Saturday, September 11, 2010


Ah, copyright law, is there any malfeasance it cannot do? In my life I've "bought" assorted computer programs for myself, my kids, my uncle... physical copies with fancy packaging (that I promptly lost) which take up shelf space in my living room. But I now discover I did not, in fact, "buy" anything at all. I rented. And I do not own these pieces of software, if they contain licenses for use. The Supreme Court says that license is not transferable, as it has been since 1909. My ancient copies of "Family Tree Maker" and "Encarta" and Berlitz are not actually mine- because I am not permitted to sell them. Mind you, not that there's anyone out there who'd actually want my twelve year old copy of FTM, but if they did, I couldn't pop it into a yardsale and let it go for a quarter- because Ancestry (who bought the company) isn't making any money on that quarter. And If I do it, I might be jailed or fined or what have you, like a proper criminal.

And of course, if "shrinkwrap" licensing can apply to software, why can't it apply to everything else? Put a sticker on the book covers, cd covers, etc "Thou shalt not sell or give license to use this product." The First Sale doctrine is dead.

When will the public wake up and realize how much the changes in copyright law have taken from us? I talk about this with most people and get glazed eyes, confusion, or outright hostility. "Why shouldn't copyright be forever? Why shouldn't people get paid for their work?"

And that is NOT the issue. Of course people should be paid for their work- because if they aren't then they've no incentive to go on working and creating new things. But where does that right stop? How long and for how much are we on the hook? Because if copyright is eternal, then ownership never transfers. IDEAS will never transfer, never go viral and morph and change into new things. Cultural transmission will be hampered and crippled, and society as a whole will be impoverished, rather than enriched.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

baby talk

I can't help it- I think this project sounds utterly fascinating. I often wish I'd made more detailed observations on my own boys' speech acquisition. Of course, full-time audio/video coverage for the first. three. YEARS. would've been hard to pull off in the mid-nineties. But still- imagine getting access to that much data, being able to have it evaluated independently by multiple observers- this fella has given us a whole database of information on language acquisition. I hope someone else tries this. Lots of someones, maybe.

I also like the idea that recordings allow both the child's output, and the parents' input, to be examined. It might shed light on how "impoverished" the stimulus really is. I know in our house, I talked to the boys an excessive amount. I had to; they were my only conversational partners for about five years! So I tended to provide running commentary on everything, all day long. I've known other mothers who are equally verbose with their infants; I suspect there's a lot more exchange going on than Chomsky thinks.

My grandmother used to do this thing with babies. I know everyone does their own kind of babytalk. We all pitch our voices up to some degree and talk expressively. But mamau had her own odd little babytalk thing going on. A baby would babble, and she'd look at it seriously, in dead earnest, and conversationally go, "You say your chicken died?" (No kidding- that was a regular knee slapper around here.) But the funny thing I recall is how babies less than a year old frequently responded as if she wasn't making any sense. They looked- confused. Sometimes they'd stop talking completely, other times they'd get sort of irate, and the jabbering would be louder and more insistent. They responded much better to her alternative? "Really? Well... You don't say!" But tinier babies would just gibber back enthusiastically to anything. It was as if they recognised they were being engaged in conversation, they just didn't have the code yet. Older babies recognized conversation, and seemed able to intuit that the speech itself wasn't "right."

(And yes, I have asked babies if their chicken died. I'm not sure where she got it, but it must have pinged itself into my babytalk repertoire in infancy.)

See, this is why English is a fun language...

I've had a while to think on Sarah Palin's weird little portmanteau "refudiate," and I find that I like it. It adds a single-word shade of meaning that encompasses both refutation and repudiation at one blow. But then, I'm usually happy to embrace new words into my vocabulary... they just aren't usually so highbrow. I'm partial to the dichotomy embodied in words like "shitastic" and "craptacular," for example, when attempting to express overwhelming levels of suckitude. Incidentally, I'll also say "underwhelmed" and have actually said things like, "moderately whelmed" when the occasion calls for it. My vocabulary also incorporates such phantom adjectives as "ginormous" at times.

Go ahead, pelt me in rotten vegetables or whatever. I don't care. And I'll still come out swinging with my second-person plural every time, y'all. Don't misunderestimate me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Intellectual property rights (Again)

So this isn't showing up all over the blogosphere, and I don't know why. Because it should. While the President's assing it up, having squabbles with his military leadership in the pages of Rolling Stone-...while the media is saturating us with Gulf Hurricane! Oil Spill! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE Wharrgarble.... something insidious just happened.

If you don't want to clicky the links, I won't force you. But know this: Zombie Copyright is here, and it doesn't look to be going away. Remember Eldridge V Ashcroft- remember what I told you then. Eternal copyright on the installment plan. Keep paying campaign contribution "Bribes" to your congresscritters and you will always get your copyright extension, while the public domain starves for new additions.

Well, the public domain's under attack again. In order to come into line with "Europe's" copyright laws, stuff can be removed from the American public domain.

Dammit, I want out of here. I think? I want off this rock. Is there noplace left to go in order to have Freedom? Real, physical and intellectual freedom? I guess not. His Highness even shuttered our space program, so our grandkids won't be able to escape either.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Genealogy Post- thinking out loud

Summer's come, and it's the season for my research to begin anew. I've been at this since 1997, but it's always so piecemeal. I'd give anything if I had the time and money to work on this as much as I want to.

I've decided this summer to work the bottom branches. Goal? Find Thomas B. Lambert- find his grave, records of his kids... anything. He's my grandmother's grandpa and he's a damn ghost. I don't even know what the B stands for, for certain. Someone named "Sunny Lambert" cited him as Thomas Bluford Lambert- but I've no idea where she got that middle name. I'd sure like to find her and ask!

So here's the mystery and the clues: Thomas, born abt 1857 to Thomas B. Lambert Senior, and his wife. Cousin Edna gave me the middle initial and the "junior," and told me that he and my greatgreatgrandma Letitia had the three girls, Zadie, Cora, and Deola (my greatgrandma) and a baby son who died. I tracked down record of newlywed Thomas and wife "Lottie" in the 1880 census. Pretty sure Lottie is supposed to be Letitia; the ages match up and they're in Port Royal, Henry County, where Letitia's family had been for generations. But he's dead by 1900, wherein Letitia is head of household in Jefferson county, widowed, bringing up her girls. And although she has her girls, there are three dead babies to account for, not just one; she gives number of kids as seven, with only three now living. One would THINK I could find birth recs for at least one of these seven offspring, but so far, no dice. No death recs either, for the kids or for their father. Perhaps none were recorded? Edna told me she thought he was probably buried "on their farm," but that was before she was born; she had no idea even what county the farm was in.

Damn I need the 1890 census. Anyway- what I know (or think I know) about Thomas: I've found him at home with stepmom and dad as a boy in earlier census recs; living in Grant county, KY. Not a far piece from Henry. I've actually found other folks who've tracked Thos Jr's mom and dad's lines, but the man himself is an enigma. He intrigues me. Frankly, he's the best looking fella in my family tree. And his wife, lord love her- well, maybe she was one of those ladies who is beautiful when she smiles. I have their wedding tintype, but.. perhaps it's one of those bad hair/clothes days for Letitia. Not all brides are beautiful.

Anyway- that's mystery one, goal one. Goal two? Find out what Hatfield sired my greatgrandmother's daddy. (On the other side of my Mom's family.) Moses Dial married Nancy Welch... but he didn't father two of her sons. "Jefferson Davis Dial", my ancestor, is supposedly a bastard Hatfield. I've got them in Wyoming county, WV in 1860; Jefferson Davis Dial is born in April of the following year. I need to find out when Moses left for the war. Figure that Pappy Jeff was conceived June or July of 1860 in time for an April 1st birthday. Anyway- I've looked at the 1860 census and there's a goodly number of young Hatfields to account for in the neighborhood. I wonder what the liklihood would be of finding a male-line descendent from one of Nancy's byblow boys, and getting a dna test? Most probably, the hatfields all share their Y chromosome anyway though, so finding the RIGHT one would be a challenge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Skillet love

Today I stumbled across an article about the basic necessities of a functioning kitchen. But I won't link it for you, because it was useless. Oh, yes, it had some practical advice about knives and sheet pans- but it dismissed cast iron with a single line. "I like cast iron, and I have used it in some kitchens for nearly everything; but it can be more expensive than this quite decent cheap stuff, and it’s very heavy. "

To the author, I say this: You, sir, are no cook. And you can't shop worth a damn.

Whenever one of my friends marries or has a housewarming, I hit the flea markets and thrift shops. Your humble Ornithophobe is not inherently cheap about wedding gifts; there is method to my madness. A "new" cast iron skillet is both expensive and ill-made. Its surface is microscopically pockmarked and uneven. That will show in your cooking, as no amount of seasoning will completely eradicate sticking to such a surface.

No, for my gift-skillets, I look for the battle-hardened veterans of cookery. The older, the better. A bit of rust doesn't frighten me. Time and again, I've dug up the skillets of your great-grandmothers, moldering in boxes at yard sales, or collecting dust on thrift shop shelves. The most I've ever paid for one is a ten dollar bill- but I've also found an egg skillet for a quarter. Right now, on Ebay, there are dozens available in the under 20.00 range, some sitting unbid at 99 cents and no reserve. Lovely Griswolds and Wagners, and lots of nameless beauties waiting to be returned to service. Just watch out for the shipping!

Anyway... once you find your skillet, you need to restore it- take the gunk off, strip it down to bare metal. A go on self-clean in your oven will do for the nastiest ones, but most can be taken care of with a plastic scrubby and copious quantities of hot water. Salt makes a good abrasive in a pinch. Once it's stripped, it needs reseasoning. Rub the warm skillet down in a thin layer of lard and bake it for a few hours. Repeat this step two or three times, before welcoming your skillet back to work. The first thing you should cook in it is a nice bunch of bacon; it'll work wonders for the smoothness of the finish. Then maybe fry up some chicken and give it a proper workout. If you've done the job right, the finish will be smooth, not lumpy, and the surface will not be tacky to the touch. (Tacky means too much uncarbonised fat; strip and start over.) A good skillet is a deep black in color, with a glossy inner bottom. To keep it that way, wash in HOT water and spare the soap- it won't really hurt your skillet but it damages the seasoning.

I do most meats in my skillets, but they're also indispensable for corn bread, eggs, sauteed vegetables... they even make good cake pans. (Try pulling off pineapple upside down cake without one. Go on, I dare you.) And nothing caramelises sugar faster than cast iron. I'd no sooner try to cook in a kitchen with no cast iron than I'd try to cook without, oh, I dunno... food.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I really think it's time to get out of Dodge...

"For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death."-- Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maury says, Akhenaten, you're the father...

So Tut's DNA results are in, and they are fascinating. I won't link you, because JAMA is charging 15.00 a pop for the article... but you can look at the stuff elsewhere in bits. (cough, EgytianDreams forum, cough.)

But basically- Tutankhamun is the offspring of full-siblings, the mummy in KV-55 and the mummy identified as the "Younger Lady". KV-55 and the younger lady are the son and daughter of Amenhotep3 and the mummy identified as the Elder Lady, now definitively identified as Queen Tiye. The babies in Tut's tomb are his kids, and also the kids of another unidentified female mummy. But the paper is silent on the relationship between KV-55 (putative heretic pharaoh) and said unidentified female mummy. Also silent on Younger Lady and unidentified female mummy.

More questions than answers right now. If no relationship between unidentified female and the parents of Tut, who the hell is this woman Tut was breeding with? Is it possible the relationships exist, and haven't been stated for some reason? Could further testing flesh this mess out?

I'll put my suspicions out there. When all is said and done, I'm betting the Younger Lady actually is Nefertiti- that we've been wrong about her nonroyal background. And I'm betting the unidentified female is Ankesenamun.... which would mean the babies were born of multi-generational inbreeding.

Of course, if Kv-55 mummy is potentially Akhenaten, there's equal chance he could be Smenkhare.... but that would mean he had a wife other than Meritaten, and that he was not the son of Akhenaten but rather Amenhotep and Tiye, making him the heretic's brother.

Again- more questions than answers.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama to the people of the USA: No can has moon. Not yours.

Heck, why not put our money into looking for Atlantis and Mu while we're at it?

I've changed my mind: Obama's not "naive" and "idealistic." He's arrogant, bullheaded, and downright unintelligent. He cannot have missed Climategate, Glaciergate, etc. Either he's the most willfully ignorant, uninformed man to hold office in my lifetime- or he's just plain stupid.

Wake me when we can vote this incompetent schlub out of office. And pray it happens in time to save this nation from his foolish, meddlesome iniquity.