Confederates in the Attic

All this Civil War activity reminds me of a wonderful book I read several years ago entitled, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. It's a collection of true stories about modern-day Southerners and the current state of the Civil War. One bit that still stands out in my mind is the examination of a "southern" town that prides itself on its Confederate heritage, somehow forgetting that it was actually on the Union side during the War.

The Civil War

Over the weekend PBS re-broadcast the entire The Civil War series by Ken Burns and of course, we’ve got it on TiVo now and are making our way through each episode. I’d only caught bits and pieces of this masterpiece over the years and knew it was good. But it’s simply amazing, especially when the episodes are watched in order, back-to-back. I thought I knew a lot about the Civil War but I wasn’t familiar with Union General George McClellan and his continued refusal to engage the enemy and requests for reinforcements when he already outnumbered the Confederates by tens of thousands of men.

Watching this documentary now, as America pushes towards a war with Iraq, raises many important questions in my mind. What does it really mean to fight for freedom? And what causes are so great that we commit men (and now women and civilians) to the inevitable destruction and slaughter of war? I won’t pretend to have easy answers to those questions.

Some astonishing Civil War facts:

  • "Two percent of the population — more than 620,000 — died in it."
  • "At Cold Harbor, Va., 7,000 Americans fell in 20 minutes."
  • "During the Battle of Antietam, 12,401 Union men were killed, missing or wounded; double the casualties of D-Day, 82 years later. With a total of 23,000 casualties on both sides, it was the bloodiest single day of the Civil War."

Software doesn’t steal, people steal

Maybe my ire is up from the Gillmor article, but I can't help but respond to this sentiment I came across on Ev's site today. In regards to Kazaa Evan writes, "the software is designed to steal things." That logic just smacks of Hollywood's alarmist language and approach to technology.

Kazaa isn't designed to steal things. It doesn't go into your house and take your DVD player. It doesn't connect to an online bank and funnel funds to an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands. Kazaa connects two computers and allows people to transfer files between them. An FTP client does nearly the same thing. If Kazaa is transfering files that people have illegally placed online, the fault does not lie with Kazaa (or Napster, or LimeWire). It lies with the individuals who placed property online without appropriate permission. And it lies with individuals who download files without ascertaining whether they have the right to do so. It is possible for P2P software to be used in a legitimate fashion, for example if a muscian wants to put all her music online, or a video artist wishes to share his work with a wider audience.

Is Blogger designed to steal because people can publish copyrighted (not their copyright) material to the Web? No, of course not. An individual makes the decision to respect copyright laws. Blaming software leads down the slippery slope to controls on technology, controls that limit our digital rights and legitimate uses of software and hardware. Let's not give in to the scare-mongering language used by the Jack Valentis of the world.

Now, Kazaa redirecting affiliate links? That's just plain obnoxious, and a lot closer to stealing than anything else to date.

Silly English Language Ideas

I've always thought there should be two versions of "so" in English, like with "to." We've got our to to indicate direction (e.g. "I'll send all my loving to you") and our too to indicate some kind of extra or excess (e.g. "Those Prada heels are too expensive.") So why not so and soo? That way something could be "soo choice" and you could be "soo sorry" while still getting a nice segue with "So, what are you doing?" And imagine the possiblities here: "I'm feeling so-so" and, when you're really feeling so-so, "I'm feeling soo-soo." Of course, we need to still pronounce the second "soo" as "so" and not "sue" or none of this makes sense. Actually, upon further consideration, there might be no way this makes sense. Except perhaps to me. You might even say it makes soo much sense to me.

Happiest when busy

In theory I think it's nice not to be busy, but I find my mood is best when I am. I find tremendous satisfaction in having a lot to do in a little time and finding the perfect schedule that will accomodate all tasks. When I'm in this mode, I get more done in a day then I'd normally get done in a month. Crossing things off the to-do list, especially the complicated items that require multiple phone calls and lots of online research, raises my spirits and makes me feel capable of anything. I almost feel like a machine — I'm up-to-speed and humming along, churning through any task that presents itself.

Mail Theives

Lately a lot of our mail has gone missing. Netflix DVDs never arrive. Credit card statements mysteriously miss a cycle. And now worst of all, a book sent as a gift failed to arrive on our doorstep. Am I paranoid in thinking that someone is stealing our mail? I fear it may be the case, though I'm not sure why it would be happening all of the sudden, or where the point of stealing may be. From the mailbox? From within our apartment building (there has been a bit of tenant turnover recently)? From the truck itself? Or is there simply a new mail person who is terrible at getting mail on time to the correct address?