""We [the human race] do not have much time to prove that we are not
the product of a lethal mutation."
-- Science 263: 181, 1994"
I think this is the beginning a new stage in the move of the music world to the Internet:
Thomas Sanders pointed out a feature of the new U2 album on iTunes that makes the download a little more like a real record album or CD:
Just purchased the new U2 "Album" and with it came what looks like the liner notes. It downloads straight into iTunes under the album, and when you click on it, Preview opens and you get all the pages. If they roll this out on all albums that would address one issue people have with downloading music.[Macintouch]
Many times, I hear people say that they still buy CD's because they "like to hold them in their hands." I think that effect will diminish a lot when we can reliably get the liner notes and graphics online.
I'm still going to buy CD's for the time being however: I don't want to be locked into any particular DRM, but more importantly, CD's simply have better sound quality due to having more bits. When it is practical for me to have enough storage in an iPod that I can copy my CD's there without loss of bits, I'll do it.
If Apple would guarantee that I could re-download any CD I buy from them, in lossless form, when storage densities are 10 times greater, I would buy fewer, and possibly no more CD's, despite the DRM issue. So that's a suggestion I am making here to Apple. That simple step would make them a lot more money from people like me.
(Note, whenever I comment that CD's sound better, somebody posts a comment denying that that is true, and challenging me to do a side-by-side comparison. So this time I'll answer in advance that I have indeed taken the time to do such a comparison, and I not only notice the loss in quality, but find it painful, even it relatively high encoding rates. I assume most people who challenge me to make such a comparison either haven't actually done so themselves, or have poor hearing. Or, perhaps, very poor headphones/speakers.)
(Brief aside for any wondering "What is Goombah?": Goombah is Mac OS X software that uses distributed computing methods to enable each individual to find their truest musical taste-mates, wherever they may be, without any need to enter ratings or other information, based solely on the contents of their iTunes music libraries. The population of Goombah users is searched to find only those individual whose musical tastes most intimately match yours. One of the most import goals of Goombah is to create a true alternative to mass-marketing, by means of a kind of supercharged word-of-mouth. Since each person's music library is shown to others with extremely similar tastes, word about new, high-quality artists can reliably spread from person to person, "under the radar" of the mainstream music world. We hope this will enable a very large number of very high-quality, non-mass-market artists to find their audiences.
These artists will include those who may make the easiest-for-everyone-to-enjoy music in the world, but who aren't photogenic enough for the cover of People Magazine.
And these artists will include people who make truly great music, but in genres that only appeal to small numbers of listeners. Or in wholly new genres the mainstream world isn't quite ready for... yet.)
Version .511 of Goombah lets you select friends and people whose music collections you particularly like to be "My Goombahs" so that they stay permanently in your personal list of favorite Goombah users, and you can monitor their music collections and include them in the statistical processing leading to recommendations.
It also makes it easier to exchange email with other Goombah users.
Important note to all Goombah users: GO TO GOOMBAH PREFERENCES, CLICK THE PUBLIC INFO TAB, AND PUT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE TOP LINE IF IT ISN'T ALREADY THERE. THEN CLICK APPLY.
That way, people who discover your music collection because their tastes are extremely similar to yours, and who want to talk about your favorite artists with you, can do so.
Here's why I think this is important. One of the things that the mass-market music world does is create a sense of community. The top stars are so well publicized that everyone knows about them and can share their enthusiasms... this sharing with others is part of our experience of music. I believe that this is not a trivial thing.
Goombah can help non-maintstream musicians find their audiences, wherever they may be in the world. But therein lies a problem: our local friends won't know anything about them, since they aren't mass-marketed. And your friends may not like them even if they did know about them. So how can we have community for non-mass-market artists?
The answer is that we will have community online. That's why you should have a public email address in Goombah.
While there are disadvantage to online communities compared to hanging out with friends at the local bar, there are advantages too. Non-mass-market artists have far more opportunity for real interaction with their audiences than someone like Madonna does. Their audiences are smaller. The community that will form around each artist will be more intimate, and have more in common. And non-mass-market artists tend to be less money-driven than many mainstream artists are; they are making their music heard because they want to move people. If you have a public email in Goombah, you may hear from the artists you discover.
This blog will continue to discuss Goombah's evolution as time goes on.
I couldn't sleep at 3AM this morning, so I got up and flipped on CNN. Turned out Larry King was interviewing Crown Prince Albert of Monaco. (Who he always introduced as "The Serene Crown Prince Albert of Monaco.")
In passing, the Prince mentioned that while it had been rumored that his mother, actress Grace Kelly, had died in a car accident on the same Monaco road she and Cary Grant are seen driving on in It Takes A Thief, it wasn't true; the accident was actually on another local road, higher on the hill.
For some reason, I got the idea of looking up Grace Kelly in Wikipedia to see what it had say about that. It said that she had died on the road used in the movie.
The Wikipedia has been somewhat controversial. In my experience, for subjects in the mathematical field, it usually gives better, clearer explanations than other online sources. I would guess this is because the facts are undisputed, and as the manner of their expression evolves under many hands, it just gets better and better.
But in cases where the facts themselves are not widely known, there is no guarantee that what Wikipedia says is true. (See this attack on Wikipedia from former editor of the Britannica.) And the Grace Kelly accident was a clear example.
The good news, however, is that, having heard Prince Albert authoritatively tell the world that the rumor about the accident was false, I could fix it then and there. I simply edited Grace Kelly's Wikipedia entry, which now reads, " It had been rumored that she was driving on the same stretch of highway in Monaco that had been featured in To Catch a Thief, although her son, Prince Albert of Monaco, says it was not the same road."
The bad news and the good news: Wikipedia is not completely reliable, but if there is an error, someone may fix it in the fullness of time -- something not necessarily true in traditional encyclopedias like the Britannica.
One thing mystifies me. I didn't see any way I could write a note that explained my change. I would have liked to have said, for the benefit of anyone who had doubted my change, that I heard the fact of the matter from the mouth of Prince Albert himself. But it didn't seem appropriate to put that write into the Kelly entry itself, and there was no place else I could find to leave a comment. The fact that there is apparently no "discussion group" or note facility associated with the entries seems to be a real negative.
I'll spare you, Dear Reader, the usual musings on how Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia exactly as Linux is an open source OS, and what that means for the future of knowledge, etc., etc.
Update: someone left a comment to this post, which informed me that there is a discussion page attached to every entry -- maybe I didn't see it because I'm not a registered user? Also, there's a way of embedding comments, as well as a revision note, which I also didn't see, maybe for the same reason, or maybe because is was 3AM and I was too bleary-eyed. So that's good and makes more sense...
Goombah .507, available now, is a stability release. We did a lot of infrastructure work and fixed some bugs. We advise that everyone who uses Goombah do the upgrade.
If you haven't tried it yet, and you're an OS X user, you might want to check it out. It matches you with those people in the universe whose musical tastes most completely coincide with yours, for purposes of recommendation and community. More here.
They do the best collecting/summarizing of hour-by-hour news I have seen. From their quote of the BBC from today:
Earlier, a US tank commander said guerrillas were putting up a strong fight in the north-western Jolan district. "These people are hardcore," Capt Robert Bodisch told Reuters news agency. "A man pulled out from behind a wall and fired an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at my tank. I have to get another tank to go back in there."
"I can see heavy street-fighting from my house in the center of the city -- US soldiers are here, moving from house to house", according to BBC reporter Fadil Badrani.
I do not know who I will vote for tomorrow. You can influence my vote, possibly very easily. What you have to do is mentioned at the end of this piece.
I had been sure I would vote for Bush, even though I disagree with most of his domestic agenda. Because I agreed with going to war with the Hussein regime, and I thought that was more important than the domestic issues. (And in fact I still think it is.)
But lately, there have been so many signs that Bush simply hasn't put enough troops in place to do the job that needs to be done, I have been sympathetic to arguments that he isn't competent to lead the war. In an election battle between the incompetent and the incoherent, it is possible that I may be persuaded to prefer the incoherent.
So, on occasion I have found myself leaning towards voting for Kerry. My thinking has been: Kerry says he won't put more troops into Iraq, although it needs them, but the other hand, while Bush presents himself as the macho leader who will do whatever it takes, he's not putting more troops in either. In other words, Bush beats his chest more, but in the end, it's hard to see a practical difference between his and Kerry's policies for winning the war in Iraq.
But. There is one difference between the candidates that is so large that, to my way of thinking, it must sweep away all the others.
To me, it seems pretty obvious that technology is soon going to be providing the world with WMD's that are far harder to stop than have ever existed before. A guy carrying a suitcase into New York City containing a biological weapon (as just one of many possible examples of an attack modality) will before too long have the potential to kill millions of people.
In the old days, there was Mutually Assured Destruction to avoid millions of deaths. The Russians couldn't kill millions of us with their missiles without expecting us to kill millions of them with ours. But not only would the terrorist carrying that briefcase not be deterred by the thought of his own death -- he would actually desire it so that he could achieve the glories of martyrdom. And we wouldn't necessarily have any way of putting return address on the attack; there will not necessarily be a particular country that we can hold accountable; so he wouldn't even necessarily have cause to be concerned for the lives and comfort of his friends and family.
We're in a new world, folks, or soon will be.
The evidence that I see is that a) Bush understands this, and b) Kerry does not.
Kerry seems to think that managing terrorists is a matter of law enforcement -- that it can be kept to manageable levels, like prostitution:
‘’We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,'’ Kerry said. ‘’As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.'’
It takes some effort and some some willed acts of imagination to see this. If all a person pays attention to in the news is the latest trevails of Martha Stewart, or even the latest swings in unemployment rates, that person will not necessarily have the means to be aware of this risk. Even if a person pays a lot of attention to news about Osama bin Laden and Iraq, if one still doesn't take the time to conduct "thought-experiments" about what would happen if technological and religious/political trends progress along certain highly likely lines, this very grave, very real threat probably won't appear as more than a faint shadow. But if one does take the time, it seems clear that this is a situation that we will eventually have to deal with, one way or another (that is, after millions of possibly-preventable deaths of innocent civilians, or before).
I see no evidence whatsoever that Kerry takes that time. I don't think it's a matter of IQ, or of his degree of caring about people. I think it's a matter of commitment to making the effort to think things through to their logical conclusion. (Although, frankly, I must admit I am tempted to suspect it is not a complete coincidence that Kerry's IQ is apparently lower than Bush's, if one compares their publicly available test results.)
There is a lot of reason to believe, at least post-9/11, that Bush understands the magnitude of the threat. It's that magnitude that justifies such things as the invasion of Iraq, to root out a leader who supported terrorism by literally paying the families of suicide bombers, and who had the capability and intent to build weapons of mass destruction. (The fact that he temporarily abandoned such efforts with hundreds of thousands of our troops on his border did not change his intent or long-term capabilities, even according to the reports that denounce the intelligence failures regarding WMD's in Iraq). And in response to the questions, "What about North Korea? What about Iran?" I respond: does the fact that you can't immediately solve every problem now mean you shouldn't start by addressing the ones you can? But of course that's an area which could be the subject of many books of discussion and analysis, and more relevantly, my point here is not the Bush's strategy is perfect, but that at least he recognizes the problem well enough to actually have a strategy.
Kerry simply doesn't get it, as far as I can tell. And in this day and age, I think it is more risky to have someone running the show who simply doesn't have a clue about our gravest threat, than it is to have someone who is showing real evidence of not having the competence to manage that threat well. At least someone who understands a threat has the opportunity to learn from his failures and do better. That's no guarantee that he will, of course. If I knew Bush would actively and aggressively try to learn from the mistakes of the last few years, I'd have much less hesitation in voting for him. But one who doesn't take a threat seriously in the first place is extremely unlikely to succeed at making real headway against it -- especially when doing so demands real sacrifices, as it does in this case.
So... the thing that can convince me to vote for Kerry would be links to news items that show that I am wrong -- that not only does Kerry understand the threat, but that it's his #1 concern when he thinks about the future of the world -- or at least among his top two or three. Note that such links would not only have him saying he feels that way, but the quotes would have to somehow convince me that that's how he "really" feels, and that I should therefore disregard the quote about terrorism-as-prostitution referred to above.
Note to those who are voting against Bush due to his ludicrous FMA or any one of a number of other issues that would determine my vote in most past elections: Yes, I understand and agree with you. The religiously-motivated ban on government supported stem-cell research beyond some inadequate pre-existing lines... etc., etc. I agree with you that Bush is wrong on those issues. He is far too influenced by fundamentalist Christian beliefs when it comes to those things. But I don't want my kids to die prematurely because we didn't open our eyes to the graver threat.
Further note: if you don't know why Iraq is a key to this struggle, and imagine that it is simply a war over oil or to enrich Halliburton, you really need to do some studying, in my opinion. If you would like to find a good source for the pro-war argument, I strongly suggest you read Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. Berman is a liberal, so if you're a liberal too, you'll be in good hands reading it.
Update written on Election Day: No one has written in to influence my vote, so...
Update to the above update... actually there was one very rich response -- see the comments section. But my spam filter ate TypePad's notification email until it was too late... but it wasn't what was needed to change my vote anyway. I'll comment in the comments section when I get a chance.