Saturday, April 06, 2002

YOU MAY REMEMBER THE New York Times tale of the September 11 squeegee. Today's Washington Post now memorializes its trip to the Smithsonian.

Friday, April 05, 2002

MICKEY KAUS HAS A good piece on how the Wellstone amendment affects the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. Kaus is at his best in mocking the New York Times editorial page, but considerably softer in the legal analysis. He does a sound analysis of Buckley v. Valeo, but Buckley is a fractured opinion, and McCain-Feingold is an implicit challenge to its First Amendment analysis. Buckley will carry the day in the lower courts, but it eventually will get heard by the Supremes.

This isn't going to be a Bush v. Gore split, either; Rehnquist and Scalia/Thomas are on opposite sides of the divde when it comes to First Amendment issues. The decision will likely come down to O'Connor and Kennedy, and it's never certain that they're going to simply endorse prior precedent when they have an opportunity to rewrite it in their image. Not to mention that the composition of the Court could well change in the two years between the first challenge to McCain-Feingold and when the Court actually hears the case, and a Democrat-controlled Congress could put a litmus test on the candidate's willingness to support speech restrictions given that they're not going to get a pro-choice judicial candidate.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS CAN always be counted on to have a dissenting voice in the mourning for the Queen Mother.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Where toro comes from. (Mmm... toro.)
ANOTHER UNDERRATED MOVIE: The Big Lebowski. Every line a riot.
You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me.
INTERVIEW WITH Hal Hartley (via Missy, who's eerily also listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet). "Trust" is the underrated movie of the 1990s.
Maria: Can you stop watching TV for a minute?
Matthew: No.
Maria: Why?
Matthew: Because. I had a bad day at work. I had to subvert my principles and kow-tow to an idiot. Television makes these daily sacrifices possible.
I FREQUENTLY DISAGREE WITH Christopher Hitchens, but I damn well admire his writing. The link is to an anti-religion screed, with highlights on Billy Graham.
QUICK BASEBALL LINK ROUND-UP: The hot new promotional item is Celebri-duckies. Doug Pappas does a good job breaking down the Forbes numbers on baseball profits. Michael Wolverton dissents from the conventional wisdom on body armor. Lawrence Haws asks me via e-mail if I've had a chance to gloat over Barry Bonds's fantastic start, but I haven't. Bonds got to keep his elbow armor, anyway, so Tony has an alibi since his prediction of bum-hood (if one can call a prediction of 50+ homers bumdom) was predicated on the loss of the armor.
THE MOST FASCINATING part of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" is when the audience is polled. Tonight, the contestant had used a fifty-fifty lifeline, so the question for the audience was "Were Alger Hiss's spy papers hidden in a stuffed bird or a pumpkin?" Theoretically, X% of the audience knows the right answer, and the rest split fifty-fifty, but today's crowd must've been thinking of "The Maltese Falcon" or something, because only 26% knew about the Pumpkin Papers, and the contestant was out $32,000 as a result. The most egregious example I ever saw was a fairly low-dollar question on "What on-line magazine is owned by Microsoft?" Over 90% picked "Wired", maybe 2% picked "Slate" and the contestant went home empty-handed.
I passed the "Jeopardy!" test once, and learned that I was ineligible because my law firm represented the studio. I was supposed to be on the first week's episodes of "The Weakest Link" and got conflicted out for the same reason. The curse of the day job. My poor friend Eric made it through the umpteen random rounds of screening to get to be on "Millionaire", only to be disqualified because of his brother-in-law's job with a related dot-com.
REASON HAS an amusing analysis of the tale that Israeli troops are using captured Palestinian television stations to broadcast pornography (which would surely be less obscene than the calls for suicide bombing that are normally broadcast), but the Israeli Defense Force is calling it an urban legend.
A dentist who sued Ford Motor Co. claiming a faulty air bag caused his wife's death, then withdrew the case when Ford proffered evidence of his own culpability, has been hit with a suit himself -- lodged by his former in-laws.
WHERE DOES A 400-POUND ROBOT GO? Anywhere it wants to.
TOBOR, the robot, is a delivery "droid" that glides along the corridors day and night, ferrying medicines from the hospital's central pharmacy to its wards. Bigger and boxier than R2D2, the rolling robot in the "Star Wars" movies, TOBOR shares the hospital's elevators many times a day with patients and visitors. It announces its intentions in a clear baritone voice.
"I am about to move," it tells fellow passengers. "Please stand clear."
Simple delivery tasks are automated. Cost: less than $5/hour, without worries of overtime or benefits (though the article doesn't make clear whether this figure includes up-front programming costs). Education is going to become increasingly important, because unskilled labor is going to face some real competitive challenges in the near-future.
KNOCK ON WOOD, but is it me or is the number of suicide bombings way down?

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

BUSINESS JOURNALISM: Get to a newsstand and compare and contrast the April 15 cover of Forbes magazine (featuring a stunning photo of Kraft co-CEO Betsy Holden) with the inside of the magazine: some time between the cover photo and page 9, the poor woman aged fifteen years! Looking back at the double-chinned countenance of Harley CEO Jeffrey Bleustein on the cover of the January 7 issue, it's clear that Forbes doesn't feel it necessary to subject male CEOs to this sort of air-brushing (though it will hide them behind a motorcycle). This sort of machination must move copy, however, otherwise Forbes wouldn't keep putting celebrities and photogenic concerned-looking-30-something-couples-worried-about-their-finances on the cover.
When a patent drafter discloses but declines to claim subject matter, as in this case, this action dedicates that unclaimed subject matter to the public. Moreover, a patentee cannot narrowly claim an invention to avoid prosecution scrutiny by the PTO, and then, after patent issuance, use the doctrine of equivalents to establish infringement because the specification discloses equivalents.
The Federal Circuit in Johnson & Johnston Associates Inc. takes another stand against the Doctrine of Equivalents. Judge Newman's dissent complains that the new strictures would be a deterrent to innovation, but it seems at least as likely that it will be a deterrent to patenting, which isn't always the same thing.
TOM BRAY ON 60 Minutes' bias in its Sunday report on the mid-East, and calls Israel the canary in the coal-mine in the battle against terrorism.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

LIFE IMITATES "THE SIMPSONS" in Hong Kong. Perhaps also a problem in Chiang Mai?
METAFILTER pointed me to Mark Simonson's article on misuse of typefaces (don't call them fonts!) in films. Simonson's clearly a man after my own heart: he dislikes Arial, too. This is more than a hobby for him, however; he designs typefaces for a living, including this one, used in a lot of advertisements and in the "Memento" credits.
I FORGET WHICH blogger was posting about consistently beating his computer at chess, but it reminded me of this marvelous site: the Free Internet Chess Server. It's internationally known, and one can find a human or computer opponent at virtually any skill level and time setting at any time of day.
THE SUPREME COURT IS to review California's three strikes law, and the Washington Post article on the subject gives very little indication that the upper court is likely to reverse the Ninth Circuit's decision striking down the laws in the Andrade case.
A PALM EXECUTIVE TESTIFIES at the Microsoft trial.
There's lots more of interest in Mace's testimony:
-- Microsoft's refusal to make a version of Internet Explorer for the Palm OS, even while offering Palm access to a much more limited browser called Mobile Explorer.
I'm not sure what principle of law the reporter is espousing here. A vertically-integrated market leader is required to port its software to all platforms to avoid competitive problems in the second market? Then I hereby demand that Palm port its OS to my cell-phone so I don't have to pay extra for a Treo. To just the most competitive platforms? (Then who decides?) Why isn't Microsoft's refusal to provide the Palm OS a decent browser just creating an opportunity for Netscape? (Surely Netscape would complain if Microsoft "leveraged" its OS advantage to develop a browser that could be ported to other systems.)
Pilot Paul Shakstad, a 17 year veteran of the department, started a floor by floor search in Fire-6 while helitac Dick Davis operated the Nightsun. Larry Harris, flying Fire 2 placed E-78 on the roof; they opened the penthouse to release hot smoke and gases, donned breathing apparatus and entered the building to search for more victims.
The First Interstate Bank Fire--spectacular photos, too.
DEAR Alex Beam,

Let me be the 147th person to point out that when you quoted Bjorn Staerk, you quoted his April Fools' column, and took it seriously.

I realize that it's an attention-getting gesture to write about weblogs in a newspaper. And I'll agree that there's a lot of dreck out there that no one reads. But you underestimate how easy it is to write 800 words a day. I'm not writing Shakespeare, or even Royko. I write for the couple of dozen of my friends who read the blog, and the several dozen others who've stumbled onto it daily. No doubt the professional writers who blog like the format, like the instant feedback; if I feel like having a 15-word day, that's fine; if I feel like having a 1500-word day, I don't have to split it up into 800-word chunks. I don't make any money doing it, don't even try to make money doing it. But I don't need to; I have a day job that pays more than most newspaper columnists make. Some people just like writing, and consider it more like pleasant necking than being raped by a gorilla.

Thank James Lileks, by the way; if not for his weblog, I never would've even read your column. Like an increasing number of people, I get my news from the web instead of tv or newspapers.

"Max Power"
THIS Israeli blog is going to be added to the links list when I get a chance. (via Instapundit)

Monday, April 01, 2002

LILEKS' FLOTSAM COVE always finds fascinating stuff, and this series of postcards of a 1960s bank with distinctly dated tastes and attitudes towards animals is fascinating. Such design would never fly in a commercial establishment today for dare of offending someone, even, I suspect, in North Dakota.

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Once again, the conservative sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!
NEW TO THE SIDEBAR: David Nieporent's "Jumping to Conclusions"
LA TIMES PIECE detailing some battles of Operation Anaconda (via Gary Farber)
MARK STEYN IS again on the money in his Mid-East analysis.
I HAVE TO THANK Jim Treacher's new blog for introducing me to Wm.™ Steven Humphrey.
VIRGINIA WINE LAWS unconstitutional.
DEN BESTE HAS some good analysis of plutonium and the degree of threat from "dirty bombs" (as opposed to honest-to-goodness nuclear weapons).