February 6, 2013

You can say “Space” and you can say “Marines”, but you can’t say “Space Marines”

Filed under: Books, Gaming, Law, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:40

Apparently Games Workshop owns the trademarked term “Space Marines”, so nobody else is supposed to use it:

For years, there have been stories about Games Workshop being trademark bullies and sending threats to people who use the term “space marine” in connection with games. But now that they’ve started publishing ebooks, Games Workshop has begun to assert a trademark on the generic, widely used, very old term “space marine” in connection with science fiction literature.

[. . .]

A few important notes:

* Amazon didn’t have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don’t apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.

* Games Workshop’s strategy is to make “space marine” less generic by launching high profile, bullying attacks on everyone who uses it, so that there will come a day when people hearing the phrase immediately conclude that it must be related to Games Workshop, because everyone know what colossal dicks they are whenever anyone else uses the phrase

* Trademarks only apply to commercial works. You can and should use “space marine” in your everyday speech, fanfic, tweets and so on. For one thing, it will undermine Games Workshop’s attempts to homestead our common language.

Update: John Scalzi clearly feels the claim lacks merit:

I am not a lawyer, so factor that in here. That said: Games Workshop, really? You know, a simple search on the term “space marines” over at Google Books shows a crapload of prior art for “space marines” in science fiction literature, from the 1936 Amazing Tales novelette “The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen, to Robert Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, to the very recent use of the term in The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Reubens and So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch. There is no lack of evidence that the phrase “space marines” has been used rather promiscuously in science fiction literature up to this point.

To argue, as Games Workshop must, that the phrase “space marines” has a distinctive character in science fiction literature relating only to their product involves, shall we say, a certain studied ignorance of the field. Table top games? Possibly; I’m not an expert. Science fiction literature? You have got to be kidding. It’s pretty damn generic in this field, and was long before 1987, when Warhammer 40,000 was created in game form . Nor does it seem, as far as I know, that Games Workshop attempted to claim trademark on the phrase “space marine” before, despite a veritable plethora of Warhammer 40K tie-in literature using the phrase.

Municipality really eager to get their parking revenues

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Middle East — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:18

A woman in Tel Aviv was lucky to be able to get security camera footage to prove her innocence here:

The Tel Aviv Municipality found itself in hot water on Tuesday, after a Facebook post by a woman whose car was towed after city workers painted a handicapped space around the vehicle went viral, becoming a mini-scandal and garnering coverage across Israeli media outlets.

Security camera footage from a store above the parking spot on Yehuda Halevi Street shows the car parked at a legal blue parking spot, before city workers arrive and paint a handicapped spot around the car, which is towed shortly thereafter.

The video was obtained by the owner of the car, Hila Ben-Baruch, from the surveillance camera of the store above the parking spot.

I once saw something similar happen in real time: in the mid-1970’s, I was waiting for a Mississauga Transit bus when a work crew from the city came along. The crew started putting up “No Parking” signs along the road, and a Peel Regional Police officer came along a few minutes later to write parking tickets for all the cars which were now illegally parked. The bus I was waiting for was on something like a 45 minute schedule, so this all took place within that stretch of time.

Old and busted: organ transplants. New hotness: 3D organ printing

Filed under: Health, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Matt Peckham on the very near future of organ replacement technology:

Say you need a new trachea, a part of the body we’ve already managed to replicate using stem cells and successfully transplant to a human with late-stage tracheal cancer (I’m not making that up or exaggerating). With a 3D printer and a bunch of stem cell-saturated bio-ink, you might be able to just print that trachea on demand thanks to a new technique that lets you pass human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) through a printer nozzle without destroying them.

A team of researchers from Scotland announced Monday that they’d finally managed to get an inkjet-style printer to craft an organic 3D object. Not an actual organ (well, not yet), but these scientists claim they’ve been able to clear a crucial hurdle: getting hESCs, prized for their ability to become cells of any tissue type, to survive the printing process.

The solution involved rejiggering the way the inkjet-style 3D printer worked, specifically the printing valve, which had to be tweaked to ever-so-gently deposit blobs of hESCs in programmable patterns without compromising the viability and functionality of the cells themselves. The researchers figured out how to do this using two types of bio-inks as well as allow for independent control of the amount in each droplet (with considerable control granularity — down to less than five cells per droplet). The results of the experiment were just published in the bio-science print and online journal Biofabrication.

English accents, circa 1483

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I’m afraid the coverage of the discovery and identification of the remains of Richard III have done bad things to the newspapers. We’re starting to see articles like this posted:

King Richard III was ‘a brummie’
King Richard III would have spoken with a Birmingham accent, according to a language expert.

Dr Philip Shaw, from the University of Leicester’s School of English, used two letters penned by the last king of the Plantagenet line more than 500 years ago to try to piece together what the monarch would have sounded like.

He studied the king’s use of grammar and spelling in postscripts on the letters.

The university has now released a recording of Dr Shaw mimicking King Richard reading extracts from those letters.

Despite being the patriarch of the House of York, the king’s accent “could probably associate more or less with the West Midlands” than from Yorkshire or the North of England, said Dr Shaw.

Wow. This must have been a long, painstaking effort to pin down the linguistic “tics” that help indicate a person’s natural speaking habits. What were the key elements that indicated Good King Richard was a “Brummie”?

“… there is also at least one spelling he employs that may suggest a West Midlands accent.”

That’s it? One spelling variation that “suggests” he would pronounce that one word in a similar manner to the modern Birmingham style? Gah!

Why does every infrastructure project cost more?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In his nominally NFL-related column, Gregg Easterbrook usually manages to insert interesting topics that are not in the least related to football:

Where Is the Bridge to Nowhere When You Really Need It? Another reason unprecedented increase in the national debt is not resulting in newly built infrastructure to help the economy grow is that government projects keep taking longer and costing more. Two years ago on Reuters, your columnist opined, “A combination of top-heavy bureaucracy, union rules, cost-plus profits and graft have made recent federally funded construction projects insanely expensive and slow. When the funding comes from borrowing by Washington, then businesses, unions and local petty officials have a self-interest in running up the cost while dragging their feet.

That column ended by noting the slow pace and cost overruns in plans to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River north of New York City.

Now two years have passed, and guess what’s happened to the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project? It’s no closer to beginning. New York Magazine reports that $88 million has been spent just to study a bridge replacement — not for architecture drawings, just study. The original Tappan Zee Bridge, completed in 1955, cost $675 million in today’s dollars and required three years to complete. New York State officials are saying the replacement will cost at least $3 billion and take five years to build. New York Magazine warns the price is lowballing for an expected cost much higher.

New York is demanding that the federal government fund most of the new bridge. Borrowed funny-money would be used; contractors and unions would have every incentive to drag their feet, running up the bill, while corrupt politicians would want the project to last as long as possible, so there was more funny-money to steal.

Meanwhile the existing Tappan Zee Bridge continues to crumble and nothing’s being done. At the current snail’s pace, a new bridge is many years away. What if the existing bridge collapses? Politicians will claim they were never warned, just as they claimed they were never warned before storm surge from Hurricane Sandy smashed up lower Manhattan, Long Island and Hoboken, N.J. Running up the national debt is bad enough; not building what the country needs is even worse. But politicians observe that behaving recklessly, then blaming others, is what advances their careers. Barack Obama acted recklessly with the nation’s finances, and was re-elected. Chris Christie did nothing to prepare New Jersey’s low-lying city from storm surge, then blamed others, and made the cover of Time magazine. Where is the political leader who will place acting responsibly ahead of self-promotion?

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