Wow. As of right now, I'm the #1 Google hit for "transparent skirts." (See entry, two spots down.) Guess that Google-Blogger acquistion firehosed a bunch of Googlejuice onto Blogspot-hosted blogs like mine.

In other transparent skirt news, yet another blogger -- UmamiTsunami -- agrees that even though these started out as a hoax, they're sure to become real soon. She writes:

but the fact remains - someone needs to make this skirt, because i guarantee that hundreds, if not thousands, of american girls will want them. including me.

but, uh, could i get halle berry's ass silkscreened on mine? that would be swell.

The net reifies offbeat ideas. It's practically a Forbidden Planet. I tell ya. Beware the Monster from the Id!

Interwoven Celebrates Imbecilic Patent Grant

Prior Art Museum
Web content management company Interwoven is touting a recently-granted patent (#6,505,212) on a multi-user, multi-staged versioning system for website development. From the patent abstract:
A system and method for file management is comprised of hierarchical files systems, referred to as "areas." There are three types of areas: work areas, staging areas, and edition areas. A work area is a modifiable file system, and, in a work area a user can create, edit, and delete files and directories. A staging area is a read-only file system that supports select versioning operations. Various users of work areas can integrate their work by submitting the contents of their work area to the staging area. In the staging area, developers can compare their work and see how their changes fit together. An edition is a read-only file system, and the contents of a staging area are virtually copied into an edition to create a frozen, read-only snapshot of the contents of the staging area. One use of the system and method for file management is as a website development tool.
Um, that description would cover the use of any moderately-featured source-code control system for web development. That's the first thing anyone with experience in coding projects tried for controlling web content in the early-to-mid-90s. We used Microsoft SourceSafe to version our intranet and public internet websites at Activerse by late 1996 (maybe even earlier), and I'm sure many others were using other filesystem-backed version-control software similarly even earlier. Interwoven filed this patent in 1998.

Sometimes the abstract isn't fair; the claims of a patent -- which are after all the only part that legally matters -- may elucidate the novelty and usefulness of an invention more effectively. But that's not the case here. Each of the patent's 13 claims just further describes what was already common practice for software and technical documentation development a decade or more ago -- and what many teams independently adopted as their practices for web file management throughout the 90s.

Interwoven wasted their money pursuing this absurd patent for an obvious and non-novel system. Let's see if they waste any more money trying to enforce it -- or if instead this patent just goes into that limbo where it remains legally valid but not credible enough to risk enforcing. (I suspect that tens of thousands of granted patents, perhaps even a majority of all unexpired patents, fall into this same limbo category.)

"Transparent" Skirts Likely Fakes -- At Least For Now!

Self-Fulfilling (Negating?) Hoaxery
A reasoned consensus seems to be emerging that the "transparent" Japanese skirts are just digitally altered photos, in actuality neither see-through material nor a painted-on-fabric trompe d'oeil.

But now that the idea is loose, some enterprising souls, somewhere, will surely whip up truly transparent skirts, or the painted version, or both. It's the nature of the web to propagate, magnify -- and finally, reify -- such novel concepts.

So these photos aren't so much a hoax as they are mockups -- a sort of product proposal, thrown out into the noosphere, and another example of the LazyWeb in action.

Iraqis On The War

Witnesses for the Prosecution
NYTimes: When the Enemy Is a Liberator
But when it was suggested that they could hardly wish to be liberated by a country they distrusted so much � that they might prefer President Bush to extend the United Nations weapons inspections and stand down the armada he has massed on Iraq's frontiers � they erupted in dismay.

"No, no, no!" one man said excitedly, and he seemed to speak for all. Iraqis, they said, wanted their freedom, and wanted it now. The message for Mr. Bush, they said, was that he should press ahead with war, but on conditions that spared ordinary Iraqis.

Dr B Khalaf in The Guardian (UK): ...And why I will not [march]
I write this to protest against all those people who oppose the war against Saddam Hussein, or as they call it, the "war against Iraq". I am an Iraqi doctor, I worked in the Iraqi army for six years during Iraq-Iran war and four months during Gulf war. All my family still live in Iraq. I am an Arab Sunni, not Kurdish or Shia. I am an ordinary Iraqi not involved with the Iraqi opposition outside Iraq.

I am so frustrated by the appalling views of most of the British people, media and politicians. I want to say to all these people who are against the possible war, that if you think by doing so you are serving the interests of Iraqi people or saving them, you are not. You are effectively saving Saddam. You are depriving the Iraqi people of probably their last real chance get rid of him and to get out of this dark era in their history.

More Evidence for Contagious Longevity

Infectious Optimism Ward
Wired News: Discovering a Secret of Long Life

Wow, Thursday featured a mini epidemic of stories with support for a pet theory of mine, that there exist a wide range of mostly-undiscovered viruses (and perhaps other contagions) whose net effects on health and longevity are positive. Below, I highlighted the discovery that a benign viral infection can interfere with HIV's damaging effects. Now, as reported in the Wired News article above, it turns out that people living to be over 100 are five times more likely to have a specific mutation in their mitochondrial DNA.

Such DNA resides in the tiny mitochondria substructures inside each cell, and this DNA is generally believed to be inherited strictly from one's mother -- since the mother's donated egg cell (with its mitochondria) is the progenitor of every cell in the body, while the father's donated sperm cell is considered to merge its genetic payload with the egg nucleus and then drop out of the picture. However, here's the kicker about this specific longevity-correlated mitochondrial DNA mutation:

To see whether the mutation is inherited, the team studied skin cells collected from the same individuals between nine and 19 years apart.

In some, both samples showed that the mutation already existed, while in others, it either appeared or became more abundant during the intervening years. These results suggest that some people inherit the mutation from their mother, while others acquire it during their lifetime, Attardi said.

How does someone acquire a mutation during their lifetime? Viruses. So while the chain of causation is still far from clear, these results are consistent with the idea that some of these centenarians were infected with viruses which changed their mitochondrial DNA, and perhaps even enhanced their health, during their lifetime.

If this mechanism for improved health is confirmed, I want me some o' them viruses! Will the healthy elderly some day find their blood to be a valuable commodity -- an 'all-natural' patent medicine for an indeterminately wide spectrum of maladies? (Might any mysteriously effective traditional medical practices rely on the act -- even if not by conscious intent -- of transferring curative infections from old-aged medicine-men to their ailing patients?)

Anti-HIV Saluvirus Found

Infectious Optimism Ward
ABCNews (AP): Virus May Block HIV's Destructive Power

An ancient virus that has tagged along harmlessly through human evolution appears to improve people's chances of surviving AIDS by blocking HIV's ability to infect blood cells, new research shows.

Several recent studies have found that people who are infected with the recently discovered bug, called GB virus C, are substantially less likely than usual to die from AIDS. Experts assumed that GBV-C somehow interferes with HIV, but just how this protection works has been a mystery.

Now experts think they have the answer: It thwarts HIV's ability to infect cells by wiping away one of the chemical docking posts that HIV needs to make its entry.

I think we'll find a lot of subtly beneficial contagions once we seriously start to look for them. It may become common practice someday to survey the full complement of commensal flora in healthy, long-lived people to find new beneficial infectious agents -- or even to intentionally transfuse the blood from healthy, long-lived people to the young or ill, in the hopes of transferring contagious good health, even without knowing precisely which agents are salubrious. (I've written about this before, where I also suggested the term saluvirus for health-giving viruses.)

MusicBrainz Outta Beta!

Launch Control
MusicBrainz, an open, community-built music "metadatabase", today launches its services to a larger audience.

The website has a fresh look and more details than ever before about the history, progress, and future of this public resource. The White Paper on MusicBrainz's plans to become a self-sustaining non-profit corporation is especially informative.

New with this launch is also an innovative triple-licensing strategy. First, recognizing the important principle that facts are not copyrightable, MusicBrainz explicitly affirms that the factual information in its database is in the public domain, free for all to use.

Second, in a compact with its community of volunteer contributors, it offers all original/derived/authored materials in its database under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Finally, when commercial initiatives seek to use the MusicBrainz data, case-by-case commercial licenses will be offered in return for financial sponsorship which allows the project to continue.

This three-track approach attempts balances the public interest, contributor desires, and the long-term health of the MusicBrainz project, and could become a model for other not-for-profit community-authored projects.

I'm rooting for this innovative model -- and if you are too, you can join me and other supporters by contributing your time, money, or expertise directly to MusicBrainz. (I just PayPal'd $50...)

"Creative" Mac-heads get cut all the slack...

Double Standards Department
The Smoking Gun: Dude, You're Getting A Cell

Dell spokesdude Benjamin Curtis was arrested late Sunday (2/9) in Manhattan on a marijuana possession charge.

And yet Apple "switcher" Ellen Feiss still walks the streets as free (and probably as high) as a bird.

Warsharing? Sony Announces WiFi Portable File Server

Neologism Division
I can't read the Japanese, but from the Flash animation, it appears that Sony is offering a 20GB portable WiFi file server.

German site Computerwoche ("Computer Week") has more information, in article: Sony announces WiFi Fileserver in the Walkman format (Google translation):

MUNICH (COMPUTER WEEK) - Japanese electronics company Sony has a portable file server presented which, which kommunziert over Wireless LAN with PCS and PDAs. The "Fsv-pg1" works with a Linux based operating system and contains a 20-GB-Festplatte in the 2,5-Zoll-Format, 17 GB of it is available for user data. The equipment fits with masses of 83 x 155 x of 31 millimeters loosely into a hand and weighs 390 gram. For the enterprise all thing a power pack is necessary, the internal Akku serves only for baking UP purposes.

The inserted ACCESS POINT (IEEE 802.11b) can serve according to manufacturer up to 250 users at the same time. Access to the stored files is possible over ftp, CIFS (Common InterNet file system) or NFS. By a Ethernet Cradle available as accessories the equipment can connect accessing Clients by WLAN in addition with the InterNet. As safety functions the Fsv-pg1 incoming inspection coding with alternatively 64 or 128 bits offers, stored files can by password be protected.

On the Net&Com 2003 in Tokyo the equipment is presented today to the public for the first time. It is to come at the end of March for converted 585 dollar on the Japanese market, the Cradle costs again scarcely 60 dollar. Whether and when the equipment appears also in this country, is not well-known.

You might call the kind of drive-by file sharing enabled by such devices "warsharing".