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Intellectual Property Rants, SUV Wrongs, and Random Movie/Media Reviews
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:: Friday, March 21, 2003 ::

Once More Into The Breach

So we've been at war for almost 48 hours. As much as I've been against the war for so many reasons, I find myself conceding a hope that the war will end swiftly and decidedly so as to minimize injury, death, and destruction. As a lover of strategy, competition, and conflict analysis, the war is also a facinating playground for my mind. Yet my heart weighs heavy with conflicting feelings about the short and long term results of this conflict for both the U.S. and Iraq.

In any case, as I watch and wish for swift resolution, I can't help but stand back and gawk at some of the horribly superficial journalism that is going on. Do these people know nothing of investigative techniques or balanced criticism?

Take, for instance, the "growing Coalition of the Willing" that the White House keeps touting. If you actually look at the list, you'll see that few, if any of these nations have any real resources to commit to this war. I mean, really, Afghanistan? Macedonia? I'm sure the Azerbaijan forces would be happy to secure some oil fields for us. And don't the Afghanis have better things to be doing? Like rebuilding their infrastructure and economy?

Even financially solvent countries like South Korea aren't surprising, given their dependence on our military for security reasons.

Why haven't the world journalists pointed any of this out? If the US is going to invade Iraq, fine.. let's own up to our actions. But let's not insinuate that this is somehow more multi-lateral that the 1991 Gulf War.
:: Jason 9:46:00 AM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, March 19, 2003 ::

101 Dumbest Moments in Business for 2002

Business 2.0 has listed its The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business for 2002. Among my favorites are:

32, 33, 34

Panic in the heartland, part 1: The crisis begins.
Outside a Wal-Mart (WMT) in the small town of Geneseo, Ill., a 73-year-old woman buys a newspaper and suddenly finds herself trapped when the door of the news rack slips closed and catches her coat. Unable to wriggle out, she solicits a bystander to enter the Wal-Mart and ask for help. A Wal-Mart employee comes out to explain that she can't assist, citing a policy against tampering with the news rack.


Panic in the heartland, part 2: The tense negotiation.
After going back inside for a moment, the Wal-Mart employee comes out and tells the trapped woman that she'll call the newspaper and have a representative come to release her. The woman suggests an alternative solution: Somebody could simply put two quarters in the machine and open the damn door. The Wal-Mart employee rejects this out of hand, explaining that the store can't pay refunds for the news rack.


Panic in the heartland, part 3: The sweet taste of liberation.
Eventually the employee relents and puts two quarters in the machine. Later the liberated woman's daughter visits the store and gives her a $5 bill to be used strictly to finance future releases. A Wal-Mart corporate spokesperson apologizes for the incident, saying, "This is not how we do business."


89, 90, 91

January 2002.
One year after the completion of its much-ballyhooed merger, AOL Time Warner (AOL) posts a paltry quarterly loss of $1.8 billion.

April 2002
Just three months later, AOL Time Warner announces a loss of $54.2 billion, the biggest quarterly loss in U.S. history.

January 2003
Stunningly, a mere nine months after that -- and just two years after the consummation of the marriage -- AOL Time Warner sets another record with an annual loss of $98.7 billion.

93

In September, shortly after divorce papers reveal the details of former GE (GE) CEO Jack Welch's lavish retirement package, Welch pens an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal. Falling on his sword, Welch announces he'll give up most of the perks, including a $15 million Manhattan penthouse. Welch defends the original package, however, saying simple cash compensation "would have been much more expensive for the company."

95

In April, an E-Trade (ET) proxy report details the 2001 compensation package of CEO Christos Cotsakos, which includes $4.9 million in pay, $29 million in stock options, and forgiveness of a $15 million loan -- all in a year during which the company lost $241 million. An E-Trade spokesman says his compensation "reflects the success the company has had under his leadership." Eight months later, Cotsakos resigns.

97

Shortly after declaring bankruptcy in January, Kmart appoints turnaround specialist James Adamson as its new CEO. Ten months and more than 30,000 layoffs later, Adamson resigns from his post. Under terms of his contract, however, he'll be rewarded with as much as $3.6 million after Kmart comes out of Chapter 11. Adamson's total take: nearly $7 million. Kmart losses under his watch: about $2 billion.


:: Jason 11:42:00 AM [+] ::
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MPAA and RIAA Mistake Proper Threat Model in DRM Debate

Ed Felten has a great analysis of why the content industry doesn't understand DRM or how to apply it to the proper threat model.
:: Jason 9:53:00 AM [+] ::
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Beef-Lovin' Barbie

The National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. has launched Cool 2B Real, a site designed to "steer" young girls away from vegetarianism.

The site is rather stealth, mostly featuring pages about being a "real" girl. However, once you get past the front door, you'll notice enlightening articles and insightful quizzes such as "What type of beef do you most like to eat with your friends?" and the tweener-empowerment recipes for snacks like Easy Beef Chili, Nacho Beef Dip, and Beef on Bamboo.


:: Jason 9:14:00 AM [+] ::
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Telemarketing's dream: 411 for cell phones

MSNBC reports that wireless numbers may soon be added to 411 listings on an opt-out basis.

While this could end up being convenient (especially for those who choose not to have a land line), I suspect it will be far more annoying in the end. What more could a telemarketer ask for than a number that travels with you at all times?


:: Jason 8:55:00 AM [+] ::
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Indigineous Bio Prior Art on the Web

Recently, there has been some controversy between multinational pharma companies and indigineous people over the patenting of traditional medicines.

Apparently, some indigineous activists have decided to fight back by creating a prior-art website called Tekpad (Traditional Ecological Knowledge Prior Art Database) that will attempt to offer the US and European patent offices a comprehensive list of traditional remedies that are already in the public domain.
:: Jason 8:50:00 AM [+] ::
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Leading Bush by a Nose

This cute flash animation has made the rounds before, but it's just so much fun!


:: Jason 8:44:00 AM [+] ::
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New York Press has an exceptional article about the highs and lows of the modern magician. Definitely worth the read.
:: Jason 8:42:00 AM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 ::

INS Swamped by Ashcroft's Change-Of-Address Demands

In yet another well-thought-out move, the INS has started enforcing (at Ashcroft's request) the provision requiring resident alients to send in change-of-address cards whenever they move.

Of course, Ashcroft didn't think to ask Congress for more money to help the INS process these cards. Having started receiving over 30,000 of them per week, the agency is currently sitting on a 700,000-card backlog with no one available to enter them.
:: Jason 12:05:00 PM [+] ::
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Cool AI 20 Questions Website

Check out this cool 20 Questions site. It's a pretty smart algorithm and even tells you at the end where it disagrees with your answers.
:: Jason 11:04:00 AM [+] ::
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:: Monday, March 17, 2003 ::

TSA leave "little note" in Traveller's Suitcase


The Seattle Times is carrying a story about a San Diego-bound traveller who, after he got off the plane and unpacked his bags, found a Notice from the TSA saying they had opened and searched his bags.

The fact that he was searched is unremarkable. What is remarkable was the little note that was handwritten on the Notice saying "Don't appreciate your Anti-American Attitude!" This was presumably in reaction to the "No Iraq War" signs he had packed for the trip. Guess the TSA not only has the right to search our bags but also comment on them.

Even more offensive is the TSA response:

Nico Melendez, western regional spokesman for the TSA, said the note in Goldberg's luggage will be investigated, but he said there's no proof that a TSA employee wrote it. "It's a leap to say it was a TSA screener," Melendez said.

This raises two interesting possibilities: (1) It was a TSA screener or (2) It was some random person who managed to elude TSA security measures, sneak into the baggage area of the airport, riffle through a bunch of bags, find the TSA search notice, and write the message -- all without detection. So either the TSA did it or the TSA has some serious security holes. I don't know which concerns me more.
:: Jason 6:50:00 PM [+] ::
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Better Living through Haiku Chemistry

Check out this Haiku Periodic Table of Elements.
:: Jason 9:42:00 AM [+] ::
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Desert Bloom

Just got back from Anza Borego last night. The wildflowers were amazing and in full bloom. We stayed at a funky little Inn where we've been before called The Plams at Indian Head. It was a big-time getaway for movie stars in the 1950s like Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, etc. and has a fabulous super-Olympic-sized pool and a funky-shaped jacuzzi with two private little coves separated by a rock sculpture. It's also got a beautiful view of the mountain range at the end of the valley. I highly recomend it if you're even going through that area.


:: Jason 9:27:00 AM [+] ::
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