More interesting than the irony of pre-cleaning your house before the maid arrives, you can find my Wednesday post at Adventures in Writing. Today, I talk about the important and beautiful word, cattywampus.
And I still have it.
by Katherine and John Bakeless
I love this book. I still read it on occasion. I believe I bought in in the fourth grade via a Scholastic school book order. I wrote my name in it several times, just to make sure everyone understood it was my book. I even wrote my phone number in it. I even took a pin and punched out my name in the back cover, in case someone who couldn’t see wanted to know who owned the book.
My oldest, of course, read it two years ago, I think. I learned to read in the third grade, not the first, as he did.
Spies of the Revolution is a well written, sometimes suspenseful look at American and British spies. If you’re a teaching parent, a used copy would be a fine addition to your library. This singular book made me very interested in US history, much more so than any other book I read/was forced to read as a child.
So there I was, dreaming about nothing in particular last night, when I happened to drive to my dream vacation home in Colorado (which, by they way, is beautiful in the late spring), and thereupon notice that my dream self has quite the assortment of firearms lying about his modest home.
Yeah, see, right there I should have known this dream wasn’t going to be pleasant.
This dream self was on vacation. Turns out I am a therapist. It’s a nice day, so I’m walking into town. I’m trying to buy cigars at the local smoke shop (don’t ask), when the proprietor asks for some counseling. The conversation goes something like this:
“Mack, Bud, I’m on vacation.”
“Ah, ok,” he said, looking troubled.
I sigh. “Tell me about it.”
“I was dreaming I was really sick, and then this voice inside my head told me to find people looking scared and bite them. That it would make me feel better.”
Ooooookkay. “So, Mack, did this voice say anything else?”
“Yeah, it said if I found people who didn’t look scared, that I should sneak up on them instead. Safer that way. What does that mean?”
“Zombie dreams are simply watching too many horror movies, Mack. If you’re taking vitamins or eating cheese before bed, you might want to avoid that. Those things can make dreams more vivid.”
“Did you say anything back to this voice?”
“Naw. Too busy puking out my dinner and blood. It was gross. Take the box of cigars, on the house.”
So now my friend Kevin walks up as I leave the store with my newly acquired box of goodies. Kevin looks at the box and says “score!” Apparently he was on a coffee run, because he hands me a big coffee. We start walking back to the house.
“Man, that barista was hot, but everyone knowing we’re therapists now kind of blows. She totally unloaded on me about her nightmare,” Kevin said as he rolled his eyes.
“What, did she dream about some voice whispering in her mind to bite people to make her feel better?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
That’s when the person across the street stops walking her dog, leans over, and pukes blood.
I won’t go into the details of what happened next. Let’s just say that we didn’t have nearly enough ammunition or gas. What happened to Kevin was just about the most disgusting thing I’ve ever dreamed about. And what happened to me, well, that was worse.
Memo to self: no multivitamin before bed time. Avoid vacation homes in Colorado in the spring. And stop playing Left 4 Dead 2.
I will admit this does all sound like the start of an outline. I’ll file it away under Z for zombie.
I think of short skirts.
Oh come on, you had to have seen that coming!
I remember the first time, as a hormone-drenched teenage boy, my girlfriend wore a short skirt.
Now, as a fine American hot-blooded young man, I had an appreciation for girls in short skirts. However, short skirts should come with a warning label:
IF YOU WEAR THIS
YOUR BOYFRIEND WILL
TURN INTO AN IDIOT
So there she was, prancing out of her house (this girl liked to prance), in a short skirt.
Jenny (named changed to protect the guilty): “What are you staring at?”
“Uh, sorry. That’s a great skirt.”
“Ok, you’re still staring,” she said.
At this point, I give myself a little shake. “Sorry, it’s just that, I can be sitting right by you and place my hand on your thigh and, you know, connect with actual flesh.”
“It’s like candy without the wrapper!”
“You know, I can be sitting right by you and my fist can connect with your face.”
Heh. Jenny was always the spunky one.
Anyway, where I was going with this? Oh ya: The short story contest I’m entering actually has a June deadline, not May as I mistakenly thought.
So I am still working on that sucker, which is good, because I blew past my deadline suffering through the MAN COLD.
It’s turning out to be darker than I was thinking. The short, not the cold. That’s mostly over. The cold that is.
Sadly, there are no short skirts in my short, but there is prancing.
I’m writing a short story. For the 8.3 followers of my blog, as you may recall, short stories are the reason why I had writer’s block for years. I sucked at it. Big time.
But, this one is turning out rather well, now that I have written four books (FOUR? FOUR!). It’s for a contest, with the only genre no-no is erotica. I read the rules and said, “I can do that.”
I have a 7,500 word limit, and I’m going to nail that sucker with some good old-fashioned charter driven sci-fi.
Who wants to read it? I’ll be done by the end off the week. Comment or send me mail.
Like the certainty of a cheerleader on prom night with her dress over her head, you can find me over at Adventures in Writing every Wednesday. Today we present to you Part 2 of Speed Reading for Fun and Entertainment!
There is quite the brouhaha going on about “The Ethicist” turning a blind eye to trucking with book pirates to get an e-copy of a popular novel that is not yet in electronic format. Nathan Bransford and Victoria Strauss take exception to this practice, and I agree with their assertions: don’t do that, it isn’t ethical.
As Nathan explains, there are two portions to a book product: the medium and the content. Electronic medium is quite different from a paper book. It has value because it’s electronic, and it has value because of the content. The two enjoy economic separation; the market for e-books has spoken on this: the format of the content has specific value, and stealing that value is wrong.
Unfortunately, neither Nathan nor Victoria examined this issue from end-to-end. Nathan almost went there:
“It’s one thing for an Ethicist to remind a reader that they are within their ethical (and though I’m not a lawyer, likely legal) rights to create their own e-book by scanning their book into a computer strictly for personal and not-for-profit use. This is the proper CD-ripping analogy. It’s taking something you own and converting it to another format through your own time and effort, whether that’s making an electronic file or to taking a book apart to wallpaper your house.”
This is the heart of the matter. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act obscures what is legal and illegal, and that simple but often overlooked fact has far-reaching implications. I believe this is indeed legal:
“It’s one thing for an Ethicist to remind a reader that they are within their ethical (and though I’m not a lawyer, likely legal) rights to create their own e-book by scanning their book into a computer strictly for personal and not-for-profit use.”
This, in most cases when talking about electronically protected files, is most likely not:
“It’s taking something you own and converting it to another format through your own time and effort, whether that’s making an electronic file or to taking a book apart to wallpaper your house.”
Here’s a scenario: Bob downloads an album from iTunes. It is in MP4 format. The format isn’t supported by Bob’s car. Bob burns the MP4 files to a CD in music CD format. He takes the music CD, and rips it in Windows Media. Now his MP4 files are MP3 files. He listens to those MP3 files on his laptop at work, uses the music CD in his car, the original MP4 files he listens at the PC he has iTunes installed on, and since he used Media Player to rip the CD into MP3s, he streams the music to his Xbox 360 which is connected to his home theater. Bob is jamming! Go Bob, go Bob, get busy, it’s your birthday!
That’s also illegal, Bob. Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act says you can’t by-pass copy protection (built into the MP4 file) by converting the content to a different media.
It was also illegal or Bob to tell his wife how to do this. It was illegal for the author of the web article that described this trick to Bob to do so. We can argue that I am breaking the DMCA in describing the very same thing. Telling someone how to circumvent electronic copy protection is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Unless Apple, in its user agreement with iTunes on behalf of a content publisher, granted Bob’s specific rights to do so, it was also illegal for Bob to simply convert the MP4 files into a music CD because doing so strips out the copy protection of the file.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act says you can be fined and go to jail for this.
It doesn’t stop there. Here’s another scenario: Cathy buys DVDs for her kids to watch at home and in the car. But these DVDs get munged (munged is a technical term) because her kids are kids.
So, Cathy makes backup copies of her DVDs.
This is illegal. By-passing the Macrovision copy protection to make a backup copy of your DVD is illegal according to the DMCA. The website pointing her to the program to do this also broke the law.
Bill, a international man, changes the firmware in his DVD player so it will become a generic DVD reader and play anime DVDs. They didn’t play because they were not Region 1 disks. This is illegal.
Mary converts her proprietary e-book format books into PDFs so she can read the book, on occasion, on her laptop.
Unless the publisher granted her rights to do this in an End User License Agreement, this was illegal because the publisher designed the content for reading only on a specific device. It was illegal for Mary to do this, and illegal for someone to tell Mary how to do this.
Make an electronic backup copy of an e-book in which the user has to by-pass even the most innocuous form of copy protection (such as converting the file)?
Illegal. Oh, and, not a lawyer, by-the-way. But I did read the DMCA.
There are hundreds more scenarios. Most that seem, on the onset, to be reasonable and just, but, in actuality, run afoul of the DMCA.
Congress, our elected officials, has made it illegal for you to make backup copies of software in many situations. The only way a reasonable person would know what they can and cannot do with content is to actually go in and read the End User License Agreement that comes with the content and the DMCA.
Now, what does this have to do with the scenario outlined at the very beginning of this post? It has everything to do with it. The original scenario is a violation of Copyright Law, and, since a digital medium was involved, runs against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Now, there are portions of the DMCA that would fall apart in court with the right group of smart lawyers. It is bad law, which is why you don’t find Cathy and Bob going to jail. And that is my point. The original scenario of downloading a pirated e-book because the customer had a hardcover copy is just a blip of NOISE in the messed up digital world of what is wrong and what is right, what is legal and what is illegal.
And the sad thing is, because it’s noise, that act stands legally right up there with Cathy (“my kids destroy my DVDs”) and Bob (“I want to listen to my music in my car”) being felonious malcontents. People are confused over what they can do and what they can’t do. And the only way you know what you can do is if you not only read the EULA for the digital content, but if you also are familiar with the DMCA. Even if you are just a person trying to mind their own business and buy content to consume and enjoy.
Who created this noise? Content publishers. They wrote the law, their lobbyists pushed for it, Congress passed it, and the President signed it.
The DMCA helped kill DVDs just as it helped kill music CDs. There are other factors involved such as piracy, but the most overlooked unintended consequence is bad law made the world too confusing for too many people. Overtime, people will take the path of least resistance. They will stop buying content if the content in question is too much of a hassle, from either a content usage standpoint or a legal standpoint. Free enterprise takes the path of least resistance, and in the digital world, that path can be both innovate and completely unpredictable. This is my cautionary tale: The movie industry and the music industry broke into jail with copy protection and the DMCA. The book publishing industry can do the same.
I want everyone with an e-reader to hold it in your hands. Take a good look at it. If content publishing is screwed up, if it publishers take the easy path rather than the correct path, if we assume people like Bob and Cathy should go to jail, then, my friends, there could be a time when the device you hold in your hand is not a Kindle but a Betamax player.
It can get worse than that. Then there is the ultimate scenario: that content publishers make things so difficult, that people turn to other mediums of entertainment, spending their dollars on things that work, don’t break, are theirs to call theirs, and gives them control over their time and dollars. Then, what you have is everybody going through a horrific shrinkage of a industry, where even a publisher like Baen, who makes it absurdly easy for people to get electronic versions of their novels, suffers mightily because people have moved on.
And if that happens, what you have in your hands is not your e-reader, but a horseshoe. Before, physical goods economy-of-scale normalized medium switch-overs. It took time for the horse to be replaced as a means of transportation, even less for VHS to kill Betamax.
Today? A simple Facebook update can create a scaled behemoth in hours.
My oldest on Sunday went out into the damp yard and hid Easter eggs for the youngest. Thing One is only nine, and I remember doing the same for younger cousins as if it was yesterday, but at twelve.
There I was, at 7:00 AM, with more eggs—both real and plastic—I had ever seen in one spot. The job seemed easy enough. Hide the eggs: be clever for the older kids, easy for the young ones.
And it was easy, if a bit lonely. By 7:30 I was done. By 8:30 the hordes of small children arrived. The boys in their little suits with ties, the girls in their little yellow and white dresses with white tights and hair pinned up. It was awfully cute and adorable. Toddlers and children running to and fro like overdressed waves on a green beach, shrieking like seagulls.
At some point, I looked over to my cousin, one of those second or third cousins I saw on occasion. She was watching the laughing and running masses just as I was. We were the same age. She wasn’t the prettiest girl, at least I used to think, but there she was in a Sunday dress wearing makeup and showing the beginnings of a feminine figure.
Something in my brain clicked right then and the feeling was as intense as it was new. It wasn’t a specific feeling towards my suddenly pretty cousin, but something odd and weird. I looked at the children, babies, and toddlers before me and wanted a child of my own. Then, my cousin caught me looking at her and she grinned. It was a mischievous grin, a pixie grin. Her eyes were also smiling, a brown-eyed question of possibilities and an invitational dare.
That’s why every Easter Sunday, I think of breeding.