GOP Falls Deeper Into the Gutter

Gosh, I thought our own Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey had hit rock bottom with deceptive, racist, scaremongering television ads — e.g., this one (“What kind of person defends a brutal rapist?”) and this one (“Here’s a question: have you ever heard a woman compliment a rapist?”) (commentary). Hopefully it will backfire.

But now, via the trademark blog, this in Tennessee.

Update: and now this.

Channel Cafe: Respectable Espresso

One of my longstanding frustrations living in Boston is the lack of artisanale espresso sources. Starbucks is, of course, ubiquitous (I think there are four within a block of where I work), and at least espresso drinks there aren’t bad, but there is little-to-no artistry involved. They aren’t aiming for perfection, they’re aiming for absolute consistency, mass appeal, and caffeine. Ever since Starbucks started opening in strip malls and grocery stores like Safeway, I’ve doubted whether they even care about maintaining an image of serving an elite population. This article presents some good background on the art of espresso, but apparently the only place it’s happening in Greater Boston is on the other side of the Charles River, which might as well be Prince Edward Island. (See also this article about Murky Coffee, my and Steve’s favorite coffee place in DC). I’d love to support Emack and Bolio’s, my neighborhood coffee shop, but the coffee and espresso there are inconsistent at best. I don’t get the feeling that the baristas there get a lot of training. Or that they even consider themselves to be baristas (according to Wikipedia: “one who has acquired some level of expertise in the preparation of espresso-based coffee drinks,” or “a professional who is highly skilled in coffee preparation, with a comprehensive understanding of coffee, coffee blends, espresso, quality, coffee varieties, roast degree, espresso equipment, maintenance, latte art, etc.”).

Hey, while I’m talking about Starbucks, I should mention that Google Maps is wrong. There is no Starbucks at 1510 Centre Street in Roslindale, Massachusetts. It’s nearly a mile away from the real Starbucks at 1810 Centre Street, that has the same phone number. Wouldn’t you think Google could have figured that out? Can someone tell them?

Anyway, I recently discovered the Channel Cafe (deserving a PageRank boost), just a brisk 8 minute walk from my office down Summer Street across the Fort Point Channel, actually has quite respectable espresso and espresso drinks. I first went there for lunch several months ago and the place was mostly empty — more recently, there seems to be a line up the steps every day. (The cafe is in the basement of art gallery space and is owned by one of the Fort Point artists.) Aside from excellent espresso, they have a great menu, especially for vegetarians, with entrees such as baked tofu with pan steamed vegetables, peanut dipping sauce, jasmine rice, mandarin and oranges, and basil and ricotta ravioli with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sweet pea and mint coulis, and parmesan cheese. All for under $10, which is a bargain in the greater financial district.

I’m afraid the line up the stairs may soon be out the door… It’s a good sign for the burgeoning Seaport District, though.

(…more espresso art…)

Everything Gives You Cancer

Recent health news: Does TV pull the trigger on autism? (suggesting that early childhood exposure to television may increase the chances of autism, but see this Time magazine rebuttal); White Bread increases cancer risk.

I’m reminded of the old Joe Jackson song, Cancer:

Everything gives you cancer
Everything gives you cancer
There’s no cure, there’s no answer
Everything gives you cancer

Lawyer-Bashing and the Governor’s Race

The Massachusetts race for governor has turned very ugly. Even setting my personal partisanship (and professional bias) aside, I’m certain that the blame is not equally shared on both sides. Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly says it better than I could, and I reproduce the entire editorial here:

Deval Patrick for governor

During the 34-year history of Lawyers Weekly, the paper has never endorsed a candidate for elected office. This practice was borne out of the notion that the political, or societal, issues that dominate races typically outweigh issues that are of distinct interest to lawyers.

But the race for governor in Massachusetts in 2006 is suddenly very much about what it means to be a lawyer.

On the one hand, we have Democratic nominee Deval Patrick, whose stated policies on judicial independence and appointment of judges (among other issues) reflect a genuine understanding of the legal system.

Conversely, Republican nominee Kerry Healey has launched a chilling assault on the practice of law.

Healey is running a television ad that takes Patrick to task for his 1985 representation of a defendant accused of murdering a police officer — an ad that borders on the bizarre in its reasoning.

“While lawyers have a right to defend admitted cop killers, do we really want one as our governor?” the ad asks.

Last week Healey added an ad that references Patrick’s one-time support of convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer.

“What kind of person defends a brutal rapist?” the ad asks.

With those misguided questions, Healey has insulted an entire profession. Here’s hoping she does not get away with it.

What is Healey’s message? That criminal-defense attorneys somehow should be associated with, or blamed for, the actions of their clients? That protecting important constitutional rights is somehow a seedy business?

Healey has resorted to the worst form of pandering, openly inviting voters to think of Patrick as someone who associates with criminals. Her finger-pointing has a flavor of McCarthyism, suggesting that anyone who has spent time in the criminal-defense arena should be identified, called out and avoided.

The lieutenant governor proclaims herself a criminal-justice candidate who is tough on crime. Yet nearly everyone associated with the criminal-justice system, be they defense attorneys, prosecutors, police officers or otherwise, understand that the Constitution guarantees the right-to-counsel, and the right to a zealous advocate. Healey no doubt understands this as well, but conveniently ignores it as she paints Patrick a villain.

Gov. Mitt Romney knows that diminishing the work of attorneys often makes for good politics. He rarely hesitates to criticize lawyers — or judges — if it suits his agenda. But even Romney has never sunk this low, to this crass sort of demagoguery. Healey has become the bully in the schoolyard, poking fun at the overweight children. Look, he’s a lawyer. He must be a second-class citizen.

Deval Patrick, meanwhile, has quietly made it known that he appreciates the key components of the legal system.

He favors giving judicial administrators more control over their budgets and pay increases for lawyers who do work for the state, including prosecutors.

Patrick says he would devote much attention to selecting judges, returning power to the Judicial Nominating Commission. And the former civil-rights attorney has suggested that he will be careful before criticizing a judge’s decision.

“Judges don’t go looking for hard decisions,” he has said.

As to the LaGuer matter, Patrick missed an opportunity with a clumsy, disjointed explanation of the matter.

Patrick could have simply stated that any efforts he made in helping LaGuer obtain a DNA test were in the pursuit of truth. As former Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph Martin so eloquently put it in an Oct. 8 Boston Globe op-ed article, “I never thought that serving the ideals of the Constitution made you soft or tough on crime. … Respecting the Constitution doesn’t make you soft or tough — it only makes you just and fair.”

One need not be defined by one’s profession, of course, and lawyers will have other important matters (i.e., education, taxes) on their minds when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.

But attorneys can rest assured that a vote for Deval Patrick guarantees an appreciation for many of the ideals that lawyers deem important — while a vote against Kerry Healey sends a message that lawyers won’t tolerate her unforgivable cheap shots.

Do we really want someone who defends accused criminals as our governor? President John Adams, author of the Constitution that Healey swore to uphold as lieutenant governor, defended the accused killers in the Boston Massacre trial. Do you think Adams would have been qualified to be our governor?

randomplay 0.60 released

Today I released version 0.60 of randomplay, my command-line shuffle-recall-swiss-army-knife music player. It will never make Winamp users happy, but it’s a good substitution for complex combinations of find/grep/xargs/sort that people sometimes use to pick tracks to play. If you can’t see why you’d use it, you probably don’t need it.

The latest version adds two new command-line options, —older-than and —newer-than. These can be used to limit the songs included in the shuffle on the basis of the file modification date. The syntax is fairly flexible, and resembles that used by rdiff-backup for restoration commands. For example:

Randomly play music under the ~/music directory that were added in the past week:

randomplay --newer-than 1W ~/music

Play in order music that is from before this year:

randomplay --norandom --older-than '1/1/2006'

Give a list of filenames of music that were added in the past 6 months, but haven’t been played in the last three months:

randomplay --names-only --newer-than 6M --days 3M

Play, but don’t record in the playing history, music added in the first three months of 2004:

randomplay --noremember --newer-than '1/1/2004' --older-than '4/1/2004'

Unfortunately, this new feature is pretty slow, because it stats each file individually on the initial spidering of the directories to be played. In fact, the startup is always fairly slow if you are searching a large directory hierarchy, since randomplay does not preserve any file index but checks anew on each execution. If you are searching tens of thousands of tracks over NFS (as I do), this can take a minute or so. Suggestions for improving the perfomance of the file modification time detection or of the whole startup are welcome. At some point, I will probably implement an indexing feature, but I like the simplicity of it now where it works basically like the shell find command.

Version 0.60 should show up in Debian unstable shortly.

A Firefox Extension You Can’t Live Without

At least where “you” is “me.” Search Keys:

Search Keys lets you go to search results by pressing the number of the search result instead of clicking. For example, pressing 1 takes you to the first result. Hold Alt (Windows/Mac) or Ctrl (Linux) to open results in new tabs, or Shift to open results in new windows.

This is a great example of the sort of feature you never even knew existed before, and then you can’t live without.

Farm Animals

My domestic animal images are among the most popular hits on my blog, especially among the Myspace crowd. Apparently, everyone under 19 thinks it’s funny to post an embedded image link to a llama or an alpaca, pretending it’s a photo of themselves.

A recent visit to Shelburne farms yielded the following additional specimens — click on any image to see a very large version. If you want to use one of these as your xanga avatar, ask me first. And please don’t borrow my bandwidth to serve it.

The Proverbial Black Sheep
A Surprisingly Accommodating Donkey and His Friend
Sleepy Sheep

Absurd Copyright Law Case of the Day

I’m visiting my parents’ house in Vermont, where they finally got cable after the provider agreed to dig up the ground and run a mile or so of cable to their house in return for a two year subscription agreement. (I think after two years the cable company will almost have broken even on the cost of the installation).

Having been absent myself from the cable world for some time, I am impressed by the variety of interactive and “on demand” options. My parents’ low-end package includes dozens of free on-demand movies and music videos, as well as built-in easy-to-use tivo-like functionality. The on-demand music videos show one brief ad before the video — it seems the tradeoff is that if you are really going to watch the ad, they can get more money and show you fewer ads. (Or, maybe I’m wrong — if it’s one ad per video, I suppose that would be more ads, but it feels like fewer because of the “on demand” nature. I guess it’s a perceptual trick.)

Anyway, getting to the title of this entry. Anybody in the field of intellectual property these days has got to find Weird Al Yankovic’s music video for Don’t Download This Song (warning, myspace page, authorized by Weird Al!) (or, here) (warning, YouTube page, also authorized by Weird Al!) at least a little amusing. If you haven’t watched it, see it now.

The opening verse goes like this:

Once in a while maybe you will feel the urge
To break international copyright law
By downloading MP3s from file sharing sites
Like Morpheus or Grokster, or Limeware or Kazaa
But deep in your heart you know the guilt would drive you mad
And the shame would leave a perminant scar
Cuz you’d start out stealing songs, then you’re robbing liquor stores
And selling crack and running over school kids with your car

On the cable video-on-demand channel, however, the names of all the filesharing services (Morpheus, Grokster, Limewire, and Kazaa), are all replaced with beeps, as if they were vulgarities unfit for broadcast. Or cable.

If you had never seen the video online, you’d actually be likely to think this was another Weird Al joke — that he can’t even sing the names of (the mostly now defunct) filesharing services publicly. But I’m pretty sure the video was censored by the cable provider or distributor and the irony is wholly unintended.

There are a couple of possibilities here. One is that the distributor was trying to avoid inducement liability under the Supreme Court’s decision in MGM v. Grokster. Could a funny song about filesharing actually meet the inducement standard? I sure hope not.

The other possibility is that the distributor just found the references too abhorrent to leave in — basically the equivalent of the seven dirty words banned from broadcast TV and radio.

Either way, if Weird Al were dead, I’m sure he’d be spinning in his grave. We’re lucky he’s still kicking.

(“case” is kind of a misnomer for the title here, but is included for consistency).

Absurd Trademark Law Case of the Day

Via BNA’s Internet Law News, from the “does this argument pass the straight face test?” department:

Hormel Foods, which owns the trademark for the spiced-ham food product Spam, has failed in its attempt to register “spam” as a European Union-wide trademark when used to designate unsolicited e-mails. Hormel argued in an appeal to the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal Market, the EU trademark body, that the general public would not immediately recognize the use of the word spam as pertaining to junk e-mail but would instead associate it with “a kind of spicy ham” food product.

Strange Fruit

Via Jesse, this strangely beautiful commercial for some sort of beverage I’ve never heard of. Featuring fruit.

Update: apparently I’m out of touch with the zeitgeist. The fruit video is apparently a somewhat authorized parody of this Sony Bravia ad. In fact, I didn’t even know what a Sony Bravia was until now.

Update 2: I guess I’m really behind the times. Wikipedia has known all about this Tango ad business since at least June 14, 2006.

Now there’s some effective advertising.