Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Curb Your Schizophrenia.
I found this short New Yorker story interesting on several levels:
In 2004, David Roberts, a second-year clinical-psychology student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had a summer job teaching social skills to a group of schizophrenic patients at a state hospital. He had a particularly unresponsive group (“Many patients are flattened by their meds,” he explained recently) and tried in vain to interest them in role-playing everyday social situations, offering the patients rewards of points and tokens in return for not giving in to their urges to wander around, respond to phantom voices, or otherwise become disruptive—a traditional system of behavioral therapy.

During a break one day, Roberts, watching television in the hospital’s lounge, noticed that a change had come over his patients, who generally seemed immune to basic social signals. “They were laughing at the ironic commercials,” he said. “They were laughing at ‘Friends.’ They were laughing at all the places I was laughing.” Many showed a fluency in the kinds of social communication that Roberts had been struggling to teach them in therapy. “We watched a scene from ‘Monk’ where Tony Shalhoub won’t shake hands with anyone for fear of germs, and walks away awkwardly. I asked a man who’d been an inpatient for ten years, and who was generally blank, what had happened, and he shook his head and gave me a wry grin. Unspoken communication is huge for someone like that.”

So Roberts began showing TV clips during therapy sessions. Soon he had narrowed his selections down to one show: television’s purest expression of social dysfunction, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Roberts considers Larry David to be the perfect proxy for a schizophrenic person.... As the patients watched David flub situation after situation, they laughed, and they willingly discussed with Roberts how they might behave in the same circumstances. “That bald man made a mountain out of a molehill!” one woman called out during a session.

Related: A 2004 New Yorker story on Larry David.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007
This is an outrage?
This is incredibly lame. So why am I pointing it out? I want you to see the latest fixation of some right-wing self-appointed "patriots." I want you to see what they consider important, and keep in mind the next time you hear them griping about something. Because as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
Google Inc. occasionally features light-hearted doodles on its colorful home-page logo to commemorate special occasions. But now they are drawing criticism from conservatives for not being more patriotic.

The Mountain View, Calif., company bathes its logo in stars and stripes every Independence Day, but last week's decision to honor the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch -- the second "g" in Google was replaced with a drawing of the Soviet satellite -- is being blasted by some conservatives.

Not only did Google honor an achievement by a totalitarian regime that was our Cold War enemy, they griped, but it did so without having ever altered its logo to commemorate U.S. military personnel on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

"It's a kick to your belly," said conservative blogger Giovanni Gallucci, 39, a social media consultant from Dallas. "I understand these guys are scientists and engineers and they have their quirks and want to make sure people are recognized who might not normally be recognized . . . but why not celebrate the struggles that we've come through as a people?"

Oh no! Harmless doodles are kicking this man in the belly! Who will they attack next?
"When they ignore Veterans Day and Memorial Day, I think they're telling us something about the way they view America," said Joseph Farah, editor of, a conservative website that has criticized Google's logo decisions.

Yeah, two college students whose company here has made them became some of the richest people in the world hate this country. Riiiiight.
The company defended its decision to let Veterans Day and Memorial Day pass without a special logo, saying it was trying to be respectful.

"Google's special logos tend to be lighthearted and often scientific in nature," spokeswoman Sunny Gettinger said in an e-mailed statement. "We do not believe we can convey the appropriate somber tone through this medium to mark holidays like Memorial Day."

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Sony lawyer: copying a CD you own is stealing
Behold the greed of the recording industry, and yet another reason I will never buy a Sony product. From the first RIAA lawsuit to go to trial, Ars Technica reports:
When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, [Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG] suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'," she said.

Countless studies have shown that the majority of music on portable music players like the iPod comes from sources other than download services. For most people, that music is comprised primarily of songs "ripped" from CD collections to MP3 or some other comparable format. Indeed, most portable music players comes with software (like iTunes) which is designed to facilitate the easy ripping of CDs. According to Pariser's view, this is stealing.

We've actually heard something similar to this view before. As part of the 2006 triennial review of the effectiveness of the DMCA, a number of content-related industries filed a joint reply with the government on the effectiveness of the DMCA and the challenges that lay ahead for copyright. The argument relating to CDs espoused in the joint reply could be summarized: although nothing has prevented consumers from making backups of CDs, this cannot be construed as authorization from the music labels for them to do so. Thus, there has been no authorization of said backups, and the coincidental ability to make backups currently should not be mistaken for fair use.

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So much for living cheaply in Florida.
The Wall Street Journal Online has a lengthy article on the cost of living in Florida. It's risen so fast that population growth has dropped significantly, causing ripple effects.
Moving company Atlas Van Lines brought 6,700 families into Florida last year and took 8,000 out, the first time it has moved more out than in. The number of people from other states who switch to a Florida driver's license is down more than 8% from last year. And the state's crowded schools actually lost students last year, prompting many counties to cut back on their construction schedule and, in some cases, look to close schools. While foreigners continue to arrive at a rate of about 100,000 year, migration from inside the country is slowing.

Florida's pull has been weakened mostly by rising costs. Though real-estate prices are now falling, the median price for an existing single family home, at $231,900 remains 64% more than five years ago. That kind of price appreciation has increased property taxes, especially for newcomers and for snowbirds, whose primary residence is out of state. Florida is also recovering from a spate of hurricanes that have pushed up already high property-insurance rates. A two-tier tax system hits newcomers and part-time residents harder than long time homeowners.

Florida is also dealing with new competition. Looking to tap the economic boost seniors can give, many of the South's less-expensive, relatively warm states have been reaching out to seniors and fiddling with their tax laws in the hope of grabbing more retirees.

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