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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

Blue Jeans Cable Strikes Back - Response to Monster Cable — Reviews and News from Audioholics
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:13 am EDT, Jul 18, 2008

As for your requests for information, or for action, directed to me: I would remind you that it is you, not I, who are making claims; and it is you, not I, who must substantiate those claims. You have not done so.

I have seen Monster Cable take untenable IP positions in various different scenarios in the past, and am generally familiar with what seems to be Monster Cable's modus operandi in these matters. I therefore think that it is important that, before closing, I make you aware of a few points.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1985, I spent nineteen years in litigation practice, with a focus upon federal litigation involving large damages and complex issues. My first seven years were spent primarily on the defense side, where I developed an intense frustration with insurance carriers who would settle meritless claims for nuisance value when the better long-term view would have been to fight against vexatious litigation as a matter of principle. In plaintiffs' practice, likewise, I was always a strong advocate of standing upon principle and taking cases all the way to judgment, even when substantial offers of settlement were on the table. I am "uncompromising" in the most literal sense of the word. If Monster Cable proceeds with litigation against me I will pursue the same merits-driven approach; I do not compromise with bullies and I would rather spend fifty thousand dollars on defense than give you a dollar of unmerited settlement funds. As for signing a licensing agreement for intellectual property which I have not infringed: that will not happen, under any circumstances, whether it makes economic sense or not.

I say this because my observation has been that Monster Cable typically operates in a hit-and-run fashion. Your client threatens litigation, expecting the victim to panic and plead for mercy; and what follows is a quickie negotiation session that ends with payment and a licensing agreement. Your client then uses this collection of licensing agreements to convince others under similar threat to accede to its demands. Let me be clear about this: there are only two ways for you to get anything out of me. You will either need to (1) convince me that I have infringed, or (2) obtain a final judgment to that effect from a court of competent jurisdiction. It may be that my inability to see the pragmatic value of settling frivolous claims is a deep character flaw, and I am sure a few of the insurance carriers for whom I have done work have seen it that way; but it is how I have done business for the last quarter-century and you are not going to change my mind. If you sue me, the case will go to judgment, and I will hold the court's attention upon the merits of your claims--or, to speak more precisely, the absence of merit from your claims--from start to finish. Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.

Blue Jeans Cable Strikes Back - Response to Monster Cable — Reviews and News from Audioholics

Metaphor Crash: The difference between a developer and a programmer.
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:45 am EDT, Jul  3, 2008

I had just spent most of my waking hours for an entire year learning about a single subject: Satellite Communications. I was absolutely certain I was ready to jump into the job and perform it perfectly from day one. Imagine my shock upon arriving at my first duty station (Fort Belvoir, Virginia Earth Terminal Complex) when the NCO in charge told me "Forget everything they taught you at that school. We don't really do things that way." The amazing part was that he was telling the truth.

In many ways, that is the way of software development. In college you learn the theory, the science, the techniques, and then you land your first programming job as a Software Engineer. You walk in expecting to be producing world-class applications in a few days, but if you are lucky enough to be assigned to work with a senior developer, you quickly learn that most of what you learned is good information, but not the way things are really done. The real learning starts when the classes end.

This was an interesting insight, because it speaks to an education difference between real science and computer science (or computer engineering, or whatever the better term for it is). In my undergraduate chemistry program, every class started with

"remember when you learned about $SUBJECT in $COURSELEVEL-1? that's not quite right"

and the next couple of weeks would be devoted to diving into the subject matter in greater detail with more complicated equations. At the end, we would take our new subject knowledge to re-derive the earlier coursework's equations, to show where the easier approximations came from and why they're not really wrong. This pattern continues all the way through graduate school, where eventually you get to the point where you are now at the limits of the known and the burden rests with you to demonstrate that what is know is not quite right but why the approximation has generally been good enough.

Contrast that with programming, where you learn that with a good enough specification you can implement almost anything on a compressed deadline... without learning about having to live with your code for the next two years, or about producing that specification, or about specs as targets that move faster and easier than deadlines.

Metaphor Crash: The difference between a developer and a programmer.

No Babies? - Declining Population in Europe -
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:10 pm EDT, Jun 30, 2008

To many, “lowest low” is hard evidence of imminent disaster of unprecedented proportions. “The ability to plan the decision to have a child is of course a big success for society, and for women in particular,” Letizia Mencarini, a professor of demography at the University of Turin, told me. “But if you would read the documents of demographers 20 years ago, you would see that nobody foresaw that the fertility rate would go so low. In the 1960s, the overall fertility rate in Italy was around two children per couple. Now it is about 1.3, and for some towns in Italy it is less than 1. This is considered pathological.”

There is no shortage of popular explanations to account for the drop in fertility. In Athens, it’s common to blame the city’s infamous air pollution; several years ago a radio commercial promoted air-conditioners as a way to bring back Greek lust and Greek babies. More broadly and significant, social conservatives tie the low birthrate to secularism. After arguing for decades that the West had divorced itself from God and church and embraced a self-interested and ultimately self-destructive lifestyle, abetted above all by modern birth control, they feel statistically vindicated. “Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future,” Pope Benedict proclaimed in 2006. “Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present.”

No Babies? - Declining Population in Europe -

How to nap -
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:10 pm EDT, Jun 26, 2008

nap theory

How to nap -

Steamboats Are Ruining Everything: How Is the Internet Changing Literary Style?
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:11 pm EDT, Jun 25, 2008

The internet is inhospitable to that kind of quietness. If your browser were to happen on such a page, your eyes would likely go blank with impatience. Who is this guy? Why aren't there any links? And, more damningly, Is anyone else reading this? A text on the internet rarely takes for granted your decision to read it or to continue reading it. There is often, instead, a jazzy, hectoring tone. At home my boyfriend and I use a certain physical gesture as shorthand to describe it. To make it, extend your index fingers and your thumbs so that your hands resemble toy pistols. Then waggle them before you, like a dude in a cheesy Western, while you wink, dip your knees, and lopsidedly drawl, "Heyyy." The internet is always saying, "Heyyy." It is always welcoming you to the party; it is always patting you on the back to congratulate you for showing up. It says, You know me, in a collusive tone of voice, and Wanna hear something funny? and Didja see who else is here? This tone is not absent from print; in fact, no page of New York magazine is without it. Certain decorative effects in language may be compatible with it, but it seems to be toxic to imagination.

Steamboats Are Ruining Everything: How Is the Internet Changing Literary Style? - Company News
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:51 pm EDT, Jun 25, 2008

Companies fail all the time. Sometimes with little warning. But companies that are highly profitable and only weeks removed from a record-setting venture capital investment? Not so much. Yet in Geosign's case, the cuts that began last May continued through the summer. Late last year, fewer than 100 employees remained. Today, Geosign itself no longer exists, its still-functioning website an empty reminder of its former promise. And while the national business media has, until now, overlooked the story - surprising, given the size of the investment and the fact that Google played a direct role in the outcome - within Canada's technology and venture-capital communities, the $160-million investment is known as the deal "that didn't go well." When the collapse happened, even jaded industry watchers accustomed to financial debacles in the tech sector were stunned. "I've seen a lot of meltdowns," says Duncan Stewart, a technology and investment analyst in Toronto. "But something happening like this, over just a few weeks, that's unprecedented in my experience."

The same question occurs to everyone: How did a business making $100 million a year, a company so full of promise, disintegrate so quickly? With Geosign, it turns out, there's more to the tale than anyone directly involved has so far been willing to say. And much of it revolves not around its plans for a content powerhouse, but the story of how the Guelph startup found a loophole in Google's vaunted advertising model, enabling it to make boatloads of cash - until Google decided enough was enough. - Company News

Op-Ed Contributor - Yes, We Will Have No Bananas - Op-Ed -
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:58 pm EDT, Jun 20, 2008

That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas.

Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined, which is especially amazing when you consider that not so long ago, bananas were virtually unknown here.

Op-Ed Contributor - Yes, We Will Have No Bananas - Op-Ed -

For the Phinney Family, a Dream and a Challenge - New York Times
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:01 pm EDT, Jun 20, 2008

Championship DNA courses through Taylor Phinney’s 6-foot-4 frame.

His father remains the leader in race victories by an American, with more than 300. He was the first American to win a road stage of the Tour de France. At the 1984 Olympics, he won a bronze medal in the team time trial.

Taylor’s mother was 14 when she finished seventh in the 1,500-meter speedskating event at the 1972 Olympics. At the University of California, she became a national champion in rowing. She won the gold medal in the debut of Olympic women’s road cycling in 1984, 10 months after marrying Phinney

It is a pretty remarkable story -- about "perfect" genetics (this was written days before Taylor, son of two Olympians, broke records to qualify the country and himself for these Olympics) and how imperfect those genetics can be (his father is ravaged by early onset Parkinsons).

If you have healthy parents, would you trade them for Legendary Healthy parents with a chance of early decay, and a chance to be a world-class athlete?

For the Phinney Family, a Dream and a Challenge - New York Times

Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon | The three survivors |
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:53 pm EDT, Jun 19, 2008

Even as hundreds of other dotcoms fell by the wayside at the turn of the century, these three made it through the great internet crisis and have since prospered, to varying degrees and at different times. Their fates have reflected the evolution of the web as a whole, and now suggest its future direction. null

Funny little cartoon at the top.

Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon | The three survivors |

Swim or Dive Program - The Georgia Aquarium
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:56 pm EDT, Jun 16, 2008

"Swim or Dive" in the Georgia Aquarium. If I find a reason to visit Atlanta, this will be near the top on my list.

Swim or Dive Program - The Georgia Aquarium

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