Life is a Mystery

21 August 2008 . Comments Off on Feeling Down

Feeling Down

I don’t know, maybe it’s Nathaniel’s pneumonia, maybe it’s Obama’s polls, maybe it is just the sticky part of August without air conditioning. In any case, I’ve been feeling a bit down and grumpy these days.

The polls are a funny one. Obama has been riding so high and my fear is that this would actually take the wind out of his sails. His wind is a grassroots movement that has worked for change and sees him as representative of that change. Too far ahead in the polls, and they might relax.

Well, not a problem any more. With the polls tightening, and even reversing in some cases, I think the core Obama crowd will be motivated this Fall. Only the convention nonsense to get through, then we’ll see where we really stand. Electing Obama will be difficult. He’s a young black man. There will be a lot of itchy fingers in the voting booth. I hope everyone who is not already working hard for Obama is charging their batteries for a real push in the last 60 days.

Today’s stumble by McCain was a reminder to me. How many houses?

Can we be so afraid that we let someone this out of touch into the white house? Again?

I really don’t think so. I think we will win this one. I’m just anxious about the battle to get to that finish line and hope we have some of our ideals intact when we get there.


15 August 2008 . Comments Off on Seeing Walrus

Seeing Walrus

In 1969 a 14 year old Jerry Levitan interviewed John Lennon in his hotel room. This year Levitan released an animated short film that uses the interview as a soundtrack. It is a wonderful expression of Lennon’s philosophy and such a simple style of animation in this Wall-E age.

14 August 2008 . Comments Off on Conservative Call for Peace

Conservative Call for Peace

Andrew Sullivan today posted a conservative call for peace that speaks calmly and cogently about the horror of the last six years and the need for us to change course.

The end of the Cold War was an opportunity to create a new one. For some, we now realize, the Cold War was not about democratic values versus totalitarianism, in the Kirkpatrick formulation. It was about American hegemony against any rival power, totalitarian or not, globally expansionist or not. The end of Communism was, for some, a problem. It removed a key rationale for military power. China was the first object of demonization, in the first months of the Bush administration; then – defensibly – Islamism; then Iran, Iraq and NoKo; now, Russia. […]

But for conservatives whose goal is peace, not war; who are quite comfortable balancing global power with other great powers such as Russia, China, India and Europe rather than demanding an expanding American hegemony; who believe that defense means defense, not a proactive preference for war; who see war and control of other countries as something distasteful if it goes beyond pragmatic self-interest; those conservatives do not agree.

I’ve missed most of Sullivan’s journey over the past decade, but his voice is one of those that today I find most consistently clear about the choices America faces. He sees us for who we are, I hope we can see ourselves as well.

14 August 2008 . Comments Off on Community Code

Community Code

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a key provision of “copyleft” licenses (PDF) by reversing a lower court ruling in the case of the Java Model Railroad Interface. For a long time we’ve been saying that licenses like the GPL or (as in this case) the Perl Artistic License are theoretical protections of freedom (free as in speech), but had yet to be tested in court. Well, the court tests are underway now, and this one was very important. As Ars Technica points out:

The Federal Circuit appears to have been heavily influenced by the Stanford brief, as it specifically cited Creative Commons, MIT, Wikipedia, and various free software projects as examples of organizations that benefit from copyleft licenses. In a short, clearly-reasoned opinion, the Federal Circuit summarized the public benefits of public licensing and found that the district court had dismissed its terms too lightly. Unlike the lower court, the appeals court seemed to understand that reciprocity lay at the heart of free software licenses. Just as traditional software firms thrive on the exchange of code for money, free software projects thrive on the exchange of code for code. The Federal Circuit recognized that “there are substantial benefits, including economic benefits, to the creation and distribution of copyrighted works under public licenses that range far beyond traditional license royalties.” Allowing those rules to be flaunted undermines the free software model.

There is a long haul ahead, I am sure, in defending these licenses from folks who want to take advantage of free software for commercial gain. Our rights are being defended by organizations like the EFF and (particularly in this case) the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and Creative Commons (both founded by Larry Lessig). Please support the work of these organizations.

14 August 2008 . Comments Off on Community Photos

Community Photos

The photosynth crew keeps innovating, their latest video is a hint of things to come in photo tourism and virtual earth applications.

What I find particularly interesting about this work is the degree to which it relies on photos taken by the Flickr community, note the credits at the end of the video. When we share our work we can become part of things we can’t even imagine.

11 August 2008 . Comments Off on Reality Blurs

Reality Blurs

The Olympics are theater on a massive scale. The opening ceremony was full of stunning effects (I loved, for example, the use of the stadium scrim as a screen high up in the sky). It turns out that one part of the fireworks broadcast around the world was actually an animation, not the real thing. The Chinese apparently feared for the safety of helicopters which would have to film the live pyrotechnics, so instead they created a computer animation for broadcast. Even though NBC made reference to the “cinematic” techniques being used in real time, many viewers may have missed the fact that they were not watching the “real thing.”

But then, what is real? The whole event was delayed here in the states, but broadcast as though live. Mary does an exercise where she asks students to identify which media clips feel more authentic than others. When does Pixar get more real than real? What difference does it make if consumers of media can’t distinguish fact from fiction?

9 August 2008 . Comments Off on Starry Night

Starry Night

I once made a version of this painting out of little bits of my roommate’s “Sports Illustrated”. Denis has that one. Here is a new version of my favorite painting set to a favorite song in a new world. Vincent’s Starry Night in Second Life.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /