Friday, January 28, 2005

"We're having a heat wave!! A tropical heat wave!!"

It only got down to 3 degrees last night. We are thinking about hitting the beach. Thursday morning we were almost 20 below zero when I jump into my truck. At least it is sunny. With the temperature this low, our boiler and the circulation pumps run non-stop. That means running the generator 6-8 hours every day, instead of 8-10 hours every third day. We don't even have the 2005 budget completed yet, and it is already completely blown. Ah well.

This weekend we plan to spend every available minute working on the house. I will be swinging into our new Lowes store to pick up some this-and-that type stuff so we can really crank out the work. I hope to call for the final inspections Monday. Not that I expect to pass any of them, but having them out to the house will give us another 30 days to do more work. These jerks want to play games, I can play games too.

I picked up a prescription for Nestina yesterday. The drug costs $500 for 30 pills. That works out to nearly $17 per pill. Now I understand all about research costs, production costs, liability costs, regulatory costs, etc., etc. I'm not one of the Free Lunch crowd that believes new drugs fall from heaven like manna. But I am sorry; $17 for a pill I can hardly see is just out of line. I know that patent laws, the FDA, and generic drugs have all conspired to force a company to recoup the entire cost of R&D in a couple years at best. And I would understand if the drug was one that was rarely prescribed, but it isn't. Half the people I know are either currently taking it, have taken it in the recent past, or should be taking it, but can't because they can't afford $17 a pill. My fear is that the only solution will be the government take-over of health care followed by the complete implosion of the heath care industry (see Canada or England). I'm seeing some of that first-hand; the first wave of layoffs hit Munson Medical Center today. My former employer, who shall remain anonymous, has resorted to breaking off parts of the medical center and selling them to meet current expenses. Of course, the only parts that anyone would want to buy are those that make money, so that is hardly a viable long-term strategy. I think the term is utter desperation. We live in interesting times. As in the ancient Chinese curse.

Jerry Pournelle has more on education. If you want to understand one of the root causes of the coming collapse of our Republic, pay attention. If all you are interested in is trading your paycheck for pizza and beer, feel free to return to your coma; I apologize for disturbing you.

Bob Thompson sums up my views on copyright law pretty well:
When laws are far divorced from reality, as is now the case with copyright law, I think it's everyone's responsibility to ignore those laws and instead behave in what they determine for themselves to be a morally correct way. Here are my own guidelines:

1. If I have ever had a right to have a personal copy of a movie or television program, I always have that right. For example, the Cadfael mysteries; the Poirot mysteries; Upstairs, Downstairs; I, Clavdivs; and All Creatures Great and Small have all been broadcast on PBS. I had and have the right to record copies of them for personal use, and in fact I have copies of many of them on VHS tapes.

2. The source or format of a particular copy is immaterial. The copyright pigs try to differentiate based on the source of the copy. For example, years ago radio stations began using hard disk MP3 copies of music tracks. At least one company began shipping actual hard drives to radio stations, pre-loaded with MP3 playlists. The RIAA shut them down, even though the radio stations already owned physical CD or vinyl copies of all the tracks being distributed on the hard drives. The RIAA claimed that possession of the original CD tracks did not give the radio stations the right to receive or use the MP3 versions distributed on hard drives. That's crap. Once the radio station (or I) has the right to use something, they have the right to use it in whatever format they choose. They, and I, have the right to re-encode the material in a different logical or physical format for convenience and ease of use.

3. Whether or not I actually made a copy at the time of broadcast is immaterial. If I ever had the right to make a copy, as I did as soon as the material was broadcast, I always have that right. So, for example, if I choose to make a personal copy of a Cadfael episode, it doesn't matter when I choose to make that copy, the source of the original material from which I make the copy, or the format of the copy I make. I have the right, for example, to record a broadcast of that episode to a VHS tape or a DVD+R disc. Or I could rip a DVD from whatever source--purchased, borrowed, rented, or a copy from the library.

4. I have the right to make derivative works for personal use. For example, if I record Left Wing next week, it is my right to modify what I've recorded by removing commercials and storing the commercial-free version on a tape or disc.

5. I have the right to lend my personal copies to friends, and to borrow their personal copies from them. They have the right to make personal copies of anything I lend them, and I have the right to make personal copies of anything I've borrowed from a friend.

6. I do not have the right to profit commercially from personal copies. (Well, actually, I do, because the Constitution doesn't permit Congress to authorize copyright protection for films and recorded music, but I'm speaking of moral rights here rather than putative legal rights.) If I make a personal copy, I am entitled to do anything with it I wish to do, except distribute it for profit.

In fact, I'll make few copies of anything, because I'd rather spend my time reading. But that doesn't change the fact that I have the right to make personal copies if I choose to do so.

I wonder how closely my own guidelines correspond to those of others. Pretty closely, I suspect.

People ignore laws that violate common sense. Our copyright laws, like most of our legal code, attempts to criminalize ordinary, every-day, common-sense behavior engaged in by the vast majority of US citizens.

That's all I have. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves. All two of you.

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