It’s Time to Fight Back: 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting

NPR and PBS add to the American discourse in ways that no other broadcasting and online presence can do. PBS in particular offers educational and entertaining programming that you cannot find on any other broadcast network much less the hundreds of channels on cable. Public broadcasting is a service for the people, by the people that we all can use and enjoy. Much of its funding comes from individual donations, but a large portion of its funding is provided by the people through our national and state governments. That’s the great thing about governments–when they work for the people, they can do things that no individual or corporation can do–a thing like providing free, content-rich programming for every citizen, of any age. Unfortunately now, there are some lawmakers in our national and state governments who want to deprive the people of the United States of one of our most valuable and inexpensive projects: public radio and television. I have contacted my representatives in Ohio, and I would ask that you do the same where you live. Let folks know about what’s going on, and let your representatives know that some public investments are too important to our national discourse and future to eliminate under the guise of ‘fiscal responsibility.’

More information for joining the fight here:

170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.

Other voices in the fight here, here, and here.

A final thought: Why hasn’t The New York Times carried a story about this?

2 Free World of Warcraft Guest Pass Keys Available

I received two World of Warcraft Guest Pass Keys when I purchased my WoW: Cataclysm boxed set, and I would like to give them to someone who would like to try out WoW for 10 days free. The Guest Pass Key allows you to download the WoW client software from Blizzard here and then play the game for 10 days. If you are interested, I can email you the Guest Pass key, or I can mail you the card stock Guest Pass card with key, which features a female blood elf grasping a mana wyrm (pictured above). It’s first come, first served.

UPDATE: The keys have been delivered. Many thanks for those of you who stopped by and asked for them.

eBooks and Librarys

I know that there has been a lot more interest in eBooks following Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle and Kindle DX, but I was surprised to hear that ebooks, while only making up 3% of the book “publishing” market, represent the fastest growing segment of the book market according to this New York Times article.  I wonder if ebooks are beginning the logarithmic rise that mp3s did not too long ago to (almost) replace CDs.  MP3s were around for awhile before the firebrand RIO PMP300, and the style-and-function conscious Apple iPod took the stage and catapulted the digital audio file technology into something more than just a new technologically mediated way to listen to music.  The iPod with iTunes added a streamlined system for selling, distribution, and portable playback of purchased songs.  This, combined with rampant file sharing and a proliferation of inexpensive portable mp3 players, catapaulted mp3s over the walls of the compact disc stronghold.  Now, the rows of CDs for sale in big brick-and-mortar stores are dwindling.  Will the same be true in the near future for books and bookstores?

Amazon and Interead have reading devices and online ebook stores.  Many folks are scanning books and making them available online.  It seems like history may be repeating itself with books following the music model of going online–bits and tech replacing words on a published pulp page.  I’m weary of this transition, because I like controlling the bits that I own.  However, Amazon’s ability to remotely change the way a Kindle works (as in the case of the text-to-speech feature that was killed) leaves me concerned about who controls the device after it is purchased.  

Those concerns aside, what does the ebook mean for libraries?  Ebooks are much cheaper than books, which would give a library the ability to purchase more of them to satisfy their readers.  But, I don’t think the big ebook companies (like Amazon) or publishers want ebooks to follow a lending/reselling model that we’ve enjoyed with real books.  With a real book, I can lend it to a buddy, or sell it to someone else.  Additionally, lending and reselling may take place indefinitely for the life of the book.  This is not possible with the current offering of ebooks.  Amazon prohibits lending, and Interead allows you to trade books four times (kind of like Apple’s iTunes model of sharing songs–read more here). Additionally, there is the initial cost of a reader.  Electronic paper displays on ebook readers are much easier on the eye than traditional, backlit LCD, but this is a new and apparently costly (I wonder how much of this is licensing and not materials production) technology.  The point of libraries is to make reading available to a wide audience, but a greater shift to ebooks may marginalize libraries and their patrons.  What solution might the publishing industry offer libraries?  What should folks like us demand of the publishing and tech companies in the long term as books transition to the digital realm?  This seems like another case of the haves-vs-the-have-nots, and those persons with access to technology will make off with the spoils.  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the homeless (this is not to say that all homeless experiences are the same) have computers and get online (read more here).

Free Read, Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation”

Browse over to Night Shade Books’ download page here and download Ted Chiang’s Hugo-nominated short story, “Exhalation,” in your favorite format flavor.  There’s also some other great reading there including Walter Jon William’s “The Green Leopard Plague,” and Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse.”  Also, there are novels by Jon Armstrong and Richard Kadrey.  Run, don’t walk!

Open Source Software

I’m really trying to make a go at using more open source software in my daily practices as a professional academic and as a savvy computer hobbyist.  You may call this a late New Year’s resolution, but it was originally intended as a carefully thought-out reboot of the software that I use on my PC and Mac.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or energy at this moment to transition to only open source for my operating system and applications.  So, for simplicity’s sake, I am keeping my closed source operating systems (Windows Vista 64-bit and Mac OS X 10.5.6) and incorporating as much open source software as I can in my daily practices.  

My efforts thus far are focused on my MacBook, because I haven’t used my PC much at all lately (though, Yufang has enjoyed watching The Office through hulu.com and Netflix on it when she breaks from comps reading).  About a week ago, I reinstalled Mac OS X with Xcode Tools.  I followed that up with installing OpenOffice.org 3 for word processing and spreadsheet work.  Next, I installed MacPorts and Porticus (a GUI frontend for MacPorts).  MacPorts is a wonderful distribution system for open source software that has been ported to work on Macs.  So far, I’ve installed GIMP 2 for image editing.  Unfortunately, I haven’t installed anything else, because it took me all week to get the GIMP installed successfully.  It seems that there was a problem with one updated dependency that would cause the install to fail.  Having gotten that sorted out, I now have a fully armed and operational, er, image manipulation program.  

So far, I’ve used OpenOffice during a collaborative session at Angel Falls Coffee Co. with Professor Masood Raja and my colleague, Swaralipi Nandi while we were writing the abstract for our book proposal (more on this in the near future).  This was interesting, because it was the first time that I had used OpenOffice, and I discovered that OpenOffice was designed to increase the volume on every annoying feature of Microsoft Office and then some.  The auto word complete was distracting, and the autocorrect light bulb icon in the lower right corner was equally irritating.  Tonight, I’ve been working on some assignments for my African American Literature course, and I’ve disabled some of these amazing features.  However, I’m still looking for the tick box to turn off the light bulb from the abyss.

I will post more updates in the future on my use of this software in my professional work.