Just a little bit communist

13
Aug
2012

Although still somewhat rare, just recently I have had two separate clients present me with legal documents and contracts to sign after I thought the negotiating part of my work was complete (by which I mean after I had presented my final, revised quotes to them for the work to be done). As I said, this is quite rare, and greatly affects the time and effort I need to put into their projects outside the quote itself. I suppose that henceforth I will need to include clauses in my quotes about hourly attorney’s fees if this sort of thing is to continue, because I never accounted for that, and never want to account for that. Part of the reason I enjoy working with small clients is the dispensing of what I consider unnecessary bullshit. I want to spend all my time on the work itself, and not on evaluating the legalese in various documents pertaining to who “owns” what intelectual property. Part of the reason I am such a fan of open source software is that it is not “owned” by anyone. Everyone is free to look at the code, or modify it to suit. What I make for the vast majority of clients is an arrangement (of code) that they are free to use and rework any way they want. To ask me to transfer “ownership” of any and all work I have done for them defies common sense (but apparently not over zealous legal sense), and represents a dangerous corruption and encroachment on my services by the overabundance of lawyers and litigation in this country. While large companies do create and hold secret large amounts of customized software, the nature of web design and coding today makes this idea quite laughable for a number of reasons:

1. Although much of the executable server side of things remain hidden, anyone in any browser can substantially look at the source of any web page and copy its formatting at least. Indeed this is how I and many programmers and web designers first learn how to do specific things, by looking at the work of others.

2. The vast majority of websites today are running at least partially on open source software, without which they would not be able to exist. Whether it is the webserving software itself, or the underlying content management system, or the plugins that further enhance that system, people would not be able to conduct business without it.

3. Enforcement of an ownership claim is very costly and almost always amounts to nothing. The only people getting rich off of going after perceived infringements are lawyers, except in very large cases. The web has almost no examples of such large cases.

What I am getting at here is the ridiculousness of trying to “own” intangible things like a web design. They should be thought of more like a service one has free use of, or a style of dress that one is wearing. People may very well like your style of dress and try to emulate it. Consider it flattery, not stealing.  Kirby Ferguson, one of my heroes, makes points about the nature of creativity far more eloquently than I, and his recent TED talk here is well worth watching:

 

Kirby’s basic thesis is that all creativity has its roots in copying work that came before it, and that current patent and copyright law is antithetical to this basic premise. Despite being there to “promote the progress of useful arts” patent law as understood (and litigated) today, works precisely against this. The sooner we get over our loss aversion, the better we as a society will be.

So I guess you could say that in certain cases (such as web design) I don’t believe in ownership, which I suppose makes me a little bit of a communist in some people’s eyes. I believe in free use, because I have seen first hand, over and over again, how valuable open source software can be in building a better world. I, and many other people around the world gain great uses and owe a large part of our livelihoods to this, and when I donate back to the greater good with contributions of my own, I feel even better.

Off to The Island of Misfit Toys

11
Aug
2012

A couple of weeks ago, something quite amazing happened, and totally unexpected. I, (paragon of reason and someone who rarely finds interest enough to go beyond a first date with anyone) fell for someone. Coming just a day after my bad doggie date made it all the sweeter, I thought. It all started a few weeks earlier when I had noticed a really cute guy on the rooftop of the Eagle where I was sharing Sunday afternoon drinks with a couple of friends of mine. We exchanged a few flirty looks back and forth, but then I left with my friends to go to dinner and when we returned he was gone. No big deal, this sort of thing happens from time to time, if anything was meant to be I was sure we would cross paths again at some point. Then, a couple of weeks later I received a message on one of the dating sites I was on from this guy, telling me that he had been looking everywhere for me, and was so glad to find me. He then told me that “this was crazy” but did I remember seeing him at the Eagle by any chance and could he possibly invite me to a meal? I agreed, and we met the following Sunday for brunch. The date went so well in fact, that we did not say goodbye until some 24 hours later. We walked, talked, fooled around, watched tv, explored and explained our respective past lives, cuddled, slept, etc. It was truly an amazing date. We had the kind of insane chemistry I hadn’t felt in many years, and had almost forgotten was possible. The first week was an intense, romantic, crazy week of 4 dates, flirty and sweet text messages flying back and forth, etc. We shared a few personality traits in common (cleanliness, being on time), but probably a lot more that were different (he has an inexplicable love of sports, for example). And although it didn’t bother me much, we had a somewhat large age gap between us. At 30, he was truly at the very low end of my dating range, but it didn’t seem to matter since he seemed quite mature. He was part owner of a business and working a crazy number of hours, and had a strong ambition to get ahead (whatever that means to someone). Working until 11pm most nights was definitely going to be a challenge, but I was so smitten that I was willing to adjust and become more of a late nighter and less of an early riser. I really couldn’t believe my luck, after so many first dates, to finally meet someone I wanted to see again and again.

Then, without warning, he had a change of heart. I am not exactly sure why, but it really does not matter. People are fickle, and they can change their feelings suddenly. Was it something he read on my blog? Was it that, now that I was clearly as into him as he was to me, he no longer wanted me? I’m not sure I will ever know. About a week into our romance, after another almost 24 hour date, I said goodbye to him last Sunday as he went off to work. He told me he would call me later, and when he didn’t I sent him a text asking how his day was, and he responded nicely, but with a little distance I could sense. I thought no big deal, he had had a long day, so I wished him good night thinking we would chat the next day. Two days passed with no messages between us, and I knew something was up. The previous week had been a nonstop flow of sweet text nothings, and that had completely dried up. After two days, I sent him a brief text asking if everything was ok, and he said yes and could he see me Thursday night? We made a plan, and another two days passed with no communication between us. I was pretty sure he was going to cancel on me, because his attitude had changed so completely from the week before. When he actually texted near 11pm to tell me he was done with work and coming to meet me, I was surprised and we met for a drink at a local bar. I was pretty confused about the preceding few days, so I asked him what was up. He seemed truly shocked, he had no idea anything at all was amiss, he told me he was just “crazy busy” at work. While I was sure he was in fact busy at work, I also know that when we are motivated, it takes about two seconds to send a smiley face or “thinking about you” text. This had been the way it was the week before after all, when he was also “crazy busy”.

Nevertheless, I accepted his response at face value (maybe it is even what he told himself and half-believed) and we went back to his place for another lovely evening in each other’s arms. It was sweet and somewhat reassuring, because we got along so well and pretty much slept together holding hands and kissing. We said our goodbyes over breakfast the next morning, and I decided to take a wait and see approach, perhaps what I had told him would motivate him to reach out more, but I should have known better. Once a spell is broken, it is often broken for good. That is just the way things are. Not hearing from him the entire day, late in the evening I sent a quick smiley and kissface text to his phone. I never even got a response, and I knew. It was time to send him off to The Island of Misfit Toys.

When I look back, and being honest with myself, what we had was an incredible chemistry. This is something that people often discount in the abstract, but I honestly believe it is more powerful than all the personality trait matches, political differences (within reason), and what have you. There is a kind of invisible, undetectable smell (perhaps pheromones) that can draw people together so powerfully, that it flies in the face of any other incompatibility. It is part sexual, but really much more than that. It gives one a contented feeling when being near, when holding hands, when brushing a cheek or a nose or a leg. It is pacifying and sweet, and makes ones eyes fill with tenderness despite oneself. I am happy to know that this feeling is still possible, and may one day be again.

Crazy

8
Aug
2012

I was reading this story in Slate magazine about faking insanity for the purposes of a trial. Most recently reported in the news, James Holmes went into a crowded theater in Colorado, and started shooting randomly at everyone. There has been some talk in the news about him pretending to be insane to escape the death penalty. I have a real problem with this, and I find it one of the most disturbing parts of our criminal justice system. I mean really, consider this: How could someone go into a crowded theater, shoot randomly to kill at everyone (not just shrieking children), and NOT be insane? What possible sane frame of mind could there be that would allow this type of behavior? I think we all know the answer to that: none. Yet we as a society have a problem. We have a collective emotional need to hold people (no matter how insane) responsible for their actions, and to mete out punishment or justice. The criminal justice system can work fairly well for petty crimes perhaps, such as thievery. But when it comes to extraordinary, random acts of murder, it becomes harder (to my mind) to accept anything other than insanity as the cause. That does not dispense with our duty to protect society, but it does have implications for how a trial is conducted, and how a perpetrator should be treated. If you can’t really hold someone responsible for their actions, you must at least put them in an institution for monitoring and (if at all possible) treatment. Our responsibility as a society is to prevent further harm to that society first and foremost, but we seem rather smitten with the idea of revenge instead.

Now all I need is a “Cathy” comic strip taped to the wall next to me.

6
Aug
2012

My right elbow has been bothering me for a few months, and I have been collecting various opinions about it. It isn’t anything debilitating, it just has some pain that seems exacerbated by certain movements and does not seem to be healing.  I switched to using exclusively my left hand for all my computer mousing activity a couple of months ago, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. I stopped working out for a few weeks and likewise noticed no difference (so I started back up again). My doctor sent me for an MRI last Friday, and we will see what he says about that when the results come back. (Correction, really: my doctor wanted me to go for an MRI, but the fucking insurance company would not approve it until an X-ray had been done first, so that it what I had done Friday. I am sure I don’t need to note once again to my readership how evil I think insurance companies are, now do I?) Then today I was seeing my friend/massage therapist  Jose, who I have an ongoing trade with (not that kind of trade, you dirty minded fools. I teach him French and he gives me massages.) He is quite knowledgable, and took a look at my arm and gave me some instructions for how to take care of it for a few weeks to try to get it to heal. It involves a couple of immobilizing devices (one of those carpel tunnel wrist things made of hard plastic and a thick elastic elbow cuff thing). He also told me to ice and heat treat it three times a day, and to do this for several weeks. And to make the arm as immobile as possible, going so far as to suggest a sling if I can bear it. Put all of this together and it looks super awkward and I am really hating it, but kind of feeling like I should give it a try, he seems to know what he is talking about. He says it is very important to really give it time to heal, which I clearly have not been doing as I should. He could be right, but when I look down at my arm, especially that wrist immobilizer, it just makes me think of some sad, overweight, middle aged woman working in some dusty clerk’s office who has to deal with carpel tunnel after years of bad posture, uncomfortable furniture, and squinting look ups of county land records or birth certificate notices on microfilm. I may just rather deal with the slight pain and wait to hear from my doctor, the emotional humiliation of this get up is too much.