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November 2005

There seems to be a big demand for a website that could, based upon your telling it what music you like, recommend music you haven't heard but would like a lot. I spent a little time with a couple of the sites that first attempted this and found them unhelpful.

But Pandora, created by the Music Genome Project, seems like it might work reasonably well. The Duke student newspaper provides a concise overview.

Blackberry held hostage?

If they were remaking The Graduate today, instead of the guy whispering "Plastics" to Ben, he would probably be whispering "Intellectual property law". Read Fortune's summary of this difficult but important issue:

Should plaintiffs like NTP—which does not market a competing product, never has, and never will—be entitled to an automatic injunction shutting down a productive infringer such as RIM?

Then there's Google's plan to digitize a whole lot of books. Copyright violation? Google replies, "fair use". New York magazine states "the law of fair use is mind-bendingly complex" and quotes Larry Lessig, "There are parts of it that I don’t understand, and I’ve been studying it for years.”

A ringing defense of Wal-Mart in the Washington Post!

Sebastian Mallaby, in the Washington Post(!), vigorously defends Wal-Mart:

There's a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked -- shocked! -- by the giant retailer's machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs! But isn't that what every company does in the face of medical inflation? Wal-Mart has a war room to defend its image! Well, yeah, it's up against a hostile campaign featuring billboards, newspaper ads and a critical documentary movie. Wal-Mart aims to enrich shareholders and put rivals out of business! Hello? What business doesn't do that?

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

Read the whole thing.

My older daughter is applying to graduate schools. And she reports this fine passage from the Univ. of Chicago application:

Due to circumstances beyond our control, some race and ethnicity questions on this application are redundant. Most of this information is used to provide ad hoc reports on applicant diversity to government agencies. We apologize for the incovenience.

Also entertaining is the language on UCLA's bluebooks that asks students to affirm that they haven't committed "academic dishonesty" but that continues

"There are alternatives to academic dishonesty," it suggests, and counsels that the student see a professor or dean "to discuss other choices."