Tuesday, 20 December 2011

By on December 20th, 2011 in writing

08:29 – I finished the chapter on Porifera and Cnidaria. Today I’m starting on invertebrates.

09:49 – I was just reading an article the other day about the huge decline in use of the GPL and similar encumbered licenses among software developers in favor of more permissive licenses like BSD, Apache, and even public domain. I’ve never considered the GPL and related licenses “free” in any sense other than Orwellian, so it’s good to see developers abandoning the GPL in favor of making their code freely available and reusable.

Free versus encumbered licensing bears on the biology book project as well. Ironically, even though the book will be released under a Creative Commons license, in practical terms I can’t use images or other material that’s CC-licensed, let alone Gnu-licensed, because of potential encumbrances on the book. To use such images, I’d have to contact the copyright owners, if they can even be found, and get them to sign physical documents provided by O’Reilly’s legal department to give us legal permission to use the material without encumbering the book.

That’s simply nuts. (Not O’Reilly’s legal department’s requirements; they’re just doing their jobs to protect O’Reilly and us.) The whole idea of CC is to make material freely accessible and reusable. If it’s easier just to re-invent the wheel, what did CC licensing accomplish? Nothing. So, all of the images in the book will be either ones we’ve shot ourselves or ones that have been released into the public domain. And, not being hypocrites, we’ll release all of the images we shot for the book into the public domain so the next author who needs, say, a cross-section image of a Hydra will have our high-res images available to re-use freely.

15:17 – Speaking of copyright garbage, I really hate it when they disappear stuff off YouTube. The other day, I noticed they’d pulled the parody Literal Video version of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, which was actually better than the original. My favorite lines?

“Get out of my way! I gotta pee!
Never mind. I just went on the floor!”


“What the effing crap?
That angel guy just felt me up!”

Oh, well. At least that video is still available in modified form. Someone reframed it and added a cat to the screen to prevent YouTube’s auto-deleter from finding it. The same can’t be said for a video that was run on French TV of Cyndi Lauper doing a haunting version of Walk Away Renée with Peter Kingsbery. That used to be on YouTube, but it’s gone.

28 Comments and discussion on "Tuesday, 20 December 2011"

  1. Raymond Thompson says:

    I’ve got a couple of people I work with that have no spines. You are welcome to dissect them and include them in your chapter.

  2. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’d already planned to dissect a politician.

  3. dkreck says:

    Why bother? We already know there’s only hot air and bovine waste.

  4. BGrigg says:

    The hot air is merely a byproduct of the bovine waste.

    I would prefer if you held off on the killing, dismemberment and disposal of a politician until the Forensics book. You ARE going to kill, dismember and dispose of a politician for that, aren’t you? Not that I need help with the killing and dismembering. It’s the disposing of the body that has me stumped.

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Contrary to common wisdom, bodies are actually pretty easy to dispose of, but it would be socially irresponsible of me to give details.

  6. Brad says:

    “Eating Raoul” anyone?

  7. SteveF says:

    it would be socially irresponsible of me to give details.

    That’s a reasonable and common attitude, though I don’t agree with it myself. However, I think that anyone who lacks the wit to cleanly dispose of a body deserves to be caught. Just call me a Darwinian.

    My mom, back when she was a deputy, told me the heartwarming tale of one pair of local geniuses who killed a cabbie for his cash (getting something pitiful like $20, IIRC), stuffed him in the trunk, and drove to a friend’s house for help in disposing of the body. The friend refused, the geniuses drove away, and the friend called the cops. This is a heartwarming tale because the geniuses were young enough that they probably had not had children. The species improves! Though it’s too bad about the cabbie.

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Oh, okay, you’ve convinced me.

    Go to Home Depot and buy:

    (a) a chipper (optional, but it speeds things up)
    (b) several kilos of sodium hydroxide (crystal drain opener)
    (c) a couple gallons of concentrated muriatic (hydrochloric) acid
    (d) several 5-gallon plastic buckets
    (e) a saw (I prefer a Sven saw, available at camping stores)

    Also pick up several gallons of chlorine bleach at the supermarket.

    Drain the body in the bathtub and use the saw to cut it up into bucket-size chunks. If you have a chipper, use it to shred the chunks. Place the chunks or shreds in plastic buckets, and fill them about 3/4 full of tap water. Add one kilo of sodium hydroxide gradually to each bucket (wear eye protection, and add the solid gradually to prevent the liquid from boiling explosively). Allow the buckets to digest until the tissue has become a semi-liquid gel. Pour that carefully down the drain, retaining any solids. Combine the solids (mostly bone) in one of the buckets and add concentrated acid to dissolve the solids. Neutralize the resulting mess with more sodium hydroxide and flush it all down the drain. Wash down the bathtub and other work areas with undiluted bleach. Pour a gallon of bleach down the drain(s) you’ve used and then flush with water for five or ten minutes. Repeat the bleach/flushing several times.

    There you go. No body and no forensic evidence. Other than the digestion period, it actually takes longer to describe than it does to do.

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I should have said, “in theory…” because I’ve never actually needed to dispose of a body, of course.

  10. Steve says:

    What, no reference to the great Breaking Bad episode about bathtub body disposal?
    (Actually all Breaking Bad episodes are great..)

  11. Dave B. says:

    I find GPL Version 3 to be too restrictive. I’d never release code I wrote as GPL V3. GPL Version 2 seemed more reasonable. Actually RMS seems pretty unreasonable in general to me. Linus Torvalds seems much more reasonable to me. RMS insists that all software should be free by his particularly restrictive definition.

    If I were to publicly release code I wrote, I’d certainly use the BSD License over the GPL.

  12. brad says:

    I should have said, “in theory…” because I’ve never actually needed to dispose of a body, of course.

    Of course…we believe you, really we do…

  13. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Until recently, we all got essentially the same input from information sources, so that was a constant from which everyone acted/reacted. But now, Google, Facebook, and others, are showing different information to different people looking for the same things. Furthermore, we do not have control over how this information is processed and scrambled before being presented to us. On your Facebook news feed, do you think you see everything your friends write? Nope. They favor the people whose links you click on, and actually quit showing you stuff from people you never click on. You cannot change that behavior.

    Who knows how that will affect society, but here is an interesting display of how it is actually occurring.


    Of course, I do think rules and laws are justified, and this is one place where I think laws should give users control over whether and what rules are used to filter information from them.

  14. SteveF says:

    this is one place where I think laws should give users control over whether and what rules are used to filter information from them.

    Facebook et al are free services. Users don’t have much call to complain about what they’re getting for free. (Not that that stops anyone.)

    There is probably room for a Premium Facebook Account – better control over settings, guaranteed data retention, whatever. Though, given that I’ve worked on a community site for the past three years, I can tell you that people would complain that everyone should have free access to the premium features, and Facebook is a public service like electricity and water, and Facebook needs to be regulated, and and and.

  15. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I do not agree that an exchange of money has to take place for something to be subject to regulations.

  16. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Television and radio are free, and are subject to myriad regulations.

  17. pcb_duffer says:

    1 bag of Sakrete, 1 Sawzall, several five gallon buckets. The Gulf of Mexico can always use an extra reef or two.

  18. BGrigg says:

    Meh, Bob’s method, though tried and true, is just too messy and time consuming, and the Gulf is a hell of a commute for me.

    I guess I will hypothetically stick with big hypothetical holes and even more hypothetical bags of lime. BC is an awful big place, after all.

  19. OFD says:

    “OFD, this struck me funny.”

    The quote or the poor little bastard studying. That boy was me, only I had glasses, red hair, buck teeth and zits. A real hit with the girlz. Plus my parents had me wearing Perry Como sweaters and wing-tips. I still remember one of the in-crowd chicks taunting me with “Nice shoes, Sweater Boy.”

    Coupla years later I was six feet tall and carried a hunting knife with me, and had hair down to my shoulders. Also played soccer, football and ran track. The taunting and insults seemed to just…fade away….

    And I had two years of Latin, and I agree with that quote. I might slack off a little and allow them to be seen, at least, if they can quote a few lines from the KJV or Shakey.

    And wow, what a grisly bunch here, disposing of cadavers and suchlike. Happy holidays, indeed….

  20. SteveF says:

    For the record, I don’t dispose of bodies. I just leave them in the alleys or wherever they may find themselves. I did stuff one mugger in a dumpster, but he was alive at the time.

  21. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’ve never even put one in a dumpster, although I was instrumental in making one shit himself. Back in about 1979, I was walking at night in a very bad area of Pittsburgh with two friends of mine, also very large guys. A would-be mugger jumped out behind us, shouted “Give it up, motherfuckers!” and brandished a knife. My buddies and I turned as one and drew our .45 Colts Combat Commanders as one. It was instantly clear the threat was just the one guy, so one of us turned to cover the others’ backs.

    I never thought I’d feel sorry for a mugger, even though we didn’t shoot him. I often wondered if the guy decided to take up a new line of work.

  22. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Once again, the guy bringing a knife to a gunfight loses another round.

  23. Miles_Teg says:

    RBT wrote:

    “Back in about 1979, I was walking at night in a very bad area of Pittsburgh…”

    There are good areas of Pittsburgh?

    “I never thought I’d feel sorry for a mugger, even though we didn’t shoot him.

    Why not?

  24. Robert Bruce Thompson says:


  25. OFD says:

    On a long-ago episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati the DJ Johnny Fever, trying again to make time with Loni Anderson, is disconcerted by guest star Hoyt Axton, playing her country cousin, singing “You got a knife, I got a gun; c’mon boy, let’s have some fun…” as he strums his guitar.

    Damn. In various scenarios over the years I never had a knife pulled on me, although colleagues had. It was always a gun.

  26. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I don’t doubt we’d have shot the guy in about another quarter second if he hadn’t turned around and taken off running. Once he did that, it would’ve been hard to explain to the judge, “Yes, your honor, we fired six warning shots into his back.”

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