Friday, July 31, 2009

Kinder Gentler Kindle

Apparently, according to one of my colleagues, there was a brouhaha a few weeks ago because Amazon went into people's Kindles and took back some e-books by George Orwell to which it did not have the rights. Yesterday the first lawsuit was filed, seeking to assert damages on behalf of a class as well as an injunction to prevent Amazon from recalling e-books on Kindle.

How can Kindle recall an e-book legally? Simple. The relationship between Amazon and the Kindle e-book buyer is not the same as that in the brick and mortar bookstore. You do not own the copy of the e-book, you merely license it. Therefore the doctrine of first sale under copyright law does not apply. Music and motion picture downloads work according to the same principle. You license the music of movie on your iPod. You do not own the copy, like you own the particular copy of the DVD or CD. Incidentally, just because there is a first sale doctrine does not mean that you can do anything you want with the contents of the DVD or CD. One of the fallacies we have seen with respect to the RealDVD product is that people believe because they own a copy of a DVD they have the right to copy it as many times as they want. People understand that it is illegal to photocopy a book they own for someone but do not understand that they cannot legally copy DVDs or even CDs. Part of the problem, of course, is that the music industry did nothing to prevent the copying of CDs, i.e. they did not use DRM (digital rights management) so it is easy to "rip and burn" a CD. DVDs do have copy protection and although you can find a program on the internet (typically with tasty viruses attached) to circumvent, copyright law in the form of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) makes in illegal to do so.

People, however, do want to own a copy of the e-book even though everyone with a Kindle knows you cannot lend your e-book to your friend unless you give her the Kindle too. Amazon would seem to have made that clear in their Terms of Use in that they talk about nonexclusive license of the Digital Content in par. 3. But wait. Amazon may have made a boo-boo. They grant to their Kindle customer "the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy" and even though they condition it as a license and say it is solely on the device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service, a permanent copy would seem to be one that the purchaser gets to keep no matter what. I think it is a stretch to say that the "as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service" limits the permanency of the copy the purchaser gets so long as they have a Kindle. So Amazon must rely on its license language and argue that it trumps the "permanent copy" language. Under the circumstances, I am not sure why Amazon did their own recall. Even if the e-book was an unauthorized copy of the George Orwell books, it is unlikely that a court would issue a injunction with a recall of the e-book from the devices, although not out of the realm of possibility.
On the other hand, I do not see the viability of a class action lawsuit here. How is the class damaged, given that Amazon is returning the fee paid for the retrieved e-books? The teenager suing in Seattle claims his notes on the Orwell book are now useless since they are not connected to the e-book. Please. Even if they were useless, what is that worth? Must we be compensated for every inconvenience and lost time in this society. Amazon says that they will not do a recall again so what is the point of clogging the courts with litigation seeking an injunction?

The views expressed herein are my own simple ramblings and not necessarily the views of my employer or anyone rational. As any good lawyer can, I will talk out of the other side of my mouth if my company were ever to "pull back" its digitally distributed content.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

RIP Sara Puddles 9/30/95-7/28/09

This morning we had one of my octogenarian dogs, Sara, put to sleep. She had stopped eating for about a week, could not walk or move and was vomiting bile the last few days. I thought she might die overnight like our cat did when she stopped eating and drinking. But this morning Sara was still wagging her tail as she lay otherwise motionless on the grass under a tree. She had moved during the night from the patio to the grass and apparently had vomited half way there. Her breathing was very labored at the end and tears formed in her eyes. She looked at me very sadly. I believe the tears and "sadness" were due to the pain she must have been feeling. I refuse to entertain that she knew her end was near.

The vet told us immediately that it was likely the cancer had gotten into her lungs. Her heartbeat was weak as well as her breathing. We had decided on the way to the vet to end Sara's misery unless the vet identified a curable cause. When the vet said that it was unlikely Sara would last much longer even if they tested her and treated her, my husband, son and I agreed to let her go.

I could not stay in the room while the vet administered the injection. My son and husband decided to stay. My son was unequivocal. My husband decided to stay after my son decided. I went to the car to cry alone. My big strong men told me they both cried but Sara was very peaceful. One minute she was sniffing my son's hand and the next moment she was gone.

Sara was part of a miracle litter. Her mother, a pure bred Rottweiler, had been spayed but nevertheless went into heat and attracted a German Shepherd suitor who jumped the fence of her yard. There were 5 dogs in the litter. The owner was the mother of my son's middle school social studies teacher. We heard about the dogs and thought it would be nice for our other Shepherd mix, Chase, to have a companion. So we went to look at the litter and this lovely little pup climbed up on my lap. She wore a red collar and was named Sara, which is one of my favorite names. We waited for her to be weaned and took her home in mid November of 1995.

We quickly learned about the bias against Rotties. We needed to kennel the dogs during that first year and several places would not take a Rottweiler even as a puppy. The one that did take her said that they would not take her when she got bigger. Sara turned out to be a very gentle dog. However she was the not the easiest to house train. Hence we nicknamed her Puddles for obvious reasons. Eventually she was trained and learned some basic commands although nothing as fancy as what Chase learned. Sara could sit and come but never learned to roll over on command.

At some point we learned that Sara had a thing about toddlers and some children. She would bark and charge at them as if they were threatening the farm animals. Once she got out of the house and charged the toddler of the people subletting the house next door. Without warning us, they reported her (and us) to animal control. She did not hurt the child but scared him quite a bit. I hired a dog trainer to work with Sara but it did not do much. Sara was basically sweet but not the sharpest knife in the pack. Luckily she never did anything like charging a child again and indeed learned to love (and tolerate the pokings of) toddlers when my grandson came to live with us three years ago.

Sara and Chase went on hikes for a while together in the hills of Palos Verdes with a guy named Paul who had a dog hiking business. Sara tore her ACL in her knee on one of these hikes and had to have surgery. She never really could hike again with Chase and at that point we moved her into the house so that she would not get further hurt by running around in our yard with Chase.

In the past few years, Sara has been a wonderful companion to my mother in law who referred to Sara as an old lady. Sara has had cancer for a few years and was in some pain from time to time but continued to be a faithful companion up until the end.

Sara, you were a very good dog. I will miss you very much.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just 23 More to Gold

Twenty seven years ago at the Helen Hills Hills (hills hills) chapel with music by our friends and 5 cakes at the alumnae center we celebrated our marriage.  And next week my first born makes his Pohnpeian marriage official in the state of California.  Happy anniversary my love and best wishes to William and Marchleen.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

MMH to GYN (What? Those aren't airports? TMI?)

You may remember that my family doctor essentially views me as Paul's wife. I think of him since today is both my and Paul's birthday. We are collectively 114.

My assistant however has a bizarre sense of humor and scheduled my gynecology appointment for lunch today. So instead of eating a birthday spread, I experienced a different type of spread. So far it appears that I am fine but there are those pesky tests that need to be checked so I will have to wait for a few weeks to find out if I am truly ok. But I got my passport to the mammogram lady which I am being better about doing these days as cancer seems to be hitting more and more of my friends and family.

Several other good things have happened today. First, one of my colleagues has organized a cake for me at the office. We had been told by our boss a few years ago that we were having too many birthday parties so we had to group them together by month, somewhat like the Office episode where, for efficiency reasons, Jim tries to have everyone's birthday party at once. And like the Office episode, everyone hated having the group birthday celebration. It is bad enough I have to share my birthday with my husband at home, but to have to share it with the 3 other people in the office with July birthdays is simply unacceptable! So I will have my own party, my own cake and my own recognition for 10 minutes today.

Second, one of the work issues that I thought would take up my day has gone away since it appears we are moving toward working out the dispute rather than filing a lawsuit. I am happy today but worry that the case will resurrect itself on Friday when I am leaving for a week long vacation trip.

Third, three conference calls I had scheduled for today all have been cancelled. Everyone seems to be working out their problems and do not feel the need to talk ad nauseum. Happy day. It is a real present not to have to be on these calls for one day.

Tonight, the eight of us are going to a fondue restaurant where I intend to drink a very large and potent Cosmopolitan. Here's to another year. Happy birthday, Paul!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Facebook: Addiction or Annoyance

Facebook has exploded with growth in recent months particularly among us older folk, and oddly enough in Los Angeles and Atlanta more than other cities.  In the beginning of the year I heard that the fastest growing demo of the website was women 55 and older (that's me--tomorrow I join the "older") and according to iStrategylabs, that trend continues to be true through July 2009. A FB board member, Mark Andreessen, who is currently venturing into the blog business, claims that FB will make billions in the next few years.  Currently FB brings in about half a billion for 200 million users making the per user revenue fairly small, although the number of active users is probably much less and active users are really the ones to bring eyeballs to the ads.

The trick for FB is to figure out how to remain the latest thing.  It has always been said that accurately figuring out the tastes of the movie going public, notwithstanding all the film models we have at studios, really would make a studio executive a millionaire.  So too for the internet where tastes seem to have an even shorter shelf life.

FB somehow has managed to find a broader audience than many of the other internet wonders.  It succeeds in creating a community for some, allowing the sharing of information, photos and videos.  Some of us spend time on it reconnecting with old friends and exchanging ideas.  Sometimes the exchanges are even material.  One of my friends today revealed that he got his ticket to the MJ Memorial through FB.  He simultaneously offered a ticket to Oleanna which was tempting to me but not feasible for this evening.  FB meets Craigslist.

Some people however really seem to dislike FB.  My daughter's beau, for example, disdains the site and chides my daughter for any time she spends on there.  I can understand a little bit about what he dislikes because the way young people typically use FB ("I am so getting crunk tonight") is less interesting to me as well.  Young people may in fact be leaving FB, and probably not just because they are graduating as BusinessWeek suggests.  Another of my younger friends, a woman in her mid-20s, hates the site now even though she found it addictive the first few days she joined.  When I asked her to explain, she said it was boring without anymore detail.

Many people I know only check FB occasionally because they are not that familiar with or interested in the technology.  Some are worried about their privacy and others prefer "human contact" such as bumping into people on subways or talking on the telephone.  Others feel they already have enough human contact during the workday and do not want to "talk" or otherwise interact with anyone on the internet in their free time.

It seems to me that figuring out what works with FB is beyond my simple powers of observation and deduction.  The one thing that may work to FB's advantage is its "graying".  We older folk have more money to spend on those products in the border ads.   If FB is to meet Andreessen's predictions, and not meet Myspace's fate, it needs to have the boomers clicking through on the sidebar ads, as well as grow the base.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July in Hermosa Beach

I just got home from a walk on the beach this morning.  I had hoped to get out before the reveling began but forgot about how long a day the 4th is here on the beach.  The young bucks were out strutting on the Strand.  Some were heading to play in volleyball tournaments on the sand closer to the Pier.  But most were heading north to 30th street, the site of the annual Ironman contest.

I usually do not like the crowds on the beach but there were few people on bicycles today, which typically freak me out as they fly by me. Today it was mostly young men with surfboards.  At first I wondered where the girls were but then I started to see the Sun Bunnies in their red white and blue bikinis, all looking strikingly the same.  I also saw a few women with numbers on their arms indicating they intended to participate in the Ironman contest.  One large group of guys wandered down the Strand with an American flag and some group had set up a very large flag on the beach using red, white and blue plastic strips and white styrofoam cups as the stars.  Despite myself, I started to feel good, and even found the loud music and shouts of "happy independence day" entertaining.

The annual Ironman contest involves running a mile on the beach, paddling a mile in the ocean and then pounding a six pack of beer.  Since it is illegal to drink on the beach with fines tripled on this holiday, this contest is not an official one although I have never heard of anyone getting
fined for participating.   My son did some videotaping of his friends who have a band that played last year and I found his picture on the internet from the 2008 Ironman as well as one of the more colorful costumes (see pictures at right-my son is man with backpack- and top left).

Ironman basically starts off the day of drinking which usually winds up by midday through the evening with wall to wall drunk young people crowding the Strand and the Pier area, standing up only because they are surrounded by so many others of their ilk.  I think if one falls, there is a domino effect. It is quite a scene.  The next morning, the Strand reeks of beer and other unpleasant aftermaths of a day of overindulgence.  For this independence of responsibility our forefathers threw down the gauntlet 233 years ago. However, it is better than being in a riot on the streets of Tehran.

Back on my street, one of the neighbors set up a pot luck breakfast and a bicycle parade for the children this morning.  So far we have not had any major fireworks in the neighborhood but it is still early.  My dogs freak out a bit with the noise but one of them is deaf so perhaps it will not be too bad this year.

Parking is at a premium so I am keeping my car parked in front and making my way around on foot today, planning otherwise to stay close to home.  Luckily my son will barbecue later and we can walk up to the store for the final requirements for that event.  Although I start out cynical about the excessive partying, I guess we should all be grateful that we are able to celebrate our freedom rather than struggle for it.  Happy Independence Day!!

ADDENDUM  There were two additional events of note that I learned about after I wrote the above.  First, the STDs, a punk band in HB, performed this year on the Strand on a moving stage powered by 3 burly boys pulling the stage.  My son served as the videographer, walking backwards for 12 blocks instead of riding on a camera dolly.  Only one moving dolly per performance.  Second, my son and grandson discovered a performance last night on the Strand that apparently takes place every year but is particularly poignant this year.  A group puts on a performance of a medley of Michael Jackson songs on a makeshift stage with lighting at 5th and the Strand.  The MJ imitator was dressed for the part with sequined glove etc.  My son said the crowd acted like it was a real concert, with swaying arms and dancing.  This after the fireworks in Redondo is a real treat not to miss.  Maybe next year.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Santa Fe Part 2

El Santuario de Chimayo
Downtown Subscription Backyard 

Finally got my photos up on the computer so I will finish my memo on the Santa Fe trip (before it completely fades from my memory!) Where was I?

On Friday we drove to Chimayo and visited the famous church there. The santuario is next to a creek and has interesting crucifix sculptures and tile painting outside leading to and surrounding an outside altar with a view of the mountains. The church itself is an attractive NM edifice outside. The altar inside was surrounded an explosion of color. Unfortunately there was a mass going on when we were there so we did not go into the main part of the church and no photos of the inside are allowed. I did visit the side room where the famous healing dirt is located and got a young boy to fill up a container I bought to bring back the dirt. There are many stories of the healing power of the blessed dirt. Paul was a bit freaked out by the spectacle and stayed outside with the tamales. I planned to give the dirt to my friend who is very ill but have not had the chance to do so yet. She probably would also find it too freaky. And its not her religion in any event.  

Taos itself was mainly a place to do some shopping.  We found some wonderful unique leather bags there and a fun place to buy painted ponies, including a pin we gave to my mother in law.  Paul spent much of his time in bookstores which we were not able to find the last time we visited Taos 15 years ago.

Saturday we visited Garcia's Bookstore and the Downtown Subscription cafe, which we also visited with our kids 15 years ago.  I remember its back yard seating area in particular.  We drove along Canyon Road and looked at the art galleries from a distance.  I have never had the money to collect art and thus did not want to tempt myself.  Instead we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum which has a few famous pieces and a lot of her earlier or lesser known work.  One piece had been in the White House and was returned for a lengthy stay at the museum.  

After the museum, the sun had come out so we wandered around the block from our hotel past the Cathedral of St. Francis, the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum (which is a Pueblo revival style building and on the National Register of Historical Places) and an outdoor art fair which was set up on the Plaza.  I walked away from Paul for a minute to look at one of the booths when a thunderstorm suddenly started.  After looking for him for about 15 minutes (he went to Starbucks thinking I had gone there) I finally went back to the hotel and got a new key to the room since he had the key.  He was sitting in the room, dry, reading a book. 

We had hoped to take the Turquoise road back to Albuquerque but we did not get out of Santa Fe early enough so we stopped instead  for lunch, which I described in my earlier post.