personal blog

Thanks to everybody who complained. No thanks to my system administrator who ignored my bug reports (who thinks that just because I'm married to him and have root access on his server that I should go fix bugs HE created) ... yeah. Fixed now. Comment and enjoy!
To geekery by Beth on 2009-09-25.
tomboy logoPlease note: this refers to the Tomboy note-taking app, which I use for almost all my writing. I'll post later about what this program is and why it's so useful to me. It's really pretty neat. I didn't write the whole program, just a little plugin.

One of those scratch-an-itch late nite programming projects. Here, I'll share.

Based on the Tomboy-Wordcount addin, this one is called Editor's Wordcount and does exactly the same thing, except...

It doesn't count strikethrough text. (This is what strikethrough text looks like.)

So now I can quickly answer the question "OK, how many words would it be if I killed this paragraph, and this one, and this one?"

Download now: Editor's Wordcount
To geekery by Beth on 2009-06-09. 0 Comments
identically dressed twins. Photo by Alex Montandon.As a sometime knitting pattern designer, I get really annoyed when people talk about clothing as if it can be copyrighted. For example, when a pattern comes with a stipulation that you cannot make the item to sell, or when I sell a pattern and the publisher wants me to sign off that the work is "original".

Any time copyright infringment has gone to court in a clothing-related case, the verdict always comes back that clothing is not subject to copyright, since it is a functional garment (specifically, a "useful article"). Only aspects that have nothing to do with being a garment are subject to copyright law - specifically, a graphic printed on a T-shirt may be copyrighted, but the idea of making a T-shirt in a certain color cannot.

Here's the relevant text from the law

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

(1) literary works;

(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;

(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;

(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

(7) sound recordings; and

(8) architectural works.

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

I've heard people claim that clothing might fall under (5) as a sculptural work. But that's not true:

the design of a useful article, as defined in this section [defining what falls into section (5)], shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.

So, clothing is not copyrightable. What is interesting about the Trovata v. Forever 21 lawsuit that is heading to trial is that they aren't claiming copyright infringement, but rather "trade dress" - that somebody would see a striped shirt and think "oh, that's a Trovata shirt" when it's really Forever 21.

The case doesn't sound terribly strong to me, but I'm not a lawyer. Why should Trovata have a monopoly on shirts with a certain striping pattern? They shouldn't. We'll see what the judge thinks, but this case has no bearing on copyright law.

However, this is a little more worrying (from the same article):

Although U.S. copyright laws do not protect a garment’s basic design, silhouette or form, legislation is pending in Congress — supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America — to expand copyright laws to the “appearance as a whole of an article” of clothing. The Design Piracy Prohibition Act has stalled in committee. Critics contend its provisions are too sweeping and would stifle competition and commerce in the apparel industry.

Yes, it would stifle competition and commerce. It would also seem to let designers sue home knitters or sewists who make their own clothing that is similar to famous designs. Since the fashion industry as we know it survives on copying the "appearance as a whole of an article," what are those of us who can't afford the original supposed to wear? The wording might mean that changing a few details doesn't get you off the hook, if you haven't changed the "appearance as a whole" - you choose different colors for the stripes of your polo shirt, but it still looks like a multicolored-striped shirt. Can Trovata come after you then? We really, really don't need to create another RIAA-like opportunity, whether it's targeting individuals or other clothing companies.

Then the originality aspect would come into play, I guess. Copyrightable works must be original, which is no problem since I won't accidentally write the exact text of Harry Potter from scratch. But if some big-name designer decides that a red sheath dress with a flared hem is their property ... what happens when I independently decide I'd like to make a red dress and the "appearance as a whole" is similar? What happens to the pattern company that makes a sewing pattern for a sheath dress that can be made in any color?

Clothing is not currently copyrightable under US law. It also shouldn't be. Seriously. That would just be stupid.
1. Archer Farms "Indian-inspired" meals from Target. I never thought I would stoop to buying groceries from Target, but look! For $4 you get rice, curry sauce, a side dish, and some over-sweet chutney. It feeds two people heartily. (We add our own meat or veggies to the curry sauce, and cook extra rice, but the total cost is no more than $8 for dinner for two.)

2. High-waisted skirts like this one. I don't know what suddenly made me stop hating this style and start loving it. Maybe the fact that it looks AWESOME on me. (I made my own with Vogue 8425.)

3. Text adventure games! I never liked these as a kid because I could never guess what to do next. Well, either my brain grew or they started writing 'em better, because I devoured three of these things recently and found them intriguing and intelligent and not impossible to play.

First I played Everybody Dies, which starts out all "go east"/"go west"/"it's boring here" but gets interesting after you die the first time. As far as I can tell there's only one ending, but the puzzles are fun and I found the story stuck in my head for hours afterwards, which I think means it's a good story.

Since Everybody Dies was the 3rd-place winner in the Interactive Fiction Awards, I then went and played the first-place entry, Violet. This is an awesome game for procrastination from your nanowrimo novel and/or paid writing projects. In it, the major puzzle is battling procrastination so you can write, because bad things will happen if you don't. (I played this game while waiting for a call back from someone I was interviewing for an article, which is the freelance writer equivalent of "my code is compiling").

4. You see where this is going. After playing about three games in two days I was flooded with ideas for text games I could write. Like one based on my nano novel! Or one where you don't move in space but you can travel through time! or one where you're asleep and have to destroy your alarm clock so you can get back to the quest in your dream where you need to get to the airport that is also a mcdonald's!

Want to play along with the Beth's Craziness game? (the metaphorical one, not the inevitable text adventure) Just apt-get install frotz inform inform-doc. Tell me how yours comes out.

[psst zcode linux ... just trying to help out the googlers]
Carmen Sandiego in ParisAmazingly, I remember playing almost all of these Top 10 most influential video games from the 1980s.

Jezebel writes, "The graphics might not have been great, but the educational value was priceless. SimCity taught us all how taxes go to pay for new roads, Carmen Sandiego took us on whirlwind trips around the globe, and the Oregon Trail made us all aware of the importance of axels and the dangers of amoebic dysentery."

So true. My young mind was also impressed by Mavis Beacon, and one that didn't make the list, that game where you play a fish.
To geekery by Beth on 2008-10-19. 0 Comments


That is the white lighthouse at the end of the pier where the Inlet enters Cayuga Lake.
To geekery by Beth on 2008-09-24. 0 Comments
XO vs. x61
I forgot to include a quarter for scale. The XO makes my laptop (right) look big.

The mcdonald's employee sweeping up told me that MY laptop was really small and cute.
Here's a fun picture from YAPC::NA 2007. Adri also stars.
To geekery by Beth on 2007-11-05. 2 Comments
Hey perl geeks - the CFP for the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop is open for another few days! I know some linuxchix read this blog, and it's always great to see more women speaking at conferences. The PPW is a small conference (last year it was one day, this year it's expanded to two) that is smaller than YAPC but still a lot of fun. I gave my first conference talk at last year's PPW and went on to speak at YAPC too!

They're encouraging anyone with a Perl story, hack, or idea to speak, and there's even a list of talk ideas if you're having trouble thinking of what to speak about.
To geekery by Beth on 2007-08-24. 0 Comments
Hey, perl hackers!

A Perl Mongers group is getting started in Ithaca. If you're in the area, join us! We plan to hold casual social meetings at first, possibly branching out to technical meetings later.

Help spread the word! I know there are lots of perl hackers hiding in various corners of Cornell and Ithaca, so let's try to all get together and compare notes or just hang out. Get involved by joining the mailing list. That's where all the action is.

(See also: Ithaca.pm.org.)
To geekery by Beth on 2007-07-20. 0 Comments