Blog My random thoughts

May 13, 2011

Some of my favorite words

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:02 PM

1. Wonderful2. Syzygy3. Swagger4. Semblance5. Prurient6. Asinine/Fatuous8. Fortuitous9. Chief10. Dynamic

April 22, 2011

My favorite composers

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:19 PM

As inspired by this article –

and this letter –

This kid’s list is awesome even if it is a little piano heavy. I am not a huge fan of piano music in general and my preference usually tends to full orchestral with lots of strings or symphonies featuring strings so that’s why I don’t have Wagner, Chopin, or Debussy.

My list of my favorites right this second:

1. Beethoven (for reference, google: “That of course is a value judgment and if you disagree with it you are a terrorist”)

2. Verdi (operas are damn hard to write)

3. Mozart (even if the only thing he ever wrote was the requiem, he’d still be 3)

4. Stravinsky (L’oiseau de feu)5. Rachmaninoff/Mahler (I don’t know which one wrote more impossible music)

6. Gershwin/Barber/Copland (my american contingent)

7. Liszt/Grieg (for some reason they always go together in my mind – maybe I imagine hungarians dancing in the hall of the mountain king)

8. Holst (I unapologetically worship Jupiter)

9. Bach (down to nine because sometimes it gets boring)

10. Schubert (unfinished symphony)

Yes I know that’s not really ten.

April 14, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:09 PM

I hate this word. It means so much that it means nothing. To narrow it down, it means about four different things in the computing world depending on the context.

Hack -er,-s,-ing (v,n)

1.  (the one the media uses) to gain unauthorized access to a website, database, computer, or something else with the intent to do evil. Hackers broke into a local school computer and stole teachers’ phone numbers. 

2. (the one movies use) to do anything whatsoever with a computer or electronic device beyond that which my grandmother can do. Can you hack the radio to send a signal to Mars?? Sure, but it’ll take at least five minutes! We only have two!

3. (the one computer scientists use) to throw together a program using bad coding structure, etiquette, and technique. I finished the program, but I had to hack it to ignore any user input.

4.  (the one Anonymous/Black Hat uses) to gain access to a secure system to expose its flaws (either benignly to show the system’s owner the security loopholes or for personal gain). Security experts hacked IE6 to show its massive vulnerabilities. 

Anyway, don’t use this word. Instead use:

1. Criminals; jerks

2. The X-man Forge; magic

3. Cobbled; pieced together; (or just don’t do it)

4. Unauthorized access

Thank you.

February 11, 2011

Unique (?) Fact Pattern of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:51 PM

I was reading this article about shaken baby syndrome and I started thinking about the peculiar issue present when there is uncontrovertable evidence of a crime but no evidence available to prove who committed the crime. In this article there was evidence that a baby was shaken, but it was suggested that the doctors could not narrow down the timeframe for the event to less than a 24-hour period. Many adults, around 4 or 5 were alone with the baby during that time. While the prosecutor ultimately convicted the caretaker, the larger issue remains as a very real possibility for trouble. This is different than most usual criminal enterprises because typically it is possible to just charge everyone involved with conspiracy. With a case of a shaken baby however, it is most likely that one adult is solely liable and that all others are completely innocent of the actual crime. The similar case in tort law is Res Ipsa Loquitor, but that requires a showing of control by the Defendant over the material run-amok, and that “control” is precisely the issue in the case of a shaken baby. This got me wondering if there were any other cases of this type. It would take a series of discrete events where each person capable of committing the crime was alone to commit the crime and the evidence of the crime would need to remain undiscovered until after all the discrete events took place and the crime would need to be of a nature such that it would be impossible to pinpoint the exact moment the crime took place.



I suppose a nominal example would be art theft where a forgery replaced the original and no one noticed until some time had gone by. But you would need multiple suspects that were trained art theives capable of pulling off the switch. Shaking a baby does not require any special skill like stealing artwork might. And there still might be other evidence that could pinpoint the culpret in an art theft.


I’ll keep thinking about this, but in the meantime, how do we charge a crime like this?

January 31, 2011

Watching Death and Revolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:53 PM

I have never seen a violent death in person. I have watched my grandfather die (I think it’s easier in the passive voice). I watched my dog die. I watched the 9/11 attacks on television – I saw the second plane hit live. I remember watching on my tiny little college tv, the bombs falling on Baghdad in 2003. I definitely paid attention during the late 2004 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Now it is Tunisia, Yemen, and Greece protesting against the government. And in Egypt there is revolution in the air – taken from the model of Iran (who knew!) – a tweeted revolution.The paths of revolutionaries and death are rarely predictable, but the causes tend to be resoundingly similar.Desperation of hunger, safety, and a land mass too large to physically control with an army tend to be at the forefront of reasons and possibility. It seems that food, lack of employment and rising costs of living are large players in the four monetary revolutions. But these are all caused by a bastardization of economics in a monetary “policy” that I hope someday will be to our descendants as slavery is to us. A world economy (hooray! for some reason) exists today as it never has before. Thus the linked downfall of each national economy is clearly laid out. I cannot add anything new to the discussion, except to say that I am hopeful that this is a turning point. Each country that realizes its own possibility for revolution and growth is a blow to the face of every ineffective government worldwide.But this now, it is like nothing ever before. It is a sectionalized revolting class – unknown mostly, but someday to see the brief light in world-wide media coverage, only to fade. Yet not fade entirely. There is now a permanent catalog of all that exists. The internet will save humanity from repeating its mistakes or at least it will allow for the study of those mistakes, even if they are doomed to repeat. Egypt canceled the internet. Turned it off for all its citizens alike. A desperate move by a desperate government, and yet in the end, the nerds will have the day. Google turned on a voicemail to twitter system. an effort to circumvent total government control over media, this effort stands out. The only measure to stop this play is to lock up every citizen. At some point, you have to believe the army says enough is enough. But even if it doesn’t, totalitarian regimes only seek to stave off failure, they do not try to succeed.We live in the future.  And yet death and revolution still are prevalent. I may not understand, but I will try.

January 13, 2011

What we consider Justice

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:22 PM

I know there are particularly ludicrous examples of miscarriages of justice (I mean, there are entire awesome websites devoted to idiocy in the law – but it seems as if the law and justice are no longer even marginally coupled. It’s almost as bad as a forex market. Of course this thought started as a weird hypothetical I stumbled upon (if polygamy is a strict liability crime and mistakes of law are not typically forgiven and divorces happen at an astounding rate, doesn’t that make it extremely likely that there are many people out there probably guilty of polygamy right now?). But it’s more than that. I just read this post – . I understand rationals regarding the need for retribution for the families of the victims and punishment to deter future crimes and the societal need to lock up dangerous people (I don’t understand the reform aspect of incarceration, but that’s another idea), but I really cannot understand the point of sending a twelve year old to prison for twenty-five years (sorry for spelling those out, old law journal editor habit). Again, it’s not simply this or pot sentencing or the Defendant sentenced to an additional six months in jail for dropping an F bomb ( No my problem is in this decoupling. Or, to put it another way, the loss of the spirit of justice in the fabric of the law.

The engineer in me is not content to simply identify a problem and leave it at that, so I want to present some ideas for fixing this decoupling. My first conclusion is that we need to get rid of some laws. The criminal justice code is simply too expansive. It is a system without a single basis, instead it is a framework of frameworks. It reminds me of a database of a database, one that is corrupted. I don’t mean corrupt in the moral sense, but in the internally inconsistent sense. This child who killed is being pulled in so many different directions – juvenile court is for rehabilitation, the prosecution is seeking to try him as an adult for retribution, and the defense will no doubt rest on the theory that he is not dangerous to society so there is no purpose to locking him up. Each one of these theories of justice can be consistent if isolated but together they really make a mockery of the idea of justice. We as a society need to pick a type of justice. It could be a different type of justice for different crimes I suppose, but hopefully we can pick one and stick with it.

April 10, 2010

The Ineffectual EFF

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:26 PM

I decided to hit the ground running instead of writing an intro.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation ( is self-described as: “EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world.” Typically, a description of the organization elicits a comparison to the ACLU. Both the EFF and the ACLU are comprised of attorneys and other civil libertarians, but that is about where the comparisons actually end.

The ACLU goes out of its way to confront violations of civil liberties wherever they occur across the county. It has a long history of protecting and defending unpopular groups to further the goals of freedom of speech and liberty in general. It is one of the most influential and powerful groups in the history of the country. Comparing the EFF to the ACLU is a joke.

The idea many people have of the EFF is that it is an internet version of the ACLU.  But while the ACLU directly steps into cases and the lawyers who work for the ACLU at some times personally intervene, the EFF and its attorneys take a more hands off approach. The EFF focuses on amicus briefs, asking the patent courts to reexamine ridiculous patents, and asking Congress to change laws. This may seem like a fairly potent approach, but it ultimately fails.

First, Amicus Briefs on extremely contested Supreme Court cases tend to be little more than noise. (For an in-depth look at amicus briefs see: “The Amicus Brief: How to be a Good Friend of the Court” by Reagan William Simpson, Mary R. Vasaly – specifically note page 15, discussing the ineffectiveness of amicus briefs in large quantities.) Furthermore, the EFF briefs tend to be similarly worded to those the ACLU has already filed. The ACLU does not limit itself to non-digital activities (good thing for civil liberties), so there is often an overlap between ACLU activities and those of the EFF. 

Patent re-exams are a part of the incredibly complex patent litigation structure. After a patent is granted, anyone can ask the courts to reexamine the patent for certain defects, including most commonly, obviousness in light of the prior art. The problem with using this method of attack on blatantly obvious patents is that it can only occur after the patent is granted. Attacking patents in this way is ineffective because the attacker must wait until after the patent is already granted, allowing the patent holder to assert his or her rights in the meantime. Although this is an admittedly light analysis of a heavy subject, it is simply representative of a larger framework of playing catch-up that is the EFF business model.

The most important file sharing case in the U.S. is Capitol Records v. Jamie Thomas. If the EFF were truly what it claims to be, its attorneys would have represented Ms. Thomas, pro-bono throughout the trial instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting to file an amicus brief and “urging” the court to do various things. Thomas’s lack of funds for legal representation, the precedent setting nature of the case, and the plaintiff’s large legal team all combine to represent an embarrassing difference in equity that the EFF claims to stand against.

The EFF is ineffectual at almost everything it does. It postures and self-congratulates. It hosts events,  speaks in front of Congress, and files amicus briefs, but it does not take any sort of responsibility. If the EFF were truly the “leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world” as it claims on its website, it would put itself between the oppressors and those who are oppressed. The EFF does not get its hands dirty, and for that, it is ineffective.

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