support Creative Commons

Dammit, I’m late with this, but you still have a day to help Creative Commons meet their year-end fundraising goal. If you don’t know what CC is, you should. Seriously, you should. They are important for anyone who has any interest in any kind of art or creative endeavour (including sciencePLoS Biology, the flagship Open Access journal, is published under a CC licence). Briefly:

Creative Commons is a new system, built within current copyright law, that allows you to share your creations with others and use music, movies, images, and text online that’s been marked with a Creative Commons license. If you’re looking for more in-depth information, our About section contains more about the history, concepts and people behind the organization. To see the Creative Commons in action, try out our Find, Create, and Share sections, or one of the sections devoted to Audio, Video, Images, Text, and Education.

There is also, of course, a FAQ. Right now, CC needs less than $10K to meet their fundraising goal. They need to raise $225K from public donations by the end of the year in order to secure their public charity status and retain foundation funding; Lessig explains, and talks about what they plan to do with the money, here. If you can, please help out.
Update: target met. The need for donations is not so critical now, but it’s not going away, so please consider supporting Creative Commons when you’re deciding where to spend your philanthropy budget.

Mark Morford is funny.

He’s also so very, very right.

…here’s the bad news: We have three more ungodly and humiliating and colon-curdling years of BushCo. We have three more years of some of the most miserable foreign and environmental and human-rights policy you will see in your lifetime.
We have three more years of brutal unforgivable war and misprision and of the religious right trying to cram its splintered stick of wicked self-righteousness straight up the country’s yamdinger, and if I’m here to tell you anything at all I am here to tell you this: Your energy is needed. Right now.
Energy of transformation. Energy of possibility. Energy of intellect and clarity and progress and joy and sex and kiss, of change and growth and defiance. Oh I know, it sounds all swoony and big-brushed and impossibly affected. It might sound all froufrou and New Agey and San Francisco. You know what? Who cares.

(And I’d already decided what to call my resolutions post, so there.)

poetry break: Gieve Patel

A while back, I signed up for a poem a week by email from Poetry International Web; it’s “Poem of the Week” in my Bloglines account. This week’s poem was by Gieve Patel, and was interesting enough that I went and read a few more. I was really taken with this one:

It makes sense not
to have the body
hermetically sealed, a
box of incorruptibles.
Better shot through and through!

Happy Holidays

[This entry will stay on top until 051225.]
I’ve been something of a Scrooge about Christmas for a long time — I’m not Christian and rampant materialism squicks me (yeah yeah, why’d I move to America?–It’s not all McDonalds and reality TV over here, you know), so there’s not much left but family time, and I don’t need Hallmark to tell me how or when to enjoy that. Also, I like giving people presents but I’ve never really liked getting them — it always makes me feel weird in a way I can’t explain — so I’ve pretty much weaned everyone I know off the whole Christmas deal, apart from a few comforting family rituals with my Mum and Dad. Bah humbug, you know?
Have you ever noticed how it’s usually people who have plenty of stuff who feel this way? At least, I guess, I have some sense of ‘enough’. The spousal unit, though, knows from hardship in a way most Westerners only guess at. (You think you’re tough? You ain’t tough.) Which makes it a minor miracle of human potential when Cat looks at our cozy middle class lifestyle and says “That’s plenty, let’s give the extra away”. (You think you’re cool? You ain’t cool.)
All of which is by way of introducing Cat’s Christmas message this year. I can’t put it better so I’m just gonna steal it:

Dear Everybody Who Buys Stuff For Us:
We know we’re hard to buy for. We know we don’t help you much with this. We’re not into “stuff”, and we have everything we need.
One thing we do love is our city, Portland, Oregon. We’re committed to making it a better place, and support local charities that help people who aren’t as fortunate as we are. This Christmas, we’d like to be a little selfish and ask you to support our local charities, too.
See, I haven’t always been where I am today. I grew up on government cheese and second-hand clothes. I’ve accepted the holiday turkey from the food bank with gratitude. I’ve hoarded canned food during good times, to get through the lean times. But here I am, happily married, a home of my own, living in plenty. I made it, and others can, too. They just need a little help. How ’bout it?
If you’re on board, please check out our givelist at What Goes It’s an easy way to give to one of our three favorite charitable organizations, Sisters of the Road Cafe, Central City Concern, and the Oregon Food Bank.
Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday.
Cat and Bill

What we both want, far more than anything more for ourselves, is for everyone to have what they need. So if you were thinking of buying me something, that’s what I’d like.

Peace on the web, goodwill to bloggers.

Digby is skint, and Jeanne‘s computer died. Both have been blogging for about three years, and both are mainstays of the progressive blogosphere. The online world would be a much poorer place without either of these two lively, insightful, important voices.
I know things get tight at this time of year, but if you have any spare scratch at all, please consider dropping some on Digby (PayPal button at top left or snail mail to the address in this post) and Jeanne (tip jar, or if you can’t/won’t pay online email me and we’ll work something out).

So much for using the early adopters as cannon fodder.

Bloody hell. I waited a few weeks to upgrade to Firefox 1.5 (MacOSX), because I know from bitter experience that every single time the bloody thing is upgraded, something breaks. I figure the early adopters run interference for me. Well, it appears I have to wait even longer — it took about five minutes after upgrading for me to run in to Bug 298502, which is where you get the Beachball of Death and have to force-quit the second (but not the first) time you try to use a drop-down from the bookmarks toolbar. It seems to have been around since June, so that must have been on 1.0.x builds, but I’m back on 1.0.7 now and it’s not happening. Gaaaah.

Truly, deeply weird.

Alistair Cooke is sorely missed since his death last year, and never more so than now, as the story breaks that his corpse was defiled:

The bones of Alistair Cooke, one of the great broadcasters of the twentieth century, were stolen days after he died last year at the age of 95, according to reports in New York.
Cooke’s bones were removed by a surgeon and then sold for around $7,000 (GBP4,000) to two companies that provide tissue for transplant operations, said The Daily News.

I don’t know what Cooke’s beliefs were, but I do know that he had his family break the law by scattering his ashes in Central Park — so I rather think he’d have been amused by all this, and I wish he could somehow be here to send in one of his wry Letters From America about it. (I don’t mean to say it’s funny — it’s ghoulish and astonishing and vile, of course — but I can almost hear him making droll humour from the horror, and all in that lovely voice.)

Ah’m no’ dead yet!

Sweet. Maybe I’m not too damn old after all. This National Center for Policy Analysis report stands in sharp contrast to (what seems to me) the constant flood of articles reminding me that Einstein was only 26 when he set physics on its collective ear, Gauss was 24 when he did much the same to mathematics, and so on. And on and on and bloody on. However:

The author analyzed data on Nobel Prize winners in Physics,
Chemistry, Medicine, and Economics over the past 100 years and on
outstanding technological innovations over the same period. He finds

  • There is large variation in age — 42 percent of innovations
    came about when their creators were in their 30s, while 40 percent
    occurred when the inventors were in their 40s, and 13 percent appeared
    when the inventors were over 50.
  • In contrast, there were no great achievements produced by
    innovators before the age of 19 and only 7 percent were produced by
    innovators younger than 27.
  • Controlling for nationality and field of study, the average age of
    a great innovator increased eight years over the past century.

Looking closer at the data, the author finds that:

  • The upward trend for productive innovators is a result of a
    substantial decline in the innovative output of younger individuals.
  • There appears to be no relative increase in innovation potential of those beyond middle age.

The article suggests that the average age is increasing, because the
amount of knowledge has increased. Since thinkers must increasingly
invest in acquiring intellectual capital and the accumulation of
knowledge, the average age of innovation increases as well.

Any study which undermines the idea that “if you haven’t thunk it by the time you’re 30 you’re not going to” is a friend of mine.

Update: Rob Carlson points to this article, which is short and well worth your time if you work with your brain. I don’t think I agree with Rob that the article “take(s) seriously the myth that mathematicians and physicists do all their best work before the age of 40” — in fact, I think the author, Ed Tenner, takes rather the opposite position. He does point out that many late-life intellectual achievers switched fields, moving away from the risk of stagnating among the ideas that brought them early prominence. This idea has about as much currency as the “dead by 40” one, but has a much more obvious mechanism behind it: one will always be tempted to cling to tools that have worked well, and success breeds paperwork. In any case, Rob is my pal: “most of the experimental scientists and engineers I know, including the majority of biologists I’ve run into, just get better with age.” Damn straight!