Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amazon vs. California - the battle lines are drawn

Often you hear comments along the lines of "If the California government does X, then businesses will move out of state."

Well, one business has partially moved out of California, effective tonight yesterday (Blogger was having problems).

Many of you might not read Inland Utopia, but earlier today Matt Munson posted about the email that he received from Amazon Associates, saying that they might terminate his account, and the accounts of all Californians, should the state pass AB 153 to force online companies with no physical presence in California to charge California taxes.

I am an Amazon Associates member, although I haven't hawked anything on my blogs lately, so I also received that email.

This Yesterday evening I received a second email:


Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to,, MYHABIT.COM or Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of California. If you are not currently a resident of California, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents and will not affect your ability to purchase from,, MYHABIT.COM or

We have enjoyed working with you and other California-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to California residents. As mentioned before, we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.


The Amazon Associates Team

Now we'll see what happens...

For some, Google Minus

Johnny was in the living room, playing the Facebook game Gardens of Time on his netbook, when his cousin-in-law Renee walked in the door. Normally Renee would spend the evening watching HD episodes of the Gilmoor Gang, but tonight she decided to visit Johnny.

"What'cha doing?" asked Renee.

"Playing a Facebook game," replied Johnny.

Renee appeared to get agitated over this. "You make me want to throw up," she retorted. "Why aren't you using Google Plus?"

"Why?" Johnny asked.

"WHY? WHY?" replied Renee. "Don't you know that Google Plus is the most revolutionary achievement in computing history? Once the invites get out, people will leave Facebook in droves!"

"Why?" Johnny asked.

"WHY? WHY?" replied Renee. "Because Facebook is just Facebook, and Google Plus is ALL of Google. A complete integrated experience, with a common toolbar, accessing a breadth of information across all of the Google properties."

Johnny watched Renee wax dramatic. "So what are you doing with Google Plus?"

Renee paused for a moment. "Um, nothing yet. I don't have an invite. But Jesse Stay has access, and wrote about the ramifications. Yeah, Jesse Stay, the Facebook author - and even he's thinking that Facebook has fallen behind."

"And after all," Renee continued, "you're the one who purposely targeted your Empoprises so-called empire to use Google products. You use Blogger, you use Google Reader, you use all of the important Google products."

"Not YouTube," Johnny interjected.

"Well, besides that," Renee acknowledged. "I think that you'd be all over this and ready to quit Facebook in a heartbeat!"

"OK," Johnny replied, "I have put in a request for an invite, and I'll certainly try it out, and I'm definitely not as negative on Google Plus as Dave Winer is. But even if Google Plus turns out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, there are hundreds of millions of Facebook users out there. And I have hundreds of friends who don't care about Google Buzz, and who don't know Jesse Stay from Jesse Ventura, and who don't know Robert Scoble from Alex Scoble. And you're telling me that I'm supposed to go to these people and say, 'Sorry, but if you want to talk to me in the future, you're going to have to quit Facebook and join this Google service that is used by a lot of techie people who think that a byte of Java is NOT a condemnation of rock-hard coffee."

Renee shook her head. "Do you really think that all of those people are going to stay on Facebook? And if you really think that Facebook is so wonderful, why don't you just go and hang out on that $35 million dollar service MySpace?"

Now it was Johnny's turn to be agitated? "MySpace? MYSPACE? Who would want to go on that service? That service is only used by welfare cheats and starving musicians. Or perhaps I'm being redundant here-"

"You see?" trumpeted Renee in triumph. "A few years ago MySpace was the king of the mountain, displacing Friendster, which displaced AOL, and now its user base is relatively miniscule. So don't assume that Facebook will always remain on top. Google has a breadth of services that will take Facebook to the cleaners."

"Just one thing," asked Johnny.

"What?" asked Renee.

"Does Zynga have CafeWorld on Google Plus yet?"

P.S. I wrote this post early Wednesday evening. Within the hour, I had received a Google+ invite courtesy Mark Trapp. Not quite ready for a review yet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Corporate governance when the governors aren't around (Sundance Resources)

In my line of work, I sometimes receive information related to disaster investigations, and how forensic examiners reconstruct the circumstances surrounding a disaster. I received an email that contained two photos - one taken one evening at a dinner, and the other taken the next morning on a small plane. That plane ended up crashing, with no survivors; the pictures were recovered from a camera found at the scene. (The camera was damaged, but the memory card was not.)

As I continued to research the story, I found that it contained a fascinating story related to issues of corporate governance. Let me introduce the story:

Six Australian mining executives were killed when their chartered aircraft, twin turboprop Casa C212 crashed in a dense forest of West African nation of Congo. The aircraft was carrying board members of Perth based mining company Sundance Resources, a small Australian listed iron ore group that is developing an iron ore project in Cameroon.

Not only was the plane carrying members of Sundance Resources' board of directors - it was carrying ALL of the members of the board.

Several thousand miles away, in Australia, Sundance Resources had an immediate concern - and a longer-term concern. As a publicly-traded company, the loss of the entire Board of Directors could naturally be devastating to the stock. But in the absence of a Board of Directors, who could do anything about it?

This (PDF) was the first official statement to investors:

21 June 2010
Sundance Resources Limited

The securities of Sundance Resources Limited (the “Company”) will be placed in pre-open at the request of the Company, pending the release of an announcement by the Company. Unless ASX decides otherwise, the securities will remain in pre-open until the earlier of the commencement of normal trading on Wednesday 23 June 2010 or when the announcement is released to the market.

So the stock exchange halted trading at the request of the company. But who requested it? According to this message (PDF), it was requested by Peter Canterbury, CFO, and Neil Hackett, Acting Company Secretary.

Later that day, the company announced (PDF) that it was taking extraordinary measures. Canterbury was assuming the role of Acting Chief Executive Officer, and the company (in consultation with shareholders) was appointing three "strategic advisors." One of the advisors, shareholder George Jones, happened to be a former Chairman of Sundance.

This team responded to immediate matters, such as the need to retrieve the bodies from the wreckage, the need to answer questions regarding the presence of the entire Board of Directors in a single plane, and the extension to the trading halt beyond June 23.

By July 2 (PDF), Sundance was ready to declare a more permanent solution to its corporate governance:

International iron ore company Sundance Resources (ASX: SDL – “Sundance” or "the Company") is pleased to advise that it anticipates being able to apply to the Australian Securities Exchange (“ASX”) to lift the voluntary suspension on its shares within a fortnight following the declaration of a defacto Board of Directors.

The Sundance strategic advisors – former Sundance chairman Mr George Jones, commercial lawyer Mr Michael Blakiston and investment banker Adam Rankine-Wilson – who were approached by the Company following the air crash on 19 June 2010, have declared themselves as defacto Directors of the Company along with highly experienced mining industry leader Mr Barry Eldridge.

The declaration of the defacto Directors, follows consultation with major shareholders, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (“ASIC”) and ASX, and fulfils a key requirement of the Corporations Act which allows the Company to apply to lift the voluntary suspension of its shares ahead of a shareholder meeting to elect the Directors.

These issues and related ones were formally approved at a shareholder meeting, which - most importantly - also approved all actions taken during the period that no Board of Directors existed.

It didn't have to end this way. There are so many things that could have gone wrong. The executives could have been paralyzed in their actions. ASX could have gotten really technical and insisted on formal Board action. George Jones might have wanted nothing to do with his former company. The stockholders could have rebelled.

But in the end, all of the parties worked together and reached a business conclusion.

In legalese, a corporation is a "person." And while the death of a corporation is nowhere near the tragedy that occurs when a flesh-and-blood person dies, at least one disaster was averted by Sundance Resources during that period.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If it's Tuesday...

If you live in the western United States or western Canada, you may be reading this at dinnertime on a Tuesday. Which means that you're getting hungry for some bratwurst. All of the German restaurants in your area probably have a bratwurst Tuesday, where you can get really cheap bratwurst and sauerkraut and...

...whoops, I seem to have made a mistake. It's Taco Tuesday, not Bratwurst Tuesday.

Never mind.

It's true, however, that umpteen million different places have some type of a taco special on Tuesday. But how did this begin?

The Dewitt Draft House in Michigan claims to have invented Taco Tuesday:

We "own" Taco Tuesday. We invented it 28 years ago. Back in 1982 when we opened the doors, we advertised (3) Tacos for a Buck on Tuesdays, gave it a name... "Taco Tuesday", and it became an immediate hit. It's grown to become a Dewitt institution. Nobody cooks at home on Tuesday, everybody is at the Draft House. About 20 years ago we had to raise the price to $2,and for a short time renamed it Taco Twosday. About 10 years ago we changed it to the current pricing where we offer $1.00 Tacos. Although the price went up slightly, you can now pick and choose what you want, (example...1 Beef Taco, and 2 Chicken, etc). Then about 4 years ago we added the very popular and delicious Fish Taco ($2.25). Probably more Taco Tuesday history than you counted on, but now you know.

I haven't been able to find any competing claims for inventing Taco Tuesday. If anyone knows of a Taco Tuesday before 1982, please post it in the comments.

What is your story? I revisit Loren Feldman's website

I hadn't visited Loren Feldman's website in some time - I haven't mentioned Feldman in my blog since last year - so I dutifully went to got redirected to the newly-named 1938 Creative. (Actually, considering my non-trediness, Feldman may have renamed his site years ago, and I just missed it.)

Feldman is spending more time marketing his professional portfolio, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he has worked with an acquaintance of mine, Dr. Jim Sears, in this video for Veripur marketers.

The people in the Fiddler on the Roof era didn't worry about the spreading of germs, Jim. :)

Feldman also markets his company:

And for those who think that Loren's gone soft, look who popped up in this piece for Tassimo, obviously for a particular target market:

I shudder to think that I might see the puppet if Feldman ever get hired by a nudist resort. (And yes, Feldman works with small businesses, so he could conceivably get one of these companies as a client.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Popureb.E does not sound fun

ComputerWorld linked to a Microsoft post about a particularly nasty trojan.

The bootkit malware Trojan:Win32/Popureb.E has made some changes in its code compared to previous samples (specifically, Trojan:Win32/Popureb.B), and now it introduces a driver component to prevent the malicious MBR and other malicious data stored as disk sectors from being changed.

"MBR" stands for "master boot record." After discussing some technical details about the trojan, author Chun Feng offers this sobering advice.

If your system does get infected with Trojan:Win32/Popureb.E, we advise you to fix the MBR and then use a recovery CD to restore your system to a pre-infected state (as sometimes restoring a system may not restore the MBR). To fix the MBR, we advise that you use the System Recovery Console, which supports a command called "fixmbr".

One clarification was posted here:

Other news outlets are misrepresenting the advice as Microsft saying you need to reformat/reinstall, but it seems that MBR repair and system restore will do the trick.

Personally, though I know it's possible to restore a system without reformatting, I'd still recommend a complete disk wipe and reinstall in a situation like this.

However, Microsoft offers protection against this trojan. I'm not sure if other security companies are offering anything.

So which "Los Angeles Dodgers" company actually filed for bankruptcy?

When the news broke this morning that the Los Angeles Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy, the first thing that occurred to me was that Frank McCourt has actually split the Dodgers into multiple companies. So which one actually filed?

According to bankruptcy papers as shared by the Los Angeles Times, the business entity that filed for bankruptcy was "Los Angeles Dodgers LLC." A myriad of other companies are mentioned in the document:

Los Angeles Dodgers Holding Company LLC
LA Holdco LLC
LA Real Estate LLC
LA Real Estate Holding Company LLC

According to The Big Lead, a total of five companies filed for bankruptcy, presumably including the four companies listed above. So much for the claim that the companies are separate entities.

But points out that there are other entities involved, including Blue Land Co (not mentioned above), which receives $21 million annually from the Dodgers for the use of the parking lots. Blue Land Co was created in 2006:

In 2006, two years after purchasing the team, Frank McCourt divided the stadium property into three parcels and established Blue Land Co. to own two of them. Those two parcels, parking lots immediately surrounding the ballpark, serve as collateral for a $60-million loan, court records show.

The Dodgers pay rent to Blue Land, which is not involved in stadium operations. Boies said the rental payments offered the McCourts the option of working around restrictions on receiving cash directly from team coffers.

And Blue Land is significant in other ways:

Beginning in 2008 and continuing through at least the first four months of 2010, the Dodgers paid $300,000 per month to an entity called the John McCourt Company for consulting services related to development of the real estate surrounding Dodger Stadium, according to court documents and statements made in court by both sides in April. Earlier this year, the Dodgers stopped paying the fees, but the payments continued to be paid by Blue Landco LLC, a different McCourt-owned entity.

The switch was significant because under the terms of the McCourts' financing arrangement with lenders, Frank McCourt cannot receive more than $5 million in compensation from the Dodgers -- but there are no such restrictions on payments from Blue Landco LLC.

Of course, if you accept the common legal idea that a corporation is a person, the bankruptcy of the five companies has had an adverse effect upon Blue LandCo - which raises the prospect that Frank McCourt could end up suing himself.

While the fact that the five Dodgers entities filed bankruptcy in lockstep may make it easier for Bud Selig to gain control of all five in a single blow, the situation with Blue Landco is a little muddier - although conceivably the city of Los Angeles could use eminent domain to take over Blue Landco. After all, the city has a precedent for taking over property at Chavez Ravine - why not use it to wrest a parking lot from The Parking Lot Guy?

The band Yellow Floyd liked to listen to the greens

World of Higlet recently shared a post from io9 entitled What color are the sash and bonnet in this painting? Wrong. The post, by Esther Inglis-Arkell, makes the point that our 21st century conceptions of what certain colors are do not necessarily match the conceptions of colors from earlier centuries.

Inglis-Arkell begins with an example of a painting of a girl named Pinkie. And to our eyes, Pinkie is actually wearing pink. But at the time, the color worn by Pinkie was called "rose," and the word "pink" referred to a yellowish color.

Other historical examples are provided in the post, ranging back to the Iliad.

But isn't it good that all of us (with the possible exception of Mark Zuckerberg) now agree that pink is pink, and yellow is yellow?

Um...not exactly:

Some cultures still verbally blend green and blue. The Vietnamese word 'xanh' applies to green and blue, although there is one modification for leaf green and one for sky blue. Given swatches of ambiguous color, or even non-ambiguous color, people from different cultures will identify different shades as 'blue' or 'green' depending on their understanding of the words. Sometimes culture doesn't even enter into it. Many readers will have had an argument with one of their friends, from their own culture and time period, on whether a certain color is primarily blue with hints of green, or primarily green with blueish tints. (Russian-speakers may be more adept at identifying the blue spectrum, since there are Russian words commonly used for both light and dark blue, and tests have shown that Russian speakers are more confident and quick at selecting blue shades.)

Regarding Vietnam, there is a company called Xanh Consulting that uses this language fact to promote its view of environmentally friendly business.

Regarding Russia, see this page for a description of one of the cited studies.

Of course, the comments to the post make the point that even when two people speak the same language, people from England are still unable to spell the word "color" correctly... :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How can two people travel at the same speed when one is traveling more quickly?

I have been someone negligent in my habit of taking an afternoon walk. "Somewhat negligent" is defined as Runkeeper sending me an email asking where I've been, and a subsequent discover that I haven't taken my afternoon walk in about a month.

So on Friday I got out on the sidewalk again, taking a route which led me through an industrial park with several businesses.

At one of the businesses, I had to walk around a UPS truck as the driver was completing his stop at the business.

I kept on walking. Subsequently, Runkeeper told me that I was walking at a speed of 3.21 miles per hour. (I may amble when I walk, but I have long legs.) As I passed the next business, the UPS truck was pulling in right in front of me. I kept on walking and got to another business - and there was the UPS truck again.

At that point I had to turn around to head back to work, so I told the UPS guy that I couldn't race him any more. :)

Now if you think about it, a human being who isn't that fast shouldn't be able to keep pace with a truck. So how did I do it?

Easy. The UPS guy did a lot more than I did. Here's what the UPS guy would do between businesses:
  • Get into his truck.

  • Leave the business parking lot and go to the street.

  • Drive down the street to the next parking lot.

  • Pull into the parking lot.

  • Find a parking place.

  • Find any packages that had to be delivered to the business.

  • Run to the business.

  • Deliver any packages that needed to be delivered, and pick up any packages that needed to be shipped.

  • Run out to the truck.

In the meantime, here's what I'd be doing between businesses:
  • Walk.

So while the UPS guy and I were supposedly traveling at the same speed, a more thorough observation shows who was actually traveling more quickly.

Yes, you can use a hammer as a toothpick - and it can work very well

A few weeks ago, I wrote a rash of posts on the Company X gets customers they don't want. The general theme was that the company would advertise a product that does Y, but customers then use it for Z. For example, take the way in which approximately 40% of Slingbox users utilize the gadget - something that's never mentioned in Slingbox ads.

This one isn't exactly like that, but it's close. This is from a WinExtra post from May: appears that not all of those 53 million sold consoles or 30 million Xbox Live members are using their Xbox to play games.

Specifically, about forty percent of Xbox users don't use it as a game console.

Now this isn't exactly like the Slingbox case, because Microsoft is actively promoting the use of the Xbox for other forms of entertainment. However, would someone buy an Xbox and NOT use it for games? Apparently so.

I recently had a chance to play around with the Internet features of a Nintendo Wii. Personally I didn't care for the interface, and would much prefer to use my netbook to access the Internet. Yet for some people, the Wii's way of providing Internet access is more than adequate - and you don't have to worry about installing monthly upgrades or using a File menu or anything like that.

The ability to view movies is simpler. I've never used an Xbox (and admittedly I rarely use any device to view long-form movies), but it's easy to see how an Xbox would make a more than adequate movie player.

As these multi-function devices emerge, they can provide cost savings for particular users. Why buy an Xbox and a DVD player if the Xbox performs both functions to your satisfaction? Or, why buy a computer and a Wii if the Wii meets all of your computing needs?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How will Prince William deal with Prince William? (Conflicting laws run amok)

(DISCLOSURE: My employer does business with the Calgary Police Service, which presumably is in favor of the Calgary Stampede.)

There are countless situations in which something is legal in one political jurisdiction and illegal in another. But this particular case has an unusual twist.

Any business is bound to offend someone or another. And that is true of the Calgary Stampede, which is opposed by the Vancouver (British Columbia) Humane Society, which uses the old-school acronym "VHS" as a designation. (Apparently Sony isn't big in Vancouver.) The VHS has publicly opposed calf-roping events at Canadian rodeos since 2009 (if not earlier), and isn't that hot on some other rodeo events either. (One of their questions - why would a real cowboy ever ride a bull?)

As part of its effort rodeos, the VHS has formally asked the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to skip the opening of the Calgary Stampede this year, despite the fact that they will be in Calgary on a visit on the day the Stampede opens.

For those who don't keep track of British lordly circles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are more popularly known as William and Kate. They got married recently. Perhaps you heard about it. Anyway, they're making an official trip to Canada which will be eyed by countless royal-watchers, and the VHS realizes that William's and Kate's endorsement (or lack thereof) of the Calgary Stampede will certainly influence others. So the VHS pulled out all the stops in their appeal:

VHS has written to the royal couple advising them that any involvement with the Stampede will be portrayed as an endorsement of rodeo, which VHS says is a spectacle of animal cruelty. VHS is suggesting that they visit an Alberta horse sanctuary as an alternative.

VHS then reminded the Prince:

Rodeos have been banned in the United Kingdom since 1934, when Parliament passed the Protection of Animals Act (which Prince William’s great-great grandfather, George V, signed into law). Britain’s RSPCA is officially opposed to rodeos, as are the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, which represents most SPCAs in Canada, also opposes rodeo.

The League Against Cruel Sports, one of Britain’s oldest and most respected animal welfare charities, is supporting VHS’s campaign to have calf-roping banned at the Calgary Stampede.

Last year, more than 90 members of the U.K. Parliament signed a motion condemning cruelty at the Stampede.

And here's where the whole thing gets a little sticky.

The VHS appealed to UK laws because Prince William is the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, the head of state of the United Kingdom. And if calf-roping and rodeos are illegal in the UK, then Prince William should oppose the practice elsewhere.

Except for the fact that Queen Elizabeth is also the de jure head of state of Canada, where the practice is perfectly legal. In fact, the Queen (or her eventual successor) would be expected to abide by Canadian law:

The Queen has a unique relationship with Canada, entirely separate from her role as Queen of the United Kingdom or any of her other realms.

As in all her realms, The Queen of Canada is a constitutional monarch, acting entirely on the advice of Canadian Government ministers. She is fully briefed by means of regular communications from her ministers, and has face-to-face audiences with them where possible.

The Queen personifies the state and is the personal symbol of allegiance, unity and authority for all Canadians. Legislators, ministers, public services and members of the military and police all swear allegiance to The Queen. Elections are called and laws are promulgated in The Queen's name.

The Queen is represented in Canada on a day-to-day basis by a Governor-General. He or she is appointed by The Queen on the advice of the ministers of Canada and is completely independent of the British Government.

In fact, one of Prince William's first duties during his visit will be to give flags to people who will have just become Canadian citizens. This particular ceremony will take place on Canada Day.

So William and Kate will not be English people visiting Canada; they'll be Canadians who have just been abroad for a spell. I fully expect Kate to say "Eh" a lot as William downs Molsons. In fact, William might tell this joke to his fellow Canadians:

After the North American Beer Festival, all the brewery presidents decided to go out for a beer. The guy from Corona sits down and says, "Hey Senor, would like the world's best beer, a Corona." The bartender dusts off a bottle from the shelf and gives it to him.

The guy from Budweiser says, "I'd like the best beer in the world, give me 'The King Of Beers', a Budweiser." The bartender gives him one.

The guy from Coors says, "I'd like the only beer made with Rocky Mountain spring water, give me a Coors." He gets it.

The guy from Molson sits down and says,

"Give me a Coke." The bartender is a little taken aback, but gives him what he ordered.

The other brewery presidents look over at him and ask, "Why aren't you drinking a Molson's?"

The Molson president replies, "Well, I figured if you guys aren't drinking beer, neither would I."

And, despite the efforts of the VHS, William and Kate will attend the Calgary Stampede, wearing 10-gallon cowboy hats. (Shouldn't that be 37.85 liter hats?)

And if the VHS plans to protest at the event, perhaps they'll throw 730 large eggs.

Actually, the VHS wouldn't do that. That's cruel to the chickens-to-be. (Assuming the chickens aren't pro-choice.)

Acquisitions are never simple

Often the business press reports a simple statement that "Company A is buying Company B."

The reality is often much more convoluted.

As an example, I cite an acquisition which affected me over a decade ago. This was reported in the press as "Motorola buys Printrak," but once you dig into the SEC documents, you find out that it's a little more involved than that.

On August 28, 2000, Printrak International Inc. (the "Registrant")
issued a press release regarding an agreement (the "Merger Agreement") among
Motorola, Inc. ("Motorola"), the Registrant, Panther Acquisition Corp., a
wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorola ("Acquisition Sub") and the Giles Living
Trust UDT dated December 17, 1993, The Giles Family Foundation, and The Smith
Family Revocable Trust dated October 2, 1992 (collectively referred to herein as
the "Registrant's Majority Stockholders") pursuant to which Acquisition Sub will
be merged (the "Merger") with and into Registrant, with Registrant surviving the
Merger as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorola. On August 28, 2000 the
Registrant's Majority Stockholders executed a written consent of stockholders
approving the terms and authorizing the execution of the Merger Agreement by the

Now none of the brief articles that appeared at the time devoted any space to Panther Acquisition Corp or the Smith Family Revocable Trust or the Giles trusts, but all of these acquisition corporations and trusts are the reality when you talk about acquisitions. In this case, Richard Giles and Charles Smith were the majority owners of Printrak, and they held their stock via these trusts. Meanwhile, Motorola set up this corporation called Panther Acquisition Corp to actually perform the acquisition.

What's more, at the end of the day, Printrak International Inc. did not completely disappear. Sure, it was removed from NASDAQ, but an entity called Printrak International Inc. continued to exist after the acquisition - it just had Motorola employees as officers.

Now I personally don't know what happened to Printrak International Inc. - was it eventually dissolved? Did it get acquired by my current employer, Safran? Or did it stay with Motorola and eventually end up with Motorola Solutions, one of the two companies that resulted when Motorola split up? Or did it end up with Motorola Mobility for some odd reason? Maybe Nokia bought it, for all I know...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Should Delta Airlines create forged Saudi visas?

Recently I read the Dave Winer post No journalism on Facebook and was moved to write a comment that read:

The issue is that Facebook, and Google, and just about every on-line company has to operate in accordance with the requirements of hundreds of governments. While their reactions seem incredibly skittish, is there any other way in which a for-profit concern can continue to do business? Social Media Company X can go tell Government Y to pound sand, but if they do so, Governments Y, Z, and AA all have the power to block Social Media Company X from operating. show more show less

And these issues are not limited to social media firms. Steven Perez recently shared a Hullabaloo post from tristero that began with the words:

Dear Delta Airlines,

Well, I can't print the next words in the post, but suffice it to say that tristero dislikes Delta so much that tristero suggested that Delta perform an impossible anatomical trick that rhymes with "truck Jew."

Which is sort of the point made by an item in the Huffington Post with the title "U.S. Jews Not Able To Fly On Delta Flights To Saudi Arabia."

But if you read the article, you learn two things. First, some (but not all) of the prohibitions not only apply to U.S. Jews, but also to Swiss Christians, Canadian Hindus, and Danish Buddhists - at least those who carry religious items with them. Second, the prohibitions are not enforced by Delta itself.

Saudi Arabia, which is governed by strict Islamic law, requires citizens of almost every country to obtain a visa. People who wish to enter the country must have a sponsor; women, who must be dressed according to Saudi standards of modesty, must be met at the Saudi airport by a man who will act as a chaperone.

Saudi Arabia bans anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering the country, even in transit. Many Jews believe the kingdom has also withheld visas from travelers with Jewish-sounding names.

Religious items such as Bibles that are not related to Islam may be confiscated at the airport.

Obviously this is not Delta employees doing this, but Saudi officials. In fact, Delta makes the point that if it tried to carry someone to Saudi Arabia who didn't have a valid visa, Delta would be fined. (Now THAT'S a whole new wrinkle on the illegal alien debate.)

So why is Delta being singled out? Because beginning in 2012, Delta and Saudi Arabian Airlines are now part of the same airline network (SkyTeam), which means that you will be able to buy a ticket to Saudi Arabia from a Delta website or ticket counter.

So how could Delta keep everyone happy? Well, for one, they could create forged Saudi visas so that their passengers can get into Israel. And another thing that they could do is to provide passengers with those fake book covers so that we can cover up our Bibles and Books of Mormon or whatever with covers that say "Quran" or whatever.

Seriously, the argument could be advanced that Delta should refuse to do business with Saudi Arabian Airlines in principle. But if you argue that Delta shouldn't fly to location X on principle, there are other valid principles which dictate that Delta should not fly to locations Y or Z. Should Delta refuse to fly to California? After all, we are well known for beating people based upon their sports affiliations. And heaven knows what human rights would be tramped if a Delta passenger were to wave a Confederate flag on an El-Lay street. (Yes, I just waved the bloody shirt. For historical purposes, of course.)

Oh, and for the record, El Al's U.S. partner is American Airlines. Sort of:

Due to a regulatory change by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines has suspended its codeshare on flights operated by El Al until further notice.

This regulatory change does not affect El Al's codeshare on flights operated by American Airlines, which continues uninterrupted.

So technically you can't fly American Airlines to Israel, but if you could, guess what? You have to have a valid visa.

Note: International Document requirements and taxes are subject to change without notice.

For U.S. citizens, a passport valid for six months beyond duration of stay, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A no-charge, three-month visa may be issued upon arrival and may be renewed.

All visitors are advised to review documentation requirements for travel to Israel very carefully to determine what documents are required for their situation. These requirements change frequently.

Of course, all of this is lost in a barrage of headlines similar to the Huffington Post one. Let's face it, a headline with the words "no-Jew policy" is more captivating than a headline with the words "Fly Delta, lose your crucifix."

Grammararians have their own Fight Club

For a non-movie watcher, I seem to be writing about Fight Club a lot. I wrote about it last August 17, and again on September 14. The reason that I continue to turn to this is because there are many occasions in which we declare that things are rules, but the rules are not universally accepted.

One of my co-workers is reading The Chicago Manual of Style for fun. (Yes, we proposal writers are strange folks.) And that manual has rules for how people should write. One of these is quoted by the Abbeville Manual of Style:

1.2. Adverbs ending in “ly.” Chicago lays down the law on this one. “Compounds formed by an adverb ending in ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible.” We tried hard to come up with some clever example of ambiguity to prove them wrong, but a formulation like “the bravely-borne illness of the tightly-wound tailor” looks a little la-di-da and suspicious even to us. Winner: Chicago.

It didn't take me long to find an instance in which I broke this rule:

For the last couple of years, there have been discussions of the commonly-used capital punishment method of lethal injection, including the question of whether this method is "cruel and unusual."

Yes, that's another high-qualtiy sentence from me.

So how does this rule operate in real life? In most cases, someone will write something which will be marked wrong by someone, and this conversation will take place:

WRITER: What's wrong with the first sentence of section

EDITOR: Improper hyphenation.

WRITER: What's wrong with it?

EDITOR: You don't hyphenate after adverbs ending in ly.

WRITER: Why not?

EDITOR: Because.

From my reading, it appears that a lot of editors are being challenged on this one. Here is an exchange from Jean Weber:

“I’m writing to enquire about your use of the first hyphen in the phrase ‘clearly-labeled stand-alone tutorial’ (in your recent article titled ‘Are chapter numbers necessary?’). The references that I use at work (Chicago and Gregg’s) recommend against such a hyphen. Do you use a different reference that mandates this hyphen?”

I answered,

“No, in that case I used it because there were four words in a row modifying ‘tutorial’ and it seemed more clear (and more balanced) to hyphenate each set of two. That first hyphen isn’t necessary, and as you say, standard references these days recommend against it. Actually, I think I use it mostly because back in the dark ages when I studied grammar (which was taught in schools in those days) then that hyphen was more commonly used. But I could be misremembering.”

And you need to make sure you apply the rule correctly:

But take a closer look the next time you see an "ly" word. Not all of them are adverbs (e.g., friendly, lovely). And some function as both an adverb and an adjective.

And Jean Weber cites Carol Luers Eyman:

“Many style books recommend against the hyphen after adverbs ending in ‘ly,’ and I followed the rule blindly for years before the reasoning behind it became clear to me one day: adverbs ending in ‘ly’ always modify the word immediately following them, so they don’t require a hyphen to indicate which word they modify (‘neatly dressed woman,’ ‘hastily prepared remarks,’ ‘readily available materials’).

“But in sentences with compound adjectives, the first adjective sometimes modifies the next word and sometimes modifies a later word. For example, in ‘small college professor’ the word ‘small’ might modify ‘college’ but it could also modify ‘professor.’ If the former is true, adding a hyphen after ‘small’ makes the meaning clear.”

So the so-called "rule" against hyphenating after adverbs ending in -ly is as clear-cut as the United States tax code.

Next, I'll look for people who disagree with the revisions to Robert's Rules of Order.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

POJO and JAXB - Google Translate for programmers, or dangerous syncretism?

The term "religious war" is often applied to platform discussions in the technical world - Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux, Verizon vs. AT&T, etc. And with reason. At times, people get as passionate about these discussions as they do about religious disputes. As far as I know, no one has been beheaded or burned at the stake because of their platform preferences, but people have certainly lost their jobs over those issues. Sometimes willingly - decades ago, I heard a Mac fanatic tell a company vice president of engineering that if he were forced to work on Windows, he'd quit.

The same holds true of programming languages and platforms. Programming languages are akin to spoken languages - if you speak Serbian to me, an English speaker, I'm not necessarily going to understand you unless I have a special tool that allows me to understand Serbian. Similarly, I can't necessarily take my 1970s-era BASIC syntax and throw it into some other language.

Or perhaps I can. Well, not with BASIC (as far as I know). But we do have POJO and JAXB and what they can do. People better versed than I can speak on this topic, such as Dominique Vernier:

In this article, the author explains how to transform that XML response into a Java™-usable response by creating Plain Old Java Objects (POJOs) and calling JAXB's unmarshal method....

This is also addressed by numberformat, teera, Thomas Sundberg, and others.

Wikipedia explains why one would want to use something like JAXB.

JAXB allows storing and retrieving data in memory in any XML format, without the need to implement a specific set of XML loading and saving routines for the program's class structure....JAXB is particularly useful when the specification is complex and changing. In such a case, regularly changing the XML Schema definitions to keep them synchronised with the Java definitions can be time consuming and error prone.

In a heterogeneous world, tools such as this can be valuable, since they allow the XML folks to continue doing XML stuff, and the Java folks to continue doing Java stuff. After all, you can't expect the entire world to adopt a single platform.

Or can you? Here are some of the arguments from this thread in favor of a homogenous platform:

My manager ... said that he sees the inherent impedance mismatches that would happen between developer machines (possibly Linux and Windows on developer boxes) and production arising from differences in tools and platforms as far outweighing the relatively small cost of changing habits and tools....

Within the team, I would prefer a homogeneous use of configuration and IDE, since this makes it easier to get new developers started, and easier to make sure any changes in architecture or configuration get rolled out to everyone with as little pain as possible (especially since I am the one responsible for the configuration)....

The main advantage of a homogeneous environment is probably that it is easier to manage. That's good for the admins....

I have the luxurious advantage that if my machine goes down for whatever reason and I can't work - it's not my problem, that becomes the problem of the I.T. support staff and if I'm not working, they'll have to suffer the wrath of my manager. I just pick up the phone, call I.T. support and tell them my machine is hooped. When they ask what the problem is I feign idiocy like the other 99% of the staff and they come and fix it. It's great, I never have to worry about the stability of my machine or the software on it as that's not my problem which is actually quite liberating. If it does go down, I can hop on someone else's computer and carry on where I left off - using the exact same toolset as we all have the same until my computer is fixed and I don't have to waste time fixing it myself.

This is just a sampling of the comments in the thread, but I can probably overgeneralize it by saying that the workers are in favor of heterogeneous environments, while the bosses are in favor of homogenous environments.

Guess who writes the paychecks?

Of course, the workers do have some leverage in the matter. Sometimes a worker starts up his or her own company, and therefore can do whatever he or she wants - at least until the company becomes big and you have to set rules such as no iPhones for the kids. And even at the big companies, they might have to yield a bit to get the talent they want.

But the debate on platforms and platform interoperability continues, and has about as much resolution as...well, as peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Acquiring companies sometimes want the people, and sometimes want the assets

There are varying reasons why one company will acquire another company. For example, when Facebook acquired FriendFeed, it was immediately obvious that Facebook wasn't after the FriendFeed platform - Facebook was after the people.

This is apparently not the case with Microsoft's acquisition of Skype. Now there are some talented people at Skype. Take David Gurle, who happens to be a veteran of Microsoft, having worked on the development of Windows Messenger and other real-time products. However, he won't be returning to Microsoft, according to Skype Journal. Gurle and a number of other Skype executives have departed Skype before its acquisition by Microsoft - and, as Bloomberg points out, before they are entitled to payouts resulting from the acquisition.

Steven Hodson believes that Microsoft probably had no direct involvement in the move (but will be blamed for it anyway). However, Microsoft presumably had to sign off on the changes, since they materially affected the company that Microsoft plans to purchase. It's just like when you buy a house - you can't show the buyer an appliance-laden kitchen, and then yank all the appliances out once the buyer signs on the dotted line. Similarly, you can't surprise Microsoft by saying that the billions of dollars that you offered for the company does NOT include four vice presidents, a marketing pro, and a human resources director.

Speaking of said HR director, Anne Gillespie, her public LinkedIn profile says that she is an expert in change management. Let's hope so.

Monday, June 20, 2011

There are dissenting opinions on EVERY topic


I have a fake passport, acquired during my trip to France last year. Actually, it's a demonstration of passport printing technology from the parent company of my employer, and is clearly marked as a fake passport. (Too bad - the passport date of birth is younger than my true date of birth.) Every page has a statement along the lines of "THIS IS NOT A PASSPORT."

The opening page also has a statement, below the word "Phrenology." On this page, the statement reads "THIS IS NOT A SCIENCE."

Tell that to the folks at, a page that aims "to advocate a positive approach to scientific Phrenology."

Let's allow them to make their case:


So who is to blame for the low opinion of phrenology today? Sigmund Freud. Oh, and Adolf Hitler.


But these criticisms didn't start in the 20th century. They started with Napoleon Bonaparte:


Why is a discussion of phrenology relevant to a business blog? Because it illustrates that when you are creating a business plan, or a marketing campaign, you cannot necessarily make assumptions in the macro sense. Perhaps someday my company will give a fake passport to a dedicated phrenologist and offend him or her. Perhaps some day your company will contact a MySpace user and be surprised to learn that the user is a rich white male who hates music. Or perhaps a progressive American will be dismayed to be called "a stupid fascist cowboy American, just like Bush and Obama."

If you don't understand your customers, you don't understand your customers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) The ramifications of shiny old toys

I haven't been employed by Motorola in over two years, so I guess I can publicly disclose this now. At the time that I left Motorola's employ in April 2009, our standard employee computing platform included both Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6. If you are wondering about some of the things that I wrote at the time regarding the "Internet Explorer 6 users are bozos" crowd, now you know why I wrote them (although we had fun with the debate at times).

Now I'm not going to disclose the standard employee computing platform of my current employer, but it's fair to say that Robert Scoble or Steven Hodson wouldn't exactly drool over all of the features of said platform.

Let's face it, corporate America is not as enamored with shiny new toys as individual tech pundits are. It takes time to install the latest shiny new toy over thousands of computers, and it takes much more time to make sure that the shiny new toy actually works in the corporate environment.

So when you read discussion of brand new gizmo X or solution Y in the tech press or the tech blogosphere, bear in mind that the discussion doesn't even apply to a subset of corporate America.

Perhaps I shouldn't say "subset." Art Wittman has shared the results of a recent study of corporate users, prefacing the results with the following statement:

[T]he most surprising thing we found was that when it comes to laptops and desktops, you'd think our survey data was from at least a year ago.

Wittman continues:

July will mark the two-year anniversary of Windows 7's release to manufacturing. So what's the market penetration in corporate America now? According to our survey, the median percentage of desktops and laptops running Win 7 is a lowly 15%. Even if you work from the retail launch of Win7, which was in October 2009, you'd still guess that about half of desktops and laptops would have turned over already given the typical three-year replacement cycle.

Now since the vast majority of corporate America is still using some form of Windows, this isn't necessarily evidence of ANDROID APPLE R00LZ D00D.

Wittman notes that the recession may be a cause of Windows 7's slow adoption, but he also notes something else - Windows XP may be good enough for what a lot of people do.

XP is well understood, and when it's run on a dual-core system with a few gigabytes of memory (we used to call those supercomputers and squirrel them away at Los Alamos and the NSA), most users' needs are more than adequately met.

Now this will probably change over time - within two years it may become a necessity for EVERY employee to be able to stream HD video from a laptop connected to a mass transit wi-fi.

Or perhaps not - perhaps there will still be a substantial group of employees who can get by with Microsoft Works and a simple Web browser.

How does this affect YOUR business?

Friday, June 17, 2011

So a geek cannot be a gentleman (or, I compare myself to Mark Cuban)

There are numerous reasons why I will not make the cover of GQ, and voop has written something that explains one of these reasons.

The website The Fountain Pen Network recently had a vigorous discussion on the question "Where should a gentleman you keep the day's pen when it's not in your hand?" After many people weighed in on the various options (shirt pocket, suit pocket, vest pocket), voop contributed a comment. Here's voop's reply:

A gentleman's shirt doesn't have pockets, so the question is really moot. Should you have a shirt with pockets, know that they are for decorative use exclusively.

Others have commented on the only appropriate use of a jacket outside pocket, so I shall just adhere.

However, just as a gentleman's shirt does not have pockets, a gentleman has his tailor fit his suit jacket with a pen-pocket, especially for holding said pen safely and securely, not to mention without it deforming the fit of the jacket.

I'll be sure to mention this to my tailors, Mr. Kohl and Mr. Kirkland, when I have my next fitting.

I would be willing to guess that voop spends a relatively large amount of money on his pens, which can be defined as buying pens in single units and not having to remove them from a plastic bag.

And I would also be willing to guess that voop does not write for a living. Oh, I'm sure that voop writes, but writing is probably not voop's primary job. voop's location is listed as "Statistically, either in an A330/A340 or in a Hilton," so it's pretty likely that someone does the writing FOR voop.

Someone like me.

But there are other people who require rapid access to pens. While these things are changing, and perhaps there are people who are more likely to tap something into a smartphone than write it on a piece of paper, there are still some old fogeys like myself who actually use pens. And (I'd better whisper this very quietly) there are also grown adults who use PENCILS. (As a left-hander, I don't do this.)

And this whole "gentleman" thing goes far beyond myself. Perhaps you've heard about former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent's remarks about Mark Cuban:

"I think it's more important for owners to be gentlemen, play by the rules, respect the authorities, do what's good for the sport, than it is to manage his franchise into total success," he said. "The subtleties make the difference. George Steinbrenner was a real problem in baseball, and I think Mark Cuban is a real problem in basketball."...

"The rules are the rules. I think this enormous criticism -- the screaming about officials, the kinds of things that got him fined by David -- those are not actions of a sensible, responsible owner."

Then Vincent said the thing that really got sports radio hollering:

"I mean winning is not everything, and I'm afraid for some of these owners they get so carried away with winning they believe that's the objective."

In case someone sees this blog post years from now, it should be noted that Vincent made these remarks one year after Cuban was blocked from becoming a baseball owner...and mere days after Cuban's Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship.

According to ESPN, Cuban chose not to respond to Vincent's remarks.

Cuban is a true gentleman. Now I don't know if he carries pens in his shirt pockets...but perhaps he does.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The false scarcity of qualified magazine subscriptions

I get a lot of free magazine subscriptions at work. I qualified for these because, as a product manager, I did have some influence (though not final approval power) over what technologies our company would purchase. As a proposal writer, my influence on such decisions has waned significantly.

Therefore I paid rapt attention to the notice that appeared on one of the magazines that I received this afternoon. I won't reveal the name of the magazine, but I will say that it talks about Information and it's published every Week. There was a cover over the cover of this week's issue which read, in part:

Unless You Renew Now

To prevent your subscription from being cancelled,
you must renew by July 1, 2011

Renew now at [website redacted]

...Or you will be replaced by another IT professional.
Demand is high!

Wow! This message, partially printed in bright red text, conjures up images of IT professionals who are starving for information, and they are being blocked from getting that information because of some stupid proposal writer who's still hanging on to an old subscription.

Obviously, the right thing for me to do would be to decline the free subscription, and if the publication were to personally contact me, I should surrender my right to this subscription and give someone else a chance.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't work out that way.

Why? Because, over the last couple of years (ever since I switched jobs) I HAVE been personally contacted by at least one publication, and I tried to tell them that I really wasn't involved in IT decision-making any more - but they still really wanted me to keep that free subscription. In the end, I gave in and told them to keep on sending the magazine just to keep the telemarketer happy.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that the same thing might happen with THIS magazine during this renewal period.

Why? Probably because these publications like to have a certain number of qualified subscribers that they can show to their advertisers. And perhaps the telemarketers even receive their compensation based upon the number of qualified subscribers that they can get to renew.

And if you think my story's funny, check this one out - someone paid for a one-year magazine subscription and still got the magazine five years later:

I ordered a Muscle Car subscription for my husband's birthday about 5 years ago and only paid for one year but we still get it. My theory is the advertising costs are based on subscription rates, magazines survive on advertising, not subscriptions. So they keep sending free magazines and show the advertisers their falsely inflated subscriber count to get them to pay more for their ads.

People always said that the Internet could make money via advertising. It looks like the hardcopy publications are actually doing it.

To be continued?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Money can't buy everything

We often have the misperception that the rich can buy anything they want, but that isn't always the case. Take one example - there is a very wealthy family with three children, ages 15, 12, and 9, and the parents are somewhat technically oriented. You'd think that these parents could spring for iWhatevers for the three kids. After all, the parents can afford them.

But what if the dad is the second richest person in the world? It turns out that this guy isn't going to buy iPads for his kids. This is what he said:

They have the Windows equivalent. They have a Zune music player, which is a great Windows portable player. They are not deprived children.

Yup, if you're Bill Gates' kid, don't count on Steve Jobs toys for Christmas.

Frankly, the exchange is a very small part of the complete Daily Mail article, which deals more with Gates' current career than his old one. (And no, he's not going to come back and replace Ballmer.) For example, he explained how the Foundation makes its donation choices:

Gates decided vaccinating the world’s disadvantaged is a cost-effective, simple way to help the very poor.

‘You get more bang for your buck.’

Why not be the guy who cures cancer instead?

‘The motto of the foundation is that every life has equal value. There are more people dying of malaria than any specific cancer. When you die of malaria aged three it’s different from being in your seventies, when you might die of a heart attack or you might die of cancer. And the world is putting massive amounts into cancer, so my wealth would have had a meaningless impact on that.’

So Gates, in the same way that he did in his previous job, is aiming for the largest possible market.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Niche NOT, or Niche?

In my non-illustrious blogging career, I have repeatedly bounced between having a single blog that covers a lot of different topics, and several different blogs that are (somewhat) more focused. Lately I've tended to do the latter, with separate blogs on business, music, the Inland Empire, and NTN Buzztime, but there's always the chance that I could go the other way in the future.

Since I've been bouncing between these two extremes, I was very interested in reading Duncan Riley's thoughts on the matter. Riley, of course, is the former owner of the Inquisitr and a former writer with a bunch of online properties. As I write this, Riley has not yet revealed what his next project will be, but he dropped some hints recently. In the process of doing so, he offered the following comments on niche publications:

I had a particular passion when I entered blogging in 02/03 and I've never lost it. I am going to, at least in part, revisit that. I'll give a clue: I'm going niche again, after the likes of Mashable, TechCrunch and the others went wide. I believe in the scale model, and I know it works, but I think the money, particularly given the state of the US economy, is in niche, high yield verticals with high CPM's.

Read the rest here.

Now since Riley has to make a living from his blogging - the money from the sale of the Inquisitr will only last so long - he does need to pay attention to writing which will provide him with the maximum amount of revenue. (Provided, of course, that the writing is of interest to him.)

Ironically, when I began searching for discussions of the CPM metric, the first thing that came up was a TechCrunch post by Shelby Bonnie that discussed the drawbacks of the CPM as a metric. Here's a sample:

I believe in basic economics. If you pay for impressions, you get impressions. Is that, in the end, what marketers really want? How about engagement? How about impact? How about actually selling product? A glut of impressions has helped no one.

However, Bonnie was ranting about the use of the CPM as the only metric. Note that Riley was speaking about both CPM AND niche. If I were to create a blog solely devoted to automated fingerprint identification systems (a blog which, for professional reasons, I am unable to write at this time), I could guarantee that any clicks on that blog would be clicks from the engaged persons that Bonnie so desperately wants.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Follow felony trials via blog

Why wait for a scriptwriter to fashion his or her version of a trial? Or why wait for Judge Wapner's successors to show a trial on TV?

There is a blog called The Felony Calendars that blogs about interesting trials in progress. Here's the About page:

"The Felony Calendars" is a blog about criminal trials in D.C. Superior Court,* where the majority of felony cases are assigned to judges on the "Felony I" and "Felony II" calendars. The most serious cases, such as murders and sexual assaults, are assigned to the Felony I calendars.

The author is a lawyer whose work in private practice has focused on criminal defense work and civil litigation. But beware: the contents of this blog are not legal advice.

* Except when a particularly interesting case in one of the region's other state or federal courts beckons.

I ran across the blog because of its account of a defense lawyer's closing arguments. You can either argue that this is the CSI Effect gone mad, or legitimate concerns about a lack of evidence. (For the record, the trial resulted in a hung jury.) Here is part of the account of the defense lawyer's arguments:

Blumenthal started with a list of evidence that had not been presented in the case: testimony that Burns had been seen with a gun; testimony about Burns having mentioned a gun; gunpowder residue, DNA, fingerprints. Each missing piece of evidence is a reason to doubt, Blumenthal said.

In fact, he argued, the government had no more evidence at trial than they did the day of the arrests -- when police were unable to conclude whose gun it was, and arrested both Burns and Johnson.

Would you buy your Harley from the IRS?

There are a variety of ways to buy a motorcycle, but one that might not occur to you would be to buy a motorcycle at an IRS auction. As you know, the IRS doesn't really like it when you don't pay your taxes, and if you owe the IRS money, they could seize your property, including your Harley:

Under the authority in Internal Revenue Code section 6331, the property described below has been seized for nonpayment of internal revenue taxes due from Taxpayer. The property will be sold at public auction as provided by Internal Revenue Code section 6335 and related regulations.

Date: 6/23/2011
Time: 3:00 PM

Sale Location: J and C Auto Service, 821 Ogden Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515

Title Offered: Only the right, title and interest of the Taxpayer in and to the property will be offered for sale. If requested, the Internal Revenue Service will furnish information about possible encumbrances, which may be useful in determining the value of the interest being sold.

Description of Property: 2002 Harley Davidson, Electra Glide Classic, Odometer 20,812

Luggage racks, leather/vinyl bug guard/bra on front fairing.

VIN# 1HD1FFW132Y64162

Property May Be Inspected at:
Property may be inspected the day of sale at 2:00PM

Minimum Bid: Please call for Minimum Bid Amount

Click here for Mail-in Bid Form

The Terms of Payment: Full payment required on acceptance of highest bid.

Form of Payment: All payments must be by cash, certified check, cashier's or treasurer's check or by a United States postal, bank, express, or telegraph money order. Make check or money order payable to the United States Treasury.

Oh, and make sure that check doesn't bounce.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In the thicket - the pros and cons of different database technologies for different projects

"Daddy, where do products come from?"

Well, someone sitting in a coffee shop has an idea, and then this happens, and then that happens, and then some developer in Palo Alto or Portland or Rancho Cucamonga or Delhi has to choose a database technology.

Eddie Awad recently shared a paper by Michael Rhys entitled Scalable SQL. If the product has a huge database, then some things need to be considered. For example, maybe SQL shouldn't be used at all:

One of the leading motivators for NoSQL innovation is the desire to achieve very high scalability to handle the vagaries of Internet-size workloads....

The main goal of the NoSQL/big data movement is to achieve agility. Among the variety of agility dimensions—such as model agility (ease and speed of changing data models), operational agility (ease and speed of changing operational aspects), and programming agility (ease and speed of application development)—one of the most important is the ability to quickly and seamlessly scale an application to accommodate large amounts of data, users, and connections.

At the same time, Rhys notes that many companies that manage big data have actually chosen SQL solutions, rather than NoSQL solutions.

Now I certainly can't comment on the technical details, but Alex Popescu has shared this observation:

[U]sing NoSQL solutions involves an incremental approach where you create and assemble together the building blocks fulfilling the requirements of the system, while using a relational database translates the set of requirements into solutions to overcome/eliminate limitations of the database.

Of course, the two approaches also may (or may not) have implications for the way in which the solution is developed, but that's a whole other issue.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Should governments protect us from our own stupidity? The DNA edition

It's a question that libertarians often ask - are citizens wise persons who can be left to their own devices, or are citizens stupid people who need guidance from politicians or others, rather than relying on their own devices?

Some scientists believe the latter:

Geneticists are pressing for a ban on mail-order DNA kits that claim to forecast your chances of developing chronic or life-threatening diseases.

The first independent research to look at the kits says the information they produce is of little meaningful benefit – and in some cases, plain wrong.

See News One for more details, including this surprising result:

Professor Cecile Janssens, of the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Holland ... said in five out of eight diseases deCODEme calculated some people had risks higher than 100 percent.

Apparently, some governments have already taken action. This disclaimer appears at the bottom of the deCODEme website:

The website is for informational purposes only and should NOT be used for medical decision making without consulting your physician. Some services are not available to residents of certain U.S. states.

Are these states blocking our right to information, or protecting us from unsubstantiated data?

H/T @crimelabproject.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The problem with regime change (Microsoft, Dodgers)

In the political world, I am not a fan of regime change for regime change's sake. And I am not a fan of regime change in the business world either.

Two examples of potential regime change are being discussed in the business world. Over at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer is getting low approval ratings, and shareholder David Einhorn wants Microsoft to can Ballmer and give someone else a chance.

Meanwhile, over at Chavez Ravine, just about everyone is calling for Frank McCourt to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team - again, to give someone else a chance to run the organization.

While such appeals seem attractive on the surface, business regime change proposals, like political regime change proposals, often don't consider what would happen afterwards.

All you have to do is ask a basic question - who will replace Ballmer/McCourt?

Once you start filling in that blank, and a real person emerges as a competitor to the current leader, then the idea of throwing the bum out often looks less attractive.

Take Microsoft, for example. The chances of Microsoft hiring a CEO from outside are not all that great (and for you dreamers, don't count on Steve Jobs accepting an offer to run Microsoft). Yes, I know that Microsoft hired Jon Shirley as President/COO in 1983, but he left day-to-day operations of Microsoft in 1990. So if Microsoft doesn't hire a CEO from outside, that means that they need to hire a CEO from inside. And for those who are arguing that Microsoft is stuck in the past, how will another insider be any better than Ballmer, who is nothing if not enthusiastic?

I'll look at the other case. I was a former Dodgers fan until Fox bought the team, and the team jettisoned Bill Russell, Mike Piazza, and Hideo Nomo within a very short period. Now you'd expect that I'd be arguing for someone to take over the team from Fox, and eventually I got my wish - Frank McCourt bought the team. While McCourt has had more success in the postseason than Fox, I don't think anyone would claim that the Dodgers were better off after Fox left the stage.

Now it's a different matter if someone proposes a regime change and has a viable candidate to take over. For example, I would not mind if Mark Cuban were to buy the Dodgers. However, I also realize that Cuban has little chance of being approved as an owner by Major League Baseball.

So before you jump on a regime change bandwagon, ask yourself - can you propose a likely, viable successor?

Slingbox gets customers that they don't want

Let's look at this "Company X doesn't want me as a customer" from another point of view.

I've already ranted about how Foursquare doesn't want me as a customer because they stopped letting me earn mayorships on my not-so-smart phone, and how the Pavilions grocery store doesn't want me as a customer because they closed the nearby store.

It turns out that Slingbox does want me as a customer, but they don't have me as a customer (yet). But I hear their ads often, usually delivered by sports talk host Matt "Money" Smith. In the ads, Money talks about how he can use the Slingbox when he is away from home to watch sporting events on TV, just by using the Slingbox at his house, coupled with a device (computer or mobile) with an Internet connection.

Slingbox has been advertising its services in this way for years, despite the fact that they learned something about their customer base way back in 2007. As Stoney DeGeyter noted at the time:

My Slingbox lets me tap into my TiVo at home so I can watch my recorded programs. I am SlingBox's target audience. But recently SlingMedia, the makers of Slingbox, found something interesting. Between 35 and 45 percent of Slingbox users don't use it away from home.

So where do they use it? To learn this, go to DeGeyter's post. Then go to the Slingbox site. Do you see any mention of this way of using the Slingbox?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pavilions doesn't want me as a customer either

Inasmuch as we are all supposed to be social and "friends" and stuff, and businesses are supposed to engage with us, apparently we are supposed to treat our relationships with businesses as personal relationships.

If this is the case, then we are often jilted.

I have recently written about the fact that Foursquare doesn't want me to use its services. Now it's not like someone at Foursquare was sitting at a desk and saying, "We have to get this Bredehoft guy off our service." But when Foursquare changed its rules to prevent mobile web users from earning mayorships, that's exactly what they did.

So I began wondering about other companies who don't want me as a customer. And I immediately thought of one - Pavilions.

For those of you who don't live in southern California, Pavilions is a Safeway-owned grocery chain that seeks to be the upper-class cousin to Vons, which is also owned by Safeway.

There used to be a Pavilions in my area. Ironically, it was probably about halfway between Yogurtime Upland and My Delight Cupcakery.

But, not too long after the southern California grocery strike, that Pavilions closed its doors (although it took longer for this to happen than I originally expected).

Yet Pavilions still continues to send advertisements to me, even though they demonstrated that they don't want me as a customer. After all, if they wanted me as a customer, they would spend the thousands upon thousands of dollars required to keep that store open.

I guess they didn't want me that much.

Compare this with, say, Walmart, who has been fighting for years to open a store next to me. I guess they want me.

In the process of writing this post, I went to and used its store locator. I figured that if they really wanted me, they'd come to my house with limo service (Pavilions is, after all, a high-end store) and drive me to the nearest Pavilions.

So where is the nearest Pavilions? I used the Pavilions store locator, which identified the three nearest Pavilions to my home. Here they are:

82 West Foothill Blvd
Upland, CA 91786
Store Phone: 909-981-7709
Store Hours: 5:00 AM-Midnight

550 E. Baseline Rd .
Claremont, CA 91711
Store Phone: 909-621-4644
Store Hours: 5:00 AM - Midnight

8778 19TH St.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701
Store Phone: 909-989-1000
Store Hours: 5:00 AM - Midnight

Notice anything unusual about this list of the three nearest Pavilions to my home?

Yup, that's right - none of them is a Pavilions. In fact, I had to go to store number 14 on the list to find a Pavilions that is actually a Pavilions.

8010 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd
Anaheim Hills, CA 92808
Store Phone: (714) 282-7064
Store Hours: 6:00 AM - Midnight

Now I may work in Orange County, but I don't necessarily want to buy my groceries there. Pavilions isn't THAT special, and the fact that Pavilions' own store finder suggests that Vons is just as good as Pavilions kind of cements that lack of specialness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ascension Day

You find out things when working for a foreign-owned company.

Although the holiday is not observed in the United States, tomorrow (Thursday, June 2) is Ascension Day (the "ascender" being Jesus Christ). lists the countries that observe Ascension Day as a public holiday:

The Netherlands.

And yes, Indonesia is on that list. It's odd that a predominantly Muslim country such as Indonesia celebrates Ascension Day, while a predominantly Christian country such as the United States does not. also explains how the day is celebrated:

Ascension Day is sometimes called Father’s Day in Germany because many Protestant men have herrenpartien “outings” on this day. In Sweden many people go out to the woods at 3am or 4am to hear the birds at sunrise. It is good luck if a cuckoo is heard from the east or west. These jaunts are called gökotta, or “early cuckoo morning”.

I know some people in Sweden, so I hope that they hear a lot of cuckoos tomorrow.

@foursquare still doesn't want @torontodoorgirl @matthewtravels or me as a customer

I haven't made it a priority to read the mail that Foursquare sends to me, but I took some time last weekend to peek at what Foursquare has sent me over the last few months. Some good friends have asked to become my friend on Foursquare. And I received one other piece of mail from Foursquare that I'll mention in a minute.

And I've pretty much ignored these emails for the last several months.

Why? Well, if you didn't read my January 15 post on the topic, let me quote from Foursquare's own documentation:

If you don't have a phone that will run one of our apps (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Winmo7, Symbian) but your phone can access the internet, you can still check in by pointing your mobile web browser to Because most mobile web browsers do not support advanced features like GPS or photo uploads, we have created a simpler foursquare experience that is customized for the mobile web browser’s limitations. For example, you can’t upload photos (no saved photo access), and you can’t earn Mayorships (no GPS) on the mobile web....

As you may remember from my January post, participating in Foursquare without the ability to earn mayorships just wasn't all that compelling for me.

So I've pretty much been ignoring my Foursquare friend requests and other Foursquare emails, and therefore missed an email that arrived on March 29 - an email that I had anticipated for some time:

You've just been ousted as the mayor of Yogurtime Upland!

Sorry for the bad news, but Missy has just ousted you as mayor of Yogurtime Upland!

Don't take it too hard - a few more check-ins and you could be back on top...

Good Luck!
- Your friends @ foursquare

Well, friends @ foursquare, it sounds like I could check in every day for a month on my phone and never earn that mayorship back. But at least I won't be getting any more of those emails from Foursquare, since that was my last mayorship.

And while this handicap doesn't matter to most Foursquare users, it matters to some. @Torontodoorgirl:

If I had the full version of foursquare I would totally be the mayor of Royal York Subway Station by now. Screw you, mobile web.


I'm boycotting @foursquare who no longer count mobile web check-ins (causing me to lose mayorships) & still don't have an app for my phone.

Now, I have a longstanding policy of not deleting inactive accounts, so my Foursquare page still remains online, despite the fact that I haven't even logged into it in several months.

And I'm sure that my account is included in the totals that Foursquare presents to its real clients, ranging from MTV to Yogurtime Upland.

And I'm sure that for many of Foursquare's target businesses, users with smartphones are more desirable than users like me and Torontodoorgirl, or even Matthewstravels. So, in a macro sense, Foursquare works.

But if one of the data analysts at Foursquare is wondering about the reason for this dead you know.