Doctorow's "Information Doesn't Want to Be Free" now in audiobook

idwtbfsmall.jpgInternet activist and sf author Cory Doctorow has produced an awesome audiobook version of his latest nonfiction book, Information Doesn't Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age." Read by Will Wheaton, with incidental music by Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, the audiobook is available for $15 on Doctorow's web site. In an e-mail sent to his mailing list, Doctorow explained:

Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman contributed forewords to this one, and Will reads them, too (of course). I could *not* be happier with how it came out. My sincere thanks to Will, the Skyboat Media people (Cassandra and Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki), John Taylor Williams, and to Amanda for the music.

The book is $15, is DRM free, and has no EULA -- you don't need to give up any of your rights to buy it. It should be available in Downpour and other DRM-free outlets soon, but, of course, it won't be in iTunes or Audible, because both companies insist that you use DRM with your works, and I don't use DRM (for reasons that this book goes to some length to explain).

Audio edition:
http://craphound.com/?p=5387

I've got it on the speakers right now, and it's Doctorow in classic form: informative, accessible, and very smart about the issues around copyright, intellectual property, and surviving as an artist (or, really, anyone who does stuff with their computer) in the Internet age. If you're looking for something to listen to on plane rides or car trips over the upcoming holidays, this is fifteen bucks well spent.

Here are a couple of reviews of the print version:
Wall Street Journal
Boston Globe

Full disclosure: I have known Cory for years; I paid for this book and received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, sf, Tech & culture

Portsmouth motorist heads-up: construction on Boyd Lane today and tomorrow

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will be doing water main work on Boyd Lane on the southeast side of the Rt. 24 northbound off ramp today and tomorrow from 7:30am, according to a release. Boyd Lane traffic will be shifted into two narrow lanes, and motorists are advised that there may be delays, especially during morning and evening commutes.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd, traffic

"Reasonable" seasonal ads appear across RI

14nov30_ricor.jpg
Members of the RI Coalition of Reason at their North Kingstown billboard.

With ten distinctive ads on the sides of RIPTA busses — and a big billboard in North Kingstown — the newly formed RI Coalition of Reason, comprising six atheist, agnostic, and humanist groups, has launched a public awareness campaign to foster recognition and acceptance of the growing number of non-believers across the state.

"We want to make our presence in the community known," Tony Houston, coordinator of the RICoR said in a prepared statement. "Non-theistic people are your family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We may not believe in a deity or the supernatural, but we are compassionate, ethical members of this community. We would like to encourage local atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, secularists, and humanists to stand up and be counted. If you are a Rhode Island nonbeliever, know that you are not alone."

The local campaign is part of a nationwide effort to reach out to non-theists. There have been similar billboards, bus ads, and Internet campaigns in more than 30 states, according to the group.

"The point of our national awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists, and agnostics living in the United States," explained Dr. Jason Heap, national coordinator of United CoR. "Non-theists sometimes don't realize there's a community for them because they're inundated with theistic messages at every turn. So we hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren't alone."

"Being visible is important to us," Heap added, "because, in our society, non-theistic people often don't know many like themselves.

In a web posting, Houston explained the special local significance of non-theism. "Separation of Church and State is an integral part of Rhode Island’s heritage, The state’s founder, Roger Williams, was a religious man who championed 'soul liberty' and despised the 'monstrous partiality' of sectarian dogma. Religious Rhode Islanders often overlook Roger Williams the secularist, but Williams knew that you couldn’t have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. He knew that heresy assumed that the accuser is the one who got it right. He also concluded from the prosperity of Muslims and Catholics that God did not play favorites."

The group has received substantial media coverage of the recently launched campaign, and while much of the feedback has been positive, Houston says, there has been some pushback.

"Naturally, some people were offended," said Houston, "But that just shows you that religion has been exempt from scrutiny by social convention. We can’t have a civilization in which the best ideas prevail if certain viewpoints are exempt from scrutiny."

According to Houston, the group also plans to participate with an entry in the annual holiday display at the State House.

Media coverage
Warwick Online
ABC6
RI Future
ProJo
Friendly Atheist (Patheos.com)
RI Coalition of Reason

Editorial note: Written substantially from a press release.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, one of the constituent groups of the RICoR.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, RICoR

RI Dept. of Ed seeks input on strategic plan process

The RI Dept. of Education and the RI Board of Education have kicked off the process of creating the next state-wide education strategic plan, and you can provide your input on the web. Here's the note announcing the process that went out from Commissioner Deborah Gist this morning:

Dear Friends of Education,

We want to hear your voice as we begin to develop Rhode Island's new strategic plan for public education!

Our new plan will be for, from, and about all Rhode Islanders, and we will build this plan through a statewide conversation. The first step of this conversation is underway: we are asking all Rhode Islanders to share with us their views on education through a short, anonymous survey that will take no more than five minutes to complete. In the first two weeks, we have received a tremendous response of more than 4,000 participants - but we have another six weeks to go and want to hear from as many Rhode Islanders as possible!

I am seeking your help to ensure that your voice is part of this conversation. You can see the overall results in real time on our web site at www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey-Results.

I would be very grateful if you would please take the survey and share this link with everyone in your networks: www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey

Here is a link to the Spanish-language version of the survey: www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan-Survey-ES

A brief summary of the entire design process for the strategic plan is posted on RIDE's website at www.ride.ri.gov/Strategic-Plan

We have embarked on an ambitious project, and, with your help and participation, I know that we can develop a dynamic and ambitious strategic plan that will improve the lives of our students and their families for years to come.

Best,

Deborah A. Gist
Commissioner

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, RIDE, education

Portsmouth reps oppose National Grid rate hike

Two of Portsmouth's state representatives — Dennis Canario (D-71) and Jay Edwards (D-70) announced their intention to press the RI Public Utilities Commission to reject a proposal by National Grid to hike electricity rates by nearly 24% next year. In a joint statement this afternoon, the two reps expressed concern for the effect of the increase on both homeowners and commercial customers.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any concern on the part of National Grid as to what a horrendous impact this proposed rate increase will have on Rhode Islanders, both residential and business,” said Rep. Canario. “Rhode Islanders who are already struggling to make ends meet will be facing what is expected to be an additional $240 or more for electric next year. Businesses that are struggling just to stay open will also face significantly higher costs. This is just too much at the wrong time.”

Rep. Edwards agreed. “As our state works to improve its economic status, this enormous rate hike is going to be a major impediment to growth in the business sector and is going to put further financial pressure on families across the state that are trying to hang on. I understand the dynamics of this increase — commodity prices rise at this time of year, there is insufficient pipeline availability to bring enough gas to our region. People expect to see utility prices rise, but the size of this proposed increase is well beyond reasonable.”

National Grid filed its request for a 23.6 percent rate hike with the PUC earlier this week, saying the commodity price spike it is seeing is due, in part, to lack of capacity in pipelines bringing natural gas to New England. When there is insufficient capacity to move more natural gas to the region, the price to use the pipes gets higher.

Reps Canario and Edwards said they understand the pressure on National Grid to maintain service to their customers in the face of rising commodity prices. But with the colder months rapidly approaching, consumers are already expecting to see higher utility bills as they try to keep their homes warm. A hike of this size, they said, is excessive.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA, NationalGrid

Broadway "Side Show" offers poignant, powerful revival [update]

14nov16_side_show.pngBack in 1997, the musical Side Show, based on the life of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, ran for just 91 performances on Broadway, but received four Tony nominations and created a devoted following. Now Side Show is back, in a dazzlingly theatrical reboot at the St. James Theatre, directed by Academy Award winner Bill Condon and featuring a rewritten book and new songs by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger.

The Hilton twins occupied a weird cultural niche in the 1930s — abandoned as infants in the UK, they were exploited as a curiosity, brought to the US by their manager, toured in vaudeville as a musical act, and eventually appeared in Tod Browning's infamous film Freaks. The revived Side Show offers a deft, compelling biography of Violet and Daisy's challenges that illuminates fundamental human issues of acceptance, othering, and the fraught duality of attachment and escape.

Every moment of show — the majority of which is sung — is packed with bravura performances from an excellent ensemble cast, and intense, vivid theatrics. Krieger (Dreamgirls) displays a gift for haunting motifs, and paired with Russell's clever, twisty lyrics, provides a richly complex score that bears repeated listening. A new cast album is in the works for early in 2015.

The opening number, "Come Look at the Freaks," is a marvel of prosthetics and makeup as we meet the members of the sisters' traveling show: Dog Boy, Three-Legged Man, Human Pin Cushion, Bearded Lady, two Cossack little people, a Lizard Man, the Cannibal King, and "Sir," the sisters' owner and manager. A recent Wall Street Journal photo essay captures the amazing special effects, which were stunningly effective even from the front row.

Erin Davie as Violet and Emily Padgett as Daisy offer utterly riveting performances. It is difficult to imagine anyone pulling off such a span of complex, synchronized movements, but they make it look effortless. Davie is tragically compelling as the introverted Violet, complemented by Padgett's brash Daisy. Together — and they are almost always joined at the hip, aside from a few startlingly effective frame breaks — the pair offer a heartbreaking character study. The 11-o'clock number, "I Will Never Leave You," is a beautiful ballad that was featured on the 1998 Tony broadcast. Their end of Act I duet, "Who Will Love Me As I Am," is an aching lament that will reduce you to tears, even in recollection. You have been warned.

Ryan Silverman as Terry Connor and Matthew Hydzik as Buddy Foster are wonderful as the would-be impresario and song-and-dance man who coax the sisters to move to vaudeville. Their complex relationships — Terry with Daisy and Buddy with Violet — provide much of the energy and tension. Silverman's darkly introspective internal fantasy "Private Conversation," and Buddy's over-the-top vaudeville number "One Plus One Equals Three" could not be more different, yet both perfectly capture the inner lives of this duo caught in the orbit of the sisters.

Another fine thematic doubling is offered by David St. Louis as Jake, the freak show African "Cannibal King" who makes himself the sisters' protector and Robert Joy as the heartless "Sir" who literally owns them. Jake's soulful warning about leaving the show, "The Devil You Know," comes as the sisters struggle to free themselves from Sir's protectorship. Joy's creepy, malevolent Sir contrasts beautifully with St. Louis's nuanced performance as stalwart ally and friend. "I wasn't always the king," he notes in a moment of mordant humor. "I had to eat my way to the top." His confrontation with Sir in the court battle to free the sisters is a rich, dramatic moment.

The courtroom, like the rest of the show, is executed within David Rockwell's spare, elegant set, comprising mobile structural pieces augmented with bold, clever banners. The lighting, by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer combines unobtrusive effectiveness with bravura effects (the "Private Conversation" sequence is a real standout.)

Without having seen the original production, it's difficult to quantify how much Bill Condon's direction and additional book material shaped the show, but the result is nothing short of magical. Right from the opening number, the audience is immersed in a richly imagined, thoroughly compelling vision, executed to the highest technical standards. Whether it's the terrifying shadow doctors in a childhood flashback, the appearance (and disappearance) of Harry Houdini, the romping vaudevillian numbers, or the eerie final sequence with Tod Browning, Condon surprises, delights, and chills the audience. And the book and music are just a continual delight. Krieger and Russell have tweaked the original material and composed several new numbers that are wonderful additions.

Side Show is not really about "freaks," unless it's about the way in which all of us experience the isolation of being alive in a world of difference. It is ultimately, and beautifully, about the things that connect us to each other as people — literally embodied as blood vessels and tissue for the sisters — and the continual challenge of growth and autonomy.

This is a dazzling, high-impact revival of a wonderfully, deeply human show, and an absolutely engrossing theatrical experience. You will come away changed. Highly recommended.

Opens Monday, Nov 17 at the St. James Theatre. More informtion and tickets at SideShowBroadway.com.

Editorial note: Review based on the preview performance on Saturday, Nov. 15. I paid for my tickets and did not receive anything of value in exchange for this review, although I did get to meet Bill Russell afterward and gushed like a fanboy.

Update, 12/12: After weeks of less-than-stellar ticket sales, Deadline.com reported this morning that the show is set to close Jan 4, 2015. I feel bad for the whole creative team (the Times had a good piece on how the revival came together; Broadway.com had a cool video) and depressed by what this says about Broadway as an institution.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Theater reviews

Portsmouth school leadership to meet residents

The Portsmouth school district's new leadership team — superintendent Anna Riley and assistant superintendent Thomas Kenworthy — will be holding two "meet and greet" sessions to provide residents an opportunity to meet and talk informally, according to an e-mail sent to parents by the district.

Riley and Kenworthy will be at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, 2658 East Main Road, on Wednesday, November 12, from 10:00 – 11:00am and on Wednesday, November 19, from 4:00 – 5:30pm.

For more information, please call the district office at 401-683-1039.

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Schools, PSD

DEM catches bad dirt at Portsmouth landfill cap

On Monday, RI DEM released information on two recent issues with the ongoing capping project at the former Portsmouth landfill. An e-mail from RI DEM principal environmental scientist Mark Dennen included attached letters to Arthur Palmer Enterprise and their site manager which detailed two episodes where soil with greater than 7 parts per million of arsenic were identified, the remedial actions required, and in one case, the threat of fines. Here's what Dennen said in his cover e-mail:

As you may know, the Department routinely takes split samples of soils received at the former Portsmouth Town Dump to verify sample analyses done by generators.

The enclosed Notice of Intent to Enforce was issued today regarding soils from Newport that were sampled as part of a routine inspection. As explained in the Notice of Intent, our sampling found that arsenic levels were above both levels reported and criteria set forth in the BUD (40 mg/kg). As these levels are not acceptable, soils will have to be delineated and removed. The Department also reserved the right to take additional enforcement action.

Also enclosed is a letter regarding soils accepted from East Providence sampled relative to a complaint. Although arsenic levels are within allowable levels for the BUD, they were significantly higher than reported. These soils will have to be appropriately managed.

You can read the documents here:
590 Bellevue Avenue, Newport
Omega Pond Fish Ladder

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Landfill capping, landfill

Portsmouth Republican statistical misdirection

14oct30_ptimes_insert.jpg
Click to embiggen.

The Portsmouth Republicans have had a blaring yellow insert in our weekly Portsmouth Times for the past month, and while I've previously covered their gibberish, it didn't seem worthwhile to go after their cherry-picked statistics. But this week's installment featured such a shameless whopper that as a graduate of Edward Tufte's workshop, I feel obligated to point it out.

Here's their statement:

DID YOU KNOW...that voter turnout in Portsmouth increased from 54.4% in 2010 to 65.5% in 2012? Keep up the good work! See you at the polls.

Let's start with the less obvious problem. The Republicans appear to be doing their percentages against the entire Portsmouth population (17,343) rather than the eligible voter universe (12,327). That's the only way I can get their numbers to work, since in the the 2012 election, Portsmouth voters cast at least 9,182 votes for President, which works out to 74% turnout, rather than the 54% they computed, apparently using the census number.

But that's merely the little chocolate squiggle atop this confection of innumeracy.

Let's leave percentages aside for just a moment and look at the raw numbers. Here are the vote totals for the past five elections, using the Portsmouth Town Clerk (the race with the the single most local votes) and the "top of the ticket" contest to represent total Portsmouth turnout.

  Clerk Top of ticket
2012 6,733 9,182
2010 5,806 7,051
2008 7,096 9,740
2006 5,744 8,069
2004 7,918* 9,205
*contested race



Source: RI Board of Elections

Notice something about the numbers — kind of, like, a pattern? The numbers seem to fluctuate regularly. What could possibly be driving that? Oh, yeah, right, 2012, 2008, and 2004 were Presidential elections.

If you pick a local minimum (2010) and only use one other data point (2012) you can make the data say something quite dishonest, because comparing total votes across the range doesn't support the inference the Republicans want to make. As Tufte drilled into us, always ask, "Compared to what?"

And if you're willing to distort the data to support a relatively minor point like turnout, clearly, you cannot be trusted to play fair when there are issues of significance on the table.

Editorial note: I have Tufte's three books within arms' reach, and I'm not afraid to use them.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Elections

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