Wednesday, November 24, 2004

the latest installment in the series of "things that tick me off"

As if the government isn't in a sufficiently dire financial situation, the new spending bill includes creation of a position of "federal copyright enforcement czar", according to this article from Reuters (courtesy of Slashdot). I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think it is not the government's business to enforce copyright. I don't think it's appropriate to have an employee of the government focused on such a private violation, and I don't think it's appropriate for the Department of Justice to be bringing suits against copyright violators.

I can't think of a solid, reasoned argument about it, though. If you can, let me know.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

somebody didn't think this one through

This is just hilarious. Who the heck decided to take these pictures just in case something funny might happen?

lake chargoggaga-whatever

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, the sign proclaims. This is a real lake, in central MA. 45 letters, 15 of them 'G's. Evidently it means "English knifemen and Nipmuck Indians at the boundary or neutral fishing place." I cannot imagine anyone taking the time to actually pronounce the entire name.

NY Times (free reg req'd): What's the Name of That Lake? It's Hard to Say

Monday, November 15, 2004

about a judge

His name was Bobby Hammerman, and he was a Baltimore Circuit Court Judge for more than 40 years. I never met him, but after reading this, I felt like I knew him.

Despite Detailed Letter, Judge's Suicide Baffling

This is probably the most touching character portrayal I've ever seen in a newspaper article. Read it.

When I think about it, it raises again the old existential questions about the meaning of life, the ones we can never really have an answer to.

world toilet day

My birthday is this Friday, Nov 19th. This happens to also be the official 'World Toilet Day'. I kid you not. It's an annual event. They have a conference and everything. I don't know what to say.

World Toilet Day

Sunday, November 14, 2004

from my brother-in-law

I had an idea to start a place like this a couple years ago. I think someone stole it. Maybe I should sue. Or, as someone told me, since I sure wasn't going to actually start one, maybe I should be glad someone did. I don't know where this article came from - my brother-in-law sent it to me.

Oolongs offers Elis a cup of tea
Customers select their own tea from over 70, which is then brewed on the spot

Staff Reporter

New Haven joined the tea-lover's craze yesterday with the opening of Oolongs Tea Bar in Sherman's Alley on Chapel Street.

The only tea house in the area, Oolongs offers over 70 varieties of loose leaf tea as well as prepared lunches and select baked goods, which incorporate tea into their recipes. The 14-seat, Asian-themed cafe aims to exude an air of tranquility with soft colors, Japanese lanterns and two stone water fountains.

Koffee Too? owner Tracy Jackson and outside partner Tammy Hackett co-manage and own the tea bar. Originally scheduled to open Sept. 1, Oolongs had its "soft-sale" opening yesterday and will hold a grand opening later this month. Hackett said it took longer than expected to figure out the details regarding tea recipes and vendors, but the final result was worth the wait.

"Tea bars, tea salons and tea cafes are hitting cities nationwide," Hackett said. "We are trying to perfect the experience so that customers here can literally enjoy a perfect cup of tea."

Mark Williams, who worked behind the counter throughout Oolongs' opening day, said it was a positive first-day turnout with a big lunch crowd, an afternoon lull, and then a constant stream of customers throughout the evening.

"I think people see this as a great place to sit and talk with their friends while enjoying a delicious drink," Williams said. "It's a cool atmosphere."

The idea behind the service at Oolongs is that patrons choose their own tea from the variety on display. Customers can smell all of the teas, and even sample a select few on a daily basis. The tea is then scooped into natural hemp tea bags and brewed on the spot. Bar seating offers customers a front-row view of the process.

Hackett said what distinguishes Oolongs from the myriad coffee shops in New Haven is that, most obviously, they will not be serving any coffee. Beyond this, the Chapel Street shop has a "t-spresso" machine that makes tea lattes as well tea sodas, two original Oolongs creations. Hackett said she thinks Oolongs' variety of tastes and friendly atmosphere will appeal to the diverse community of New Haven.

"I think that Yale kids, workers at local businesses, the art community, and the Asian community will all be attracted to Oolongs," Hackett said. "All ages drink tea now, it's not just the old ladies in white gloves."

Located away from street traffic in the alley behind Union League Cafe, Hackett said she expects the bulk of her business from passersby taking drinks to go. Director of University Properties David Newton said he thinks Sherman's Alley is an ideal location for the shop. After much thought about what kind of shop would be the best addition to the retail in the area, he said he thought Jackson and Hackett came up with a great concept.

"Many people walking through Sherman's Alley will stop in Oolongs on their way," Newton said. "It's a natural attraction that will probably keep people coming back."

another good existential law post

Jeremy's Weblog: The Post

Jeremy Blachman, you're a role model for disaffected 1L's everywhere.

The post is very good, and the fact that it's actually authentic lends extra weight, but it still can't compete with my favorite blog post of all time from the (rumored to be fictitious) Anonymous Lawyer.

another sure sign the world is coming to an end

So, I'm watching the first Harry Potter movie on ABC yesterday while trying to get some work done, and this ad comes on television, for "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas". Evidently Jessica and her sister are performing at the same time. Never before will television viewers have been subjected to such a high elbow-movement-to-music-quality ratio.

The sad part is that people will watch it. It's things like this that convince me I'm actually an alien from a distant planet and that my keepers will soon come to take me away.

NYTimes article on breakfast cereal

NYTimes: These Days, the College Bowl is Filled With Milk and Cereal"

I can't believe this is a real article. Note the following excerpt (emphasis added):

In fact, especially among teenagers, cereal seems to be losing its association with the first meal of the day - a testament perhaps to their rudimentary food-preparation skills, to their widely acknowledged "munchies,'' sometimes caused by smoking pot, as well as to their nostalgia for childhood.

The Times, for Pete's sake. Sheesh.

philosophy post

If you're wondering about the sudden increase in posts, I credit it primarily to a feeling that I got a lot of good work done yesterday and can take it easy today, combined with a sheer lazy desire to avoid going back to work. I promise I will slow down or stop altogether for another lengthy period of time. Now, on to the promised philosophy post.

Friends of mine have likely already heard my logical dissection of the concept of free will. After presenting it to my roommate yesterday I thought of a resolution of sorts. I may have a copy of the original online somewhere, but I can't find it, so here's a brief summary:

Strip away all the influences on a person's decision-making ability which we do not consider to be part of our true absolute free will (e.g. genetics, past life, and environment). There still must be a decision-making component to us, or we wouldn't have true free will; I've generally referred to this as an internal black box, since we don't know how it functions, it just mysteriously makes decisions. Now consider a decision that must be made, and abstract it (in good computer science thinking) to a decision between 0 and 1. There are two possibilities. 1: Everybody's black box spits out the same answer, 0 or 1, in all contexts, in which case there's no free will. 2: There exists a decision for which person A's black box spits out a 0, and for which person B's black box spits out a 1. Assuming the latter, why does person A pick 0 and person B pick 1? If person A is given black box A by some outside agency, then it doesn't make sense to call this a decision of free will. If person A selected black box A, then on what basis did A pick this black box rather than another? The problem cycles and there is still no solution.

So at like 2:30 am last night as I tried to sleep I figured out the logical way to modify this to make it consistent with free will. You have to challenge the question. You have to say that it makes no sense to ask "Why does A pick 0 and B pick 1?" You have to respond to this by saying that this is what free will is, free will is the act of A picking 0 and B picking 1. The black box is not something which must be selected by free will, it is in itself the embodiment of free will, and to look beyond this is illogical.

This is not entirely convincing to me, as I still look for a reason why person A's free will would select 0 and person B's would select 1 (the original question). But I believe the reason why I lean against free will in this debate is not because I truly believe that the original story is better than the modification and resolution. It's because in my day-to-day life I analyze the choices I make after the fact, and I realize that they can always be predicted. I consider myself insufficiently creative to be able to break free of the influences of my own personality. I am a slave trapped within my own mind. Perhaps this isn't true of other people and they are thus more inspired to fight for the concept of free will. Kudos to them.