Archive for September, 2007


I don’t get it

September 27, 2007

How will toppling another petty middle-eastern dictator and further eroding the civil rights of Americans help global warming?

Okay, okay. It’s a nice change to see someone in the Republican party saying something about climate change that doesn’t include the word “hoax,” but couldn’t they come up with a better analogy? One that brings to mind government competence, progress and success?


Goodbye, Fred: It’s How I’m Wired

September 26, 2007

As you may know I’m recovering from pneumonia for a few days. That means I’m sitting around at home taking medications, taking naps, and managing various symptoms of this nasty, nasty illness. So what does a liberal nerd do with so much time on his hands? Get banned from a conservative blog, what else!

No, not Boots and Kittens. (Sorry, that just makes me laugh.) I got banned from the ultra-ironically named Real Debate Wisconsin, Fred Dooley, proprietor.

Fred and I have not always seen eye to eye. In fact, I don’t think we ever have. Many people on and offline have asked me why I bother bashing my head against a wall like Dooley. They suggest that not only is it a waste of time, it may actually be unhealthy. Some have even suggested that baiting these kinds of people might make one of them snap and start stalking me. To these people I have often quipped “I like smiting the wicked. It’s my nature.” But the more detailed explanation of why I visited Fred’s place so much is pretty well summed up in a recent comment I left on his site during a discussion about global warming.

I think what keeps me coming back here, and what is simultaneously my greatest frustration here, is not the fact that you’re a conservative. It’s not even that you’re so stunningly wrong about so many things. I think it’s that I sense that you aren’t dealing with issues in a completely rational and honest way. I think rather that you are deeply and emotionally invested in a certain worldview, a certain paradigm, in which Ted Kennedy is just about the worst person imaginable and George Bush is a great president; a world in which the increasing secularization of your neighbors is of great concern, but their lack of health insurance is not a big deal. In service of this strained worldview, you cherry-pick facts, engage in every form of unfair argument there is, and sometimes just flatly deny the truth. Such things vex me, Fred. It’s how I’m wired.

And that’s really it. People who deal with issues on an irrational basis get under my skin. They’re like a scab I can’t stop picking at. Call it a character flaw.

Anyway, with so much time on my hands this week (between puking, coughing and codeine-induced stupors), I guess I finally outstayed my welcome. One of the specifically frustrating things about Fred is that he, God bless him, seems to think he is a spectacularly fair-minded individual. Me being who I am, frequently try to dispel him of this delusion, calling his blog what it clearly is: a near-continuous stream of one-sided partisan bile. I had just reiterated this point when Fred pointed out that he has repeatedly invited liberal bloggers to contribute to the site. Why, he’d even asked me! But I had refused. Instead he recruited a young UW-Milwaukee journalism student (I think) who was anything but a liberal. It’s not clear to me whether she reliably even voted for Democrats. When fred trotted out her (long since past) participation, I replied with this:

I think the reason you can’t find a genuine liberal to contribute here is that we’re all collectively horrified by this blog. It’s glib, cheap, unfair, hateful and intellectually dishonest. To be a liberal writer here would mean either playing by the same low rules, or else end up playing Colmes to your Hannity – a weak, ineffectual sidekick to a loud smirking bully. No thanks. This, I believe, is why we refuse. It’s certainly why I did.

Raise your hand if you think I was being to harsh. Okay, you with your hands up? You’re either not readers of Fred’s blog, or you’re one of Fred’s conservative pals.

Anyway, Fred really seems to mean it this time. He’s banned me before, but I get the feeling it’s the last straw now. Too bad. It’s the end of an era. His blog will return to being a hotbed of far-right circle-jerking (the few remaining intrepid liberal commenters notwithstanding), instead of a hotbed of far-right circle-jerking frequently interrupted by a little thing I like to call reality, courtesy of yours truly.

For no particular reason I’d like to close with the remainder of my above comment. It was directed at another frequent commenter, the ultra-conservative “roseindigo.” She had been holding forth voluminously about how she really had no prejudice or hatred against gay people. She didn’t like the way they lived their lives, but, hey, it’s a free country. No doubt she figured she was being quite magnanimous about the whole thing. But she inevitably dropped the real bomb: “lead your lives the way you want to BUT SHUT UP ABOUT IT.” It seems that she wanted to let gay people be gay with out her or anyone else having to see it. This prompted me to respond thus:

I think the real issue here, rose, is that you do not have the right to be sheltered from people who are different from you. That’s what it really boils down to. You say you don’t care what people do, you don’t care how they are, but you insist you absolutely do not want to have to know about it. I’m sorry, life just isn’t that way. Nobody is obligated to live their lives for the sake of preserving your insular little bubble. I’m embarrassed to have to say it to a woman of your age, but grow up and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Smiting the wicked. It’s my nature. A character flaw.

Later, Fred. You’re still welcome to comment here if the spirit moves you, but I’m not apologizing for a damned thing.



September 26, 2007

Dear Scott,

I work for a company which is currently developing some publicly-funded educational materials, that will eventually be available freely to students across the UK.

Our client is very interested in using your image ‘Leaves’ for this project. Unfortunately, our client is adamant that images cannot be acknowleged. However, all rights would remain as is, and our client would not be claiming ownership over the image.

If you have any questions regarding the request or any element of the project, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards,


I got the above message this morning. I get messages like this from time to time, as I’m sure do many avid Flickr users. I specifically put all my photos up with the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can do whatever you want with them – for free – just so long as you credit me by name. You’d be surprised at how many publishers search Flickr for free images. I say more power to them. But this Matt… I had questions.

  1. If I am not to be credited for the photo, how do all my rights remain “as is” when in fact the only right I am actually claiming is the right to be credited for my work?
  2. Publicly-funded and free though they may be, these “educational materials” will no doubt be published with some kind of copyright information. How will this information read?
  3. What company does he work for and who is his client? It’s suspicious that he doesn’t provide a single detail about this.

I thought for a bit about asking Matt these questions, but in the end, I decided simply to send this:


Your request is unusual. Typically people who want to use my photos have no problem crediting me by name. Doing so allows them to utilize the images in any way they wish, at no cost. If in your case you are unable to credit me, your only option is to buy from me the exclusive rights to the image at a price of $100 US dollars. If these terms are agreeable, let me know and I will respond with payment details.

Thanks for your interest.

Scott Feldstein


Well, I didn’t expect to hear from Matt again, frankly. But a reply did come, and quickly.

Hi Scott,

I understand the unusual nature of the request; however, our client is adamant that acknowledment cannot be given. This is mainly due to the scale of the project and the number of photographers participating.

We have no wish to purchase exclusive rights, but would be interested in using the image with the same terms as mentioned before. To compensate for the lack of attribution, we would be willing to offer a fee of £30 sterling.

Would this be acceptable?

I look forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards,


Hmm. £30 is like, what, $60? Whatever it is, I just have to follow this through to the end and see what happens.


I’m just intrigued enough to say yes. These terms are acceptable. How do you propose to do this? I can accept PayPal at if that is convenient.



New developments in music downloads

September 25, 2007

Amazon has just let loose with their AmazonMP3 download store. Finally someone besides Apple made something in this space that doesn’t outright suck!

What’s cool? A first perusal indicates that it has some decent variety, especially for just opening. Also, DRM-hatas everywhere rejoice: there isn’t any! Audiophiles may find the downloads mo’ betta’, too, because they’re 256 bitrate encoded. Own an iPod? These work on it. Own another player? Probably works there, too. Final cool thing: in many cases the prices are cheaper than Apple’s!

What’s not so cool? I guess I’m just spoiled by Apple’s store, but Amazon’s looks like shit. Plus, the URLs are unintelligible, so I can’t cut and paste them easily to my friends to say “hey, check this out.” Oh, and about those prices? I think the catch is, the prices can vary. Meaning, you could pay less than Apples 99¢, but you could pay more. This is, after all, what the recording industry kept pressuring Apple to do and what Apple steadfastly refused to do. Time will tell if this works to anyone’s benefit but the recording industry. I’m betting not.

Verdict: I bought Feist’s 1234 with my existing Amazon account without a hitch. It imported into iTunes (with the help of some mysterious application Amazon wanted me to install) and everything worked great.

Try it! I don’t dare trust the cryptic url i my browser’s address bar, so I’ll have to tell you how to get there. Go to, and look on the left for MP3 Music Downloads.



September 23, 2007

I’m a big dope. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to handle an illness.

Back in the middle of July, the week of the 8th, to be exact, I went out of town on business. I had an unremarkable stay in Duluth, Minnesota, but I did notice one thing: when I returned I brought with me a cough.

Oh, well. I caught a cold or something. No biggie. Soon I felt better (and in truth I hadn’t felt that bad to begin with ), but the cough persisted. But that happens sometimes. You kick a cold but that nasty cough lingers.

I felt pretty okay. But still the cough was there. Pretty soon I was saying to people “you know, i think I’ve had this cough for a month!” In fact, I’d actually been to a doctor around this time for some other issues. You know how it is, though, when you go to the doctor: you have a prioritized list of concerns. The cough? Probably number 2 or 3. Certainly not number one. I was told to get some decongestant. So I did.

I coughed through another month, believe it or not. Then two weeks ago I started having shortness of breath. I ignored it. Another week passed. It occurred to me that I was probably short of breath because I was under a lot of stress. I even mentioned it to some people. It’ll pass, I said. No worries.

And it did pass. The shortness of breath, not the cough.

Then yesterday on the way home from a photo job I realized that I was extremely tired. I mean I’d been on my feet for several hours, but I was way more tired than that. Plus I felt warm. I knew I was getting sick.

I stopped at the pharmacy to get some more decongestant. Then I went home and decided to go to bed. At 8:30 p.m.

Within an hour I was up, shivering and vomiting. I managed to get back to sleep after a while and I slept until 8:30 a.m. Then I got up and vomited some more.

I’m really sick! I said to myself. I should take tomorrow off and maybe go see a doctor. I told my sweetheart this plan over the phone. I don’t think she was impressed with it, because soon she was here hustling me into her minivan and taking me to a health clinic.

Guess what they said? I have pneumonia. So they hooked me up with some antibiotics and some cough medicine to take at night.

This is where I’d sum the whole story up into some neat little lesson about attending ones own health, or about how wonderful it is to have someone look after you when you don’t. But the truth is, I’m sitting here, shivering, coughing and trying not to hurl. So you’ll have to go without such a closing.

Wish me luck in my recovery.



September 20, 2007

Since I’m not loving on Apple today, let me spill this: I’m now doing ringtones for my iPhone without them.

It’s not really that I mind paying 99¢ for the 30-second ringtone on top of the 99¢ I already paid for the whole song. It’s the fact that the selection is so slim. Sure, they’re going to add more to it. I don’t doubt that. But will they ever have the off-beat stuff I want?

I wanted Fatboy Slim’s Weapon Of Choice as my default ringtone. That worked out. I’d bought it from iTunes and it happened to be ringtone-able. Sweet! But I also want Dean Martin doing Ain’t That A Kick In The Head for when my sweetheart calls. I did buy the song from iTunes, but sadly it’s not ringtone-able. And neither is the Psapp, Venus Hum or Delerium that I might want to use.

Then when I consider that there’s nothing illegal about me making a ringtone out of music I already legally own – even without paying Apple (or anyone else) any additional money… well, I guess you can see why I’m giving Ambrosia Software’s iToner a shot.


Rarer than a two-headed calf

September 20, 2007

Wow. A criticism of Apple that actually makes sense and is worth reading!