues are claiming that scores are the property of the leagues and belong to them. No newspaper, website, radio show or person can publish or broadcast them without their permission or licensing. This means that all the scores and updates that you receive in the future would have to be approved (err.. paid for). As if the leagues not not making enough money through exorbitant ticket prices and merchandised goods. Shame on you!

Hijacking Blogs
A few days a blogging service decided overnight that, it was too expensive to continue the free service and became a pay service. Without warning of any sort, when users logged on one fine day they were informed that not only had the service now become a paid one but also, if they wanted their archived blogs back they would have to pay 35$ to access them. This raises the question -
Who owns the blog material?
1. The author or the service? It's like the owner of a garage refusing to give your car back because overnight he faced some cash flow problems.
2. Or are we all just writers without a contract with e-publishers?
3. Suppose somebody decides to publish the blogs as a book, does the blogging service have any right on the profits?
4. Technically since this work is published would you need to get their permission to publish your work elsewhere?
5. How many have actually read the Terms of Service. I didn't it's time I did.

Old M-bloggers have formed the Coalition against E-terrorism. We have already seen the result of the few email service providers that decided to become pay services a few years ago. ( Is is still around, in the sense that is it still popular?) Hope does not go down this path. I asked this question to the team, still waiting for an official response from With the Google stock doing so well it does not seem likely, but there is no end to human greed.
In the meantime it seems like a good idea to have all your blogs archived in .txt format somewhere else. Perhaps to some these blogs are worthless scraps of yellowed e-paper, but they mean something to me.

Train of Thought

Clicking URLs in Real Life

If an idea comes to your head or if there is a fact that you want to verify, your first impulse is to boot up a comp, get to and start hunting for info. Thirty minutes later, you are still on the net, despite the original purpose long achieved. Or maybe, you were just reading this blog, you hit some link and traverse to somebody else's blog. Where are you thirty minutes later? In a few URL clicks you are completely elsewhere. I wonder if the Six Degrees of Separation should be reduced to Four? Last week I experienced something quite different, but nevertheless exciting in its own way. I called it- 'Clicking on URLs in real life'. You might call it Continuous Serendipity but it felt like I was surfing in real-life.

I was at the Cleveland Heights Public library trying to get some CDs issued and I saw Joseph Conrad's The Heart Of Darkness in the MP3 audio books section, lying on the side-desk. I wish they had better stuff than the usual Clancy and other soppy romance novelists. It was too good to ignore, so I picked it up (clicked the URL) and looked at the back cover and the details(browsed). Hmm.. about 4 hours long. Not bad for my drive to Ann Arbor this weekend. I always wanted to read this book. Had glimpsed part of the movie version on TNT, years ago.

Listening to John Grisham is perhaps not as demanding as Conrad, if you are trying to stay alive on the road at the same time too. Conrad requires your complete attention. I missed a few sentences at times, when the guy in front decided to change lanes abruptly or the mass of construction slowed traffic to a crawl and I had to watch the front bumper. A few days later, I was back the library looking for the Book of the Month on the lit blog, - Eco's The Name of the Rose. I proceeded to the Fiction section. I read,
'Section A - K'
'Adams ... B-Berg ... E- Elliot, no ... back ... Camus Conrad ...CONRAD!!'. A few flips and I found The Heart of Darkness and other stories. Good! Now I could read the last few pages of the book. I was at the part when Marlowe finally meets Kurtz. Of course, I did pick up the Eco which was still on the shelf. From the audio book I had jumped to the text version.

It's a short book, a few hundred pages and I was back at the library to return it. I move over to the DVD section, sifting through the trash on the shelves. I look around and I see the title - Apocalypse Now. Hmm.. interesting find and that too the day I return the Conrad. Coppola's movie is a masterpiece. The story does not deviate much from the original Conrad version if you are willing to subsitute colonization for the colonization of our times- Wars of liberation and specifically, US-lead wars of liberation. While seeing this 1979 movie, I thought this could well be about Iraq. Echoing Pete Seeger, When will they ever learn?. It's not hard to imagine a Lt. Col Bill Kilgore(Duvall) and the sound of the 'Ride of the Valkyries' in Abu Ghraib or the boat scene where the 17-year old American gunner shoots down an entire Vietnamese farmer's boat and its occupants, when all it concealed was a poor puppy. A more compelling argument than Fahrenheit 9/11.

I was back to return the DVD and just for a lark I moved to Opera section to see if I could actually find the 'Ride of the Valkyries'. For all the Mozart in their collection, I have not found Don Giovanni each time I have looked. It always seems to be out or unavailable. I flipped a few CDs and I found 'Die Walküre' by Richard Wagner staring at me. This really felt like surfing. Instaneous gratification. In one week I was able to follow all the threads that I would have wished to follow from the original book. Wow!

PS: It was not easy to find the exact section in the Opera where 'The Ride of the Valkyries' occurs. Found it after 5 searches too many. BTW it is at the start of Scene III. Time that the wikipedia entry is updated. I think that this piece is only famous for movie buffs and not for opera afficionados.

Last Word

Last Word on the Elections

In the past few weeks, quite a few posts have been devoted to the American elections. This will be the last one on that topic. I am totally jaded by the elections, which are about 10 days away. Here are some valid reasons;

1. I listen to NPR virtually all the time and clearly I've had an overdose of this stuff. I know all the controversies,side issues, main issues etc.
2. Debates 2 and 3 did not prove to a discussion of anything new and degenerated into slanging matches.
3. Kerry does not seem to be an alternative choice but the 'lesser of two evils' as a yet-undecided colleague mentioned. Almost everything that he has done in his career reeks of opportunism, which includes marrying two wealthy women. He won the primaries not because he had the best plan, but because he seemed more electable versus Bush. According to me, Howard Dean is still 'The Man', knowing that he may have lost bitterly.
4. Now the election is just 10 days away and I hear nothing but insinuations and counter insinuations. The extreme negativity of both campaigns has turned off many voters (who unlike me, do count).

There are quite a few ineligible voters who feel that there is nothing that they can do about this election, so why even bother. The fact of the matter is that the US elections matter to Americans, but also in a significant way impact the rest of the world. Everybody knows that! The Guardian had an interesting take on this issue. They decided to take matters in their own hands and started the Clarke county campaign. The aim of this was that they would provide the names and addresses of undecided voters in Clarke county, Ohio to its readers. Readers would then write to these people impressing upon them the importance of the election on the rest of the world and imploring voters to vote for Bush or Kerry (mostly Kerry). It drew quite a few funny, angry, thankful responses.
We have not heard the end of the story yet.

Many of the letters from Americans protested,' ..this is interference.' True! The campaign had a good reason yet it was self-defeating and was withdrawn. The sad truth still remains that Mr. Joe Smith in rural Ohio could well decide the fate of the rest of the world. In some sense at least.

Google Print

Google Update:Print

A few weeks ago, we saw the launch of by Amazon which threatened to eat into Google's share. Google seems to have decided that the best form of defense is attack, and has (or will have) launched the Google Print service which will enable you to browse into books from certain publishers. Not so curiously, Amazon is also a partner in this enterprise. This Google-Amazon marriage is perhaps one of the most intriguing partnerships in business history.

These searches will show up alongside normal searches. Though I expect to see a option on the Google main page to enable searching only into books, like it is for images and news. You will be able to see one page before and after your search term, if found in a book. Although they claim that you cannot read a complete book, if you have the patience you can make repeated searches on the last sentence of the next page and read an entire book. (Not that you cannot do this at Borders or Barnes and Noble, but you can do this in the easy comfort of your home). It won't take time to write a PERL script to do these repeated searches and download an entire book.

Apart from exploiting this loophole, it would just be great to be able to sample a book without getting out of bed at all on Saturdays. Life seems to be getting better and better! Book-loving sloths of the world rejoice!

Get your facts

Get your facts right!
One of the fallouts of yesterday's debate was Dick Cheney's plug for which sent people all over the world hitting the website. The real URL however is, factcheck.ORG. The false website is owned by some cybersquatters in the Carribean. And as the number of hits soared these guys, not particular admirers of Bush and Cheney redirected users to the Anti-Bush The conspiracy theorists are of the opinion that this idea was hatched by Soros himself once he realised this.

The original website is quite good and does vindicate to some extent Cheney's claim that he has not benefitted much from his Halliburton connection that has often been implied. Of course, both parties in their sit-down combat had a field day with making up their own statistics.

Cheney Versus Edwards

Cheney vs. Edwards
The String on the Puppet versus the Echo

Winner: Dick Cheney, hands down.

This debate was a really good and exciting one. After two debates, I realise that the issues are well-known and most people have already taken their positions. You know all the strokes they are going to make, you just want to see the order and the manner in which they make them. If you really wanted a lesson in what great debating is, today's 90+ minute Vice-Presidential Debate was it. This debate turned out to be a really good one for a couple of reasons. The first debate already set the stage for this 1-on-1 confrontation. The format followed allowed more back and forth discussion. This made it more confrontational and often kept the answers relevant to the questions. The moderator Gwen posed much better questions and did a better job at moderating than Jim Lehrer did on Thursday. She made sure that if both candidates decided to side-step the real question, it was posed again. One of her particular gems was, 'The word "flip-flop" has been used by both sides ... What is wrong with a little flip-flop, now and then?' Clearly, Cheney and Edwards ARE better debators than the Presidential nominees and this being their only shot, they gave it their all.

Edwards despite his hot-shot lawyer experience did nothing but echo the words of John Kerry all thoughout the debate and often used sentences and words from Kerry's speech on Thursday. The problem with the Democrats has been that despite facing a not-so-bright Bush, they have done quite poorly to define themselves and where they exactly stand. Today, Edwards did not define himself but chose to define himself in terms of another yet-to-be-clearly-defined 'John F Kerry'. As the debate went on, it was clear that he was losing it and he desperately wanted to remind the viewers about Thursday and somehow hope to capitalize on Kerry's win. Did not work. He did take jabs at the current administration in strong words and directly challenged Cheney to respond to the common criticisms of the Bush administration. Edwards also did talk about what Kerry and he were really going to do with regards to domestic issues. He tried to draw the public's attention to the Halliburton-Cheney, the Saudi-Iran connections, the colossal financial mismanagement of the adminstration and also its poor record of saying something and not implementing or under-achieving their targets. I think he did a good job to show the Bush Camp flip-flops on 9/11, homeland security and the intelligence agency. He summarised, 'Do you want four more years of the same, or a real change?'.
Cheney refused to give Edwards any quarter and despite the really good strikes by Edwards, he was very successful in defending himself and also launching very damaging counter-attacks. He cited the poor voting records of Kerry and Edwards and how they simply voted depending on political concerns. He remarked, ' They could not defend themselves against Howard Dean, what will they defend America from the Al Qaeda'. However the most scathing remark was, ' As a Vice-President, I preside over the Senate and the first time I am seeing you, is today!'. To the red-faced Edwards, he said,' In your home-state they call you "Senator Gone"'. What makes Cheney a great debator is that, he also knows when to stop, shut-up and let silence do the talking. When the issue about his lesbian daughter and same-sex marriage came up, Cheney on his 30 rebuttal to Edwards, simply said, ' I thank the Senator for his kind comments, ... that's all.' This was a beauty. This got him the sympathy, ended the topic and references back to it.
The whole problem with Edwards was that he looked too good and too rehearsed. At a debate you want to be well-prepared but not appear 'rehearsed'. Cheney in contrast appeared dead-serious, sincere and more composed than an excitable Edwards. Also contrasted was their varied amount of experience in government. The amount of hair on their heads had something to do with who appeared more capable as VP.

One of the NBC commentators remarked that, 'Cheney is like George Foreman, starts slowly but when he comes down, he comes down hard'. Which is what happened. The poor kid from Carolina did do a better job than his namesake, but was pounded real bad tonight.

Janet Leigh - Psycho

Janet Leigh Picture Janet Leigh was found dead this morning. She died peacefully in her bed at her home and not in a motel room in a shower. There were also no evidence of any chocolate sauce.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Lazy Sunday Afternoon
3:20 pm
I am ploughing through a book on Statistical Data Analysis and ? densities. Hear a voice, "Do you want some chai coffee?". Can't ignore the voice of True Reason.

3:45 pm
I am now making some coffee and not chai. I've had enough ? already! I add an additional dollop of sinful whipped cream in fond memory of Fisher and his F - density. The good book informs me that Fisher discovered it in 1924. I have strong reasons to suspect that the 'F' in the F-density was not in honour of Fisher.

4:05 pm
I think deserve a break and start messing around with theQuizclub website. I make some edits and then add Rita Hayworth as the Quizclub Redemption on the page. It serves quite a few purposes,
1. Makes the website looks infinitely more attractive.
2. Offers some consolation to people who wander there by mistake
3. .. and a few others

4:45 pm
My mind drifts to my edits on the page. I had changed 'each Sunday' to 'every Sunday'. I know something is definitely wrong with 'each' and can't tell what. Back to 'Statistical Analysis of Data', Chapter 13.

Sumedha calls. Ask her if she knows the difference between 'every' and 'each'. A lengthy discussion ensues and neither of us can put our finger on the exact definition and distinction. We agree upon the usage. I realise that there is some problem in conveying 'each and every' and 'each' and 'every','everyone' and 'every one', in a telephone conversation without the benefit of quotes.

Realise that each and every (a phrase which pundits recommend is wordy and should be avoided)time I start to read the Statistical Analysis of Data, I allow myself to get distracted. Also realise that the Statistical Analysis of Data has the acronym SAD. This strengthens my resolve to abandon it for the moment and find the answer to the burning question of the day. I find the correct explanation on a Chinese website (of all places!). The distinction between the two is quite clear and not slippery at all.
"'Each' indicates two or more objects or people and 'every' indicates three or more. 'Each' can also be used as a pronoun, but 'every' cannot be."
We often use words correctly, without really knowing the precise grammatical reason. Chuckle at the other topics on the site.

Decide that it's time to get back to SAD. Think to myself, "What kind of lazy Sunday afternoon is this anyway?". I quit. I make some more edits to the quizclub website. Start surfing the web. Now it feels more like it!!

Helicon Book Club

Book Club
Check out the The Helicon Book Club.

Presidential Debate

Debate - Round 1

George 'Why-Me' Bush vs John 'F' Kerry a.k.a. JFK

Time: 90 minutes
Refree: Jim Lehrer
Venue: Miami Square Garden
Verdict: Draw

The match-up (debate) turned out to be quite a let-down as both prize fighters stood in their respective corners and continued to shadow-box without really confronting the other speaker except for a few threatening gestures. Kerry proved to more aggressive taking a few jabs, but did it with such delicate footwork that average Joe Americano would not notice.

Bush constantly appeared to be forgetting his practiced attacks (umm: lines) and then said to himself, "What the heck!, I have this super-under cut' and mentioned over and over again that, Kerry was flip-flopper and was not fit to lead the country since he felt that 'Iraq was a wrong war, at a wrong place at the wrong time.' During rebuttals, for 80 seconds Bushie gave answers that were totally irrelevant and then always seemed to remember his rehearsed sound bites in last 10. 'I will make America safer and Saddam Hussein was a great danger'. No wonder the crowd still loves him, cause he is so human and cute. Today, Daddy did not have to help him.

Kerry looked very polished but sleepy. Did not effectively defend himself from the flip-flopper charge. All he said was, ' I have a plan and I can do it better and I can do it right'. Not making clear what he planned to do and how exactly he was going to do it, and if the plans were practical or not. The pseudo-JFK made frequent references to the original JFK's shorts he was wearing trying to get some mileage. Clinton does not seem to be the flavour of the month. He made strong opening statements and more sensible remarks than the opponent for 60 seconds, then faded off. He appeared contradictory without really doing so. That's vintage Kerry.

Swingers: Both candidates referred to North Carolina, Wisconsin, Missouri and Ohio, all prominent swing states and stories of the people in those states. They don't travel anywhere else, do they?

Super Punch:
Was delivered by none of the candidates but by the referee, Jim Lehrer when he knocked them both with the question, ' Why have none of you in any speech commented on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan?' Both were knocked out silly with this question, squirmed and then muttered something, which shows that during an election, 'If the voters don't think it's an issue, you don't too!'. Which shows what the campaigns have been one big mud-slinging match. Just about winning an election race and not about leadership or statemanship or genuineness.

My apologies for watching the debate on FOX. I had no option, since the reception of this Reagan-era TV was bad on all other channels.