Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Human chip implants: embedding pitfalls

Two questions about the wisdom of implanting data chips into human beings for medical tracking purposes (The Washington Post), beyond the usual concerns about privacy:

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Friday, March 10, 2006


Amazon's patent and trademark madness

More silliness at has come to my attention since I wrote about their undeserved patent for their "1-Click" feature a couple of weeks ago. Now I see that they have created an icon (they call it a "badge") reading Real Name™. They place this doohickey next to the name of a reviewer when they've ascertained from his credit card information that he's writing under his real, genuine, actual, honest to God name. After all, if he's writing under his real name, they reason, by posting the review he's putting his reputation at stake, and so the fact that he's using his real name deserves the spotlight.

I think the significance that Amazon is attaching to a reviewer's use of his real name is a bit exaggerated. But never mind that: what in the world is the TM doing there? The reviewer is using his real name. That's what I would call it. That's what you would call it. Where do they get off trademarking the use of the phrase "real name" to refer to someone's real name? Why would they do that?

I was about to say that I hoped they didn't have the audacity to register the trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, before it occurred to me to look for myself. Well, here it is, folks. There doesn't seem to be a way to create a direct permanent link to the details, but you can find the following information for trademark number 78627630 at the USPTO website.

What are they going to trademark next, the word "book"?

Goods and ServicesIC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: Business information services in the field of identifying and verifying credentials of users associated with submitted, posted or syndicated content. FIRST USE: 20050410. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20050410
Standard Characters Claimed 
Design Search Code 
Serial Number78627630
Filing DateMay 11, 2005
Current Filing Basis1A
Original Filing Basis1A
Owner (APPLICANT)Amazon Technologies, Inc. CORPORATION NEVADA Attn: Trademarks PO Box 8102 Reno NEVADA 89507
Live/Dead IndicatorLIVE

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Monday, March 06, 2006


Help me understand this bridge hand!

Let's see if I get any bites. I'm starting to read up on bridge after a 30-year hiatus, so I took a look at Frank Stewart's Bridge in the Washington Post today, and I can't figure out the play. Can anyone explain it to me?

The contract is 3NT. I count nine obvious tricks for the declarer with a possible tenth in spades. After South takes West's 4H and East's 10H with the K, he goes to spades, which West lets go by on the first round and then stops in the second with the A. Then he clinches the contract for his opponents by playing a diamond.

Stewart says that if West had led the 9C instead of the diamond, South would have been down by two. How? As far as I can figure, Stewart's idea is that East will have two extra club tricks after everyone else's clubs have been exhausted. But if East responds to the 9 with the A and immediately leads to West's K, then a third club would be taken by South's Q and East won't ever get another chance to lead. If East ducks on the 9, then South wins a club directly.

OK, maybe I have figured this out, but confirmation would be appreciated! Since West led a low heart, East expects that West would like one sent back his way at this point. The result will be a successful finesse on South's Q, whether or not East anticipated a finesse, and West will wind up with four tricks in hearts to add to the AS and AH tricks, for down two.

Well, this was a useful exercise, but I've always wished that the bridge columns would explain it that far instead of making me figure it out! The mental exertion is beneficial, but even after I've worked the deal out I'm not sure that I've got it quite right.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006


Putting stock in on-line newspapers

Some newspaper publishers are ripping space-intensive financial market data out of their print editions and exiling it to their websites ("Newspapers Weigh Cutting Stock Pages," The Washington Post, 2 March 2006, page D03). John Temple of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver notes that:

Investors ... are mostly higher-income people who probably have Internet connections at home and want up-to-the-minute stock prices rather than the day-old figures a newspaper provides.

He also says, "'Frankly, it's had almost no measurable impact on our circulation.'" Maybe that's because the same people who check the markets every day and have the means to do so on-line ditched newspapers as their source for this information long ago. You can get stock prices from the Rocky Mountain News or Washington Post e-versions instead of their hard-copy counterparts, but you can also set up a profile at or many sites offering similar services and get an up-to-the-minute read on your personal portfolio whenever you want. I haven't checked a stock price in the paper, of either the physical or virtual variety, in years.

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