Monday, July 06, 2015

From the Greece into the fire

Defiant Greeks reject EU demands as Syriza readies IOU currency, et cetera.


Guambat reckons the EU should not react in haste. Better to call a referendum amongst the EU citizenry in, say, a week's time, seeking a vote whether to bail out Greece.  In the meantime, do nothing.



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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dino-plasty?

Guambat is sure somewhere there must be someone, maybe on one of those planets they've been discovering that "could" support life -- as we know it, complete with shopping malls, who finds the following article more useful than a snout on a chicken.

Tweaking the beak: Retracing the bird’s beak to its dinosaur origins, in the laboratory
Scientists have successfully replicated the molecular processes that led from dinosaur snouts to the first bird beaks.

Using the fossil record as a guide, a research team led by Yale paleontologist and developmental biologist Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar and Harvard developmental biologist Arhat Abzhanov conducted the first successful reversion of a bird’s skull features. The scientists replicated ancestral molecular development to transform chicken embryos in a laboratory into specimens with a snout and palate configuration similar to that of small dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.

“The beak is a crucial part of the avian feeding apparatus, and is the component of the avian skeleton that has perhaps diversified most extensively and most radically — consider flamingos, parrots, hawks, pelicans, and hummingbirds, among others,” Bhullar explained. “Yet little work has been done on what exactly a beak is, anatomically, and how it got that way either evolutionarily or developmentally.”

The team looked at gene expression in the embryos of emus, alligators, lizards, and turtles. The researchers discovered that both major living lineages of birds (the common neognaths and the rarer paleognaths) differ from the major lineages of non-bird reptiles (crocodiles, turtles, and lizards) and from mammals in having a unique, median gene expression zone of two different facial development genes early in embryonic development. This median gene expression had previously only been observed in chickens.

Using small-molecule inhibitors to eliminate the activity of the proteins produced by the bird-specific, median signaling zone in chicken embryos, the researchers were able to induce the ancestral molecular activity and the ancestral anatomy. Not only did the beak structure revert, but the process also caused the palatine bone on the roof of the mouth to go back to its ancestral state. “This was unexpected and demonstrates the way in which a single, simple developmental mechanism can have wide-ranging and unexpected effects,” Bhullar said.

Bhullar noted that this same approach could be used to investigate the underlying developmental mechanisms of a host of great evolutionary transformations. “Our goal here was to understand the molecular underpinnings of an important evolutionary transition, not to create a ‘dino-chicken’ simply for the sake of it,” said Bhullar, lead author of the study, published online May 12 in the journal Evolution.
Guambat reckons there's a new reality show in the works.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Droning on about Guam

If you pay close enough attention to the video below, you just might spot Guambat's burrow.

But he hopes you don't.



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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chiseling on a road

There are a couple of ways to chisel your way to building a road.

Sydney, and much of urban Australia, paid through the nose for toll roads to make the daily grind of commuters more convenient, as Guambat has noted on more than one occasion.

My how that effort is just so unspeakably mercenary compared to the work of one man, Dashrath Manjhi.

Manjhi started off his extraordinary task in 1960, after his wife was injured while trekking up the side of one of the rocky footpaths leading from his remote village in India to take food to him where he was gathering wood. To reach the nearest hospital, he had to travel around the mountains, some 70 kilometers.

His quest to break a path through a small mountain to benefit the entire village is now legendary because he carved an entire road with hand tools, working for 22 years.

He sold the family’s three goats to buy the hammer and chisels and worked every day on the project to make it a successful. After plowing fields for others in the morning, he would work on his road all evening and throughout the night.

Armed with only a sledge hammer, chisel, and crowbar, he single-handedly began carving a road through the 300-foot mountain that isolated his village from the nearest town.

With sides 25 feet high, the road is 30 feet wide and 360 feet in length. Because of his singular dedication, the distance to public services was reduced from 70km to just one.



Read and see more of this remarkable man who selflessly chiseled a road and broke a mountain to provide a lasting benefit to his community here.

And read more of the remarkable men and women who selfishly chiseled their way to a road and broke a lot of  people to provide questionable benefits to their community here.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Telephone 911-1984

Guambat's Log 21032015

George Orville published his book 1984 in 1949. His science fiction of a Big Brother with eyes and ears everywhere in the year 1984, 35 years later, was pure hyperbole. He missed it by a generation, a close call in galactic terms. By that time, his dystopian vision was replaced by a utopian one. This whole timeframe was witnessed by Guambat, including the Aquarian utopia of his coming of age years.

Perhaps this accounts in some small measure for the manic depression Guambat harbours in his burrow.

For Orville's 1984 to work, it needed a backbone, a skeletal technology to hang its ears and eyes on. Guambat has seen that one grow from the jelly dish of made science, too. Today, he plays with its toys. He has his own CCTV eyes and his own broadband handheld soundboard to the world. Through his own eyes and ears, the whole world can watch him, hear him. His every word and thought are traceable right back to his keyboard and search engine.
It didn't take much. Although field phones had been a significant feature in WWII, they predated that. The Happy Chappy's pictured pictured here with that phone booth to his head made the first hand-held phone call in 1973, two years before Microsoft was born.

The internet wasn't even a glimmer in ISIS' eyes when Orville's 1984 arrived. Al Gore invented that one in 1991, which no doubt had something to do with the analog hand-held phones becoming digitalized in the 1990's, adding data transmissions just before September 11 in 2001. Now it's broadband capable, and has been since before Guambat's grands were born. The Iridium satellite phone launched in 1998 didn't prevail as a satellite phone service for high costs alone; it was too compact, and therefore vulnerable, a web, and the successful webs of this era are the ones that promise autonomy bordering on but not reaching anonymity amongst ubiquitous dispersion, though their true strength and talent lies in their omniscient cloud presence.

So, what was that utopian vision that displaced Orville's 1984? Read the links below for the full stories.

Meet the man whose utopian vision for the Internet conquered, and then warped, Silicon Valley by Jacob Silverman
Twenty years ago, the period equivalent of “net neutrality” was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Even as Silicon Valley began to capture the country’s imagination, the tech elite were souring on their government. They accommodated it where they thought they needed to — telecom firms, for instance, enabled surveillance by acquiescing to records requests from the intelligence agencies — and they received tokens such as start-up tax breaks and STEM investments in return. But eventually the predominant attitude was alienation: The Internet was theirs, not Big Brother’s. Meanwhile, they routinely compare their corporations to city-states or call for the secession of the San Francisco Bay Area.

To understand where this cyber-libertarian ideology came from, you have to understand the influence of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” one of the strangest artifacts of the ’90s, and its singular author, John Perry Barlow. Perhaps more than any other, it’s his philosophy — which melded countercultural utopianism, a rancher’s skepticism toward government and a futurist’s faith in the virtual world — that shaped the industry.

The problem is, we’ve reaped what he sowed.

“A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” was an utterly serious document for a deliriously optimistic era that Wired, on one of its many valedictory covers, promised was a “long boom”: “25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world.” Techno-skeptics need not apply. Barlow’s 846-word text, published online in February 1996, begins with a bold rebuke of traditional sovereign powers: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” He then explains how cyberspace is a place of ultimate freedom, where conventional laws don’t apply. At the end, he exhorts the Internet to “be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.”

It wasn’t the first viral document, but it was one of the period’s most pervasive and influential, appearing on thousands of Web sites within months of its publication. More than that, the language and sensibility suffused Silicon Valley thinking. When Eric Schmidt describes the Internet, however misguidedly, as “the world’s largest ungoverned space” in his book “The New Digital Age,” he is borrowing Barlow’s rhetoric. When tech mogul Peter Thiel writes, in “The Education of a Libertarian,” that he founded PayPal to create a currency free from government control and that “by starting a new Internet business, an entrepreneur may create a new world,” it’s impossible not to hear Barlovian echoes. [Bitcoin? Sure, that little bit, too.]

All this was an unlikely achievement for a man who personified what the British theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron called “the Californian Ideology.” Barlow wrote songs for the Grateful Dead, tended to his parents’ Wyoming ranch in the waning days of family farms and eventually helped co-found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy organization. The trajectory of his life is embodied in the title of Fred Turner’s excellent history of the era, “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” about how hippie communitarianism found its way into early Web communities like The WELL, a popular message board.

To Barbrook and Cameron, the Californian Ideology reflected a “new faith” emerging “from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley.” It mixed “the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies” and drew on the state’s history of countercultural rebellion, its role as a crucible of the New Left, the global-village prophecies of media theorist Marshall McLuhan and “a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies.” Adherents of the California Ideology — many of them survivors of the “Me” decade, weaned on sci-fi novels, self-help and New Age spiritualism — forsook the civil actions of an earlier generation. They thought freedom would be found not in the streets but in an “electronic agora,” an open digital marketplace where individuality would be allowed its fullest expression, away from the encumbrances of government and even of the physical world.

Part of this belief system’s appeal was its ability to combine a host of sometimes incompatible ideas: radical individualism and digital community; neoliberal, free-market capitalism and an Internet industry pioneered by government grants; spiritual truth-seeking and corporate conformity. For hackers turned systems engineers or graffiti artists turned graphic designers, it held great appeal. It promised that they had value and might make the world a better place. Joining Microsoft or AOL didn’t mean selling out; it just meant recalibrating one’s sense of how utopia might be achieved.

Barlow’s writings were tailor-made for this period of techie euphoria, which seemed to herald a revolution not only in communications and commerce, but also in social relations and culture. Barlow, with his ranching background, saw the Internet as a vast, borderless electronic frontier. Whereas the hippie generation explored Eastern religions and hallucinogenic drugs as pathways to enlightenment or psychic renewal, Barlow’s generation seized on the consciousness-expanding potential of the Web.

Yet there was something quixotic about “A Declaration.” Barlow was articulating noble principles (free speech; egalitarianism; freedom from discrimination, bias and oppression), but his desire for “independence” from the world of flesh and bureaucracy was naive. From its earliest incarnation as ARPANET, the Internet owed its existence to the U.S. government. It was always an infrastructure project with a physical presence in the world — wires, routers, servers, data centers and computers to interface with them. It may have helped bits cross borders, but that didn’t mean that borders or laws no longer mattered. With today’s debates over mass surveillance, it’s clear that governments exercise a great deal of power online.

The text itself has aged poorly, too. Its dateline — Barlow published the document from the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland — shows that Internet pioneers were far more wrapped up in the traditional power structure than they might acknowledge. (Barlow had worked on one of the congressional campaigns of Dick Cheney, a fellow Wyoming man.)

And it’s not just governments that have grown more powerful online. Companies have used the notion of an independent Internet to justify calling themselves its sovereign authorities. Using the vaguely humanitarian rhetoric of “connection,” they cast themselves as the handmaidens to our digital emancipation. But at the same time they have become even more adept at bulk data collection than the government. Meanwhile, they are the ones that decide how to manage our communications and which reforms are instituted. Even a populist measure like net neutrality was shepherded to passage by some of the industry’s biggest players.
Privacy Isn't All We're Losing, a Declaration by Peggy Noonan
The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.

The purpose of the surveillance is enhanced security, a necessary goal to say the least. The price is a now formal and agreed-upon acceptance of the end of the last vestiges of Americans' sense of individual distance and privacy from the government. The price too is a knowledge, based on human experience and held by all but fools and children, that the gleanings of the surveillance state will eventually be used by the mischievous, the malicious and the ignorant in ways the creators of the system did not intend.

For all we know that's already happened. But of course we don't know: It's secret. Only the intelligence officials know, and they say everything's A-OK.

If—again, if—what Mr. Snowden says is substantially true, the surveillance state will in time encourage an air of subtle oppression, and encourage too a sense of paranoia that may in time—not next week, but in time, as the years unfold—loosen and disrupt the ties the people of America feel to our country. "They spy on you here and will abuse the information they get from spying on you here. I don't like 'here.'" Trust in government, historically, ebbs and flows, and currently, because of the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, Benghazi, etc.—and the growing evidence that the executive agencies have been reduced to mere political tools—is at an ebb that may not be fully reversible anytime soon.

How did we get here? You know. In the days after 9/11 all the clamor was for safety. Improve intelligence, find the bad guys, heighten surveillance. The government went to work. It is important to remember that 9/11 coincided almost exactly with the Internet revolution. They happened at pretty much the same time.

In the past 10 years technology sped up, could do more and more—big data, metadata. Capabilities became massive, and menacing.

Our government is not totalitarian. Our leaders, even the worst of them, are not totalitarian. But our technology is totalitarian, or rather it is there and can be used and abused by those whose impulses tend, even unconsciously or unthinkingly, in that direction.

So what's needed? We must realize this is a crucial moment: We either go forward with these programs now or we stop, and think.

I feel that almost everyone who talks about America for a living—politicians and journalists and even historians—is missing a huge and essential story: that too many things are happening that are making a lot of Americans feel a new distance from, a frayed affiliation with, the country they have loved for half a century and more, the country they loved without every having to think about it, so natural was it.

This isn't the kind of thing that can be quantified in polls—it's barely the kind of thing people admit to themselves. But talk to older Americans—they feel they barely know this country anymore. In governance it's crucial to stay within parameters, it's important not to strain ties, push too far, be extreme. And if you think this does not carry implications for down the road, for our healthy continuance as a nation, you are mistaken. Love keeps great nations going.

Some of the reaction to the NSA story is said to be generational. The young are said not to fear losing privacy, because they never knew it. The middle-aged, who grew up in peace and have families, want safety first, whatever it takes, even excess. Lately for wisdom I've been looking to the old. Go to somebody who's 75 and ask, "So if it turns out the U.S. government is really spying on American citizens and tracking everything they do, is that OK with you?" They'll likely say no, that's not what we do in America.
Guambat appreciates the nod of the head to the oldies, being one himself. A little respect, as Aretha noted, goes a long way.

Now Guambat must respectfully acknowledge there are two sides to every story. As Fox claims to prove, reporting should be fair and balanced. In keeping with Fox' display of that notional ideal, Guambat would ask that you kindly consider the following. NSA Reform That Only ISIS Could Love Unfortunately, Mr. Murdoch's Wall Street Journal requires that you pay a toll on the internet highway to read that. Please to put a penny in the old man's hat.



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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Castle doctrine goes up in smoke

Guambat's burrow is his castle. Obviously then, not all castles are created equally.

But, for eons, we have flattered ourselves into believing that our homes are our castles, and from this the castle doctrine came into being, and you can defend it to the death of the invader. Or yourself. Whichever comes first.

In America, where we proudly roar, Don't Tread On Me, practically the whole world has become our castle, with the notion we have the right of a bull elephant to Stand My Ground.

So, it is fearfully reported here that the castle doctrine's foundations are being eroded. Indeed, there is already smoke in the basement.

Judge says man can't smoke in his own home due to neighbor's 2nd-hand smoke concerns
The Washington, D.C., home in which Edwin Gray lives has been owned by his family for 50 years.

But that doesn’t mean he can smoke there. Responding to a lawsuit by a new neighbor concerned about second-hand smoke, a D.C. Superior Court judge has issued a temporary order requiring Gray, and anyone else who might otherwise smoke at his home, to do so outside, reports WJLA.

“We were floored,” Gray’s sister, Mozella Johnson, told the station, adding: “If this judge has done this, who will be next? What other neighbor will be next?”

The plaintiffs who brought the private nuisance case against Gray are a couple with a young child and a baby on the way. They say they are concerned about the adverse health effects of the smoke that they believe is seeping into their home through holes in the shared basement wall.
Although the castle doctrine seems to uphold the right to smoke other folk who wander in through the portal uninvited, you can no longer smoke yourself, in your own castle.

Guambat doesn't smoke, except out of his ears, and his ears are smoking with the thought that strict liability is now being applied to someone strictly staying in their own home. The smoker here did not create the porous walls, nor intend to harm the neighbors, and shouldn't the neighbor have some obligation to defend his own castle by setting up some kind of moat against the smoke?

As Super Nanny says to the nanny who came up with this decision, "this is unasseptible".

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Roads to nowhere

Well we know where we're goin'
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what we're knowin'
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

[Chorus:]
We're on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin' that ride to nowhere
We'll take that ride


It's not every day that the esteemed Foreign Policy team delve deep into Guambat's alter-ego procurement world, but they've done it this month, twice:
Ghani, UNDP, and the NYT: Who Really ‘Overreached’ on Paying the Afghan Police? and

Steamrolled: A special investigation into the diplomacy of doing business abroad.
Guambat reckons the latter one, by Matthew Brunwasser, supported by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, is the juicier one. Here's a few teasers:
To be sure, promoting the business interests of American companies abroad is in the portfolio of every U.S. diplomat. Government officials argue that such efforts benefit the United States economically by creating exports and jobs. But the drive for private profit, critics assert, can conflict with foreign-policy interests, especially when projects cause damage in host countries.

The 48-mile, four-lane Kosovo Highway, as it is known, was completed in November 2013 for roughly $1.3 billion — or about $25 million per mile — according to official government figures given to an international organization in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. It was the most expensive public works project in Kosovo’s modern history, and it is arguably one of the highest-quality roads in the Balkans.

The road stretches through one of the poorest pockets of southeastern Europe. But today, the highway is practically empty, used at less than one-third of its capacity, according to the government’s, according to the government’s own traffic count and information provided by international economic experts. As of 2013, only one in seven Kosovars owned a car, giving the country one of the lowest automobile ownership rates in Europe. The highway’s black vein of asphalt now stands out against the Balkan countryside, as if mocking the surrounding poverty like a cruel Dickensian joke.

A six-month investigation by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism has found that highways in Kosovo, Croatia, Romania, and Albania were boondoggles for the countries in which they were constructed, and that members of governments and international institutions often saw problems coming before Bechtel (along with its Turkish joint venture partner, Enka) even began work on the roads.

U.S. Ambassador Dell is emblematic of a cited by Bechtel’s critics: that its Balkan road projects have blurred the line between U.S. foreign policy and the corporation’s interests. Dell spoke out publicly in support of the highway project, the contract for which was signed in April 2010 — even as international institutions questioned the road’s value to Kosovo. A May 2010 World Bank report, for instance, found that only two out of nine sections of the road (those nearest Pristina) would be “economically viable,” meaning that they could be expected to produce an economic benefit greater than the cost of construction and maintenance. (The findings were based on projections of Kosovo’s economic growth until the year 2032.)

Dell left Pristina in 2012 and took another diplomatic position elsewhere, before retiring from the State Department in October 2013. The following month, Bechtel hired him as its representative in Mozambique.

Founded in 1898, Bechtel is a private company, now in the hands of the fifth generation of the family for whom it is named. The company has long used highly placed officials in the State Department and other government agencies to shepherd international contracts; diplomatic knowledge, experience, and contacts have played vital roles in establishing the corporation as a major player in international construction. There is also a revolving door between Bechtel and the U.S. government, with some former diplomats joining the company and some former Bechtel executives and senior employees taking up public positions in the foreign service and elsewhere.

According to a Bechtel veteran, Balkan governments have chosen the company for projects because of its proven record of delivering quality products on tight deadlines. “The history of infrastructure in the Balkans is fraught with non-performance,” said Charles Redman, a senior vice-president at Bechtel from 1996 to 2008 and a retired career U.S. diplomat. (Among his senior posts, Redman was assistant secretary and State Department spokesman during the term of Secretary George Shultz, who himself was plucked from his position as president of Bechtel by Ronald Reagan. Bechtel’s onetime general counsel, Caspar Weinberger, also served alongside Shultz in Reagan’s cabinet, as secretary of defense.)

After Bechtel submitted its bid for the highway, according to interviews with officials from international institutions, Ambassador Dell put pressure on the Kosovo government not only to choose Bechtel but also to sign a contract with terms that were favorable to the corporation. Meanwhile, according to these sources, a broad coalition including the World Bank, the IMF, European embassies, NGOs, and think tanks opposed Bechtel’s bid — sometimes publicly, sometimes privately. They were concerned that the bidding process and negotiations lacked transparency, and that the proposed project was so lavish that it might damage Kosovo’s economic stability. Of particular concern was the bid’s unit-price contract, which meant the highway project’s final bill would be tallied only when all work had been completed. This left open the possibility that estimated costs could skyrocket.
Sorry, Guambat's attention span ends somewhere about here. Maybe, though, you should read the piece. Guambat's peace of mind is disturbed by such matters.


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Saturday, January 31, 2015

So, who are we to believe?

Who ya gonna believe: some dayem scientist or the Texas Board of Education? OK, that's a bit cheeky; opposition to science extends far beyond the halls of the Texas "school" system, as we see below (which bears passing similarity to the actual article).

Views on evolution among the public and scientists
Whereas nearly all scientists say that humans and other living things have evolved over time, only two thirds of the public agrees, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

Asked which comes closer to their view, "Humans and other living things have evolved over time" or "Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," 98% of scientists responding chose the "evolved-over-time" option and only 2% chose the "since the beginning-of-time" option.

65% of the public respondents chose the "since the beginning-of-time" option, and 31% chose the "evolved-over-time" option. 4% perhaps responded, "huh?". 66% of the public, however, believed scientists generally agree that humans evolved over time.

Digging deeper, those who chose the "evolved-over-time" option were then asked whether they preferred "Humans and other living things have evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection" or "A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today."

90% of scientists preferred the "natural processes" option, and 8% preferred the "supreme being" option.

35% of the public preferred the "natural processes" option, and 24% preferred the "supreme being" option, indicating, perhaps, 59% of the 31% of the public believing in "evolved-over-time" agreed with free choice processes.

Three-quarters (75%) of college graduates believe that humans have evolved over time, compared with 56% of those who ended their formal education with a high school diploma or less. As a religious refugee from Texas decades ago, Guambat is inclined to believe that the number of Texans "educated" by the Texas Board of Education who believe humans evolved is statistically insignificant.
Don't take Guambat's word, though. You can read the summary of the report here.

The summary makes the observation that 79% of adults say that science has made life easier for most people, but only a majority is positive about science’s impact on the quality of health care, food and the environment. 61% say that government investment is essential for scientific progress, while 34% say private investment is enough to ensure scientific progress is made. 

Guambat reckons this 34% correlates somehow with the fact only a majority is positive about science's impact on the quality of life. But Guambat, being no scientist by any stretch of evolution, lacks the tools to test the hypothesis, and is terrified of tests anyway.

As an aside: Texas finally approves history textbooks amid religious and political concerns

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Righting copyrights, in concept at least

Guambat has long lamented the abuse of copyrights, for instance these. At long last, something has caused this subject to rise to the U.S. Supreme Court's attention in a manner to clear the err. Whether a bit, or a start, remains to be seen.

The case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Intl, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014), can be read here, and an analysis of it here.

A more prosaic article on the situation is this one, which Guambat wishes you would read at the link, because he is an awful case reporter, and because these words are not entirely his own, nor are they reproduced in context (most of the article is left out); and, because you should never, ever take the word of a Guambat:

Business-method and software patents may go through the looking glass after Alice decision
As soon as the court handed down its decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank last June, lower courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began displaying a new, marked hostility toward software and business-method patents. They are now striking down these patents in record numbers and denying applications that would previously have been granted.

"But what may be more interesting is that business-method patents are going down in droves,” says Rochelle C. Dreyfuss, a law professor at New York University and co-director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy.

The court unanimously declared that in order to be deemed patent-eligible subject matter, an invention must pass a two-step inquiry: First, does the invention consist in significant part of a patent-ineligible concept—for example, a law of nature, natural phenomenon or abstract idea? If so, the invention is patent-eligible only if the remaining parts of the invention have an “inventive concept”—one or more elements that ensure a patent on the invention amounts in practice “to significantly more than a patent upon the ineligible concept itself.”

The invention at issue in Alice was a computerized method to perform electronic escrow for online transactions. The court found the patent on this invention claimed the abstract idea of escrow, which was patent-ineligible. The remainder of the invention, performing the escrow on a general purpose computer, was not sufficient to provide an inventive concept.

There still will be plenty of litigation about what constitutes patent-eligible subject matter. “The Supreme Court is trying to take a consistent view on what is patent-eligible subject matter, but the court’s ruling [in Alice] gives little guidance. District courts are left largely to figure this out on their own,” Hoglund says. “A lot more needs to be answered on how to draw the line between eligible and ineligible subject matter.”

All this is bad news for nonpracticing entities, aka “patent trolls.” They often seek to monetize software or business-method patents; and after Alice, many of these patents could well be struck down. “That gives them a lot less leverage to try to get settlements from defendants,” Corbett says.

One of the trolls’ main sources of power is the discrepancy between litigation and settlement costs.
This article appears in the American Bar Association's ABA Journal. Guambat finds it rather rich,then, that the "bad guys" focused upon in the article are "trolls" who "seek to monetize" patents in a bit of a shake-down act, with threats of litigation. What is the appropriate word for a troll's hired gun?



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rigs, rigging, rigged

RIGS





RIGGING






RIGGED


"I can’t speak for anybody else, but having spent those nearly thirty years immersed in equity, bond, and commodity markets all around the world, I have seen enough to absolutely confirm in my own mind that the markets are rigged.

"Not just some of them. All of them. In different ways, to be sure, but they’re all rigged.

"Not only are they rigged, but they are rigged in ways that beggar belief; and in many places they are rigged by the very people who ought to be responsible for STOPPING any rigging.

"So... as Brad Katsuyama said:

        “If you wanna do this, let’s do this.”

"How do I rig thee? Let me count the ways: [read the piece to find out]"
-- Grant Williams, What’s the Frequency Zenith? , in Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

You absolutely should click the link and read the whole piece.  It's very readable, and includes a great link at the end to a wonderful string recital, for something completely different and irrelevant.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Science (fiction?)

Novel Way Discovered to Decode and Read DNA: Scientists
According to a new report, scientists have discovered a new way to read and decode DNA. Scientists are suspecting this research could forever change the ways on how doctors uncover, diagnose and treat various diseases.

Researchers said the main aim of this research is to understand the process of storage of biological functions in the human genome.

The research, published in the journal Science, states how genomes use genetic code to write information about proteins and that too in two separate languages. Researchers believe that the second language lies below the first and instruct the cell to control the genes.

Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulosm, lead researcher, said: "For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made".

Researchers said this novel research has thrown light on the fact that the DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which has been fully exploited by nature.
Don't Be Duped By 'Duon' DNA Hype
I can only hope that Stamatoyannopoulos didn’t really say that. The authors report that changes in a single DNA sequence can influence both the protein it encodes and the place where other proteins bind to initiate copying. So evolutionarily, a single change could influence two endpoints–copying the sequence and what gets made using the same sequence. That’s cool, but not actually new.

With today’s headlines hyping “Second Code Uncovered Inside the DNA,” you might think that scientists are running around in circles in their labs, tearing out their hair, and screaming. But the real reaction of scientists to these headlines is more along the lines of this Twitter conversation among several scientific experts and science writers. They have good reason to be snarky.

The hype began with the way hype often begins: an institutional news release offering us the holy grail/huge breakthrough/game-changing finding of the day. This kind of exaggeration is the big reason any science consumer should look well beyond the news release in considering new findings. A news release is a marketing tool. You’re reading an advertisement when you read a news release; it’s also scientifically garbled and open to all kinds of misinterpretation, as the comments at the link to the release make clear.

Scientists have not assumed that the genetic code “was used exclusively to write information about proteins,” or even ever assumed that it “writes information about proteins,” whatever that means. A quick primer: Proteins are molecules that do the work of an organism, and that includes the work of copying DNA for protein production and cell division. Even nonmajors biology textbooks cover the fact that the DNA sequence both contains code for proteins and serves a regulatory purpose, making it possible to copy that code into a form the cell can read, recipe-like, to build the proper protein.

(edited in article) I’d be stunned if UW scientists were genuinely “stunned” to discover this dual use of DNA sequences to “write” “two separate languages” because what they really describe is the use of a single language, the language of nucleotides, for two known purposes. They themselves noted that “the potential for some coding exons to accommodate transcriptional enhancers or splicing signals has long been recognized.”

The release also contains gems such as “The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons.” This sentence makes me sad. Codons consist of three nucleotides–which we designate with the letters A, C, G, and T/U–and there are 64 of these triplets, 61 of which serve as molecular code words for 20 amino acids (here is a DNA nucleotide codon table, too; these are the codons the authors address). Some amino acids get more than one word to designate them. The cell “reads” these code words and uses the amino acids they designate to build proteins.

The other problem is the ubiquitous use of the phrase “second code” in so many of the headlines related to this story when the authors themselves state: “ Although nearly all codon biases parallel TF recognition preferences genome-wide…” with the arginine codon as an exception. That’s not a “second code,” even though the news release describes it that way. It’s a different (but already recognized) use of an existing code, now identified as occurring at a greater than previously recognized frequency in areas that use the same code for proteins.

So what was the real import of the study that warranted its publication in Science, a “glamor” science publication? The authors (whose paper I enjoyed) seem to have found that the genome contains more of these dual-use triplet DNA sequences than previously thought, which might make them more relevant when examining some aspects of evolution (see “Single change could influence two endpoints”). And, it seems, the authors wanted the opportunity to, um, codify their own term for these dual-use sequences: duons. I wonder if they realized that the name had already been taken?
Ah, science. Guambat wonders why Mrs Guambat spends so much time watching all the "Housewives of..." shows, when they hardly know the meaning of the term "bitchy". Academic "science" (so often commercial "innovation") could open a whole new realm of reality show in way it never imagined.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

We've always loved the ones we were with

He met a young girl who suited him nice
He went to his papa to ask his advice
His papa said, "Son, I have to say no
That girl is your sister but your mama don't know"

A week went by and the summer came down
And soon another girl on the island, he found
He went to his papa to name the day
His papa shook his head and this time he did say

"You can't marry this girl, I have to say no
That girl is your aunty but your granny don't know

He met a young girl who suited him nice
He went to his papa to ask his advice
His papa said, "Son, I have to say no
That girl is your sister but your mama don't know"

Now, he went to his mama and covered his head
He told his mama what his papa had said
His mama, she laughed, she said, "Go man, go
Your daddy ain't your daddy but your daddy don't know"

Hey, woe is me, shame and scandal in the family
Hey, woe is me, shame and scandal in the family


Ancient bones point to Native Americans' twin ancestry
In the "Out of Africa" theory, Homo sapiens left their ancestral home in east Africa around 50,000 years ago, heading north, west and south. Their East Asian descendants eventually crossed from Sibera to Alaska, island-hopping across the frozen Bering Strait, around 15,000 years ago.

Thus began human settlement of modern-day North America, according to this thinking.

But a new study suggests this human odyssey is rather more complex, and just as compelling. Against all expectations, DNA teased from the bones of a child who lived in Siberia 24,000 years ago shows that the forerunners of Native Americans can also be traced to western Eurasia, or on the western boundaries of Asia.

"The result came as a complete surprise to us," said Eske Willerslev, a professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics in Denmark, who led the probe. Who would have thought that present-day Native Americans, who we learned in school derive from East Asians, share recent evolutionary history with western Eurasians?"
Mystery humans spiced up ancients’ rampant sex lives
The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia.

“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” says Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London who was at the meeting but was not involved in the work.

All humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals; and certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, got about 4% of their DNA from interbreeding between their ancestors and Denisovans, who are named after the cave in Siberia’s Altai Mountains where they were discovered. The cave contains remains deposited there between 30,000 and 50,000 years ago.

The meeting was abuzz with conjecture about the identity of this potentially new population of humans. “We don’t have the faintest idea,” says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the work.
Perhaps you've had that date?

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Fully one-third of all Microsoft OS owners don't want to come within 3 degrees of current OS

According to this article, fully one-third of all Microsoft OS owners stick with their old trusted XP and won't come closer than three degrees of the current relationship, Windows 8, which is already pretty long in the byte for the dominant PC drug. Let's see, after XP there was, what, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8????

According to the article, Microsoft has unscrupulously scraped the barnacles off the good ship Lollisoft, with resistant effect:
Microsoft has beaten the dump-XP drum for more than two years. Last month, it did so again when a manager in its security group warned that the aged OS will become a prime target for cyber criminals once security updates end on April 8, 2014.

But those calls by Redmond have gone largely unheeded. According to the Irish firm, XP actually gained one-tenth of a percentage point last month.

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Sunday, August 04, 2013

And your friends, baby, they treat you like a guest

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies

Don't you want somebody to love
Don't you need somebody to love
Wouldn't you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love
-- Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane

In the West, we describe something as Machiavellian when it is full of intrigue. Machiavelli was as devious as Mr. Rogers compared to the masters of court of the Middle East.

The following must be read with that in mind, and at face value. And for entertainment, not prescient or insightful political science. More inciteful than insightful, perhaps. Time will tell.

I have taken the piece apart (and extracted) and rearranged it so as to put its own caveats upfront.

The ‘top secret’ Muslim Brotherhood
Proof of this is yet to come, I cannot predict in what form, but come, eventually, it will.

(P.S. – The above article, according to some reports, was is sarcasm. If you do not believe it was is, the author would like to sell the Pyramids to you – at a discount, seeing as it is Ramadan.)

Over the past few weeks, since the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi, there has been something of a sea change in the identification of political actors and public figures.

To begin with, the binary choice in public discourse was clear: pro-Mursi and anti-Mursi. Due to research completed by the most distinguished journalists in the Egyptian media, it appears that there is a separate, previously unheard of group. Now, it seems that there is a growing third option in the public arena: pro-Mursi, anti-Mursi and secretly pro-Muslim Brotherhood.

Their cover story is something we never quite imagined: liberalism. This “top secret" Muslim Brotherhood is an interesting outfit.

One of the members of this ultra-secret group is none other than the famous Google executive that was part of the uprising in 2011 that led to the resignation of then president Hosni Mubarak.

Amr Hamzawy, the founder of the ‘Free Egypt’ party, and prominent member of the National Salvation Front, is another one of these conniving individuals. His cover was blown when he insisted that the complete exclusion of the Brotherhood from Egyptian politics was unjustifiable. His audacity in promoting this idea, which ostensibly is in line with a rational, liberal, and legal approach, only proves his deftness in abusing liberalism to justify the continued existence of the Muslim Brotherhood. That, in itself, shows how truly loyal he is to the top-secret core of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It pains me to say this but Bassem Youssef, the noted political satirist who is highly popular in Egypt, is also a member of the secret-secret Muslim Brotherhood. No one could be left in any doubt, after he called for an independent investigation into the killings of unarmed pro-Mursi protesters at the Republican Guard sit-in.

Alas, my friends, we have one more person that has now been outed. Ladies and gentlemen: Vice President Mohammed el-Baradei is not only a member of this cell. He is, in reality, the true General Guide of the “secret-secret" Muslim Brotherhood.

Be forewarned, friends. Do not be fooled. All of these voices are not supporters of a genuinely pluralistic and progressive Egypt – they are its worst enemies.

With one exception, the author – as a Brit, is in fact an undercover imperialist spy.
Guambat wants very much to roar with laughter, so clever is this piece. But he's shivering too much to do so. Western humor is too slapstick, too Vaudevillian rather than Machiavellian, to appreciate -- or understand -- the seven veils of Middle Eastern humor. Guambat worries it is maybe meant to be unsettling as a substitute for humor.

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