Saturday, October 28, 2006

I took Patch for a walk around the lake yesterday and this hawk landed near us just as I left the house. I only had the shorter of my zoom lenses mounted so it was lucky that it was quite a confident bird, letting me walk pretty close to it to take these pictures.

Yes, that's a snake it is holding in its claws! Is this an omen, or what?!
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Contemporary Music

I've been watching "Leaving Home", history of 20th century orchestral music, hosted by Sir Simon Rattle. It's a very interesting tour through the forces that have shaped contemporary music, but even though I've got quite a well-trained ear, this stuff is quite hard to listen to, and very difficult to enjoy in the traditional sense that we "enjoy" music. I'm not going to be whistling the tunes anytime soon, so is it any good?

I'm in two minds about it, but in the end I fall on the side of "No, it isn't." For the sake of efficiency you simply have to establish some kind of criteria, if only for your own sanity, as to what music is good and what is bad, otherwise you'll end up supporting every useless collection of notes somebody writes and claims is An Important Musical Statement. The obvious next question is "so who decides what is good and what is bad?" And then you're going to be lost in a sea of answers from every corner of the room.

I, for example, especially like Tchaikovsky and Debussy, and after that it mostly goes a bit too strange and angular for my tastes. I could live without most of what Mozart wrote, and the less Handel I hear, the better. I like ambient electronic music such as Brian Eno and Peter Namlook and I *know* other people can't understand why I'd listen to such droning rubbish. But Eno and Namlook sell a lot of records and, I think, keep themselves in business, whereas a lot of modern music has to be subsidised to keep it alive. The phrase "arts funding" raises a lot of heated arguments about the purity of modern art vs. using the public purse for music that doesn't stand on its own while the hospitals need kidney machines.

There's no easy answer, and I'm certainly not going to solve it, but I wanted to note that some art dies. Yes, it's sad, but while every form of human artistic expression has the right to exist, not all of it has to be displayed or played more than once. It's important, I think, that as much of it be preserved as is possible especially since it's so easy now to record and store music and pictures.

I suppose, in the end, history will be the judge. While every artistic thought and deed can be recorded more cheaply than ever in history, our descendants will be the judges over what gets played in their concert halls, displayed in their galleries, or left in the archives, no matter if it was popular or even noticed when it was first created.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Ferrari In My Dreams
Why would I dream about a sleek, red Ferrari ? Is there such a thing as a "Ferrari 16E", and does it really only cost $16K? It was all through my dreams last night, zipping around tightly forested mountain curves, parking in well-guarded lots and taking me to a concert by The Church in Malta (now I *know* it's a dream!) where the band dressed all in black and engaged in strange choreography and sang songs more random than usual.

I'm not a car person; I drive a Saturn SL2 that is cheap, reliable and I'm told is quite dull as cars go. "But a car is just an air conditioner on wheels!" I reply, while my subconscious dreams of a better ride with the top down. I note that the dream did touch upon one real aspect of my waking's cheap :) I've been on a money kick lately, saving money where I can, cooking for myself at home, watching the stock market and my 401K and investing at just to see if it works.

Prosper is a person-to-person lending site, where a borrower explains how much they need and tries to find people willing to loan to them. Lots of lenders each kick in at least $50 and the interest rate (measured as simple, not compound) is slowly bid down and down until a comfort level is reached that both sides are happy with. People with great credit scores usually get around 9-10%, high risk people around 29% *if* they get funded at all. My 10 loans should average around 17% compounded ROI, including the risk that some will default on the loan. I started a month ago and the two loans who's first payment was due today have both done so. It's all about finding people who's credit is bad because of past mistakes but who's life is now in an upswing. Good job, paying their bills and debts and they're using prosper to cut the size of those bills down. My brother is trying it too.

I'm resurrecting Mercury MailRoom, my shareware program, by dropping the price to $20 - maybe some interest will arise this time. And I've added advertising to my Church site - its on track to making about $5/mth at the moment.

BTW The image is a fractal I created with Ultrafractal - image source available on request. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 13, 2006

Google Buys YouTube

Opportunity to share ad revenue?

I find it very interesting that the immediate reaction in a lot of the blogs/news sites I read is to comment that copyright issues are going to kill YouTube. I wonder, though, might not the large media corporations see this as an opportunity to collect some money instead of just whacking another mole?

Why doesn't Google just pay the copyright owner a portion (presumably a BIG portion) of the advertising money garnered from each page that shows content owned by that corporation? I know there'd be some "edge" cases where this is unclear, such a remixes/mashups etc, but there's a lot of videos on YouTube that are straight video and audio captures of a TV show or movie. That seems a clear cut case.

I'd like Fair Use to be remember, of course. A short excerpt from a film or tv show should be seen as PROMOTION of that show. If the poster links to some official site for that show, shouldn't that be good enough to make everyone happy?

Sadly, media corporations haven't been paragons of lateral thinking thus far. They still think DRM is a good idea (it isn't) and seem hell-bent on controlling every machine that might play their content, even if it kills demand for it. I don't see Blu-Ray and HD-DVD flying off the shelves, do you?