Blog Ipsa Loquitur

This is a new feature of Barely Legally, one that involves much less writing, and many more snarky one-liners. If this lawyer thing doesn’t work out, I’ll just be a writer for that fortune-cookie company down the block.

On to the links!

  • Google Street View shows naked man climbing out of the trunk of a car. This happened in Germany, because hey, why not? [Technically Incorrect]
  • Microsoft’s new version of Internet Explorer is really, really good at this one benchmark. Are they cheating, or just using the programmer’s version of a warp whistle? [T3ch H3lp]
  • Man, this “predictive text” stuff on phones these days is getting really smart. It must have found all your Google searches for divorce attorneys. [DamnYouAutocorrect]
  • Area 51 is a “place” you can review on Google Maps. The internet ensues. [Google Maps]
  • Microsoft is not pleased to find out that you nerds want to hack the Kinect. They promise to “work closely with law enforcement” to halt tampering. [CNET News]
  • Microsoft is actually very excited to see what you nerds have done with your Kinect hacking. [Mashable]
  • Microsoft totally left the Kinect open by design, guys. They were, like, sooo joking with that whole “law enforcement” bit before. You kids have fun, now. [Ars Technica]
  • Computer Engineer Barbie is now on sale. Your move, Malibu Stacy. [Nerd Approved]

Filed on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Ron Coleman on COICA: Big IP supersizes it.

The fact is, these proposals are reactions to real problems. But in typical piggy fashion, Big IP wants to use a sledgehammer where perhaps some fine carpentry would do.

Now learning how to build things right — even radically different things, but things that will stand up — takes hard work, diligence and practice, and not just everyone can be a cabinet maker. The IP enforcement community, however, is flummoxed. They don’t want to spend the money on craftsmanship; they want the big, wide problem of IP enforcement to be amenable to solution by journeymen. This reaction is understandable, considering how expensive the work of master can be — and often, how little there can be to show for it.

Even-handed and incendiary. The content-producers seem to rumble around like dinosaurs dimly aware that a meteor has hit, and furiously engaged in an attempt to grow fur. When reminded that they can’t grow fur, they seem just as keen to stomp out the mammals as anything else.

Filed on under The News

I’m catching up on the news I missed during the week, and there are a couple more articles about cell phone radiation in the glut of news and “news” that has gathered in my Google Reader account.

The excellent ShortFormBlog presents a video from MC Paul Barman, a nerdy rapper advising folks that cell phones may in fact give them cancer. Barman advises that to avoid (what he assumes to be) the harmful effects of radio-frequency radiation, people use bluetooth headsets with their phones. I’ll skip the cheap joke about a radio-free bluetooth headset, and acknowledge that bluetooth headsets use much, much smaller transmitters than the phone does.

However, in order to use the bluetooth headset, you need to have a cell phone. And you need it near enough to your precious meatspace body that your phone can communicate with your bluetooth headset. If you’re not locked inside a Farraday Cage, all you’ve done is increased the total amount of radiation you’re exposed to. (And if you are locked inside a Farraday Cage, your headset is little more than a blinky blue paperweight.)

The New York Times also has a wishy-washy article, doing what most of the press seems to do whenever they have to contemplate whether cell phones are dangerous: posing more questions than answering any, and pointing out that some things may be true and also may not be true. Specifically:

  • Holding a cell phone may be hazardous.
  • So might having a cell phone in your pocket.
  • Why would cell phone companies warn you not to hold their products up against your head if it weren’t dangerous?
  • Not everyone agrees that cell phones are perfectly safe.
  • Did you know children are more vulnerable to radiation than adults?  Just saying.
  • Someone who wrote a book about how she thinks cell phones are dangerous thinks cell phones are dangerous.

Um, gee. Thanks for that hard-hitting journalism, guys. Thank you for pointing out that some people have pointed out things that may or may not be true. And also that some people have some questions about things. This is like half a step up from reading tweets on CNN.

The high point of the article is the mention that one scientific study in the 1980s showed that radio waves can damage brain DNA in rats. Not for the study itself, but because the next (and only other) study mentioned in the article purports to show that radio waves from cell phones actually decrease the risk of brain tumors.

The Times in brief: ‘Science shows cell phones will give you cancer, except for when it shows that they will cure your cancer. But hey, what do I know? I’m just another example of a media more concerned with narrating a controversy than informing anyone.’

For the record, the FCC has a web site devoted to frequently asked questions about radio waves and their possible health effects. It mentions the difference between ionizing radiation (the kind the TSA uses to measure your penis) and non-ionizing/thermal radiation (the kind your cell phone uses to text photos of your penis). Ionizing radiation is bad; it will make your DNA all funky. Thermal radiation will reheat your leftovers; that’s why your chicken vindaloo is hot, and not glowing green when it comes out of your microwave.

Filed on under The News

Study finds Wi-Fi makes trees sick via Macworld UK:

Radiation from Wi-Fi networks is harmful to trees, causing significant variations in growth, as well as bleeding and fissures in the bark, according to a recent study in the Netherlands.

[…]

Besides the electromagnetic fields created by mobile-phone networks and wireless LANs, ultrafine particles emitted by cars and trucks may also be to blame. These particles are so small they are able to enter the organisms.

I also would have accepted “Either Wi-Fi or pollution is hurting trees, but we’re going to go with the sensational and inaccurate title.”

Even in areas heavily saturated with Wi-Fi or cell phone networks, the amount of man-made radiation present is negligible compared to the amount of radiation which the Sun creates. We get about a kilowatt of insolation per square meter at the earth’s surface. Cell phones and Wi-Fi routers produce milliwatts of radiation. (My router is set to broadcast at about 50 milliwatts, for the record.) If radio waves are making trees sick, let’s start by pointing fingers at the Sun, which bombards our leafy friends with far more radiation daily than my cell phone or my router.

I’ll dig up all the trees and put them in a dark room, where they will thrive far from the deadly rays of the Sun. Who’s with me?

Filed on under The News

Barry Ritholtz pens a letter to the government in the voice of one Warren Buffet, if the latter had been dosed with sodium pentathol. Excoriating and enlightening, as always. My favorite highlight:

Before I get to the bailouts, I have to remind you that in:

  • 1999, you passed the Financial Services Modernization Act. This repealed Glass-Steagall, the law that had successfully kept main street banking safely separated from Wall Street for seven decades. Even the 1987 market crash had no impact on Main Street credit availability, thanks to Glass-Steagall.

  • 1997-2010, you allowed the Credit Rating Agencies to change their business model, from Investor pays to Underwriter pays — a business structure known as Payola. This change effectively allowed banks to purchase their AAA ratings, and was ignored by the SEC and other regulators.

  • 2000, you passed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. It allowed the shadow banking industry to develop without any oversight by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the SEC, or the state insurance regulators. This led to rampant creation of credit-default swaps, CDOs, and other financial weapons of mass destruction — and the demise of AIG.

  • 2001-04, the Fed, under Alan Greenspan, irresponsibly dropped fund rates to 1%. This set off an inflationary spiral in housing, commodities, and in most assets priced in dollars or credit.

  • 1999-07, the Federal Reserve failed to use its supervisory and regulatory authority over banks, mortgage underwriters and other lenders, who abandoned such standards as employment history, income, down payments, credit rating, assets, property loan-to-value ratio and debt-servicing ability.

  • 2004, the SEC waived its leverage rules, allowing the 5 biggest Wall Street firms to go from 12 to 1 to 20, 30 and even 40 to 1. Ironically, this rule was called the Bear Stearns exemption.

(In case you’ve never heard of him, Ritholtz was the one that called that whole “Goldman’s gonna settle” thing months ahead of time.)

Filed on under The News