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Stamp out starving writers, buy their books!

We think you'll find something interesting here. There's lots to choose from. These posts just go on and on, backward through time. If you'd like to know whenever we post something new, you can get a feed from Critical Pages. If you type our address and add /feed/ at the end, that will do it. That's simply criticalpages.com/feed/ and you're on your way.

On January 18th Wikipedia blacked out its site to protest a couple of bills being debated in the House and Senate. The stated intent of the proposed legislation is to crack down on foreign internet piracy. Overseas pirates are stealing some of our intellectual property and selling back to us.  Critical Pages is against piracy. Everyone’s against piracy. Yes, even Wikipedia’s against piracy.  Unfortunately, the legislation currently in Congress is badly written and will inevitably damage free expression and free access to the Internet. The bills can be re-written to satisfy defenders of intellectual freedom and still crack down on foreigners stealing our stuff. By the way, the large media enterprises who advocate for these bills in their current form wildly overstate the financial loss associated with such piracy. There’s time to re-write and get it right.  For more information, the two bills are the Stop Online Piracy Act currently being debated in the House, and the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act in the Senate.  No need to take our word about these botched bills.  Wikipedia is online again and the rest of the Web is still here for you to go freely and gather your own information.  Let’s keep it that way.

December 25th, 2011

Tree covered with frostChristmas. These are ancient and sacred days. And now the sun has begun to lift slowly northward, the days have begun to lengthen, this is a season of hope.

Books Can Be a Real Turn On

Books & couple embraceIf you read Critical Pages you have an independent mind. We hope so, anyway. That’s why we suggest you go to your local, independently owned book store and buy a book. Independent book stores welcome independent readers. You’ll be appreciated. And — who knows? — you might meet somebody interesting in the book store. Somebody like yourself, a lively person with a wealth of pent-up affection and an unfulfilled desire to find just the right book. Books can be a real turn on.

Help stamp out starving writers!Yes, you can do it. Writers starve not because people don’t read — you’re reading this note, right? — but because not enough readers buy their books.  So as a Public Service we at Critical Pages urge you to visit your local, privately owned, independent bookstore and buy a book. They’ll love you, the publisher will love you and the author, getting his crummy 10 percent of the retail price, will love you, too.


We especially enjoyed the Twitter wit who reported that the United States Geological Survey rated the earthquake in Washington, DC,  as a magnitude 5.8, but Standard & Poor’s rating agency downgraded it to a 4.0.

Hacking Your Cell Phone

It doesn’t take much to hack a cell phone. The British tabloid News of the World hacked a lot of cell phones in Great Britain, and phone users in the US are equally vulnerable. Hacking cell phones often relies on nothing more sophisticated than the laziness of the phone user.

Cell phone circuit board
Cell Phone Circuit Board

Most of us, when we acquire a cell phone, say, or a router for our computer or even a combination lock for a strong box — most of us don’t bother to change the PIN for the phone or the alphanumeric password for the router or the combination for the lock. Generally, people accept the default settings that manufacturers put on the gadgets we buy. The snoops at the News of the World simply used the default setting for the victim’s cell phones, and that gained them entry to the phone’s voice mail.

Even when the phone user has chosen a unique alphanumeric pass code,  some phone carriers allow the user the option of turning off the requirement to enter the code. That used to be considered reasonably  safe, because the phone carrier would permit access to voice mail messages only to calls coming from the user’s phone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before hackers learned to “spoof”— in other words, learned to make it appear that the request came from the user’s phone.  The moral to this story is a familiar one: make up a good pass code and use it.

About the fake Latin used here

A reader who happened upon this site asked why we had gone to the trouble to compose items in fake Latin. Actually, we didn’t go to much trouble. The “Latin” you see here is a selection from a well known text that was fabricated so that  printers composing pages could work on the layout of a page without having a readable text to distract the eye.  When the words in front of you don’t make sense you can focus on the way the whole page looks — whether it’s too crowded or too loose, whether the heading is too large for the body of the text, and so forth. The “Latin” is sometimes referred to as the Lorem Ipsum from the first words of the bogus text. You can search for Lorem Ipsum online. It’s there.


You’ve stumbled onto the Critical Pages website. It’s taken us a while to set up this site, despite the assurances of our technically minded friends that this would be a cinch. We know something about writing but not so much about html code and nothing at all when it comes to manipulating the code through a machine that uses a relational database whose files look like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  (We thought a relational database was what they used to match people who were hoping to find a significant other.)

The fellow pictured here with the open book is Saint Augustine. Augustine is generally portrayed with a book, perhaps because of the mystical words that inspired his conversion to Christianity, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Or maybe because of his influential written works. This is the earliest known image of Augustine, a 6th century mural from the Lateran in Rome. In reading his autobiography,The Confessions of Saint Augustine, you may find him a not altogether loveable guy, but certainly one of the most original and influential philosophers. His speculations on time and memory could have been written today.  We chose this picture simply because we like the phrase “Take up and read.”  Of course there’s that other phrase, a prayer, that Augustine himself spoke:  “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo).  Maybe we should be careful what we pray for.

More Notes

The World Happiness Report, released by the United Nations, ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. This year, Finland is first, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland, followed by Netherlands, Canada,New Zealand, Sweden, Australia. The United States, which has never been in the top ten, silpped down four places from last year and is now 18th. President Trump may make American Great Again, but apparently not happier.