Sunday, 18 March 2007


I leave you this fine evening with an op-ed column by law professor Lawrence Lessig. Topic: copyright law.


Many people love their Apple iPods, and I don’t begrudge them this, but I love my Microsoft Zune. I’ve had it for several weeks, but only yesterday got around to unpacking it and getting it running. (I’m on spring break, which allows me to catch up on such things.) Since there is no way to plug the Zune into a wall outlet for power, and since only my slow USB port is powered, it took a long time yesterday—more than eight hours—to copy all the songs (7,145 of them) to the device. I didn’t mind, since I could still use the computer for other tasks. The thing I love about the Zune, as opposed to my previous portable musical player (a Rio Karma), is that I can synchronize the device with my computer. I should never have to copy the songs to the device again. From now on, when I open the Zune program on the computer and plug the Zune in, it will synchronize automatically. I tested this a few minutes ago by deleting a song from my computer (one that I didn’t want, obviously). After synchronizing, the song was gone.

The sound quality of the Zune is excellent. The earphones don’t go into the ear canal like my other ones. They rest gently on the earlobe. This will help on long bike rides, because the other earphones made my ears sore after a couple of hours. I also like the fact that the Zune shows album art on its screen. I took great care, when ripping my music collection to my computer, to get all the data correct, right down to the date of release. There are some album folders without art, but I don’t know what to do about that. Zune has searched the Internet several times and found all the data and art it can. As I sit here listening to “True,” by Spandau Ballet, I shake my head in wonder at how different the world is today from what it was in, say, 1975, when I finished high school. I loved music just as much then as I do now, but the technology for playing music was terrible by today’s standards. I had an eight-track tape player in my car and in my bedroom. Eventually, I switched over to cassette tapes, and later to compact discs. Now I can carry my entire music collection of over 600 CDs on a device the size of a deck of cards. I can’t imagine that things can get any better than this, but I’m sure they will. Any predictions as to where things are going? How will we be listening to music 20 years from now?

Addendum: Those of you who are too young to remember eight-track tapes may want to read this. I got pretty good at repairing malfunctioning tapes after a while. I even bought some of that silver tape that made the tape switch tracks. Remember how certain songs had to be cut in two by the record company in order to make the songs on an album fit into four equal time chunks? When you hear those songs today, do you still expect the song to be cut? It became part of the song! Remember how the music would wobble on occasion, and how you would correct it by pushing up or down on the tape? Remember having to clean the tape head? Ah, the bad old days.


Paris-Nice is an eight-day stage race. It takes the riders from chilly Paris in the north of France to sun-drenched Nice on the Mediterranean Sea. Riders call it “the race to the sun” or “the going-to-the-sun race.” When today’s final stage began, Italian Davide Rebellin, a wily veteran, led 24-year-old Spaniard Alberto Contador by six seconds. That may not sound like much, but it usually holds up. Today, however, Contador’s team, The Discovery Channel, rode hard at the front of the peloton for the first few hours. This weakened Rebellin’s Gerolsteiner teammates, who were unable thereafter to help their team leader. On the final climb of the day, Contador attacked. It was a sight to behold. He reached the top of the climb with about 45 seconds on Rebellin, but the final 10 miles or so were downhill into Nice. Could Contador hold off the veteran rider? He did. He beat Rebellin by 22 seconds. When you add it to the 10-second bonus he received for winning the stage, and then subtract the six seconds Rebellin had on him at the start, Contador won the race by 26 seconds. I was able to watch today’s stage on Versus. Here is an ecstatic Contador at the finish, with a pack of riders bearing down on him.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

No Comfort” (editorial, March 6), about sex slavery, leaves the impression that force and rape are somehow separate from prostitution. This impression is wrong.

Few activities are as brutal and damaging to people as prostitution. A study in Journal of Trauma Practice based on research in nine countries concluded that 63 percent of women in prostitution were raped, 71 percent were physically assaulted, and 68 percent met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state torture.

Beyond this shocking abuse, the public health implications of prostitution are devastating, and lead to a myriad of serious and fatal diseases, including H.I.V.-AIDS. Prostitution fuels trafficking in people, a form of modern-day slavery.

The demand for prostitution creates sex slaves today, the very phenomenon your editorial rightly criticizes.

Paula Goode
Acting Dir., Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Department of State
Washington, March 15, 2007

Note from KBJ: The letter writer is throwing up mud, perhaps on purpose. She opposes prostitution, which is fine, but why muddy the issue? Prostitution can be (and I assume often is) consensual, i.e., devoid of force, coercion, or fraud. It is a commercial transaction between two adults. If a particular act of prostitution is coerced, then it can and should be prosecuted—as an act of coercion. Nor is there any necessary connection between prostitution and disease. Yes, careless sex can lead to disease, but this is as true of noncommercial sex as it is of commercial sex. Please don’t say that I’m defending prostitution. I’m not. I’m saying that if you oppose prostitution, you should not rest your case on features that only some acts of prostitution possess.

A Year Ago


Richard Swinburne on Supererogation

Actions which are not obligatory but which are good and the doing of which helps men towards salvation are known as supererogatory, or works of supererogation. Protestants on the whole have denied that there are any supererogatory actions—whatever is good is binding. Catholics have affirmed the existence of supererogatory actions. Both groups, however, share the view that it is obligatory on a man to do whatever is necessary to secure his salvation (while Catholics hold that there is no obligation to do what is merely likely to forward, helpful in forwarding, that salvation).

(Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], 126 [footnotes omitted])

Safire on Language