ID Traditions

Today is Independence Day here in the US and in the DC area just about anyone who can afford it has left town to the tourists.

With the high cost of gas and airline tickets, the number of people either able to leave or some to town is probably greatly reduced this year.

Of course, the politicians still have the cash to plant themselves in front of some kind of all-American backdrop and declare themselves to far more patriotic that their opponent.

Around our house, we will be celebrating the 4th in the traditional manner.

Later this afternoon I will fight the traffic and drive into the District in order to drop the musical wife off as close to the Capitol as the cops will let me.

She will then stand out in the heat and humidity (and likely rain this year) singing in the backup group for the PBS pops show A Capitol Fourth taking place on the mall tonight.

If you have nothing to do, watch the broadcast for a petite brunette soprano, probably drenched but still smiling through the cheeziest variety show this side of the 1970’s.

As for me, I’ll see the show later on the DVR.

Happy Independence Day everyone! Despite the best efforts by some of our “leaders”, we still have much to celebrate in this country.

Try Talking to Someone Else

More evidence that the music industry really doesn’t understand the people formerly known as “customers” (now largely considered by them to be filthy pirates).

The head of the RIAA’s technology unit believes there is a “movement” where people will no longer want to buy music but instead will opt to rent it.

Hughes believes that per-track purchases are going the way of the dodo in favor of these other models, and that’s why DRM will have a resurgence. “I think there is going to be a shift,” he said. “I think there will be a movement towards subscription services and they will eventually mean the return of DRM.” Hughes did acknowledge that users would rather live in a world where DRM stayed out of their way by saying that as long as they get to use files how they want, users don’t care about DRM.

Ok, don’t call this concept a “subscription service”! If I subscribe to a magazine, I get to keep all the copies I’ve received even after I cancel the subscription.

This is more analogous to renting an apartment where, when I stop paying, the building owner throws me out.

Of course, in the RIAA’s ideal world, the big recording companies would get paid every time a track was played. That probably won’t happen, so the “subscription” scam is the next best thing.

As to the part about users not caring about DRM, the RIAA is also way off base.

The problem with DRM is that users can’t use the files how they want, which is why they do care. And we’re miles away from the kind of magical solution solution envisioned by the Hughes that would create the perfect, unnoticeable DRM scheme. Others on the panel realize this. Digimarc Corp. director of business development Rajan Samtani pointed out that there are too many ways for the “kids” to get around DRM and that it’s time to “throw in the towel.”

The big problem with the people from the RIAA is that they spend too much time discussing these issues with each other and not nearly enough asking real users what they want from the product they’re paying for.

Nothing Wasted Here

Tom Lehrer turned 80 last week. If you don’t know that name, then you have not enjoyed one of the truly great satirists of the 20th century.

I have a special place in my warped little brain for Lehrer. We are both math teachers, although there’s really not much to compare since he taught at Harvard and MIT and I certainly did not, but there’s nothing academic about this.

Lehrer’s high place in American geek culture is due to several wonderful recordings he made in the 60’s featuring songs which poked fun at everything from nuclear war to “new math“.

His song The Vatican Rag has been playing in my head this week with the news of the Pope’s visit to Washington all over the news media. I doubt the Catholic church approves but it’s still very funny.

The really unique part of his humor, and something that’s missing from most topical comedians today, is that Lehrer’s work is both intelligent and respectful of the intelligence of his audience.

Start with his album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer for an excellent introduction to his terrifically warped sense of humor.

So, happy birthday Tom, and thanks for clearly demonstrating the intelligent design connecting science, music, and humor.