Saturday, April 30
Friday, April 22
The NYSE pulled a fast one this week, which got all of us at work all hot and bothered. It was, if I can be corny for a minute, kind of exciting. We got to play STOP THE PRESSES. Our beat reporter responded like a champ. I expunged the dangling modifiers, brainstormed the hed, and the whole thing went out to the world in near real time. Fun.
42% said they believe that blogging has forced mainstream media to do a better job of reporting. And 62% of those polled believe that bloggers should not be held to the same standards of accuracy and ethics as journalists.It's this last bit that I found intriguing. I get that there is plenty of debate about whether traditional journalistic ethics should apply to bloggers. But I thought that accuracy was fundamental to blogging. After all, if bloggers don't strive to be accurate or aren't upfront about what they don't know, don't they lose credibility? And isn't credibility what people's reputations are based on online? Just a question.
The Army has cleared four top officers ? including the three-star general who commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq ? of all allegations of wrongdoing in connection with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and will not be punished, officials said Friday.
Parse the syntax of that sentence carefully and you discover an interesting, if unintended, implication: The Army will not be punished for clearing four top officers of wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse matter.
Probably true. See what happens when you bypass the copy desk, or hire the cheapest, most junior people you can get? The text develops a rebellious Oulipean unconscious.
Thursday, April 21
The decoding of the Oxyrhynchus papyrii: What a story! In a former life, I was a student in Prof. Joseph Duggan's paleography ('old writing') graduate seminar and got a chance to see the famous papryi stored at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. I do other things now, but the idea of ancient texts written out by bored students of" the classics" on scrap papyrus later used to mummify crocodiles for a cut-rate Alexandrian funeral--it still tickles me mightily. Lost works of Sophocles deciphered at last! These days, I mostly decipher press releases and 10-K filings, but hey, deciphering is deciphering. The romance of it is irresistible.
Latest technical triumph: I got Fedora Core 2 running on a cheap old reconditioned desktop I had lying around, with the KDE. I feel like a little kid. This is so damn cool!
Tuesday, April 19
AP: Pay to Replay
The Associated Press will begin charging newspapers and broadcasters to post its stories, photos and other content online, a pricing shift that reflects the growing power of the Internet to lure audiences and advertisers from more established media. Tom Curley, AP president and CEO, announced the change Monday at the annual meeting of the 156-year-old news cooperative. Most of the 15,000 news outlets that buy AP's news, sports, business and entertainment coverage have been allowed to "re-purpose" the same material online at no extra cost since 1995. At that time, graphical Web browsers were just beginning to transform the Internet from an esoteric computer network to a mass medium.
Saturday, April 16
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) continues to deny registration to many slogans, rhyming word combinations, double entendres, incongruous word combinations and alliterative expressions on descriptiveness grounds. In many instances, such rejections are unwarranted. However, the USPTO Examining Attorneys will not advise applicants of the ways in which such refusals of registration may be overcome. The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedures (TMEP), the guide used by Trademark Examining Attorneys at the USPTO, has several sections that deal directly with registration of word combinations. TMEP �� 1202.03(f)(i), 1202.04 and 1213.05(b) - (e). Those TMEP provisions can be confusing, but they often provide the basis for removing slogans, rhyming words, double entendres and alliterative word combinations from the "descriptive" category of very weak marks and placing them into the "suggestive" group of stronger ones. Marks that create an incongruity, such as URBAN SAFARI, are also considered unitary and distinctive, requiring no disclaimer of descriptive elements. TMEP �1213(d). Marks that form rhyming patterns, use alliteration or otherwise create a distinctive auditory impression may also escape disclaimer requirements. TMEP �1213.05(e). Again, the LIGHT N? LIVELY mark is one example of such unitary marks, as are POLY PITCHER, SOFT SMOKE, BETTER BAKED, BETTER THAN BACON, and YOU CAN?T BAG A BETTER BEAN. See e.g., In re Kraft, supra; Philip Morris Inc. v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 207 USPQ 451, 455 (TTAB 1980) (SOFT SMOKE is suggestive, not descriptive) and Blisscraft of Hollywood v. United Plastics Co., 131 USPQ 55, 60-61 (2nd Cir. 1961) (POLY PITCHER is a suggestive mark, not descriptive). However, not every word combination that presents an interesting linguistic twist is capable of trademark protection. Slogans or words used as mere ornamentation on products such as t-shirts and cups are denied registration. For example, in In re Original Red Plate Co., 223 USPQ 836 (TTAB 1984) the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found that "YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY" used on ceramic plates did not serve a trademark function. Similarly expressions such as SUMO on t-shirts and DAMN I?M GOOD on bracelets have been found to be merely decorative and not used as marks. Likewise, expressions that are merely informative will not meet the test of constituting trademarks. Therefore, an effort to register DRIVE SAFELY failed In re Volvo Cars of North America Inc., 46 USPQ2d 1455 (TTAB 1998)], as did one to register THINK GREEN [In re Manco Inc., 24 USPQ2d 1938, 1942 (TTAB 1992)]. So long as the distinctive word combination presented for registration is neither merely informative nor used in a decorative or ornamental manner, there is a good chance of overcoming a "descriptiveness" refusal of registration. Moving a mark, or its components, from the realm of descriptiveness to the stronger position of being considered suggestive or even arbitrary provides better registration rights that can be used more effectively in court when the mark needs to be protected against infringement.
Fascinating, isn't it? I can't trademark "An Editor's Blog" but I might be able to trademark "The Slothropian Sentinel & Hasty Cogitator."
Friday, April 15
Tech news from Reuters:
Qatar plans to start using robots as riders in popular camel races after international criticism of the use of child jockeys, the Gulf Arab state's official QNA news agency reported on Wednesday. It said the robot, developed by an unnamed Swiss company, had been tested successfully and that the energy-rich country was considering setting up a factory to build them. Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani, the official in charge of the project, referred to United Nations concern over child jockeys and said Qatar was determined to save camel racing, which is popular among Arabs of Bedouin origin.
That's, er, amazing. They could just use small adults, the way we do. But no, I like the robot solution better.
Tuesday, April 12
A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention. For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors. Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi. Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake. Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney's office agreeing that the cases should be 'adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.
Hey, I have video (Windows Media) of the night of the convention myself that will show that you were lost and looking for a Wendy's, not plotting the kind of anarchist rampages that appeared in scary headlines in the Post and News.
Sunday, April 10
Faced with the concerted opposition of 1,400 residents and merchants who signed our petition asking them to reconsider their plans for a three-lane drive-thru and a big, glowing, suburban-style sign, Commerce Bank has unveiled a vastly improved redesign for the building they plan to erect at Fifth Avenue and First Street. The new building will take a much more traditional form, featuring red brick and large windows, and will maintain the street wall. It will incorporate a small parking lot sited behind the building, with an entrance on First Street and exit on Fifth Avenue, and will have parking for bicycles and a drinking fountain for thirsty dogs.
Nice going, neighbors. Now if we could just take the stand on Section 8 housing we took on doggie drinking fountains!
Sony patent takes first step towards real-life Matrix (New Scientist News):
IMAGINE movies and computer games in which you get to smell, taste and perhaps even feel things. That's the tantalising prospect raised by a patent on a device for transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain -- granted to none other than the entertainment giant Sony.
The technique suggested in the patent is entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain, creating 'sensory experiences' ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. This could give blind or deaf people the chance to see or hear, the patent claims.
Didn't the Professor in Futurama already invent the Smelloscope and discover the Garbage Nebula or something?
And let's not omit the expected homage to John Waters' Odorama:
These geniuses should sue Sony for infringement.
Saturday, April 9
... it's wearying listening to pretty much the same people saying pretty much the same things: Blogs are great. They're changing media. They're taking the corporate media to account. They're self-regulating. There's no barrier to entry. Yes. We know. Tuesday night's event was billed as a "Reuters Newsmaker Debate" -- moderator Paul Holmes used the term several times -- but nothing was debated. Even the designated oldsters on the panel were bloggers, and the only disagreement was to what degree participants share Jeff Jarvis' conviction that blogs are a total, complete, unmitigated, unprecedented good, capable not just of transforming media but also of forging Mideast peace, providing a clean and renewable source of energy, removing ring-around-the-collar, and cleanly slicing a tomato even after sawing through an aluminum can. That's not to say that all the agreement is wrong. It's to say all the agreement is moot. "Debating" whether blogs belong in the journalism is debating whether the genie should have left the bottle: Whether you like it or not -- and most do like it -- it's done. And it's time to stop discussing it at panel after panel. There can be real debate, and interesting panels, if instead they look at how this new news environment can function as a business.
Amen to that. I'm getting so sick of what is essentially a series of infomercials, a hucksterism campaign by interested parties. Hey, I'm a blogger, but I no longer identify with anyone putting themselves forward as a representative of the phenomenon. A real blogger does their thing whether anyone is reading it or not, just because they get a kick out of it. I like to wander around, find excellent little blogs about gardening or dogs or the tour schedules of heavy metal bands or the hot action at the church softball league--Father McDuffy's inside the park dinger!--and offer friendly congratulations on a job well done. That's the kind of stuff the newspaper can't afford to put a full-time person on.
Another amen to Eric Boehlert of Salon with 'Citizen journalist'? Try partisan hacks, on how the Noise Machine tried to reproduce its Rathergate 'success with the memo describing how to make political hay out of the Schiavo case':
Led into battle by Power Line, which posted over a dozen conspiratorial-sounding posts about the memo, bloggers seized on its misspellings as proof of deception and, relying on echo chamber tips from GOP staffers on the Hill, became more and more sure in their pursuit. "Is This the Biggest Hoax Since the Sixty Minutes Story?" a March 21 Power Line headline asked. Then, on March 30, came "Talking Points Story Goes Up in Smoke." (Time magazine honored Power Line as Blog of the Year in 2004 for its role in the CBS scandal.) But then, late on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the author of the memo had stepped forward: An aide to Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida admitted he had written it. Now the facts are clear: The memo is real, and it was written by the Republican side and distributed by the Republican side, making it a GOP talking-points memo. Nonetheless, dealt a weak hand in the Schiavo case, bloggers all went in on a bluff. And now they refuse to pay up. In fact, they're actually congratulating themselves for helping "get to the bottom" of the story. But the meltdown has exposed their often mindless naivet�. Writing in Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard, Power Line's John Hinderaker insisted the memo just didn't add up, that it couldn't have been written by a Republican because it was just so ... inappropriate: "These political observations are not 'talking points' at all. These are comments on political strategy which would be out of place in argument on the Senate floor, or in a media interview." That's a basis on which to launch a conspiracy theory? And here's Power Line as it hatched the nonstory: The memo "does not sound like something written by a conservative; it sounds like a liberal fantasy of how conservatives talk. What conservative would write that the case of a woman condemned to death by starvation is 'a great political issue'? Maybe such a person exists, but I doubt it." On Wednesday, the right-wing Washington Times demonstrated its unique brand of naivet� when it further hyped the episode by reporting that it had contacted all the Republicans in the Senate and none had admitted they were behind the talking-points memo. (Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, insisted the memo was "an invention of the press.") Does the Times really think that partisan, and as it turns out erroneous, denials qualify as news?
I'm sure we'll soon be reading about Salon's "politics of personal destruction." These people have a limited arsenal of tropes, kind of like used car salesmen, and they're not that good at thinking up new ones.
This alte-kocker could really write. I'm going on a Bellow binge in honor of his passing.
Friday, April 8
This, captured with a cameraphone, is the clock-watching, prissy, snotty, incompetent emergency room registration clerk who lost my paperwork so that I had to wait six hours last night to have a foreign object removed from my oozing, suppurating ear. I still can't hear out of it today. There's a circle in Dante's hell for people like this, with a long line of suffering people waiting forever to get in. I just sat there watching this woman talk to her boyfriend on the phone, stare vacantly at her screen, take a break after processing each blue sheet of paper to gossip with her co-workers, take long breaks, suck the ends of her hair like a vacant high-school bimbo from a cheap B movie about high school hell ...
In Brazil--a third-world hellhole, as we all know--this would not have happened, judging from my one experience with an excellent little hospital in S�o Paulo. Maybe it's because they're basically oriented down there to battlefield medical practice, to the national philosophy of the jeitinho--getting shit done, cutting through the BS. Don't have electrical power? There's a guy next door who can "yank a cat" for you: Hook you into the grid for free.
All I needed was the greenest intern in the joint to find the right pincers to get in there and pluck the damn thing out. Man, did it hurt.
I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it any more.
UK Internet users are failing to wise up to online scams and viruses in part because of the prevalent use of incomprehensible geeky jargon, such as 'phishing' and 'Trojans', to describe the threat. A Populus survey of over 1000 UK adults for the Internet Service Provider found that jargon terms such as 'phishing', 'rogue dialler', 'Trojan' and 'spyware' are a mystery to most Web users, despite being commonly used in connection to serious online security threats. The study finds that 84% of home Internet users do not understand the term 'phishing', while 61% could not define 'Trojan'. One in ten people thought spyware was technology used to keep an eye on unfaithful partners. More than a fifth of respondents do not know how to tackle online risks Will Smith, AOL's safety and security expert, says: "Some of the terms being bandied around are more suitable for a computer programmers convention than for people who want to go online at home. If Internet users can't understand the language used to describe these risks, they are going to find it hard to protect themselves from being ripped off." He says it is hardly surprising that people are becoming increasingly confused when it comes to Internet jargon, with new terms being introduced all the time. In the last few weeks, 'pharming' and 'keylogging' have entered the parlance, the latter hitting the headlines in reports about the attempted multi-million pound robbery from a large Japanese bank. The research was commissioned in support of the launch of an AOL Safety & Security Centre, which features plain English definitions of jargon terms and advice for users on guarding against threats.
Bully for AOL! Someone over there deserves a big fat promotion. The U.S. government's Plain language initiative is pretty much of a joke. You see a bit of lip service paid to it at the big consultancies now and again, but there's no enforcement power attached to it, so no one, as the old bumper stick has it, really feels the need to "eschew obfuscation."
I myself got paid a huge amount of money last year to rewrite an IT audit report in a way that removed the implication that the client--I can only say that it's a company that has been in the news for problems with information security that I myself do personal business with--would be in any way at fault when the ill-conceived system inevitably failed. I simply took all my researches into the vices of Engish prose and produced a Rumsfeldian formulation, using the language of epistemological skepticism, to describe the problem as one of not being able to be sure that problems were not being created--without implying that the occurence of failures was necessarily probable, in the sense that term is used in modal logic, using this
flawed technically compliant but not optimal method.
There are some things that we don't know that we don't know.
The job got me kudos and earned me enough for an impromptu trip to Brazil, where I spent a week in a chic pousada in Paraty and a four-star hotel on Copacabana.
Should I feel guilty, using my powers for evil and profiting therefrom? Ah, well: What is truth?
Tuesday, April 5
Neuza Loves the Boogeyman
Monday, April 4
Bed of Roses
Guns for Terrorists (New York Times ):
The Government Accountability Office examined F.B.I. and state background checks for gun sales during a five-month period last year. It found 44 checks in which the prospective buyer turned up on a government terrorist watch list. A few of these prospective buyers were denied guns for other disqualifying factors, like a felony conviction or illegal immigration status. But 35 of the 44 people on the watch lists were able to buy guns. The encouraging news is that the G.A.O. report may be prodding Washington to act. The F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller III, has announced that he is forming a study group to review gun sales to terror suspects.
Thank goodness: The FBI is forming a study group. Maybe in six months or a year the group will order a formal investigation of a year or two, followed by a blue-ribbon commission to review the findings and issue recommendations.
It reminds of this story I read somewhere about the government setting up a panel to reengineer the process of sorting and routing mail in a certain department. They started with an 8-step process, deliberated and wrangled for a year, and ended up with a 16-step process. And this:
After the G.A.O. report came out, Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.'s executive vice president, took to the airwaves to reiterate his group's commitment to ensuring that every citizen has access to guns, and to cast doubt on the reliability of terrorist watch lists.
GunBroker.com has more than 600 AK-47 listings. New in grease!
Saturday, April 2
By convincing more users to store more documents on their Gmail accounts, Google is boosting the chances they'll return there to search for items in the future. If they do, Google has the ability to place contextually relevant ads alongside, creating new landscape that it can populate in part with paid advertising. To do that, Google needs a massive amount of storage. This week, Google said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it would boost its investment in storage and servers to around US$500 million, a 50-percent jump from last year. While Google's technology has long been seen as its biggest advantage, analysts say Google has also created one of the most impressive networks of wired-together computers, one that gives it enormous flexibility to roll out new products and services.
Hey, I'm sold!