Sunday, November 23, 2014

Character Insight No. 122: Michael Eddington

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Michael Eddington, a recurring character from Deep Space Nine.
 

EddingtonStarfleet.jpg
 ("Another security officer you just can't trust") 

Eddington first appears when he is assigned to Deep Space Nine as a Chief of Starfleet Security after the Dominion contacts and conflict begin. Although he was added to the crew because Starfleet did not trust Odo completely, these two security officers worked together well during Eddington's short stint aboard the station.

Eddington ends up playing a critical role in some of the biggest early missions of the Dominion conflict prior to breakout of full war. He sabotages the Defiant's cloaking mechanism when Sisko disobeys an Admiral's orders to hunt down an Obsidian Order fleet. He later also plays a huge role discovering that blood tests can be used to detect infiltrator shapeshifters in Starfleet as well as in the plot to make a second wormhole to the Founder's home planet.

Eddington then serves an interesting bridge between the stories of the first part of DS9 and the Dominion War storyline as he defects to the Maquis in his second year aboard the station. It turns out that the Maquis battle against the Cardassians appears to be the moral battle to take when the Dominion and Cardassians appear to gain the upper hand in the war. Of course, Eddington and the Maquis take it to the next level, far beyond what Starfleet can tolerate.

To this end, Eddington prepares a biogenic weapon to cause fatal nerve damage to Cardassians and he begins deploying this weapon at Cardassion colonies in the Demilitarized Zone. Sisko and the Defiant outsmart Eddington though and prevent the destruction of further colonies by detonating a trilithium resin device over one Maquis colony with threats to do others unless Eddington turns himself in, which he does. 

From Blaze of Glory
Captain Sisko: [about Cal Hudson] He was a good man.
Michael Eddington: He felt the same about you. He thought you were wrong about the Maquis; but he forgave you. Which is ironic, considering you never forgave him. You can't forgive any of us. And not because we betrayed Starfleet or the Federation. But because we betrayed *you*.


The last we see of Eddington is his assistance of Sisko with the rescue of the final Maquis survivors after the Jem'Hadar take this resistance movement out. He saves his wife Rebecca and Sisko before falling to the Jem'Hadar himself, a fitting fate for a Maquis leader.

Eddington was fond of the novel Les Miserables, and he saw himself as the hero Valjean, always trying to elude the inflexible policeman which he saw as Commander Sisko. Eddington's character is based on a similarly named character in the 1965 movie In Harm's Way, a very unlikeable protagonist. His character ties together some of the important aspects of this TV series while also providing some contrast from the tendencies of the main cast in the late seasons. This type of character works well for that very reason.

Eddington was played by Kenneth Marshall, who has not acted in over a decade. However, you can relive some of his greatest hits in the 80s movies Krull and Feds.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Character Insight No. 121: Geordi's Best Episodes

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we try a new type of segment based on a listener question to the show last week. Let's circle back to some major characters and look at which episodes are best for establishing their character development, and we start with Geordi La Forge from TNG.
 


 ("VISOR Geordi is the original and best version of Geordi") 

The best episode for learning some of Geordi's past was Hero Worship, where Geordi and Data help a sole survivor child of a ship crash deal with his trauma. Geordi reveals that he also had similar struggles as a young child, once being trapped in a burning building and then learning how to see with a VISOR for the first time at the age of five. 

From Hero Worship
Data - Did you ever experience a traumatic experience?
La Forge - I was caught in a fire once...and it was only a couple of minutes before my parents found me and pulled me out. I tell ya, that was the longest couple of minutes of my life.

We also learn a lot about Geordi and how he got the assignment aboard the Enterprise by impressing Riker and Picard when on former assignments in the episode where everyone thinks he and Ro Laren are dead, The Next Phase. For example, he stays up all night to fix a shuttle's engine efficiency after an offhand remark from Picard during a shuttle ride, which endears La Forge to the future Enterprise captain. 

From The Next Phase
Picard - "I've been thinking about the first time I met Geordi La Forge. He was a young officer, assigned to pilot me on an inspection tour, and... I made some off-hand remark about the... the shuttle's engine efficiency not being what it should, and the next morning I found that... he'd stayed up all night, re-fitting the fusion initiators. Well, I knew then that I wanted to have him with me on my next command."

If there's anything that defines Geordi, it's professional success matched with occasional problems dealing with people. He initially butts heads with legendary engineer Montgomery Scott after saving Scott from a transporter buffer accident in the episode Relics, but they eventually hit it off and work together to save the Enterprise.

From Relics



La Forge - "I told the Captain I would have this diagnostic done in an hour."
Scotty - "And how long will it really take you?"
La Forge - "An hour!"
Scotty - "Oh, you didn't tell him how long it would really take, did you?"
La Forge - "Of course I did."
Scotty - "Oh, laddie, you have a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker."

One of Geordi's weaknesses is dealing with women and romance, and like his mentee Reginald Barclay, Geordi gets himself into trouble falling for holographic representations of  women. This was most evident when he ends up meeting and having to work with the real life Leah Brahms in the episode Galaxy's Child after falling for her hologram in the episode Booby Trap. 

From Galaxy's Child
La Forge: "The acoustic signature doesn't sound right."
Leah Brahms: "You're probably the only other person in the galaxy who could pick that up."

Do you like this new take on the Character Insight segment? Please send feedback into the show and on Twitter. If you like it, we will mix these in every 2 or 3 weeks along with the regular version of the segment, which now focuses on some of the best recurring characters in the shows. 

Give feedback!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Character Insight No. 120: Alyssa Ogawa

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile another character from TNG, Nurse Alyssa Ogawa.
  
 

Alyssa Ogawa.jpg
 ("Such a bright-faced young'un at the beginning") 
Ogawa serves a similar role as Christine Chapel in TOS, that being a regular recurring nurse in sickbay. Ogawa was not featured until early in season 4, although she becomes a more regular fixture for the final four seasons as well as two of the TNG films. Ogawa comes aboard as an ensign, but her good effort leads to a promotion to lieutenant, junior grade, and she is a trusted fallback for Dr. Crusher that communicates to the other senior staff when Crusher is unavailable. Thus, we get to see her develop into a vital member of the sickbay crew.
Unlike many recurring characters, Nurse Ogawa does not see a lot of away mission roles. Instead, she is mostly seen assisting with important research and surgeries in sickbay and around the ship. One of these notable surgeries was the work on a trill ambassador, which was the first time Federation officers had actual observations of a trill symbiont. Although she also appears in each of the first two TNG movies, in both cases she is shown merely leading an evacuation of sickbay when the Enterprise is crashing on a planet or overrun with a Borg invasion.
Alyssa is very close to Dr. Crusher and considers her boss a close friend. We also see her hang out and play poker with other junior officers in the notable episode Lower Decks. She dated a small handful of people on the ship and even became a subject of gossip by the Captain and Dr. Crusher, but this leads to her engagement and marriage to Andrew Powell. They conceive a child who was born shortly before the movie Star Trek Generations, and this child saves the crew thanks to using amniotic fluid from Ogawa's pregnancy to overcome a contagion called Barclay's Protomorophsis Syndrome. The magical healing powers of pregnancy and babies even works in Star Trek. 

Quote: from Suspicions
Doctor Beverly Crusher: I don't want you to get involved in this.
Nurse Alyssa Ogawa: Is that an order, Doctor?
Doctor Beverly Crusher: Yes.
Nurse Alyssa Ogawa: Too bad you're not my boss anymore.


This is a high-quality and well-written recurring character who becomes a familiar face the audience cares about thanks to the stories told about her. It was great to see her star in a couple late episodes such as Lower Decks, and this is the type of character who adds significant depth to a series, even with a well-established ensemble crew already in place.  
This character was named by the TNG budget estimator Suzi Shimizu, who picked alyssa based on her daughter's name and ogawa based on her maiden name. Although her daughter's name is officially spelled with a "y" in Alyssa, the character's first name is indicated to be spelled with an "i" in about half of her script appearances. If you enjoy this character, she lives on as a major character in the novel series Star Trek Titan, which is the ship led by Riker and Troi after their departure from the Enterprise following Star Trek Nemesis. 

Nurse Ogawa is played by Patti Yasutake. Her biggest non-Star Trek role was in the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, but she has recently done voice work for games such as Bioshock Infinite.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Legal Geek No. 28: FTC Stabs at the Patent Troll

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at a landmark FTC consent order and settlement issued earlier this week, the consent order imposing limits on a patent troll for the first time.


Federal Trade Commission: Protecting America's Consumers
(The Federal Trade Commission, here for you consumers)
  

The Federal Trade Commission is a government entity that has the dual mission of protecting consumers, specifically by stopping unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace, and of promoting competition, specifically by enforcing antitrust laws.The FTC has come across this segment's radar for antitrust before, but now we see the consumer protection branch in full effect.

Whenever a complaint is received from one or more consumers by the FTC about deceptive business practices, the agency investigates the complaints and brings lawsuits to force changes in conduct for bad actors. That's what happened here against MPHJ Technology Investments and its law firm.

Patent assertion entities, also referred to as patent trolls, are one example of potential bad actors in the marketplace. These patent assertion entities buy up vague and broad patents for the express purpose of threatening lawsuits to many businesses to strong-arm them into patent licenses which become significant revenue streams based on the purchased patents.This trend has been strong for a decade in the patent world, but most efforts to curtail this practice in Congress and elsewhere have been ineffective or slow in coming about.

However, the FTC may have just opened a new viable attack against such patent assertion entities because MPHJ has been forced in this consent order to stop sending threatening letters making misstatements about the number of other companies who have already agreed to license the patents and misstatements about threatening litigation when no real preparation or intent to sue is there. Further violations of this nature will now come with a $16,000 fine per incident, and considering MPHJ has already sent out over 9,000 letters, that price tag could rise into the millions if the deceptive conduct continues.
 
The primary reason patent trolls are such a drain on the marketplace is that they wield all the power with very little downside, as companies often will pay these entities to avoid expensive and lengthy patent litigation. By taking away the ability to baselessly threaten litigation, patent trolls lose much of the power that makes this a top issue. Therefore, as the FTC opens a 30 day public comment period for us to comment on this consent order, it seems like a good idea to flood the FTC with positive comments reinforcing this decision.

Bottom Line: this FTC decision may have an initial small effect against only one bad actor patent assertion entity, but the potential for this to happen to other patent trolls could finally change the landscape in this long-fought battle over patent rights. The FTC may have finally solved how how to protect innovators while clearing out true abuses of the patent system.

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Do you have a question? Send it in!

Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitz

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Legal Geek No. 27: Does Settling Patent Lawsuits Open Door for Class Action Liability?

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at the new fad in class action lawsuits called "pay for delay" antitrust suits and whether these lawsuits will chill the overwhelming desire companies have to settle patent infringement and invalidity lawsuits.


About Nexium 24HR
(Courtesy the AstraZenica website 

Back in 2008 AstraZenica was embroiled in patent litigation over the wildly popular heartburn medicine called Nexium. Various generic drug makers wanted to invalidate the patents on the drug in order to jump into the lucrative market well before these patents would expire in late 2014. However, as many patent lawsuits do, this case settled before a final disposition on terms not disclosed to the public.

Thus, the exact terms of the agreement between Astrazenica and other companies like Ranbaxy were not known. But there's at least some evidence that this agreement included a large payment of money to Ranbaxy for the promise to drop the lawsuit and not make a generic version of Nexium until the middle of 2014. Now these former competitors in court are forced to defend together against a class action lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming that this payment and delay of the generic release is in violation of the Sherman Act.

We've briefly discussed class action suits before on this segment, and the biggest hurdle was cleared a year ago when the class of consumers who could sue was certified by the court. The court is now hearing oral arguments in the case this week, and the plaintiff drug stores and consumers are painting a picture of unfair gaming of the patent system by AstraZenica paying for a delay in the generic drug release, thereby artificially keeping prices on Nexium inflated for the final five or six years of patent coverage.
 
These pay for delay suits are a relatively new fad brought on by recent Federal Circuit and Supreme Court case law. As applied to the patent context, it seems to imply that companies like Ranbaxy who challenge the validity of a patent cannot drop that suit because they must serve the interests of fair market competition and consumer protection from negotiated monopolies. But is that a good thing for the patent system or judicial system?

If a duty to the consumers is created by filing and pursuing a lawsuit or claim to invalidate a patent, then any settlement or payment could end up leading to a claim (no matter how true) of pay for delay conspiracies...which means more patent litigations will fill court dockets for longer periods of time rather than being settled. In addition, patents are all about exclusivity and the right to monopolize innovations for a short period of time before it becomes public domain, so it seems strange that merely settling a case about patents could give rise to a claim of antitrust violations.

Perhaps the recent advent of post grant review proceedings for patents, which cannot be withdrawn or stopped once initiated, will help alleviate this problem by enabling challenges to a patent's validity without risking a settlement that could lead to claims of antitrust conspiracy later. 

Bottom Line: efficient and quick settlement of patent lawsuits reduces a major drain on the court system, and if this pay for delay theory works for the class action lawsuit against Astrazenica, that's bad news for the marketplace generally as more companies will tie up resources fighting long battles in court. Nobody wins in that situation except the lawyers, and take it from a lawyer, that's not what you want to happen.


Do you have a question? Send it in!

Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy or in the comments below.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Character Insight No. 117: Corporal R. Ryan

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Corporal R. Ryan, a recurring character appearing on Enterprise.
  
 Jason Collins, Countdown
("Why is it the enlisted never look too happy to be around?") 

Ryan is one of the enlisted crewmembers who is part of the MACO force assigned to Enterprise during the Delphic Expanse mission. As a result, he shows up on many critical away missions and as a guard on multiple episodes, although his role is nearly always a background one.

The MACO, or Military Assault Command Operations, had access to weapons three or more years advanced than the Enterprise crew, keeping them on the cutting edge for future combat. Thus, Ryan is a sniper who has access to the newest toys, including better scopes and particle rifles. He uses this sniper rifle to shoot a mine foreman on a planet where Captain Archer needs to be rescued. That mission succeeds, as do many when this character contributes to them. It is interesting that this shooting role was written for the leader of the MACO's Major Hayes, but this was reconfigured during filming to give Ryan the spotlight in his first of a dozen appearances over 4 seasons.

His gunmanship comes in handy when Captain Archer needs to retake the ship. This includes kicking the Triannons off the Enterprise after they had taken over, and defending the Enterprise from a Sphere Builders invasion while the bridge crew is away on mission. Sometimes, he is just a simple security guard, holding unwanted visitors out of meetings and carting people like Arik Soong and Malcolm Reed to and from the brig. 

Having MACOs on board is a constant reminder that space exploration requires a strong military hand in the early days of Starfleet. Especially when conflicts arise like with the Xindi, these guys are the little known backbone that keeps the ship out of harm's way.

Ryan is one of the few recurring characters who makes more than 10 appearances while being played by two different actors. Both actors who played him are regular background actors, Jason Collins and Aaron White. Collins is more of a television actor, but he has appeared in the movies The Frozen Ground, National Treasure Book of Secrets, and Treevenge. Yes, TREEVENGE. White has not acted as much, but he did appear on the TV show 24 as well as in the recent movie Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. This actor swapping can be a bit confusing when characters are a bit faceless without much personality, but it is a necessary evil of weekly episodic television sometimes for non-regular characters (who may have other acting gig or jobs).

We've covered similar small characters on this segment before like Engineer Alex, and guys like Corporal Ryan are good consistent background scenery for the most part. It would be nice to see some of these familiar faces develop more personality and character, like in the TNG episode lower decks, but it's hard enough to spread out sufficient time to an ensemble major crew let alone minor crew members. I guess that's what we have The Redshirt Diaries web show for!

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Character Insight No. 116: Michael Jonas

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Michael Jonas, a recurring character on Voyager who plays a key role in the first long storyline of Voyager, the Seska storyline.
  
 Michael jonas.jpg
("Put on your constipated serious face...good, good") 

Jonas was one of the Maquis fighters who served aboard the Val Jean under Chakotay's command until their crew became stranded with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. He, like B'Elanna Torres, serves as an engineer after joining the ship. He turns out to be one of the harder crew members to bring over to the Starfleet side, and his desire to look out for himself almost ends up in disastrous consequences for the entire Voyager crew.

Jonas was close friends with another former Maquis Kurt Bendera, who died at the hands of the Kazon. Bendera's death was the straw that broke the camel's back in the attempt to get Jonas to fully integrate into Starfleet. Jonas blames Captain Janeway's policies for Kurt's death, which leads him to secretly open communications with Seska to negotiate takeover of the Voyager by the Kazon.

Jonas transmits details of Voyager's new transwarp technology after Tom Paris breaks the Warp 10 barrier. Tuvok detects these transmissions, which were ingeniously sent in the waste energy emitted from the propulsion systems and the power grid. But that doesn't fool him, so he and Tom Paris set forth on a secret agent plan to flush out the traitor and figure out who has turned against the Voyager. 

Quote: (from Investigations)
 

When Jonas sabotages the magnetic constrictors of the USS Technobabble for Seska, Paris and Tuvok put a plan in place to make it seem like Paris is also defecting from the crew. Seska takes the bait, pulling in Paris, who then turns on her and the Kazon to determine that Jonas is the traitor. Meanwhile, Neelix also comes to the same conclusion in his own investigations aboard Voyager and he ends up trapped in a struggle with Jonas in main engineering. Neelix wins the day though, as Jonas ends up falling into a plasma fire near the warp core, a fitting way for a traitor to go out.

Jonas is a necessary evil character to fill a gap early in the show, although it is a bit lazy to have Tuvok always be ready to foil the rogue Maquis plans. Seska and the Kazon are the first great villains in the Delta Quadrant, and Jonas holds a special memorable role in this storyline, even as a small bit character. That's more than can be said for many recurring characters. 

Raphael Sbarge played Jonas, and his acting career began as a little kid on Sesame Street when that show was brand new. He has also played in various movies like Independence Day and Pearl Harbor, and more recently in TV series like Once Upon A Time. He's also a prolific video game voice actor, appearing in Mass Effect and Everquest, among others.

Until next time, live long and prosper...