Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Long March for Equal Rights

It's been a long, long march toward equal rights:
- Blacks no longer slaves
- Blacks can vote
- Women can vote
- Races can intermarry
- No longer "illegal" to be homosexual
- Homosexuals can marry in some states
- Homosexuals can serve openly in the military

At one time each of these were blocked by those who thought others were inferior, others did not deserve equal rights, their own religious or moral beliefs trumped other people's equal rights. Thankfully reason and justice prevailed.

The United States is a beacon of democracy, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness. Let's keep up the good work, continue to pursue justice, and be a good role model for other nations.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Copyright & Email Replies

It's interesting that freecycling has ended up becoming quite a learning adventure into the proper application of intellectual property laws and rights.

Many get easily confused about what trademarks vs patents vs copyrights are really about. Used properly these are all good things that allow our economy and society to function better. That's why they were invented. But misused or misunderstood, they can lead to much pain and abuse and injustice.

In general trademarks, patents, and copyright are all intended to protect "profits" in use in commerce and should never be used to control free speech -- although some misguided corporations and individuals keep trying to do this.

On the trademark front we've proven this a couple of times thanks to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. See to read more on the trademark front.

On the copyright front we have not had any lawsuits (and I hope we won't), but here is an important point for all:

When replying to an email it is OK (in terms of copyright) to include the entire previous email (and even email chain) that is relevant to your reply.

It may not be good etiquette because this may make the email rather large and clog the digest version of an email list. It may also confuse your audience because people may not know exactly what point you are replying to. However from a legal standpoint it should be just fine because you are engaged in free speech -- debate with give and take. The discussion is enabled by including prior emails for reference.

I know that others have raised "copyright" as a reason that entire emails should not be included in reply emails, but this is not correct in so far as I've been able to determine as long as the intent is to enable discussion and not to reproduce a work to deny someone else from getting compensation for that work.

Including entire previous emails in replies is:
1) common -- billions of people do it daily.
2) easy -- most email programs do this automatically and it takes work to prevent.
3) appropriate -- so that the points and counter points can all be read in context to see if they are really logical or not.
4) expected -- so that debates are not just one sided, you need multiple points of view to understand the different points -- there are multiple sides to every discussion.

This is all protected by the "fair use" doctrine in addition to not being commercial speech but rather free speech. By commercial speech I mean communication that is intended to earn money in some direct way -- like in advertising or publishing. Even in commercial speech "fair use" can protect someone that is quoting another.

In contrast, if you use someone else's material in a way that harms the commercial value of the work -- for instance republishing large sections of material that someone would otherwise have to buy. This is most likely a copyright violation that is not protected by the "fair use" doctrine. The original author was generally paid money to create the work and thus it is in turn sold to recoup this cost as well as make a profit on it so the author and others involved can make a living.

Law can be a tricky and complicated area but hopefully this explanation makes sense to most people.

Please note that I am not a lawyer and I'm not giving you professional legal advice. However this does not block me from discussing such situations or you from coming to reasonable conclusions based on the information presented.

For references, please see:
1) "My posting was just fair use!" at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TSA - Terribly Stupid Agency

The TSA is developing a reputation as the Terribly Stupid Agency (Touching Sensitive Areas, etc). It is wasting billions on expensive, time consuming, annoying, invasive, and ineffective security measures that assume everyone is a terrorist when almost no one is. The terrorists have won if we all suspect everyone and each other.

Where is the check and balance on this 1984ish bureaucracy? Some rational and intelligent people need to step in and reduce the waste in this prime example of out-of-control government spending. These dollars could be greatly reduced and more effectively spent.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Rational Choices

Too many folks rely on typical stereotypes and want to pigeonhole people:
- borrow and spend warmongering conservative Republicans
- tax and spend pacifist liberal Democrats

In the most recent election I believe much of the electorate was fooled by those playing to emotions and fears rather than making rational choices about what we really want for the US. We must get beyond stereotypes and knee jerks to figure out how to make our lives and our government better. Recognizing the real pros and cons of what is accomplished or not. Fear is a great motivator but it is a very poor decision maker. And it takes real work to make improvements. I voted for people who have shown they can work hard with the system to make a change -- and a change in the direction I want our country to go.

Regarding Obama, he has not accomplished as much as he or I had hoped, but nonetheless in the last 2 years he and the Democrats did more to move the United States forward than Bush and the Republicans did in the previous 8.

Obama & the Democrats:
1) Restored worldwide respect for the US as a place of reason and balance (Bush & the Republicans trashed our reputation)
2) Made significant progress on reforming Health Care and making it cover more people in a reasonably efficient and affordable manner (Bush and the Republicans did nothing in this space)
3) Are working to get us out of wastefully expensive and destructive wars overseas (Bush and the Republicans caused us to overspend in this area to the tune of trillions of dollars).
4) Saved our country and the rest of the world from a likely second Great Depression. (Bush and the Republicans lead us into that economic mess -- over deregulation can be dangerous, government is an important check and balance on capitalism)

These are HUGE!

#1 allows us to have more credibility and work diplomatically with other countries
#2 greatly improves how the US manages valuable human resources, helping people be productive and healthy rather than sick and a drain on society
#3 saves us big bucks, lots of lives, and helps with #1
#4 saved all of us.

We have a phenomenally good government overall in the US. Just compare the totality of what our government does for us and how efficiently it does it compared to other countries in the world. Think about everything you do each day and how our government is involved in making it possible and reasonably safe:
- we have a military that is well managed, does not attack our citizens, and actively keeps foreign bad guys at bay
- we have police and fire fighters keeping us safe at home
- we have a legal system that generally works well -- courts, judges, laws, etc
- when you drive down the road, you have a well paved road to drive on, your car has to meet certain safety standards, you can breath the air behind your car, people stop at stoplights and let you thru, etc.
- when we walk down the street we generally have a sidewalk on which to walk and we generally are not afraid of getting mugged
- we all have safe water to drink from our faucets (how many countries in the world have this?)
- we have generally safe food available to us all in abundance
- everyone in the US has free public education available to them
- we have vast stores of knowledge available to all for free -- notably our public library system
- we have building codes that keep us safe from fire, collapse, earthquakes, etc.
- we have freedom of the press and speech so we can speak, be heard, and learn about what is happening from many sources that serve to check and balance each other
- we have freedom of religion so we can practice our own beliefs without fear of retribution from government
- and much, much more...

Our government has a positive impact on just about everything that you or I do. All of the above requires significant money to accomplish.

If some other country is doing a better job overall for its citizens than the US, please name it and how.

Sure there are things that we can improve, but don't let the exceptions outweigh the vast number of things that work well and most of us take for granted. Blindly cutting taxes and cutting government spending will hurt us. We need a well funded government for the US to continue to succeed and protect all of us.

Without our national, state, county, and city governments the United States would not be the great nation we are today. Be very careful about throwing things out, because you may be throwing the baby (our future) out with the bath water. Respect our government and work with our established systems to effect change because these are the systems that help our society and government run reliably.

Let's engage in reasoned dialog so we can work together and make improvements as a team. We are one big team that needs to cooperate and compromise to succeed in a dangerous and challenging world. We all cannot have it just our way. United we stand, divided we fall.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Don't be Fooled by Prop 23

I am strongly against California Prop 23 because it will hurt the California economy now and in the future (as well as hurt our children with the consequences of today's pollution). California is the leader in greentech which is a natural extension of both hightech and biotech. To maintain and increase this lead we need to practice what we preach and provide a market for our own leading companies. As leaders in the high value green industry we can invent our own future.

Two Texas oil companies are the primary backers of Prop 23 and they are doing it so their CA oil refineries to can continue to pollute in CA (they save money because they will not need to upgrade their plants).

It would be a travesty if too many people are fooled by the "job creation" smoke screen that Prop 23 is using. We need good, high quality, sustainable jobs now AND in the future to keep our communities healthy and clean -- not just a few short term dirty jobs.

Read more at:



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Right to Be Stupid

The Pastor in Florida has a first amendment right to free speech and to burn Qurans. I fully support this right.

But just because you have a right (legal) does not make it right (ethically). Burning Qurans is still stupid, foolish, disrespectful, and childish. It mainly serves to inflame both sides and give ammunition to terrorists. Burning Qurans hurts both Americans and Christians. Many of us have evolved beyond vengeance. Unfortunately many others remain stuck in hateful ways and are hell bent on perpetuating violence against each other.

See also:

If you want to let the Pastor know what you think, please send him comments at:

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Moving an Office the Green Way

On Saturday 9/4/2010 the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) moved its office and used bikes to do the move. This is an example of utilitarian bicycling at its best -- and having bicyclists be great role models of sustainability. Plus both the participants and the general public had a fun time!

Read the article from the 9/5/2010 San Jose Mercury News and see pictures at:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gay Rights Upheld, Prop 8 Annulled

I'm greatly relieved that logic has prevailed and CA Proposition 8 was annulled. A prejudiced and bigoted majority should not be allowed to trample civil rights -- the US is is based on the premise that "all men are created equal."

At one time majorities thought women were property, non-whites were inferior to whites, and interracial marriages were forbidden. Those strictures fell and so should discrimination against gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians should be entitled to marry just as people of opposite sexes are entitled to marry. Furthermore, families with married couples are good for our society. Just because one family is different from another does not mean that a couple should be denied the right to have a cohesive and fully privileged family.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What a wonderful ride!!!

Our entire family (2 parents, 2 kids and 2 dogs) participated in the 2010 Challenge Bicycle Ride today -- 24 miles of quiet residential street bicycling on a beautiful Sunday morning through Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. While the ride is over for this year, I hope more from our community will participate at next year's event.

For more please see:

How CA Education Finance Works

If you would like to know more about how school financing works in California, the most lucid presentation I've found is the instructional video posted at:

Please check it out and learn. It is only 40 minutes and well worth it. If any of you find a better presentation, please let me know!

Our kids are our future. Education is one of the best investments we can make -- whether it be for our own kids or kids in our neighborhood. Good education is the key to keeping the US competitive, safe, clean, and economically strong. Plus it is a requirement for a democracy to function.

If you live in CA, please watch and listen to the video and become better educated. Thanks!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Bill Passes!

History has been made. Obama, Pelosi, and the Democrats have accomplished an amazing feat -- a health care bill has now passed the Senate and House. Along with Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare, this is one of the biggest accomplishments by the government for social justice in the US in the past 100 years. If implementation goes well, the Republicans (the Party of No) will be in the dog house for a very long time. If not, then the Democrats will suffer. I believe that passage of this bill is a huge positive outcome for the US and will go a long way to improve the productivity of our human resources in the US as well as reduce costs.

For more see:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Italians Prefer to Shoot the Postman and Keep Truths Hidden

Based on the recent Italian verdict against Google ( here is what I conclude:

1) Italy (and perhaps Europe in general) prefers that bullying be hidden so people don't know it is happening -- if no one knows, that is better, right?
2) If it is publicized thus exposing the bullies -- shoot the messenger so it won't be publicized again -- punish the mechanism that transmitted the information because it is bad for people to know that bad things are happening.
3) Europe should have punished those that publicized the Holocaust -- so that it would never have been known that the Holocaust happened.
4) If the postal service delivers unsavory news, shoot the postman so they will stop delivering it.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Compromise Can Be Difficult

There is an interesting discussion occurring about the League of American Bicyclists at:

Here is what I think:

Often the closer you get to an organization, the uglier it's complexion -- the warts and blemishes become more visible. Nonetheless, it is important to take the whole into account and decide whether overall the organization is moving the cause forward even though it may not be specifically moving the parts some individuals want.

Regarding bike lanes, while sometimes their design is not the best, they do attract more cyclists and give them a degree of safety (or at least the perception). After getting more cyclists on the roads, more will realize that bike lanes need to be designed better and hopefully that will have an impact. Often we need to take imperfect steps on our hike toward overall improvement. It's a bit Machiavellian but it is practical. Additionally, to make progress in this area we often must make political compromises.

Yes having everyone become a well educated effective cyclist would be best, but unfortunately this is highly unlikely. The barriers are too high for most people. Conversely the barriers to bike lanes are relatively low and bike lanes are very visible, relatively long lasting, and highly attractive to most normal cyclists.

So while hard core utility cyclists see no need for bike lanes, and they would be right if we could educate all motorists and cyclists, the hurdle is too high to educate the vast majority of normal people whereas these normal people see the immediate advantage of bicycle lanes. And eventually those bicycle lanes can be made safe too.

Sometimes it is the best course of action to make progress where it is easiest rather than fighting the tide.

I've chosen to become a lifetime member of some national organizations (LAB & Adventure Cycling) as well as a local organization (Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition). I do what I am able to advocate for better education, helmet use and well designed bicycle facilities. I continue to believe it is worth supporting the LAB in addition to state and local organizations.

(BTW, I greatly admire what John Schubert, John Forester, and John Allen have accomplished.)

(BTW2, what I say above applies in a general way to all organizations with which I've been involved, some ended up on the net plus side, some on the net negative side.)

Monday, January 18, 2010


"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
- Martin Luther King, April 16, 1963

Some injustices as of 2010:
Suppression of free speech in China.
Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and mistreatment of the Palestinians in general.
Some Muslims blocking women from becoming educated.
Lack of equal marriage rights in the US.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti lessons -- Building Codes, Economies, Gov't

The situation in Haiti is the result of a terrible natural disaster -- made dramatically worse by a man made disaster. This disaster, like many earthquakes in poor countries, was largely preventable (!!). A 7.0 earthquake in an earthquake prone area of the US would likely kill only a handful of people, yet 50,000+ people died in Haiti due to building failures. The best solution to prevent such deaths is good Building Codes. Some in the US lament having to conform to building codes, but building codes save lives. The best way to get a good set of building codes is to have a good local economy together with a functioning government. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The best thing we can do to prevent disasters, terrorism, and many other worldly problems is to support our neighbors by helping them develop stable governments and educating their populace. That way the currently poor countries of the world can help themselves and we can prevent future disasters. This is why one of my favorite charities (and one I strongly support) is the Central Asia Institute. We need more groups like this that allow people to learn how to fish, rather than having others give them fish.

Let's put more effort into fixing root causes rather than applying bandaids.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Avatar -- A Must See

Wow. Avatar is a great film that all should see -- in 3D if at all possible. It is a solid science fiction film with reasonably good science, spectacular special effects, romance, lots of action, a moral, and a satisfying ending. Wow.