Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

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"Five things we’ve learned making a series on community-led mental health projects around the world"

An interesting collection of tidbits from this past year. has been in my RSS feed and normally isn't something I've found much to repost or share, but two of the five segments they highlight in this piece were particularly interesting to me.

  1. Guatemalan parents have an enviable childcare situation

When photographer James Rodrigues filed his shots of the Indigenous women's circles project in Guatemala, we were interested to spot lots of women who were carrying on their backs babies that weren't their own. It seems that parenting in Guatemala is different to the UK – it's shared out more equally among the community. It chimed with a new University of Cambridge study of the Indigenous Mbendjele BaYaka in the Republic of Congo, which had caught my eye. The researchers found that in this community, more than half of a baby's cries are attended to by the mother's support network rather than her.

The "it takes a village" approach is so foreign in today's world. I would love to live and work in a way which allowed for this and for me to aid in raising and childcare for friends and family.

  1. Once again, Nordic countries lead the way

What is it about the Nordic countries and their ability to top virtually every ranking of human development, from public healthcare to education and happiness? Even those experiencing psychosis, one of the most feared symptoms of mental illness, fare better in Finland. Just 15% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are employed in the UK. In Finland, 86% of patients with severe mental health conditions return to work and education. How? Back in the 1980s when Finland had one of Europe's highest rates of psychosis, psychiatrists developed a model of care that transformed the outcomes of those in crisis. Now the UK is trialling it, with a five-year study of the 'open dialogue' approach at NHS mental health clinics in Dorset, Kent and London. The results are due in April 2024, and the psychiatrists we spoke to believe they could revolutionise treatment of mental illness in Britain, and beyond.

Not much to add here, very interesting to hear and I'll be eagerly awaiting the results in April if this shows promise.

12/20/2023 8:50 am | | Tags: happiness, world news

Story about the Steer who got into the New Jersey Subway

12/20/2023 9:01 am | | Tags: new york, new jersey, animal rights, public transit

The Engorgement of the American Vehicle

This is a very good piece on Slate discussing the history of trucks, sales, and designs over the year. Here's an excerpt from the intro:

In 1977, SUVs and trucks together represented 23 percent of American new car sales; today they comprise more than 80 percent. Meanwhile, the models themselves keep getting larger. These four-wheeled behemoths started as niche vehicles, meant to allow certain groups of people to accomplish specific tasks. Today they have become a fixture of everyday American life. They are also linked to myriad societal ills, from crash deaths to climate change to social inequality. Bigger cars make each of those problems harder to solve.

The story of car bloat—the continually expanding size of the typical American automobile—is one of carmaker profit, shifting consumer preferences, and loophole-riddled auto regulations. It is also a story of hidden costs: to the planet, to taxpayers, and to the American families whose lives have been shattered by a crash that could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, with a smaller vehicle.

But this story is far from over, and its ending far from certain. The auto industry plans to keep foisting ever-larger vehicles on the American public. The question is whether it will be allowed to.

While the following is undoubtedly true, it's also casting too fair a light on car companies. Serving consumer need is a chicken/egg problem, and often people discover wants or tastes after having something offered to them.

The responsibility for car bloat cannot be placed entirely on automakers. Some car buyers clearly prefer larger, heavier models, which can provide more space as well as a perceived edge over other, smaller cars on the road. Bailo thinks that customer preferences have been the dominant factor behind vehicle expansion. "People are larger now than they used to be, and they have more stuff they want to haul around," she told me. "Automakers are fundamentally giving people what they want."

The author continues:

What deserves the most blame? Disentangling the influence of automaker choices, consumer preferences, and federal policy on car bloat is a daunting task for even the most meticulous of researchers. But if nothing else, one thing is clear: The "engorgement of the American vehicle," as University of Iowa law professor Greg Shill has called it, has been a defining trend of the automotive market over the last 40 years. We are only starting to reckon with its consequences.

The article goes on to discuss the various ways the larger trucks are problematic, from the most obvious threat of collisions, to the impact on visibility for the driver, to pollution, etc. Overall a great piece, and hopefully the tide of articles and coverage of truck sizes will drive some sort of change and regulation around it.

There was also a great piece on Axios about trucks, "How pickup trucks became so imposing." It featured two graphics which really struck me and stuck with me:

Comparing truck sizes from fifty years ago and today

The evolution of the truck's shape, bed length, and cab size

12/20/2023 9:30 am | | Tags: cars, car issues, road safety

Small Glowbug Updates

I've been making some small updates to Glowbug (the engine under this blog.) Nothing major, but a few small things recently.

First, I made it so the system can automatically give image uploads a random name without me having to do anything before uploading. This also works for the system where I have it able to download images from the Internet for local hosting.

Second thing, which I did today, was that I modified the Markdown parsing to apply the caption text for images. Not only as the accessibility 'alt' text for images, but also so that the text will appear when images are moused over.

12/20/2023 9:59 am | | Tags: programming, glowbug, blog

Duke School of Law Review of 2024 Public Domain Entries

Undoubtedly the most notable entry for 2024 is Steamboat Willy. However there are other interesting ones, including another Agatha Christie novel, The Mystery of the Blue Train, and lots of Blues music.

Here's an excerpt from another post on the Duke site about Steamboat Willy and Mickey and copyright:

On January 1, 2024, after almost a century of copyright protection, Mickey Mouse, or at least a version of Mickey Mouse, will enter the public domain. The first movies in which the iconic mouse appeared – Steamboat Willie and the silent version of Plane Crazy – were made in 1928 and works from that year go into the public domain in the United States on New Year's Day 2024.

The public domain has had some famous recent arrivals, but this is the most anticipated entry yet. Why? It is not simply that Mickey is a famous copyrighted character. So are Sherlock Holmes and Winnie the Pooh, and while they entered the public domain with some fanfare, it paled in comparison to this event. I'd like to offer a tentative answer. The reason that this event gathers so much attention is that it is the story of a 95-year-old love triangle, a tangled drama that rivals any Disney movie for twists and turns. The protagonists are Mickey, Disney and the Public Domain, and their relationship positively exemplifies the social media weasel-words "it's complicated."

On the one hand, Disney pushed for the law that extended the copyright term to 95 years, which became referred to derisively as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act." This extension has been criticized by scholars as being economically regressive and having a devastating effect on our ability to digitize, archive, and gain access to our cultural heritage. It locked up not just famous works, but a vast swath of our culture, including material that is commercially unavailable. Even though calling it the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" may overstate Disney's actual role in the legislative process – the measure passed because of a much broader lobbying effort – Disney was certainly a prominent supporter, and the Mouse was sometimes a figurehead.

On the other hand, Disney itself is a talented and successful practitioner of building upon the public domain. In fact, the public domain is Disney's bread and butter. Frozen was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. The Lion King draws from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Biblical stories, and possibly an epic poem about the founder of the Mali Empire. Fantasia's "The Sorcerer's Apprentic " comes from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and in other segments the Fantasia film showcases public domain classical music.Alice in Wonderland, Snow White,The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Pinocchio came from stories by Lewis Carroll, The Brothers Grimm, Victor Hugo, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and Carlo Collodi.

The public domain includes not only works over which copyright has expired or never existed, but also uncopyrightable aspects of contemporary works—such as ideas, stock elements, and unoriginal material. The Mickey character itself is based on such public domain fodder. His personality and antics drew from silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. Walt Disney told The American Magazine: "I think we were rather indebted to Charlie Chaplin …We wanted something appealing and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have something of the wistfulness of Chaplin…a little fellow trying to do the best he could." Ub Iwerks, who animated most of Steamboat Willie, wrote that Douglas Fairbanks "was the super-hero of his day, always winning, gallant and swashbuckling. Mickey's action was in that vein…I thought of him in that respect, and I had him do naturally the sort of thing Doug Fairbanks would do." Titles are also not copyrightable, and the name "Steamboat Willie" was a nod to the title of Buster Keaton's film from earlier the same year, Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Hence the triangle. Disney is both an emblem of term extension and its erosion of the public domain, and one of the strongest use-cases in favor of the maintenance of a rich public domain. Mickey is the symbol of both tendencies. Ironies abound. It may not be exactly the same as an oil company relying on solar power to run its rigs, but it is definitely in the same "massive irony" zip code. All of this makes the year when copyright finally expires over Mickey Mouse highly symbolic. The love triangle between Mickey, Disney, and the public domain is about to evolve, and perhaps even resolve, in real time.

But what does public domain status actually mean for the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey? There is a vast amount of misinformation about these issues online. In what follows, I will try to offer a straightforward explainer. What can and can't you do with the Mickey Mouse character as of January 1, 2024? How will Disney be affected? Does Disney still hold copyrights over later versions of Mickey? Does trademark law play a role? Keep reading for details.

12/20/2023 12:33 pm | | Tags: blues music, public domain, disney, copyright

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip's Best Segment

Katie and I watched the series, and while it has numerous problems, we still enjoy it. However, without a doubt, and by a wide margin - this clip from their Christmas episode is the best.

It features artists from New Orleans being brought in to perform on the show (and in real life.)

12/20/2023 12:41 pm | | Tags: christmas, television

What happens now that Colorado barred Trump from their ballot?

In the wake of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that bars Donald Trump from the ballot in the state's primary and general elections, The Conversation U.S. asked Mark A. Graber, regents professor of law at the University of Maryland Carey Law School, what this all means – for Trump, for regular Americans and for the 2024 election.

The key questions are about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That provision bars people from holding federal and state offices if they have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and then violated that oath by participating in an insurrection.

The write-up outlines the potential outcomes:

  1. Trump chooses not to appeal, he doesn't need Colorado's electoral college votes
  2. Trump appeals to the Supreme Court, but they refuse to hear it
  3. Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and they rule on it, which could go in a few ways. Actually, it's easier to just quote the article:

The simple option is that the Supreme Court could rule that yes, Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Then he can't be on the ballot anywhere.

The second option is the Supreme Court says he's not disqualified. But the court could hand down two different kinds of rulings saying that.

It could reverse the Colorado Supreme Court's decision on substance, finding that Trump did not engage in insurrection as insurrection is understood by the 14th Amendment. That would mean no further proceedings are permissible – no state can challenge it, and Congress can't challenge it.

Or the Supreme Court could reverse it on a technicality – maybe Trump is disqualified, but the 14th Amendment's Section 3 doesn't apply to a primary election, or Congress should weigh in, or one or another detail that could mean another lawsuit down the line might be successful.

There's a third major option if you look at the way the framers understood how the 14th Amendment would operate. The record of their debates shows that they believed it would first be implemented in the states.

Part of the history is people in the 19th century thought differently than we do. Not simply that they came to different conclusions, but they understood the structure of the government quite differently.

Today, we hear people say many laws and standards can't be established at the state level, that they need to be uniform across the country. But back then, people were less fearful of diversity. So they were willing to let states vary more. If uniformity was needed, or if Congress did not approve of what the states were doing, Congress could pass more general legislation.

So the court could say, "Colorado has disqualified Trump. That's OK for Colorado. Other states, you get to do what you think best. And Congress, if you don't like the mish-mosh, pass a law standardizing it." I think that's the least likely outcome, but it may be the one most consistent with the history.

I fully expect Trump to appeal, his ego won't allow him to leave it. So the question is about the Supreme Court. We'll see.

12/20/2023 8:06 pm | | Tags: republicans, donald trump, us politics

Automated Archives for December, 20th 2023

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Chess For the Day

Record: 1-0-0
Net Elo Change: +6

Games Played

Blog Posts On This Day

12/20/2023 11:45 pm | | Tags: automated, chess
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