Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wild About 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'

Coincidentally, the last two films I went to see at the movie theater have been adaptations of children's books. [Being the astute and well-read bibliophile that I am...] I had read both
'Where the Wild Things Are,' written by Maurice Sendak, and 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' authored by Roald Dahl, before I saw their respective adaptations.

Both movies make use of contemporary cinematic technologies. Fantastic Mr. Fox is filmed in stop-motion animation, and Where the Wild Things Are was supposedly years in the making, so that Spike Jonze could figure out exactly how to effectively combine the bodysuits worn by the live actors, with CGI'ed movements.

And, arguably, both movies are directed toward a composite child-adult audience, attempting to successfully provide entertainment on both levels of sophistication.

I waited in eager anticipation for Where the Wild Things Are, and while I did enjoy the movie, it was not commensurate with my level of expectation. After seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox, I realized just how disappointing Where the Wild Things actually was.

First, Fantastic Mr. Fox has a smart and witty narrative. The story is simple, yet compelling, and the characters are developed to a level where you distinguish their personalities and idiosyncrasies. The dialogue is sensibly and cleverly written, to be enjoyed by children and adults. [instead of swearing, the characters would say "cuss"... for example, "you scared the 'cuss' out of me..." or "well, this is a real cluster-'cuss'..."]. Where the Wild Things Are is certainly written to elevate the story beyond the simply tale presented in the book, but it seems to lack a degree of candor and purpose. I never felt attached to the characters, I had a hard time distinguishing between the various 'Wild Things,' and I never felt as though I cared about what happened to them.

Second, Fantastic Mr. Fox is laugh-out-loud hilarious. The film uses visual pranks, musical humor and witty dialogue to create a genuinely funny overtone. Where the Wild Things Are has its 'funnier' moments, but the dramatic/serious aspect to the story overpowers throughout the entire film, and seems to detract and preempt any attempt at humor.

Most telling, perhaps, is that Fantastic Mr. Fox recaptures the childhood magic of reading; it delivers the feeling I expected to experience during Where the Wild Things Are. The trailer for the latter film promised this feeling, with those sunlit scenes where Max is sailing and the forest shots where the camera spies on the "Wild Things." [all with the killer Arcade Fire tune, 'Wake Up,' adding to the sense of wonder...] Yet, the execution of the film simply falls flat. It is stale, tired and drags on for too long, revisiting the same themes over again and again.

Overall, Fantastic Mr. Fox excites the imagination, and reclaims that 'magical' feeling of childhood, whereas Where the Wild Things Are simply does not. Director Wes Anderson captures the essence of Roald Dahl's whimsical tale, and presents it in an endearing, humorous and engaging medium.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Dec. 6: Chicory Stout

The decision to pick up a six-pack of Dogfish's Chicory Stout was a relatively impulsive one. I wanted to review a darker beer this week, and I have been hearing great things lately about Dogfish. I spotted this seasonal release on-sale while unsuccessfully searching for Life & Limb (the highly-touted collaboration from Dogfish and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.), and decided to give it a try.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales is a brewery based in Milton, Delaware, but maintains a coast-to-coast distribution and enjoys a nationwide reputation. They brew eight beers year round, and are probably most well-known for their IPA's, which come in both the 60min and 90min "flavors." Dogfish also puts out four seasonal offerings; their winter release being the Chicory Stout.

Most people are familiar with Guinness as the paradigmatic stout, and it certainly would be considered the classic, most accessible 'dark beer.' The thing people love about Guinness is the sweetness, and of course, the foamy/creamy head (it is a veritable beer milkshake). Yet, stouts have the potential to be so much more interesting and flavorful. Many brewers incorporate dark earthy flavors(chocolate, coffee, chocolate and coffee) into stouts, thereby increasing the complexity, and often the alcoholic content, of the brew.

Chicory Stout is an example of a stout that ups the ante. It includes flavorful ingredients such as organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort, licorice root, and naturally, chicory. [yeah, what exactly is chicory?... apparently, it is a root cultivated throughout Europe for use as a coffee substitute, and according to Wikipedia, "[s]ome beer brewers used roasted chicory to add flavor to their stouts."]

The beer pours dark and smooth, releasing its carbonation and aroma quickly. Although the bottled touts a "bone white head," the beer pours more of an earthy-brown head, that dissipates rather quickly.

Dark brown in color, this stout also has a deep-reddish hue, that is only perceptible holding the glass up to a light source. Given the carbonation of the beer, its overall appearance is comparable to a root-beer (now that I think about it...Chicory Stout is a root-beer, a beer made with root). The smell was surprisingly mild. I was expecting a full-on olfactory blast of coffee scent, something that turns me off of other coffee-beers, but this stout smells slightly alcoholic with just barely discernible earthy/coffee undertones.

When it comes to flavor, Chicory Stout fires on all cylinders. It is rich and creamy, quite drinkable, yet has several competing flavors that push through the beer to finish crisp and clean. The brew is not overpowering on any level, and the slight alcoholic scent did not come through during tasting. I definitely enjoyed this beer, and as my glass quickly emptied, I found myself reaching for another.

5.2 % ABV
21 IBUs
Glassware: Pint Glass

Overall, Chicory Stout is a surprisingly polished and complete seasonal beer. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Guinness, and might be looking to try something with a bit more sophisticated flavor then a generic dark beer. Further, as this was my first time sampling a Dogfish product, I have to say I was impressed with their product, and am eager to taste some of their other brews.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2010: The Year of the E-Reader?

I was an early adopter of the Amazon Kindle 2 platform. Since its eagerly anticipated February 2009 launch date, I have absolutely loved the device. As of this point, I am significantly and definitively invested within, and tied into, the Amazon e-book/reader platform. [thank you DRM, but that is another story altogether...]

Since February, the e-Reader marketplace has been impacted by myriad levels of development and innovation. Some advances and improvements have proven to be just that. For example, the release of "Kindle-for-PC" last month is an example of an excellent supplementary program built off of the platform. But other developments have remained stagnant, or have simply failed. Here, it is easy to cite the Kindle DX as a bust, or for that matter, write off the entire concept of newspapers delivered via e-readers as having been a relative nonstarter.

Yet as the holidays near, the e-reader has been a predominant story in the tech news.

The competing platforms, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Nobles' Nook, have both made the tech headlines over the past few weeks. Amazon has been boasting about tremendous sales and have been touting the continued availability of their device, while the Nook's elusive launch date appears to continue to be recurrently pushed back, as supply levels cannot match pace with demand.

Additionally, there are several other e-readers already on the market, and we have been hearing many stories/rumors about planned future devices (the e-reader is predicted to be a featured gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show, taking place in January of next year).

The e-Reader is poised to potentially become the device of 2010.

All that being said, I have still only observed three Kindles "in the wild," and I am the (unwelcome) recipient of quizzical and curious looks whenever I read in public [and I live just south of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where one could expect a greater level of e-reader market penetration].

General concern remains over the complaints originally lobbied against electronic readers... that they cannot replace real, physical books...that they are not capable of enabling the social, sharing aspects of reading.

Sure, the tech world may recognize the promise of the e-reader as a platform. Reality remains that most people have no clue what an e-reader is, or why they might even want one.

But, maybe the writing is on the wall; the e-reader could rapidly see widespread, universal adoption. The market for the e-reader is at a crossroads, possibly ready to explode. We will find out sooner, rather than later, whether mainstream America is ready for electronic readers and digital media.

[an additional note: if you are looking for an e-reader this holiday season, be sure to check out Wired Magazine's informative e-reader Gift]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Nov. 29: Pliney the Elder

About a week ago, I came across an interesting 'beer battle' on the beer-blog, Twinbeer. The battle was a showdown between Lagunitas' Hop Stoopid Ale and Russian River's Pliney the Elder. Both of the beers received generally positive reviews, with Pliney the Elder ultimately taking the victory. When I spotted Pliney at Whole Foods in Campbell, I decided to make it my next choice for the weekly review.

Pliney the Elder is a Double IPA, a style of beer that, by definition, incorporates a large amount of hops into a relatively slower brewing process. The result is a "big beer" featuring a medium-to-high alcohol content, and an intensely hoppy flavor. If you aren't a fan of hops, this may be a style to avoid.

The beer bottle features a classic logo, and includes a charming narrative about Pliney the Elder. Born in 23 A.D., the Roman naturalist was credited with the discovery of hops, and supposedly perished while attempting to save fellow Romans during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The brew is Russian River Brewing Co.'s homage to the "scholar, historian, traveler, officer and writer." Also, somewhat humorously, the bottle contains no less than 14 warnings about drinking Pliney as fresh as possible..." If you must, sit on eggs, not on Pliny!" With these admonitions in mind, I eagerly cracked open the bottle.

The pour produced a thick, frothy white head on the beer, that again, did not dissipate quickly [as seen the picture]. The snifter-style glass beautifully showcased the brew, as the carbonation was slowly released, creating a tantalizing display of bubbles that coupled with an intensely bright, (and alcoholic) flowery aroma.

The color of this brew was bright orange, with subtly warm undertones. Peering through the glass, the beer appeared surprisingly clear and was more phosphorescent than cloudy. The smell was potent, extremely hoppy and citrusy, with a clearly alcoholic overcast.

This beer has a huge flavor. It is immediately hoppy and sweet, yet finished crisp and clear. It definitely delivered an "explosive hop flavor," as promised on the bottle. After drinking the beer for a while, my only complaint was that it proved to finish a little overpowering, yet the taste never degenerated into an unpleasant one.

Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8.0% , 100 BUs
1.071 O.G.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beer and was glad to have tried it. Although this beer won't be one that I will drink regularly, it will certainly be one to keep an eye-out for (especially if it is fresh... "Age your cheese, not your Pliney!").


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Nov. 22: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Well, here goes nothing...

For my first review, I decided to sample a brew from a brewery that I know and love, New Belgium Brewing (plus, I already had the matching glassware). One of my favorite beers of all-time, is their summer seasonal, Skinny Dip. Yet, the brewery is probably most well-know for its flagship beer, Fat Tire, which can be found on tap at numerous locales throughout Northern California.

The 1554 Enlightened Black Ale is one of seven beers that New Belgium produces year-round [part of the "Our Folly" lineup], although it is not as easily found as Fat Tire. The bottle states that 1554 "redefines the phrase keeping time in a bottle." Further, it boasts a "surprisingly bright taste and a dry, chocolaty finish..." My weekly beer review provided me with a great excuse to pour one!

The pour was smooth, creating a nice head on the beer that stuck around for a few sips. I found the beer to be a little bubbly at first, but this might have been caused by my storage of the beer on its side and opening it too quickly (you can sort of see the carbonation in the pic...I know, I know that B+ in undergrad photography sure doesn't show! I will be working on improving the quality of the photos...).

The beer simply looks delicious; I wanted to drink it right away. The hue was a deep brown, certainly darker than an IPA or an amber (Fat Tire), but much lighter than a stout (or a Xingu Black Beer - which will probably be the beer I fall back to for comparison on this one extreme). Also, the beer was quite aromatic throughout the pour, as I was hit with a pleasant smell, rich and chocolaty, with just a subtle hint of that alcohol 'beer-smell' (not too overpowering).

My first sip was outstanding, everything that I was expecting. Very malty, just the right level of sweetness and very flavorful. My only criticism of the beer was that as I continued to sip it, it lost some of its initial smoothness. The beer developed a slightly bitter edge, eclipsing some of the more initially pleasing flavors of the beer. On their website, New Belgium recommends a pairing of 1554 with "meat stew" or desserts, like chocolate- or cheesecake. 1554 would pair well with practically anything off the grill (they also, interestingly suggest beet greens as a potential menu item).

Style: Belgian Dark Ale
ABV: 5.6%

Overall, I will definitely seek out this beer again. It has much more character than your generic dark beer (e.g., a Guinness), and it is satisfyingly delicious. 1554 is certainly on par with the level of quality that I have come to expect from New Belgium's line of brews. Be sure to look out for this one, if New Belgium's brews are available where you live (unfortunately, not NY).


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Announcing MT;COTM Weekly Beer Reviews...

Those who know me particularly well, are fully aware of my tendencies to "geek-out" on seemingly ineffectual subject matter. I have been known to accelerate my interests in say, skiing or Mixed Martial Arts (or IP Law), from zero to a hundred rather quickly.

My current geek indulgence, has been beer.

Thus, I am announcing that (starting soon...just in time for law school finals!) I will be reviewing one beer a week here at Modern Time; Crimes of the Mind.

My tastes have changed significantly since my college days (although I am at risk of reverting to Natural Light nearly every time I purchase beer...truly upsetting). Lately, I have been eschewing the lighter, more popular beers/brands to experiment with some more flavorful brews. Now, make no mistake, in my heart of hearts I absolutely love what I affectionately have dubbed the "Hometown Breweries" such as Saranac, Long Trail Brewing Co., Magic Hat Brewing Company, southern tier brewing co., etc.

I would desire nothing better to review some of my favorite brews from the great North East, however, I will simply be limited by availability. Luckily, I am surrounded by some fantastic breweries. A few of my favorites discoveries thus far (expect to see reviews of beers from many of the following):

Pyramid Breweries - probably most well known for their Hefe
Anchor Brewing - maker of the SF classic, the Anchor Steam

Plus a few of my favorite "bigger-breweries" out in Colorado:
Flying Dog Brewery - the 2009 'Mid-Size Brewery of the Year' (GABF).

My ambition is to sample and review one beer each week. I will attempt to include pictures, as well as my (expert/charming/batman-esque) insight concerning each beer. I am still toying around with a rating schematic, but rest assured, you will know my opinion, one way or another, regarding each brew.

Now, here comes the FULL of this moment, everything that I am reviewing and including in photographs (i.e., glasses with brand names on them) have been paid for entirely by me. This ensures an unbiased, hard-hitting opinion that you can TRUST and RELY on! [please note this as sarcasm] That being said, I am always open to receiving beers or beer/glass combo sets for fact, you could say that I readily welcome and invite solicitation (full disclosure if and when of course!). Please simply contact me...

Also, be patient - twice a year blogging (and beer reviewing) takes a deferential, "back-burner," position to law school finals...but you can expect to see a weekly installment soon.

Thanks and [of course] Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"The Future of the DVD"

On Monday, I was in attendance at the haunting Varnish Gallery in San Francisco, where the Electronic Frontier Foundation presented a panel and happy hour event, titled "The Future of the DVD."

The panel was moderated by EFF's Senior Staff Attorney, Fred von Lohmann. Fred introduced three main talking points for the evening, each highlighting some apparently conflicting interests between Hollywood (dubbed as "big content") and consumers of DVD's.

First, he noted that consumers want to be able to space-shift and format-shift the content that they purchase. Users need to be able to take advantage of their fair use rights, for instance, when making back-up copies of their DVD's.

Second, he touched upon the charged atmosphere surrounding DVD rental. Due to the increasingly ubiquitous nature of "Redbox" kiosks, movie studios are threatening to withhold wholesale pricing for new releases and are attempting to impose a period of delay between movie release dates and Redbox availability.

And finally, Fred reiterated the 'Remix'/creativity theme that academics like Lawrence Lessig have considered to be absolutely vital in this changing technological climate. Fred mentioned how the EFF was pushing the Copyright Office to recognize another DMCA exception, this one to allow users the ability to use clips from DVD's to remix movies in the creation of works of fan-fiction or in the remixing of other non-commercial, transformative works (e.g., music videos).

The rest of the panel hour was comprised of two stories. The first was that of Kaleidescape, and their product, movie server systems [if you have never heard of the company or their line of products, it is probably because an entry level system will run you at least $8,000...the systems average $30,000 each]. Kaleidescape CEO Michael Malcolm commented on the absurdity of the movie studios "rent, rip and return" claims. Given the nature and expense of the systems, he argued that movie server users are not typically engaging in this behavior [if you have the money to buy a system, you can afford (and are likely) to purchase movies outright].

The second story was a more familiar narrative, the RealDVD case. Deputy General Counsel for RealDVD, Bill Way, discussed his frustrations with Real's attempt to work collaboratively with the studios; he claimed that RealDVD's product was actually in the best interests of the studios. As opposed to open, unencrypted DVD burning programs and devices, RealDVD actually only makes encrypted copies, and thus provides for certain security measures. Their product, he stated, is strictly "designed to limit [the user] to fair use rights..."

Bill went on to further discuss RealDVD's ongoing litigation. A declaratory judgment was initially filed by RealDVD in the Northern District of California, and a concurrent temporary restraining order was filed by the movie studios in Los Angeles. The two suits were combined and heard in the Northern District, where Judge Patel ultimately issued the TRO. On Tuesday (the day following panel event), RealDVD filed their appeal. Bill commented on how he hopes to convince the appellate court to allow a Microsoft declaration to come into evidence [allegedly suggesting that the DVD CCS contract is not meant to prohibit all DVD copying...potentially a smoking gun-type statement?].

As for the 'Future of the DVD', the panel painted a foreboding description of what the movie studios want, i.e., "managed DVD copies". The panel urged that managed DVD copying would be extremely detrimental to user's interests, as it would provide a mechanism for content producers to get consumers to pay again and again for the same content, each time they want to create another copy.

The event was certainly an informative, albeit one-sided (biased?) view of the current debate surrounding both rental and copying rights for DVD's. Ultimately, this debate might prove to be relatively inconsequential as the future of the DVD could be nonexistent. Physical media is likely headed the way of the dinosaur, as more and more people move towards streaming and digital downloads. The question is what will happen, in between now and then.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Facebook Memorial Park

Facebook's introduction of the 'Memorial' Page was a topic of discussion on This Week in Law, Episode 36. The panelists addressed primarily legal issues -- what sort of legal planning (i.e. issues that arise in the law school requisite course, Wills & Estates) and post-death, familial dispute resolutions would be necessitated by the act of memorializing a deceased user's Facebook page. Denise Howell also addressed a social functions of the memorial page, in providing notice to users regarding the passing of a (perhaps, attenuated) friend.

In my opinion, the memorialization of a Facebook page, or the creation of a similar landing site on the web, is a reasonable supplement (or alternative?) to traditional funeral/memorial practices.

First, a virtual memorial is both cheap to create and relatively easy to maintain. Facebook does not charge for this service, and given that a user page is 'frozen' at the time of memorialization, there is really no effort required to setting up the site (yet the site is still capable of being dynamic, in that a limited group of people can write on the wall, post pictures, etc...essentially, information can still be added or removed).

Second, a virtual memorial is not constrained by real-world, physical limitations. A headstone can only capture the name of the individual, the crucial dates, and maybe a short quote or phrase. A virtual memorial, on the other hand, can be drastically more inclusive. The website could contain photos of the individual, quotes by and about the person, videos, music, etc.

Most importantly, a virtual memorial is far more convenient than a physical one. A virtual memorial can be accessed at anytime, from anywhere. It would be possible to "visit" the site for as long as you wish, or to stay for just a quick glance at a photograph or two. This virtual memorial may not replace a physical memorial (i.e. graveside/cemetery location), but it could definitely supplement a real-world memorial in an appreciable way.

While the idea of a virtual memorial website is certainly not new, Facebook creates the opportunity to dedicate one where this option was not so readily available in the past. Facebook eliminates the barriers and disincentives to creation of such a site.

Currently, the notion of a Facebook page for a deceased user may appear a little offensive or untimely. But, it will be interesting to see if these memorial pages are regularly adopted on a widespread basis. This could very well be a possibility, as our culture continues to evolve with an increasingly open mindset toward online social interactions.

After all, the interactive social processes surrounding the death of friend or family member are one of the most cultural and sociological aspects of the human experience. It is only a matter of time until they shift and blur into the virtual world, as has been the case for so many other of our daily interactions.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What is Scarier this Halloween...Another Saw Movie or the Bay Bridge?

If you have not yet heard about the closing of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco/Oakland, or have not yet seen this frightening image, be sure to also check out this very technical and informative article on whole fiasco (via Slashdot).

As you can see from the photos in the article, and from the now infamous Twitpic (which looks like something straight out of the movie Cloverfield), the entire incident was both extremely alarming and inherently dangerous. The bridge is currently closed indefinitely for emergency repairs. This closure comes on the heels of a Bay Bridge closure for scheduled repair work several weeks ago.

This accident not only creates a logistical nightmare for the two cities, but has caused havoc throughout the entire bay area. BART, the public transportation system, has tried to ramp up its services, however the convenience of the Bay Bridge itself cannot easily be replicated for those who have come to rely on it each and every day. The I-880 alternate route is predictably overcrowded and uncertainty looms regarding future accessibility.

On top of everything, the closure of the Bridge is costing the State hundreds of thousands of dollars in much needed toll revenue.

With today being Halloween, it is downright scary to acknowledge that California is now literally falling apart. All things considered, we can look ahead toward Thanksgiving and at least be thankful that no one was injured or killed, or that the damage to the Bridge was worse (who knows, by then the Bay Bridge may even be operable!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Google Maps Navigation? Droid Does

Could the rejection of Google Voice from the App Store imminently be coming back to haunt Apple?

Later next month, when the Droid phone is 'unleashed' upon the Verizon Wireless network, Google and Motorola could witness a massive market success. The Droid seems to be aesthetically on par with the iPhone, as early reviewers are commenting on its appearances and functionality (it features a gorgeous display screen and a slide-out keyboard). The phone runs Android 2.0, the second version of the open-source OS that not only looks much better than its original inception, but has a user-interface that accommodates both easier access and use of the phone. Additionally, Verizon Wireless' network is purported to be almost absurdly more capable than ATT's (we have all seen the blue map/red map, there are nearly endless (ubiquitous) complaints about poor iPhone service).

The biggest question surrounding the Droid could be its battery life (which proved to be the bugaboo for the first Google phone)...

And, yes, the Droid will be the first smartphone to support Google Maps Navigation. This feature is HUGE. Nearly everything you love (and more importantly, trust) about Google Maps will be readily accessible on your cellphone via this application.

As payback for the whole Google Voice kerfuffle, Google naturally may be reluctant to 'give away' this feature to Apple and the iPhone. Techcrunch goes so far as to say that they should "make Apple beg..." for it. In making the comparison between what each phone has to offer, the free Google Maps Navigation application is exponentially more appealing than the pricey TomTom App is for the iPhone.

The bottom-line is that any competition in the smartphone market is positive for consumers. The more that the cellphone makers and the service providers have to battle for our dollars each month, the better.

Initial hype surrounding the Droid phone suggests that it could quickly replace the Palm Pre as the most viable and preeminent contender to the iPhone in the smartphone market. And, the addition of the Droid to Verizon's lineup could stifle the biggest complaint about Verizon, its lack of quality phone models. The showdown appears to be set. iPhone and ATT vs. Droid and Verizon (and oh yeah, Palm Pre and Sprint)...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Real-Time Social Search: Any Real Concern?

News came earlier this week that the both of the relevant search engine players, Google and Bing, have reached an agreement with Twitter to start incorporating user-generated content from the micro-blogging platform (i.e. user's tweets) into search query results. Additionally, Google has announced a new “social search” functionality for their search results, to be rolled out in Google Labs next week. In effect, the new Google social search will provide content from various social media sites at the bottom of each page of search results.

This combination of social media and search functionality delivers a power tool, namely the ability to perform a real-time “social search”. Using this tool, individuals can obtain a much clearer sense of real-world, current (or “trending”) topics [the TechCrunch article labels this the "pulse of the planet"]. Culling information from social media sites and incorporating such information into search can be used to spotlight important events, uncovering what people are actually talking about right now. Additionally, what better way to gather up-to-date, personal information about a particular person than by Googling their name, and then being delivered text, images, and videos authored by or directly involving that person (as a law student interested in litigation, I can only imagine the limitless possibilities for pre-trial discovery!).

Herein lies a (potentially) major privacy concern. It may seem hard to fathom, but there are still people who are surprised when information that they enter into Facebook, or onto Twitter, surfaces in undesirable ways on the Internet. YES! Should you choose to upload that picture of you 'totally dominating the beerpong table', it will most likely be searchable (discoverable by friends, employers, lawyers, your mother...). Real-time, social search simply removes an accessibility barrier that these social platforms had, inherently, previously established and contained. Now, someone does not have to individually search every single social site, and they do not necessarily have to worry about matching a person's user name to their 'resume name.'

Granted, this concern may be premature and may in fact never ultimately develop into a major issue. It is likely (hopefully) that the social media sites and the search engines will work together to pre-bake privacy settings into the actual functionality of social search. An easy way to opt-out of search results from the social media side of the equation would be a good start (or require that you opt-in in order to allow your social media content to be displayed to others within search results).

While privacy controls may be forthcoming, these search engine/Twitter partnerships and the Google social search announcement highlights the burgeoning trend towards opening up user information online. The scope of what you can find out about someone, or about any given organization, through search is constantly expanding. While younger generation might expect and accept these privacy implications, older and more cautious (sensible?) individuals may not be eager to see their continued progression.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Humans Minds For Sale: A Presentation by Jonathan Zittrain

Last night, I was in attendance at Santa Clara University, where Professor Jonathan Zittrain delivered about an hour-long presentation titled, “Minds for Sale: Ubiquitous Human Computing and the Future of the Internet.” This long title for his presentation may have been slightly misleading; much of the pre-lecture buzz from audience members was commentary focused on the already ubiquitous nature of computing (“Look at that kid (me), he has one of those silly Kindles”). People generally seemed to think that the subject matter of the talk would center on issues discussed in Zittrain's popular book, “The Future of the Internet, And How to Stop It.”

I feel that the short title of the presentation, “Minds For Sale”, was much more befitting of the lecture. Zittrain focused on what (in his view) is an worrisome developing trend. The Internet, as a technological platform, has created myriad ways for people to hire other people to complete certain tasks or solve specific problems. He cited several pertinent examples, including: 'Innocentive', a website that provides a platform for large companies to post problems that they are willing to pay (~$20,000) scientists to solve...Amazon's Mechanical Turk marketplace, where people are paid tiny sums of money to complete a diverse range of "HIT's," Human Intelligence Tasks...and re-CAPTCHA, a program that requires the solution of a CAPTCHA(stop spam...), but also helps to decode scanned books that happen to be of poor quality( books).

Zittrain enumerated several specific concerns he maintains, regarding why this trend is so unsettling. From the participant(worker) point of view, concerns included surveillance/privacy issues, alienation and moral valence concerns. He noted a general, systemic concern, what he feels is a 'race to the bottom' type effect regarding the state of labor laws surrounding these transactions (e.g. people are making well less than minimum wage while “working” on Mechanical Turk "HIT's"). Another major concern discussed was the growing disconnect that occurs between the people seeking others who are willing to work or to solve a problem, and those actually doing the work or creating the solution.

His most poignant example of the night might have been a Colorado smoke-out, where police could not arrest every participant, but had taken pictures of the individuals who were smoking marijuana. Later, law enforcement posted the pictures on-line and offered a bounty paid to anyone who could identify these smoke-out participants. He used this example to transition to a scenario wherein a government could easily use the Internet as a platform to identify and silence political protesters. He imagined a Mechanical Turk "HIT" where an individual would be paid two cents to correctly discern whether a photo portrait of a protester matched up with an identification picture.

Yet, it was not entirely doom and gloom. Zittrain went on to offer several potential solutions, including the adoption of stricter (or looser) labor standards, a widespread adoption of various opt-out opportunities and the ability for 'workers' to create some sort of portable reputation status in exchange for the 'body of work' they create on a given platform. Perhaps his most timely suggested solution, was simply to urge more general disclosure throughout all levels of these transactions (he hinted that he approved of the FTC's forthcoming guidelines calling for sweeping blogger disclosure).

During the Q & A, Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman raised a pressing question. He challenged the technological development of the Internet as an enabling platform, as being one that is not quite as troublesome and 'dangerous' as Zittrain urged. Professor Goldman pointed out that paying people to do things that may be morally questionable is certainly not a new phenomena. The Internet, and its communities of users, is capable of self-regulation and can effectively prevent any of the more "threatening" scenarios from becoming accepted practices on the web. Zittrain somewhat dodged the issue, and instead polled the audience as to whether or not, after just listening to his presentation(fair or foul?), they felt 'threatened' by this trend. About two-thirds of the audience raised their hands, siding with his viewpoint.

I believe that the "future of the internet" (to borrow from Professor Zittrain), lies somewhere in the middle. Human nature and morality, our willingness to do just about anything unscrupulous if we are paid enough money, is inherently what it is. There will always be the "bad guys". Granted, it is unnerving that the Internet adds a global scale and an increased potential scope of behavior (think of the limitless possibilities for defining any given "HIT"), into the mix.

What Professor Zittrain seems to gloss over, however, is the community and personal aspect undergirding the Internet. The fact that the intermediaries, the ones who set-up and run these platforms and who must be charged with policing these types of transactions, are people too. Amazon or Google or Innocentive must be the ones who ensure that this technological platform is not abused.

The bottom line is that in opening up a marketplace, where we can offer our minds for sale, can turn out to be extraordinarily beneficial to any number of parties. Yet, it is critical that, collectively, we all practice what Google preaches - “don't be evil”.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Twitter As a Newsource: Sweat the Big Stuff?

What is Twitter in the business of? Arguably, the news business. One of the most suitable, and perhaps the most valuable, uses for the social networking site Twitter is as a newsource.

As a news aggregating and delivery service, Twitter is extremely adept at delivering a news-stream that is localized, topic-specific, and individualized according to each user's needs and interests. The major advantage(and maybe a limitation) is that you, the user, is charged the responsibility of choosing the news sources, i.e. choosing who you will follow.

I primarily use Twitter for following the news. For instance, my feed is localized...I follow local venues, breweries and restaurants in order to stay informed about upcoming concerts or new seasonal brews. My feed is topic-specific... I follow prolific members of the tech-media industry and respected lawyers to keep apprised of the latest technological and legal developments. And, my Twitter feed is individualized...I follow my friends, who both comment and share on both news related and personal topics.

Still, it is global breaking news (the Big Stuff) where Twitter truly excels. When something really big happens, I frequently hear about it first on twitter. It is only after seeing a tweet, that I will then shoot-off to a news site (BBC, HuffPost or ESPN, depending on the topic) for more information than can be gleaned in 140 characters. The only problem, however, is that Twitter has become too good at this, it has become too popular a landing spot for the discussion of these breaking stories. Historically, Twitter has not handled these massive emerging new stories well. Massive, but still relatively 'non-critical' stories such as Apple announcements and Michael Jackson's death have the tendency overload the Twitter servers and 'fail-whale' the site.

My concern is that, if a critical, emergency situation arises (I'm thinking on the level of Hurricane Katrina or 9/11), where Twitter could actually serve to help connect the individuals affected, or provide aid to those who need it, Twitter will not be able to handle it. Apple iPods and Michael Jackson are important stories, but they are not critical situations.

If Twitter is overloaded by the 'non-critical' stories, can it survive a true emergency? Can it handle the Big Stuff? Will its potential, as a social tool for effective and efficient responses to catastrophic or emergency events, be wasted?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An(other) "I'm Feeling Lucky" Patent

Today, Techcrunch reports on a story that an Israeli company, Netex, has been issued a patent on an Internet search option, the issuance of which could generate massive licensing/royalties fees from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies involved in Internet search. [story here]

In essence, the patent covers one specific search technique, whereby a user simply inputs a search term (e.g. 'Phish') directly into an address bar, or search field, and that input will lead the user directly to the web page represented by that term ( Many browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, enable this search option through the use of their address (or "wonder") bar. Google further makes use of this searching option through their "I'm Feeling Lucky" search choice, featured underneath the search box.

First of all, this story is a strident example of the patent system's failure to disclose an invention until well after the invention has been in use. PTO workload and patent disclosure issues are seemingly both at fault here. Sure, this Israeli company cannot impose royalty or licensing fees retroactively, but it can (and will) stifle current usage of innovation by 'holding hostage' the search companies, requiring them to pay the licensing fees in order to continue implementing this search option.

This development is striking similar to the i4i/Microsoft office patent situation. i4i claims not to be out to 'destroy' Microsoft, however, their actions appear to be sickeningly extortionate in nature. Here, the business model appears to be to make money off a patent, while not producing further innovation or working the invention ourselves. The "lucky" issuance of a questionable patent allows for this to occur.

Netex's statement regarding their patent is also disheartening. The 28-year old face of the company states that they plan on "entering the American market " and "try[ing] to make the most of our patent." Again, this sounds like a business model based on collecting royalties from a (questionable) patent. The company will not work the invention, and will not significantly add anything new to Internet search.

Sadly, the "lucky" issuance of this questionable patent gives this misguided company a monopoly over this particular search option (ironically, one that is relatively insignificant, besides the addition of a slight modicum of convenience).

Google is in the business of adding, not removing, search features; naturally, the Mountain View company will not be happy to yank this search option. They also will not be eager to pay an extortionate licensing fee, especially to a company such as Netex. It will be intriguing to see whether an amicable resolution is forthcoming, or whether Google (or Microsoft) will initiate some form of challenge or protest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NFL - Why Ban Social Media?

It seems counter-intuitive that the NFL (also, the SEC) would be fighting social media's eventual arrival into the stadium and onto the football field. Recently, the National Football League has announced plans to implement various social media policies that would effectively attempt to ban or limit the use of social media services, like twitter, by players, fans, reporters and even refs.

Sports (especially football) are, inherently, a social phenomena. You need at least ten other individuals to comprise a football team (a QB "tweets" the play-call in the huddle). You need another team to play against (the NFL creates a Facebook "event", inviting teams to participate). Then, the true glory and excitement of a NFL football game is not achieved without the presence of thousands of screaming, die-hard fans cheering for the home team ("add friend", "Follow", "join group").

The social aspects surrounding the game are arguably more important than the game itself; tailgating outside the stadium or gathering at a friends house or a bar to watch a big game, hanging over the stadium arm rail to high-five your favorite player, the Monday-morning talk around the office water cooler...the weekly NFL football experience is all about people connecting on various social levels.

Banning social media only serves to stifle these social connections--between both and fans and between fans and more fans. By doing so, the NFL is (purposely?) limiting one of the best aspects of the sport.

Sure, the NFL is not at risk of going out of business. They make a tremendous amount of profit. They do not need to embrace or accept social media. This certainly does not mean that they should suppress it[or that they will even be able to...]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Falling Without an (Inter)Net

My transition from Japan, back to the States, has been difficult for myriad reasons, none more frustrating and disabling than the lack of Internet at my apartment. This lack of access, in combination with my insomniac/jet lagged sleep patterns, has driven me into a hazy, timeless fog.

Unfortunately, I have been forced to seek relief and get my Internet “fix” at Heafey Law Library on campus, a location at which I certainly have not been pining to spend more time.

Since it has been quite some time since Internet connectivity has been this difficult for me to obtain, these past few days have been quite interesting(terrible)...

First, I feel as if I am constantly falling behind. I cannot download any podcasts (two dailies, and two weeklies) and I cannot stream any of the weekly shows I like to watch (content from Revision3, hulu, Daily Show/Colbert, etc.). When I log into Facebook or onto Tweetdeck, the list of updates is so long and daunting that I just ‘mark as read’ and quickly page through them. Particularly frustrating is when an update or tweet referencing an earlier entry catches my eye... I will sit there and try to decipher a peculiar reference only, to realize that the subject matter is already moot, or the posting is just plain moronic/waste of time. Google Reader is adding up new posts to a number that is absurdly high, and I have been forced to clean house there as well (Really slashdot, 96 post-worthy entries?! Or, how surprising is it that TechCrunch has 15 new posts concerning twitter?)

Now granted, I know that the amount of information I am actually missing is relatively insignificant, so much so that I am probably saving time and energy in the long run. However, not staying up to date with things creates a cognitive dissonance, wherein I am almost guilty when I feel that there is just too much content to try and parse through ( is still content that I genuinely am interested in and want to read/view/listen!).

Second, I find that my Internet usage has become surprisingly more focused and streamlined. In order to reduce the time spent at the library over my “summer vacation”, I get in, sign on, TCB (take care of business), and get myself out of there! I will sometimes even bring a checklist of stuff that I know I need to do online, and run through it as quickly as possible. (This post was written at home, and I threw it up during a brief Lib visit...)

My limited access feels like a reversion to a time when dial-up connections were all that was available, and that clicking blindly at links (or opening multiple tabs...wait a TAB!?!) was an inefficient way to surf the web. Whereas currently, my web-habits are more of a "I want it all, and I want it now"/pack-rat hoarding mentality towards collecting and viewing online information. I feel like I am starving for connectivity, but the runners at the buffet are too slow in refilling my favorite dishes.

I know, I know...I should have absolutely nothing to complain about. There are many people who are forced to rely on satellite or dial-up connections. My high-speed broadband is installed Friday. Further, I think of the unemployed and those who cannot afford Internet, who have to trudge to the library to access the Internet, research jobs or fill out online applications. An Internet connection has become so ubiquitous, but remains so crucial to functioning in our society. It is often easy to take connectivity for granted, or to forget about the multitude of people who don’t have a connection, yet alone a computer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cultural Consequences

When my parents visited Tokyo, during my extended stay in the city on a Summer Abroad program, their trip generated an interesting and lively conversation amongst my family members about the “cultural consequences” of visiting a foreign country. Two of my Uncles, my Aunt and both my Mother and Father have each opined about the qualities of their international travel experiences and the efforts made to imbibe in the culture of their respective destinations. As I begin the final week of a nearly two-month stay in Tokyo, Japan, here are some thoughts on the cultural experience…

My trip to Tokyo was semi-structured from the very start, in that I had a class schedule, and later, I was thrust into a busy work schedule at my internship. To some extent, the Summer Abroad program, by definition, limited the cultural choices of each participant. Ultimately, however, every student in the program had an extensive degree of discretionary cultural freedom.

It is interesting to briefly look back on, and compare how individual students made use of their free time.

Some students came into the program with a laundry list of places to see and things to do; they had done their homework, and knew exactly what they wanted out of their visit. These students were really “tourists”, in the sense that they plowed through numerous tourist locales and other ‘destinations’ at an almost frantic rate.

Some students had been to Tokyo before, and knew what they enjoyed most about the city. Whether it was going out to specific clubs, or visiting certain clothing stores and restaurants, these “comfort-zoners” knew what they wanted to do, and simply did it; why mess with success?

And, further still, another group of students did very little on their own. These “programmers” focused on classes, choose to attend social functions in large groups, and only really interacted and associated with people from the Study Abroad Program.

If we try to assess which of these three groups most experienced the true culture of Tokyo, it is difficult to determine a clear winner. The “tourists” have amassed giant online depositories of pictures and certainly have great narratives to tell. The “comfort-zoners” have experienced (again) what they found most to be pleasurable about Japanese culture, be it the food, shopping, night life, etc.; we all have times where we say ‘if I could do it again, this is what I would do…’ And, the “programmers” have learned a great deal about Japanese law, they have toured the Supreme Court and the National Diet, and they have been out with American students to explore the city and culture of Tokyo.

Overall, the cultural consequences of any visit are difficult to define, quantify or measure. I think that is extremely difficult for anyone to actually grasp an understanding of certain elements of the culture of a foreign country. That is why it is called a “foreign” country (once your visit extends past a certain length, it no longer a foreign country…what that length of time may be, however, is genuinely debatable and probably varies depending on the location…).

As for me, there were only a few specific moments during my stay that stand-out as times when I definitely felt like I was absorbing the culture, when I was witnessing Japan at its pure and raw cultural level. Further still, these moments were highly limited due to Japan’s somewhat inherent view of foreigners as outsiders. One of my co-works remarked to me today that to the Japanese, you are seen an outsider whether you have been here for 15 days or for 15 years. In my case, this view was no doubt exaggerated because of my appearances (it is fairly obvious that I am an American) and my inability to speak Japanese (language being such a HUGE part of culture).

These fleeting moments came at times when I would not consider my activities to fit into one of the categories, either “tourist”, “comfort-zoner”, or “programmer”. These moments hit me strongest at times when I was acting simultaneous as all three, and yet somehow acting within no category at all.

Additionally, I believe that the cultural consequences of any visit are invariably personal in nature. My opinion of Japanese culture reflects my moments, while every other visitor will necessarily generate their own perspective. Later on, it is the collective of these individual opinions and perspectives, as they mesh and blend together through the telling of stories and the showing of pictures, which creates a community vision and the ideal of the culture of a foreign country.

Over time, these community visions further blend together to create a national vision of foreign cultures, which eventually results in stereotypical and heuristic thinking, whether ultimately positive or negative in nature. While it may be impossible to ever experience the true culture of a foreign country, through these community and national visions, culture (at least in an amorphous sense) can be ascertained.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Buzzing Out Loud: Amazon's Shipping Survey

Dear Jason, Tom and host(s) de jour,

I apologize for being a little behind here (6 weeks in Tokyo will throw off one’s podcast-listening schedule), but this email is in regard to Episode 1025, where you discussed Amazon’s purchase of the online shoe-retailer,

For the most part, I think that your discussion was right on, especially Rafe’s (Brian Drubbings?) comment that this acquisition, featuring two popular and customer-focused companies joining forces, will only prove to be favorable for both Amazon and its customers. Interestingly, Tom’s speculation that the move will potentially bring changes to Amazon’s Prime membership, and Amazon’s shipping policies in general, was probably more accurate than he initially might have thought.

As a former Amazon Prime member, (I cancelled my membership following the expiration of the free-trial period) I received an email request to complete a survey, which conveniently floated into my inbox right around the time the news of this acquisition broke. This survey posed a range of questions, concerning my online purchasing habits from Amazon and other retailers, and specifically asked questions about the shipping deals offered through Amazon Prime, and what price points/additional features I would be interested in. Some examples: a $49 (instead of $79) membership, multiple accounts on one household membership, and expanded range of goods eligible for free shipping, and faster shipping/Sunday deliveries.

I believe that this survey is an indication that Amazon is strongly considering changes to their shipping policies, changes that will be accelerated thanks to the acquisition.

The bottom line is that Amazon will likely retain a free shipping both-ways policy for footwear, and any expansion of this policy’s benefits to other areas of Amazon’s online store can only be considered a welcome implementation.

For now, I am waiting until I am back stateside, when I will be ordering some new running shoes on my Amazon account! (Bonus: check out’s article on “less is more”, techie approach to running shoes)...

Love The Show,

Mike the Law Student in Tokyo

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now Can I Get an Encore: Do You Want More?

On his blog, The Sensory Deprivation Bank, Rich Pulvino raises an interesting question regarding the current value of the ‘encore’. He argues that the encore is becoming entirely too routine; the point has been reached where fans do not respond to a band in a manner deserving of an encore (i.e. they don’t cheer loud or long enough) and the encore performance, itself, has become expected and stale.

Nowadays, at every concert (that I can recall…woah, dude!) the band tramps back out on-stage to play an encore. Some encores are rushed…for example, Giant Panda ripping through ‘Missing You More’ in under three minutes to beat a midnight city noise ordinance. Some encores are predictable “fan favorites”…for instance, Lynyrd Skynyrd (what was left of them in 2003) playing ‘Free Bird’. And some are, at least to me, redundant and unnecessary…like how O.A.R. used to play ‘I Feel Home’ for an encore at every show.

So why do artists always perform an encore? Artists must feel that the encore can provide some value to the fan, a value that the band can, in turn, capitalize off of or monetize in some way. Otherwise, come out…play your set…and hope every gets home safely.

Instead of simply rehashing the same-old, compulsory encore performance, I feel that bands should take advantage of the concept of, and fan expectations for, an encore, and use it to ‘Connect with Fans’ and give them a ‘Reason to Buy’. [Full Disclaimer: I am borrowing extensively here from Techdirt’s Michael Masnick. He has given several talks and written many blog posts about these terms, and the concepts of ‘Connect with Fans’ (CwF) and ‘Reason to Buy’ (RtB) are his creation...check out their own experiment, here]

As the older music industry business models continue to fade away, or die off completely, upstart bands have to rely on newer models in order to make a living in the music industry. ‘Connect with Fans’ refers to a band’s interaction with the fanbase on a real, personal level. An actual two-way interaction between the band and the fans, in combination with any compelling ‘Reason to Buy’ the music, poster, tee-shirts, etc., will likely become the new business model for the music industry.

Using the encore as a mechanism to CwF and give them a RtB seems like it could function as a natural progression of this business model...

One terrific example is the band moe. [Disclaimer 2: moe. kicks ass!] When they released their latest album, ‘Sticks and Stones’, the band ran a promotional, limited time pre-order offer. What was different about this offer, was that each purchaser would also receive a “ticket” that would allow the fan to join the band on-stage for the encore, singing the chorus of the song ‘Raise a Glass’ (this last track on the new album).

With this offer, the band could CwF in unique way, giving them a compelling RtB, all through an innovative use of the encore. The offer not only generated interest in the ‘Sticks and Stones’ album, and the song ‘Raise a Glass’, but it also prompted fans to go out and buy a ticket to a concert, so they could have the opportunity to sing on stage. moe.'s offer connected the fan with the band in a way that no other band does.

Sure, the encore may have become repetitive to fans who tour with moe., having to hear ‘Raise a Glass’(admittedly not the best moe. tune) performed every show. However, this is as an example of evolving the encore into something other than a mundane, expected part of the concert. moe. is utilizing it to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy...and it is absolutely brilliant. Let’s all raise a glass to moe!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The OCI Experience [Part One]: Banging my Hard Head Against an Even Harder Wall

I entered my first year at Santa Clara with comparatively little knowledge about the procedural aspects of law school. Orientation only gave rise to more questions, while the rumor-mill and the initial (now, notorious/infamous) Fall Career seminar only served to ramp up anxiety levels about my post-law school life. For instance, I had no clue about when or what classes I should be scheduling, whether or not I should be signing up and paying for a bar course early, or whether I should participate on a Journal or go out for the Law Review. The good news is that I successfully made it through the substantive portion of my first year of law school; I passed all my classes and am officially a (rising) 2L. The bad (scary) news is that, procedurally, I am predominantly still in the dark.

Scheduling for the Fall 2009 semester was a haphazard, “close my eyes and throw darts”, kind of process; ultimately, while I am still waitlisted for the 2 classes I really wanted to take, I feel I have a satisfactory schedule. I have yet to sign up for, or really give any thought, to what bar course I will be taking (but I reached the conclusion that one will be necessary…which is absurd in its own right. Not only I am paying $100,000 for a legal education, but I need to shell out MORE money on a course to learn how to pass the bar). Also, I am stuck on the fence regarding whether to participate on the Computer and High Tech Law Journal, or Law Review, or both. Frustratingly, when I emailed the Law Career Services (‘LCS’) for advice, I got a response that flip-flopped more than a sandal clad John Kerry walking to the beach to photo-op on that wind-surf board back before the 2004 election (if you think that is unfair, just ask my friend Nick about LCS and you will receive a scathing review, I have no doubt).

Anyways, all of the uncertainty and feelings of misguidance have been spearheaded with my participation in the OCI process, a process that is further muddled by the fact that I am in Tokyo, a full 16 hours ahead of the various Pacific Standard Time deadlines.

Not only am I unsure of what to include on my resume and in my cover letters, I do not know which firms to bid on, and I remain entirely skeptical about just how worthwhile my extensive effort will actually be (I have easily spent over 10 hours to write 20+ different cover letters, and put together my resume, reference list, writing sample, etc.). As more firms continue to pull out of OCI’s, (first Morgan Lewis, then Orrick, now Squire Sanders…) I feel as though this entire exercise will be for naught. The pressing question remains: does/will anyone actually get a Summer Associate position as a result of On-Campus Interviews?

And again, when I turn to LCS for advice and counsel (who you gonna call?), I get the sinking feeling that they don’t really want to be bothered by a kid who keeps firing emails into their inboxes in the middle of the night from 5,185 miles away (that is 1/5 the world’s circumference, I wolfram alpha’d it…). In their defense, I received a few responses that assured me of their availability and willingness to help, while (I felt) at the same time sent off a ‘stop annoying us vibe’. Perhaps I am the one who is not doing what needs to be done in order to take advantage of their services (however, when recalling the $100,000 price tag attached to SCU Law, I feel that students should not be required to navigate an obstacle course to get the answers they are looking for…).

It is somewhat of a shame. Substantively, I LOVE law school, and Santa Clara University; everything about (most of) the professors, the course materials, and the law itself, excites me and interests me deeply. Yet, the tedium of the procedure may ultimately be the death of my career as a lawyer, before it even begins (or, at least help to thin my hair in the meantime). I can write law schools exams, and I feel that I can provide almost any firm with a quality legal skill-set and the constant ambition to learn that they seek from a first-year associate. However, where I may stumble is in the attempt to jump through these procedural hoops.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Big Bro" Amazon - My Obligatory Post

As I am an owner of a Kindle 2, a law student interested in Internet policy and the implications thereof, and given that I am a quote/unquote blogger, I feel that I cannot possibly withhold from commenting on this story.

Granted, there has been a lot written so far about Amazon's decision to wirelessly and remotely "kill" the George Orwell e-books, '1984' and 'Animal Farm', from some user's Kindles. For the most part, I agree with the developing commentaries that are out there. (see here, here or here) I especially enjoyed Jonathan Zittrain's post about the exemplary nature of the incident, in that it actually demonstrates the dangers of a widespread movement to cloud computing, wherein users won't actually own (or at least be able to sufficiently control) their own data and content.

However, perhaps the most concerning thing to me about this story, is that it seems to be part of a larger trend of bad (or potentially bad) moves on the part of Amazon in their handling of the new genre of e-books, and the Kindle 2 as a platform.

First, there was the whole text-to-speech functionality brouhaha, that was doomed to cause a controversy amongst practically everyone involved in the launch of Kindle 2 (publishers, users, interest groups, etc.).

Then, we heard the story of one Kindle user who was cut-off from attempting to re-download books that he had previously purchased from the Kindle store. This particularly left me unsettled, as after I finish reading a book on the Kindle, I generally "delete" it into my archive. So, if I decide that I do want to read it again, I have to re-download the book into my library. The knowledge that there was a cap on the number of times this could be done (or worse, that Amazon seemed to admit that they didn't even know what the limit was) was a disheartening feeling.

Next, came the story about Amazon securing (or filing for) the patent rights for the process of putting advertisements into e-books. The Kindle reading experience is supposed to emulate the book reading experience. When I read a book, the last thing I want is to be bombarded by advertisements; inserting ads into e-books is not the way to convert people to reading in the electronic format. The only possible way I could see this ad-based e-book model succeeding, would be if the price of the e-books (or the device) were to be drastically cut because of the revenue generated from advertising.

And now, as seen from this latest incident, it appears that Amazon can wipe your library from the ephemeral location where they actually physically exist (we all know that since they have no physical presence in numerous states, they don't have to pay taxes there....yet). Hopefully, the PR hit that Amazon will take from deleting these books will keep them from electing to utilize this feature in the future. Amazon's willingness to bend to the whim of publishers is unfortunate, to say the least, and I would like to see them support the reader more often when considering the implementation of policy decisions in the future.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see where this trend will land Amazon, in terms of their relative position as the predominant vendor in the e-book market. Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to reading my Kindle (before I wake up and find my books are gone!)...

[On a side note, I can only imagine what my PR-oriented friend, Rich Pulvino, would say about Amazon, a company that has (at least until now) maintained a public good-guy image, choosing to delete of all books '1984'! I think the only way this could have been worse from a PR standpoint would have been if they had removed 'Fahrenheit 451' from user's Kindles...]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Google Chrome OS

Google has certainly dominated the tech news as of late. Chrome has been steadily gaining market share, and has received widespread acclaim regarding its levels of speed and performance. G-mail and various other Google applications have finally come out of beta, a precursor to the potential adoption by businesses and users who may have shied away from an application still in beta.

However, Google dropped the proverbial bombshell earlier in the week when they announced the development of their new operating system, Google Chrome OS. Chrome OS is being touted as a lightweight, open-source OS that has the potential to dominate the netbook market, and possibly even competing with Microsoft’s reboot of Vista, that being Windows 7.

Questions linger over just how this new OS will function. Will Chrome OS kill the operating system as we know it, by stimulating a transition to a predominantly browser-based computing scheme? Will this new OS really be capable of performing up to the same standards of sufficiency as its bulkier Windows counterpart?

The success of Google Chrome as a browser, namely its simplicity of use, its speed of performance and elegant interface with the various Google Apps, leads me to anticipate the Chrome OS could be a sweeping success. Perhaps Google only needs to be wary not to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft’s monopolistic systems approach, by avoiding costly antitrust litigation. I strongly believe that Google’s public image (comparative to Microsoft) should help them allay any such allegations.

Although I have pre-ordered Windows 7, and am eagerly awaiting the upgrade, I am intrigued and extremely excited about Google’s Chrome OS as the potential next step in computing. The bottom line is that Google’s innovation and their willingness to push the boundaries remains beneficial to everyone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tokyo City: Week Three

Email To: Joseph Hammill, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 1 July 15:29:54

Hey Dude,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but it's been a whirlwind the past few is a carnival! (great tune by The Band).

Anyways, congratulations on the summer grades and I wish you the best when you start to look at RIT (I guess, is that right?).

Well, my parents made it to Tokyo, and we have been exploring the city together after I finish with classes each day. I had a final on Monday and I have another one on Friday, so I have been trying to balance books and Tokyo. On top of all that, I have a number of administrative things to take care of for the fall semester at Santa Clara Law, which is a pain to try and accomplish when working with a 16 hour time difference...

In addition, my internship starts this Monday. I have been placed at TMI Associates, a large international IP firm located in the swank Mori Tower, in Roppongi Hills. The firm seems to be a legitimate international presence...I told then I had still not acquired a mobile phone since I have been in Japan, and they informed me "they would prepare one for me." (SWEET!) My office is on the 23rd floor, and I assume I will have quite the view of the city. Monday I will be giving an introductory speech in Japanese to the ENTIRE firm (uh-oh, I think I might be in trouble there). Needless to say I am nervous to get started; I hope I can handle the work that they through my way, and I want to make a noticeable impact and impression in the 4-short weeks I am there.

Tokyo is AMAZING. So far the best experiences have been the Tsukiji Fish Market and dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel. We went to the Fish Market last Saturday at about 4:45 am, right when it is starting to open up. We walked about 15 yards into the open warehouse market and I was splashed with water from these fish in a huge bathtub. A guy grabs one out, slaps it onto a table and WHAP!, chops off its head! That woke me up a little...then we saw them auctioning off those gigantic tuna; probably the biggest fish I have ever seen. The tuna were then carted off to various vendors' stations where they were butchered into quarters, and then sliced again into smaller portions. We also saw some frozen tuna that were being cut up on enormous jigsaws. Overall it was an incredible experience, not soon to be forgotten.

Then, Monday night we ate dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel. If you've ever seen 'Lost in Translation', that is the bar/restaurant that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen(I think I love her) frequent. The view was incredible, and the dinner and service was world-class. Plus, I ordered a 20 dollar class of Japanese whiskey for dessert! If you are ever in Tokyo, we are 'suiting-up' and hitting this bar at least once!

Well, I am just about ready to head out for dinner again. The food is (probably) one of the best things about Tokyo...except when you have no idea what it is you are eating. (I think I ate some tofu-"goop" for lunch yesterday...but it was still delicious)

Until later,