The Department of Justice has just filed an amicus brief supporting the upholding of the US Federal District Court’s opinion that genes by themselves are not patentable. This is huge. The patenting of sequences of DNA has always been controversial. Opponents fall mainly in two camps. The first argues that there are those that say DNA, as a defining element of life, should be held by a private company as a patent. I don’t agree with this viewpoint. There is nothing extrinsically different about DNA from other materials that should differentiate it by this argument. The second camp makes a much stronger argument, and is the reason cited by the DOJ’s amicus brief, and is also the reason I am [more . . .]
The last four days has been a frentic coding frenzy–coding for 12 or more hours a day on an assignment for Stanford’s CS448B: Data Visualization course. The final product is the Iraq War Incidents Browser. Screenshot is below (click to enlarge). Application and (pretty messy) source code, and a much more detailed description on my CS448B page. Taking the entire data set of the recent Wikileaks leak of Iraq War Incident logs, the application can filter by date and region, and display histograms satisfying each filter. I am willing to call this version 0.5, since the bulk of the interesting data is in the text itself. For the eventual version 1.0, I will be adding the ability to view individual [more . . .]
Or, excuse me. They’ve rebranded as “Aol.” Casing matters. This is confusing. I know that Aol is trying to reposition itself as a content provider for the new social web, but this seems like a major integration problem with the culture clash between TechCrunch which exudes Silicon Valley, and Aol, which is, well, Aol. However, if the purchase price really is only $25 million, that’s a bargain for the brand. Maybe this is why Aol leased out the new building by my house. Taking bets on how long Arrington stays on.
I have always been against teachers’ unions. If you do form a teachers’ union, it should be formed around the mission of education rather than blindly protecting jobs. This article makes me sick. Teaching jobs and pay should be merit based. Public school districts and their teachers have always bemoaned the fact that that lacks equality and oversight and is difficult to assign merit accurately, but please, just suck it up. The best teachers will almost always be recognized, and rewarded under a merit-based system. True, some teachers, good and bad, will slip through the system, but that system sounds much better than the current system in many districts where bad teachers stay for years, and good teachers lose interest [more . . .]
About a week ago, I, along with some friends, read a shocking article in the SF Chronicle detailing a plan by the Contra Costa County DA to stop prosecuting misdemeanors and certain drug felonies. To quote the article, “People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear,” but that “prosecutors will still consider charging suspects with certain misdemeanors, including domestic violence, driving under the influence, firearms offenses, vehicular manslaughter, sex crimes and assault with a deadly weapon.” The full article is here. Hey criminal breathren, want a new hard drive? Go to Contra Costa County’s Best Buy and steal one! You won’t be prosecuted! Hey [more . . .]
I’d like to fancy myself as one who holds his own opinions about things. That’s why I get queasy come time for end-of-the-year top-N lists. On one end, I feel like I’m allowing myself to be quasi-brainwashed by other people, but on the other end, some of these toplists are so amazing. Fortunately, there are the lists of the “top” photographs–beau tiful and powerful and beyond ranking. Once you view them, whether or not something should be in the top ten seems so inane. Here are some of my favorite collections and selections: Boston.com: The Year 2008 in Photographs — One of the most amazing collections of photographs I have ever seen. TIME Pictures of the Year 2008 — With an [more . . .]