I’ve been reading a lot of stuff this week. A massive link dump follows after the jump.

  • Did you know that the term “space marine” is a trademark of Games Workshop? It was news to me too. It’s such a generic term for any military man or woman in galactic sci-fi that you’d think one wouldn’t be permitted to trademark it. Unfortunately, the courts weren’t prescient when granting the trademark, so they couldn’t have known that author M.C.A. Hogarth would write a book entitled Spots the Space Marine. They also couldn’t have predicted that Games Workshop would threaten legal action against Amazon unless they delisted the book from their online store, as reported by Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing. Amazon complied, so Hogarth sought help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who encouraged Amazon to put the book back on their virtual shelves. Writing for the EFF, Corynne McSherry reports that their campaign was successful and that Spots the Space Marine is now back on Amazon. It’s all well and good that this story has a happy ending, but it’s still alarming. At the mere suggestion of litigation, Amazon complied with Games Workshop’s request; they didn’t bother to check whether Games Workshop actually had a legitimate complaint. I’m all for companies protecting their trademarks from threats that could undermine their businesses, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that the title of Hogarth’s book could somehow compromise Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 business. This is simply trademark bullying of the worst kind, and it needs to stop.
  • Over at his personal web site, Boob Tube Dude, TV critic Ryan McGee makes the case for closed-ended TV series. He argues that TV shows with a planned finite life span have finite fiscal commitments and can take greater creative risks. It’s a well-written piece, and it makes a lot of good points. However, to play devil’s advocate: one of the primary appeals of television is that it can tell long-form stories. Many people watch TV to invest in stories for the long haul, which may make them less likely to want to watch mini-series. That being said, I would like to see major networks experiment with closed-ended storytelling more often, if only because I’m curious to see the results.
  • Bob Chipman is tired of the pre-release cynicism surrounding movies. In a piece for The Escapist, he argues against using the tools of critics to analyze a movie before it has even been released.
  • Oh my, how the tables have turned. Writing for TorrentFreak, founder and editor-in-chief Ernesto explains that torrent-hosting site The Pirate Bay is considering legal action against a Finnish anti-piracy group, CIAPC, that copied its website. This is one of those situations where the saying “Don’t throw stones in glass houses” surely applies, but I’m not sure to whom.
  • An oldie but a goodie: Writing for his personal website, Bob Bemer explains the history of the backslash (\) character, a piece of punctuation that doesn’t exist in written language. It was developed because when used in conjunction with the forward slash (/), it could be used to represent the logical AND and OR operators (∧ and ∨). If it weren’t for Windows file paths, the backlash would now be obsolete. (I should point out, though, that the backslash symbol is sometimes used to represent set subtraction, so it wouldn’t be wholly obsolete.)
  • Another oldie: Poul Anderson’s semi-famous essay on atomic theory, “Uncleftish Beholding,” written entirely without words of non-Germanic origin. Try to do science without Latin, fools!
  • Have you ever wanted to get out of writing an exam? Then try getting everyone else not to write it too. That’s exactly what a computer science class at Johns Hopkins Unversity did, according to Catherine Rampell of The New York Times’ Economix blog. Because the professor had never explicitly stated that a class-wide exam boycott would result in a class-wide failure, he was forced to apply a curve and give everybody top marks.
  • VentureBeat’s Sebastian Haley has a gallery of some of the weirdest user creations in the game Scribblenauts Unlimited. Check it out, and gaze upon the abomination that is the pumpkin tree!

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited that we’re inching ever closer to a future with moon colonies. As soon as the first lunar settlement is established, you can bet your ass that I’ll be leaping into a rocket and leaving this God-forsaken planet behind. Are you with me? Feel free to share your plans for living on the moon in the comments below.

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