Monthly Archives: December 2013

The fog in Spain lies mainly in the plain.

Two mega-cars from Scuderia (a Challenge and a GT3) + a completely empty Aragon race track in Alcaniz, Spain + a fog thicker than school-dinner semolina = tragedy.

You drive in an exquisite bit of motorsport kit, but the pedal stays a good way off the metal. Visibility is down to silly meters, and you’re trying to get some decent speed up. Rather, you’d want to. But you’re not as silly as those meters… So, like I say… a tragedy.

alcaniz-aragon-track-1

Read on: visibility superciliously silly…

Lovely weather in Rome, Christmas in Maranello.

Ciao all!

Herewith, the two next – Italian – installments from my recent Trans-Europe Express-2013.

Installment No. 1: Location, location, location.

We dropped in on one of our partners in Rome, whose office is handily situated in a building right in the city center. The panoramic view from up top was just incredible – as you can probably guess. Got me thinking how on earth the guy ever gets any work done. Hmmm, I guess you can’t just keep staring at the view for days… but I found out you can for hours! My conclusion: if the rooftop terraces here weren’t covered with those pesky Roman pigeons I’d give the place a perfect 10.

It's (always) sunny in RomeAC and a Xerox

Read on: Felipe Massa gets an engine…

Low season Swiss mist.

“This world is a desert that is a circle.

Heaven is closed and hell is empty.”

Octavio Paz, Elegía interrumpida (Interrupted Elegy), mid-20th century

I recalled these lines of this great (though not all that well-known) Mexican poet just recently on my latest travels – driving across Switzerland. Have to say I wasn’t expecting low season here to be this low. Place was practically deserted, with most of the hotels practically empty too. But of course: Summer is a distant memory, and neither Christmastime nor skiing-time has fully kicked off yet…

Making the place even more eerily desolate was the thick fog that had descended…

Not a horror movieRocking

Read on: 800 kilometers of autobahn…

Top-10 tips for fighting patent trolls.

Increasingly of late – particularly since our recent much publicized triumph in court against a patent troll – I keep getting asked for advice on how to combat patent parasites. So… here they are: our top-10 tips for fighting back against and conquering patent bloodsuckers.

First, your applause please for the KL guys behind the tips (and our fight against patent trolls):

  • Nadya Kashchenko, Chief IP Counsel
  • Dmitry Polyakov, Head of IP Protection & Defense
  • Nikolay Borovikov, Head of IP Research & Analysis
  • Sergey Vasilyev, Senior IP Counsel

From our various battles over the years with patent piranhas in different countries, we’ve come to a number of conclusions about patent trollism. Of course, every country has its own particular economic and socio-political features, plus its own unique patent legislation, but still, on the whole the pattern pretty much stays the same when it comes to trollism – with just a few minor differences. For both clarity and practicality here I’ll concentrate on specifically the US patent environment, since trollism there is currently the most out of control and problematic for innovative companies.

10 tips for fighting against patent trolls

Read on: rule #1 – don’t panic!…

Inventors and inventions.

As recent events have confirmed – we have an active patent life.

Our inboxes keep getting filled with all sorts of e-mails – both positive and negative, interesting and insipid – about various patent claims and assorted inventions…

…Which got me thinking…

…Which led to my doing some research of some of the weird and wonderful – and totally wrong – predictions of ‘experts’ with regard to various new ideas, inventions and undertakings over the centuries.

Here’s an interesting list of 20 extremely bizarre absurdities which I found on the web; I’m sure it will at least raise an eyebrow or two, maybe compel a chuckle or three, or hopefully induce four LOLs:

1. “The fall of stones from the heavens is physically impossible.” – Paris Academy of Sciences on meteorites, 1772.

2. “In the future computers will weigh more than 1.5 tons.” – Popular Mechanics, 1949.

3. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, CEO, IBM, 1943.

4. “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” – Editor, Business Books, Prentice Hall, 1957.

5. “But what…is it good for?” – Engineer, Advanced Computing Systems Division, IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

6. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken Olson, Chairman, Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

7. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union internal memo, 1876.

8. “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” – Associates of David Sarnoff who was seeking investment in the radio in the 1920s.

9. “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” – Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing a reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

10. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” – H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

11. “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Co. suits rejecting the Beatles, 1962. (I LOLed to this one.)

12. “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.

13. “That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react – to say that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” – 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work. The remark was finally retracted in the July 17, 1969 issue.

14. “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” – Workers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

15. “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” – Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1911.

16. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

17. “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” – Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

18. “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” – Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

19. “640 kb ought to be enough for anybody.” – Attributed to Bill Gates, 1981.

20. “$100 million dollars is way too much to pay for Microsoft.” – IBM, 1982.

As is becoming a habit already, I’ll finish with another brainteasing conundrum:

A rope is stretched snugly around the Equator. It gets cut at one point and an extra one-meter section is inserted to its length. If this rope could magically float on air so that it is fully stretched out (as before), how far above the earth would it be floating?

Home is where the snow is.

In the end, my round-the-world tour turned out to be reasonably zig-ah-zig-ah:

Moscow – DublinAbu DhabiCanberra & Sydney – SingaporeAustin (via NYC and Dulles) – Riyadh – Tokyo/Osaka/Tokyo – and now: home!

The trip turned out to be a high-pressure one, with a tight schedule to fit all the work in and little time for chilled sightseeing. To be honest, it took a lot out of me. I’m real tired. Dog tired. Totally beat, burned out, wasted, done for, dead on the feet, whacked, fried, frazzled, KO’d, ruined… Walking to the gate at Narita airport in Tokyo, I nearly fell asleep while standing on the horizontal escalator thingie :).

Notes:

Out of the array of programs and films on offer on the screen in the back of the seat in front of me, I often opt for the flight route map. It’s a bit like cricket. Not much happens, what does happen occurs at a snail’s pace, but if you’re one for taking it real easy all day it’s the one to go for!

Tokyo-MoscowAerial cricket

Read on: some like it hot!…

Japanese scenes and seasons.

“A melancholy time, so pleasing to the eye.”

            – Alexander Pushkin, Autumn, 1833

That excerpt of poetry comes to mind every time I look at a multicolored bit of autumnal scenery, which I did quite a bit of just recently over in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Ashinoko Lake

Fall in Osaka

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Japan. 15-20? 20-25? Something like that. The first time was back in 2004 for the AVAR conference, and the trips have just got more and more frequent ever since – now up to three times a year. Can’t complain of course – Japan is one of my fave countries in the world, if not the fave. However, I’d only ever been to Japan in the spring, summer and winter. Never fall. But the ‘best’ two seasons in Japan are spring (for the cherry trees blossoming) and fall (for the autumn leaves dropping to the ground). So (finally!) I’ve made it to the country in November – to take in the lush Japanese landscapes of shades of yellow, green and brown!

Read on: Odawara, Kamakura, Hakone, Fuji in November shades…

What goes around comes around gets jetlag.

A few days ago I flew Cathay Pacific from Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, via Abu-Dhabi and Hong Kong and towards Japan. In Abu-Dhabi I realized I was last here just three weeks ago for the Formula-1 Grand Prix! So yes, once again I’ve managed to pull off a round trip right round the globe: DublinAbu-DhabiCanberra (and Sydney) – SingaporeAustin – Riyadh – Abu-Dhabi. 1 full circumnavigation + 2 equator crossings.

What stuck in the mind during this global marathon?

First off, that Saudi Arabia is a fiercely dry country – in more ways than one. If you drink alcohol there it’s multiple lashings with a stick, plus a fine, plus jail time for you. But you’ll have a job boozing there anyway – we found absolutely ZERO liquids on offer stronger than coffee or yoghurt. Even in the Ritz-Carlton.

Curiously, no matter what airline, up above Saudi Arabia in its airspace there’s also no liquor getting poured either! Not even a wee dram! Flying in on Saudi Arabian Airlines – well, we kinda expected that. But flying out on Cathay – we had to wait eons for our glass of shampers until we reached UAE airspace! Not that I was desperate for a drink or anything, of course (cough), but a little sharpener would have been nice.

Here I want to mention one other idiosyncrasy of round-the-world multi-stop plane trips.

They come in two flavors: ‘western’ (following the sun), and ‘eastern’ (towards the sun).

Western round-the-worlds are much simpler and pleasanter than eastern. You fly into the ‘minus time zone’, so accordingly sleep needs to come later (better – a lot later), and so in the morning you wake up also later. So, if flying from Moscow to, say, Boston, then at nine in the evening local Boston time, in Moscow – i.e., as per your biological clock – it’s 6am of the following day – already long past bedtime! So getting off to sleep at the impossibly early hour of 9pm in Boston is a doddle, as really it’s 6am for you. The only slight problem with this is you often find yourself waking up VERY early next morning (local time) – like 4am early. (How many times have I been Stateside and been queuing at the ‘Please wait here to be seated’ sign for breakfast at 6am sharp after strutting the lobby and environs for hours already!)

On the other hand, with eastern round-the-worlds everything is just the opposite. Jetlag is always a lot trickier to deal with. You desperately want to sleep all the time, but actually getting to sleep without a little medicinal assistance is all but impossible. Totally zombified! To conquer this condition there’s just one option – to try get your head down in the daytime and sleep for some 12 hours. Better 14 hours. But, alas, it doesn’t always work out: either your bodyclock simply refuses outright (hint: melatonin), or a packed schedule or large doses of extreme hospitality on the part of super nice hosts gets in the way!

Well, that’s your lot for today folks. I’m off for some much needed kip. Night night, sweet dreams, and sleep well!

But for those who can’t sleep – a brain teaser for you:

100 kilograms of cucumbers are made up of 99% water. After shrinking, there remains 98% water. What’s the mass of the cucumbers after shrinking?