Making bail unattainable

Jailed for Being Broke
A broken bail system makes poor defendants collateral damage in modern policing strategies

More proof of the great country we all live in. Matt, once again, has an excellent article that should be required reading for all. I am sure, though, that there are plenty of people incapable of realizing what a crime against society this bail business is. As he points out, bail is supposed to _only_ be to ensure the defendant shows up at trial or if there is clear and compelling evidence that the defendant is a danger to society. I haven’t personally had any dealings with the arcana of the bail system, but I have had friends and coworkers who have. In one occasion a coworker’s son had a minor charge in Virgina that, because he is a young stupid punk, he had been ignoring and for which an arrest warrant was made. He was pulled over for some infraction in Maryland where they saw the Virginia warrant and he wound up in jail for a couple of weeks while being extradited. Then several more weeks before bail could be negotiated (in his case the bail was needed because he had already demonstrated he was a dickhead). I left before I could see the resolution, but I expect that he spent well over a month in jail for a minor crime he had yet to be convicted of, all because he was too lazy/stupid to follow the rules. In this case, at least, he brought it all on himself, but the story that Matt describes it seems clear that the problems were all because of our dysfunctional ‘justice’ system.

It has come to this: in America it is now a crime to be poor!

“Diary of a Contract Killer”

An update to those interested in beta reading my first novel attempt… I am ‘finished’ writing and reached a bit over 67K words or around 270 pages. Well, finished, in the sense that I have covered all the plot points I wanted to. Now I am seeking feedback to help me decide if I should invest the time and effort (and money) into trying to get it published. In the event any of my reader(s) here would like to read some of my fiction and give me feedback, here is where to go:

There is a 5,700 word sample you can read to see if you feel it is worth your effort to read the rest…

Ten Percent of Canadian Women Raped on Campus Every Year!

Women trained to resist sexual assault far less likely to be raped: study

My jaw fell open when I read this:

One year later, those who took the EAAA had experienced 46 per cent fewer completed rapes (5.2 per cent versus 9.8 per cent) and 63 per cent fewer attempted rapes (3.4 per cent versus 9.3 per cent) than the control group.

I am flabbergasted that this hasn’t got elevated into the news cycle! I had a class on statistics and what the above sentence is telling me is that nearly 10% of the ‘control’ group (and ‘only’ 5% of the ‘treatment’ group) were raped in the year period of the test. So that means, what, a 40% chance of being raped while getting a degree? I had no idea it was so dangerous for women on campus! If I had a daughter I doubt I would let her go to college now!

Seriously: if these figures are accurate and not typoes, we really, REALLY, REALLY have a problem at colleges. There is no way that Canadian campuses are somehow more dangerous than US campuses, if anything I would put money on the opposite, so it has to be at least as bad here, yet all we get is one fucked-up, poorly researched story in Rolling Stone? I believe most rational people would accept that blacks have real reasons to be angry, why the hell aren’t women angry at this? I know if I were a woman I would be mad as hell. Heck, being married to a woman, being a son of a woman and a brother to a woman has me angry and I never once gave rape an instance thought in the 10 or so years I spent on campus.

Being Muslim in America

Major Questions Remain Unanswered in Boston Killing of Alleged ISIS Beheading Plotter

I have been on the verge of commenting on this several times. It is interesting to me that the only place I am seeing this sort of commentary is on the The Intercept. When I first saw commentary on this whilst watching TV my radar pricked up a bit. The vast amount of ‘corroborating’ information that this guy was an ISIS terrorist was amazing, a flood of it, almost all from anonymous sources. In my recollection when something like this happens ‘for real’ the information trickles out over a long period, there is lots of contradictory statements and generally the authorities are upset when information is leaked. This situation was/is almost the exact opposite which makes me very suspicious. Reading the article which details the details (which you rarely get on a 30 second TV spot) and it is clear that there is a whitewash going on.

  • The supposed damning video is as far from damning as it is possible to get, there is not a shred of confirmation you can get from viewing it
  • If, as the police claim, they wanted to question the guy, why aren’t they wearing uniforms and identifying themselves as police? (based on what I have heard from witnesses, they never identified themselves, just started shooting)
  • The ‘evidence’ that the guy is a radical Islamic terrorist is a joke, to put it in its best possible light
  • The idea that he has been under surveillance supposedly radicalized to the point the FBI is convinced he is running around wanting to behead cops only further makes a mockery of their suggestion they only wanted to question him

Read the article for more, then there is this interesting one:

Florida Imam Who Claimed to Be Covert Government Operative Is Accused of Terrorism

Our government actually wants to tack on 20 years to an already spurious charge based on the “Islamist” books he possessed. That’s right, boys and girls, our great government wants to imprison this guy because he has a book!

Do you really think this will stop with Muslims? Do you really think the conservative right-wing Tea Party nut jobs won’t use this exact same fucked up logic to ‘disappear’ people they don’t like? Our government already kills US citizens with charges, trial or conviction! This is going to get far worse if we don’t decided to give a damn, guaranteed!

Vanity patent update

For those of my reader(s) following my ‘vanity’ patent (see, in order, here, here, here and here), here is an update…

At the instigation of a soon-to-be brother-in-law (thanks Wil!) I revisited my patent application after it was rejected. My lawyer and I spoke with the examiner on the phone, a painful experience as his accent was basically incomprehensible to me (and I have worked with a _lot_ of ‘damn foreigners’ over the years, quite a few Asian). My lawyer seemed to get what he was talking about and what I got out of the conversation (with the lawyer, afterwards) was the examiner felt our choice of words didn’t exclude the prior art. We word smithed the application a bit and resubmitted it and the examiner this time issued a final rejection. Of course, nothing is really final in these situations, it is just a matter of how much money you want to spend, but my lawyer said he would take this challenge on pro bono. My lawyer scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the examiner and insisted that the examiner’s supervisor be there (hoping that the supervisor had better English skills, thankfully the case), though, like everything else government related, it took over a month to make it happen. Yesterday we met with the examiner and his supervisor and we were finished in less than 10 minutes, possibly less than 5, and I didn’t even get to show the visual aids I brought! We discussed it afterwards and think that as the supervisor read our application and the examiner’s response he realized that the examiner was a bonehead (to put it bluntly, what I am best at). While the changes the supervisor suggested were not trivial (it entailed combining two claims), those changes could have easily been dealt with without rejection, indeed should have been. It seemed clear from the supervisor’s mannerisms and body language that he felt that once we had updated our claims the application would be approved, so at a minimum I will have my vanity patent I can hang on the wall.

Just a couple of days ago I found an article (“Personalized medicine could mean big business for D.C.-area companies“) that talked about how contractors in the IC (so-called ‘intelligence community’) were getting interested in genomics (hence DNA sequencing) as they could apply their experience with big data analytics. Since I have contacts in the IC, that article has prompted me to direct some attention to these people in an effort to get over this hump on funding. Presuming the USPTO application is approved as expected, there is still the Sept. 15 deadline for world-wide patents looming and there is no way I can afford the potentially $90K+ to apply for them. I feel quite sure that the US represents at most 25% of the global market value of the idea over the life of the patent; I suspect it would be so much harder to convince some company to purchase the rights as a defensive measure if the rights are limited to the US.

So yesterday was a good day… What will this weekend hold for me?

Take THAT, Creationists: proof of human evolution

Adapting to Arsenic
Andean communities may have evolved the ability to metabolize arsenic, a trait that could be the first documented example of a toxic substance acting as an agent of natural selection in humans.

Really interesting article showing the power of evolution is with us even today, though as a biochemist in the laboratory I have seen proof of evolution many times in the past. Earlier I have blogged about arsenic and some research that initially was dramatically interesting, but then proved to be poor lab technique (lay people might be disappointingly shocked to learn how often that happens and this is far from the only case that made it through peer review and into publication). It is feasible this research won’t stand up to scrutiny, but such is the nature of science. It is an interesting topic, I have to imagine someone will want to try and reproduce the results.

Someone gave the moon a swirly!

Mysterious Lunar Swirls on the Moon May be Caused by Crashing Comets

This is the first I have heard of this, but it seems it is an old ‘problem’. I guess the idea is since the comet has a huge ball of gas surrounding it that is moving at the same speed as the nucleus, when that cloud hammers into the moon (at the same speed as the nucleus, or 20-40,000 mph) it kicks up all sorts of dust the results of which can be seen from space as the color of the underlying dust is different.

Moon swirly

Sailing stones, Mark II

Mystery Behind the ‘Sailing’ Stones of Death Valley Unveiled

I mention sailing stones before and my theory at the time was water, pushed by winds, would move the stones. It seems the new research supports that idea but also suggests that algae/bacteria may lubricate the way a bit.

Image of sailing stones

Amazon causing literature to degrade?

More reasons to hate Amazon: Ursula Le Guin is right about their model of books as commodities “written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast”
The online bookseller does more than just shut down indie bookstores, says the venerable fantasy author

Disclaimer: I really like a lot of Le Guin’s work and respect her very much as a writer. Having done some research now on the publishing world as a writer I can see some of the things she is talking about. Since I am doing this with a profit motive (I like to write, but I don’t _need_ to write) I am trying to write something popular that sells well. Though what I write is focused on the story I want to tell, I do consider popularity elements as I make decisions on various plot points. I have gone back and rewritten sections because I feel they will market/sell better and, presuming my reviewers give me the thumb’s up and get it professionally edited, I suspect I will be making additional changes towards better marketability. Then, if I go with a traditional publisher, no doubt they will recommend more changes still. However, I am trying to tell a specific story and there is only so much I will bend before I no longer enjoy what I am doing (you have to do it for the joy in the beginning, that might be all you ever get!) and will drop the thing. I wonder if some of my favorite authors would ever get a chance in today’s publishing world. If Dune, one of the most popular Sci Fi books of all time, were Herbert’s debut novel, I doubt it would get considered today. It is too far from the mainstream and isn’t easily categorized. My attempt is firmly in the romantic thriller genera and, except for the focus being from the “bad guy’s” point of view (the title says it all: “Diary of a Contract Killer”) I believe is fairly conventional. Publishers want you to be different, yet the same, exactly like Hollywood. Everyone complains about how Hollywood never does anything new or different, Le Guin sees the exact same thing now in the publishing world and lays the blame at Amazon’s feet. I don’t see it as exclusively an Amazon issue, but they are certainly accelerating the trend (though they are also providing a platform for self publishing, which lowers the bar to the point that anyone who can finish a novel can get it published, though very few indeed will ever get paid for the time they invested). Though I am not convinced that changing Amazon’s behavior would change the trend (personally, I see this trend beginning decades ago and Amazon just riding the wave), I do think it needs to be said, heard and debated, so this is my small effort to broaden the article’s exposure.

Outlaw paper shredders!

Congressman Warns of Encrypted “Dark Spaces”; Another Says: “Ooooh It Sounds Really Scary”

“The notion that encryption is somehow different than other forms of destroying and hiding things is simply not true,” Lieu told The Intercept. “Forty years ago, you could make the statement that paper shredders are one of the most damaging things to national security because they destroy documents that law enforcement might want to see.”

It is almost (almost) amusing to me how clueless these people who claim to represent us are (of course, they actually represent the elite 0.001%). I don’t recall the specifics, but fairly recently (couple of years ago) some idiot senator or representative endlessly championed our governments ‘need’ to read everyone’s mail, that is, until she found out that the govt was reading _her_ mail. Suddenly she was against it. What the hell did she think? Oh yeah, she didn’t…

And the idea that somehow the government can have a backdoor that only the government, under a court order (like that has been working so far!) can access. Even in the unbelievably unlikely situation where the backdoor created is unhackable (vanishingly small, so small it is unrealistic in a real world to consider possible, let alone probable), how long until corrupt members of our law enforcement start to use the access without going through proper channels (which, naturally, themselves are subject to abuse).