Spiderman 2

I now understand why people need to shout out commentary during movies.


Posner Blogs

Judge Richard Posner is guest blogging for Lawrence Lessig this week, commenting on copyright, fair use and the CIA. Here's how he identifies the problem with long-duration copyrights:
But, contrary to appearances, limiting access because copyright enables copyrighted works to be sold at prices in excess of marginal cost (the cost of one more copy) is not the main problem created by the Sonny Bono Act. Very few works of art, literature, or entertainment retain significant value 50 or 70 years after the death of their author. As Lessig's brief in the Supreme Court pointed out, the problem for people like Eldred who want to publish old works (works that would have entered the public domain by now were it not for the Act) is transaction costs, not license fees: the costs of locating and negotiating with the current copyright owner. Those costs may well exceed the modest commercial returns from publishing a public domain work (which anyone can copy). The beauty of the old (pre-1976) copyright system, with its requirement of renewal beyond a shortish initial term (like 28 years), was that most copyrights, lacking commercial value by the end of their initial term, were not renewed, and so fell into the public domain, and so licensing costs fell to zero.


New Bernhard Vogel gallery online

My favorite living artist, Austrian watercolorist Bernhard Vogel, has made another gallery of his watercolors available online. Here's a taste:

Lexingtion calls the Illinois senate race

From The Economist (sub. req.), on why Obama will win:
The Keyes candidacy also smacks of tokenism. The candidate routinely denounces affirmative action as a form of racial discrimination. But what other than racial discrimination can explain the Illinois Republican Party's decision to shortlist two blacks for the Illinois slot — and eventually to choose Mr Keyes? He brings no powerful backers or deep pockets, and was thrashed in his two runs for the Senate in Maryland.
And while you're at it: why yes, Chicago is "America's best run city".

The debt, liquidity and the price of oil

The FT has a fine article explaining the connection.

They also offered a positive review (sub. req.) of Michael Walzer's latest book, Arguing About War. Walzer is co-editor of Dissent and author of Just and Unjust Wars. The struggle against terrorism and the advent of humanitarian intervention make Walzer an increasingly valuable source of insight into the just conduct of these actions. In addition, all should read his "Can There Be A Decent Left?", critiquing of the reactions of the political left following the September 11 attacks; his "The Four Wars of Israel / Palestine" is also worthwhile.

At least I still have Buffy and beer...

...since it appears that a full season of hockey is ever more unlikely; I don't care to contemplate not having a season at all.


Translating קש''ע מקור חיים

It isn't a secret that there currently doesn't exist a good general halachic guidebook in english, suitable for beginners in halachic jewish observance, converts, and those simple lacking the language skills to access sources in hebrew. "Good" here means clearly written, straightforwardly presented/structured, level-headed, fairly lenient, and offering enough background to the halachot so that they can be understood as part of a meaningful system, but without excess hashkafic commentary. The current options all miss on more than one of these requirements, stranding many without a good reference source from which to learn and get answers to questions as they come up. Leaving these individuals to seek guidance from the available english language sources and their peers opens them to the influence of those who would make observance more difficult than it already is for someone starting out (or, speaking for myself, someone who's been at it for a few years now).

What to do? Well, thinking back to my time at Hamivtar, I recall our Rosh Kollel Rav Reich praising Rav Chaim David HaLevi's קש''ע מקור חיים (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Makor Chaim) for having many of these qualities. See here for a bio. While I'm not intimately familiar with מקור חיים myself, by all accounts it appears to be the only suitable book that might serve as the source for a translation into english.

Translating מקור חיים would be a huge job, but it occurred to me it might be made doable through the use of a wiki. Using a wiki would allow anyone to contribute to a public, web-based translation. Potentially, people or groups could make the project part of their regular learning, moving the translation along quite quickly.

Currently I'm just mulling over the idea of this project, and I'm looking for input on how it might be accomplished. Obviously, the first thing to sort out is the copyright status of מקור חיים. If anyone knows anything about Israeli copyright law (or knows someone who knows) or knows someone in Israel who might be able to look into it, that would be a huge help in getting a translation project off the ground (or finding out if it's even possible). Rav HaLevi died not that long ago, so it is possible that מקור חיים entered the public domain then or the copyright may have been extended. Even if it remains under copyright, we might be able to secure permission as an open access, not for profit profit project.

Beyond that, I foresee the need to put together an editorial board to oversee the project, establish translation guidelines, and monitor/edit submissions. Of course, somewhere must be found to host the wiki, and someone to act as admin for it.


Starting out with an update

Presently I'm trying to complete two papers left over from last fall semester before this fall semester starts: one on F.P. Ramsey and the Frege-Geach problem, and one on the compatibility of minimalism about truth, minimalism about truth aptitude, and expressivism in ethics. The former has blown up on me once (last winter) and had a near meltdown recently. The latter is a big job and, given that I'm making progress at a crawl, I doubt I'll be meeting my goal to finish it before September.

The problem is, as always, that having already had my bright idea, I am quite content with myself at that: I don't feel any great need to write it up. (When the bright idea turns out to be not so bright after all, as in the Ramsey paper of last winter, I go from unmotivated to disillusioned.) This grad school thing isn't going to work very well if I don't get beyond that.

Philosophy aside, big changes are afoot for my apartment: current flatmate, Mark, is soon off to do a Ph.D. in computer science at Penn; new flatmate, Mike, is coming to NYC to make a rabbi of himself at YCT. We're still looking for a third to share the big room with Mike and lower my share of the monthly rent. I think we have a promising prospect and should know for certain by the end of the week. In any case, I intend the place to remain all poshed out whoever moves in.

Beyond all that, coming back to New York only to be cooped up in my apartment trying to do work after spending a month in Chicago with sun and lake views (thanks to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and my mom) has induced serious bicycle cravings. Please may my dad's old apartment get sold soon so I'll have the money for it... and an iBook. I'm convinced they'd make for a healthier, happier, and more productive me. If the iPod could do it, why can't they?