Category Archives: Odds and ends

Where have you been??!!??

It was a long July and the first part of August has been as well. We’ve been rearranging servers t the NOC, trying to stay ahead of the weeds (and failing badly), and yesterday I had 15ml of fluid sucked out of my face under my right lower jaw because I have a huge lump there. It doesn’t sound like much, but that isn’t a very large area, and even 5ml would be a huge amount. Not nearly the same as the almost 2L I had aspirated from my right lung a few years ago, but just as painful even with some lidocaine. On the plus side, it was an ultrasound-guided aspiration, and I got to watch it on the screen, so that was pretty cool.  I can tell the fluid was adding some padding to the bulge, because now I’m left with hard lumps instead of kind of squishy ones. It will be back to the doc to see where to go from here. I’m really hoping to not have to have myself sliced up again, but if that’s how it goes, that’s how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m trying to tend my bees – a very small hive I was babying along vamoosed at some point in the past week – and with my sister’s help, trying to get the weeding done everywhere and plastic down to solarize the rows and not have to spend half my time yanking up weeds. For years now I’ve tried to come up with some kind of mulching system that is not hideously expensive, is easy both to maintain and plant through, and that would not cook the roots of the plants when we have three straight months of 100F weather. My thought is to pull back the top layer of soil in each row, maybe six inches or so, throw a layer of hay down, cover that back with the soil, put black plastic on top of that, and then a heavy layer of hay on top of that. The plastic should keep out the humongous numbers of weeds that don’t care what the weather is like, I can punch through plastic easily enough to plant/transplant, the under layer of hay will act as a water wick and retain moisture for the plants,  and the top layer of hay will keep the plastic from becoming an in-frame broiler and help retain the underlayer’s cool/moist combo. This is the theory, anyhow. I hope it works, as it would make life much easier around here.

I have five flats in the barn under the lights: primarily tomatoes and peppers – the peppers took a direct hit from pests while I was down with pneumonia over Memorial Day and they never recovered – some onions, leeks, and brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower). The latter will go under some shade cloth after I get that rigged. I’m also working on rigging shade barriers for the height of the season to go along the frames to help with the insane heat we’ve been having down here. A check of my weather station records, and the notes I’ve kept from before I had a weather station tells me each summer is getting hotter, longer, than the previous one. This year, we hit 100F before the end of May, and that has lasted right to this week, where we are averaging about 93F. The issue with such high heat for things like tomatoes is that we also have high humidity. This causes the pollen to clump, so the plants may grow, and often will also flower, but fruit set is poor, as pollination is more difficult in these conditions. Rigging some shade to take the brunt of the west/south sun may help that (at least I’m hoping it will – only testing will show if it does, so that’s what we’ll do).

My hiatus from social media is still on, and life is much better for it, I must say. I’ve also stopped going to various news-related web sites to avoid getting into time-sucking, useless commentaries with people I don’t know (and in many cases, wouldn’t care to). This has also been a good thing, and I’ve stuck to reviewing headlines at Google news and just zipping in to quickly read an article without getting drawn into commenting on anything.

Life at the ranch continues: the world spins, and we with it, doing the best we can with what we have.

Cold before the warm

It’s sort of like calm before the storm, except better because after this little bit of cool weather at the ranch, we will hopefully be turning to spring for good. Not that cooler weather isn’t welcome – minus the freezing bits – but that little voice in my head is already yammering about splitting hives and transplanting from the flats, which are growing very nicely under the lights in the barn.

On another note, this ad keeps popping up during my surfing, and if you don’t look directly at it, and just catch it out of the corner of your eye, it really does look like a dick pic. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Seriously, advertising people, did you not think this through at all? It has bonus negative points for having Doctor “There’s nothing I won’t endorse for money!” Oz on it.

Looks like a dick

The 419 spam will never disappear

A thousand years from now, when we all have implants and can just plug ourselves in, the 419 spammers will likely still be at it.

Most of the time, I just blow right by spam, emptying buckets of it out every hour. Occasionally, though, they are just too funny not to read. This is from “Bank of America Corporate Office Headquarters”:

“Dear esteemed customer ,
make this payment or stop contacting us.”

Um, ok.

“The Management of the Bank of America Corporate Office Headquarters here in 100 N.Tryon St Charlotte,NC 28255 wishes to inform you that after a brief meeting
held by the Bank executives yesterday,the 28 Day of november,2015 at precisely 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time(EDT),”

Precisely? Like, how precisely you updated your little spamming script? Because that doesn’t bode well for your credibility.

“we deem it appropriate to intimate you that your funds will be transferred into the United States Treasury Account with the JP Morgan Chase Headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in New York according to the record we got from Africa

I always trust records I get from Africa. They have NEVER been inaccurate or non-factual!

“due to your inability to complete the transaction and your failure to meet up with a minor payment obligation.The actual transfer of your funds($20,500,000.00) into the government account comes up next week.”

A bit snippy for a banker, aren’t we?

“This is in line with the instructions of the USA Treasurer,Mrs.Rosa Gumataotao Rios”

Points for this extra effort at being precise, as Rosie Rios is indeed the Treasurer of the US at this time.

“that all unclaimed funds be paid into the United States Government Treasury Account as unserviceable funds in compliance to section 3 subsection 1(a) of the United States Financial Law enacted in 2001 after an attack on our dear country on September 11,2001.”

Oh, but then you go and blow it in the “precise” arena. I guess the appeal to 9/11 makes up for it, so this one is a wash.

“Find below the profile of the banking institution where your funds will be transferred into following the government directive:, And note to responds to us with below Email (bankofamericannewyork.fake.email.address) @gmail.com
Name of Bank: JP Morgan Chase Headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in New York. JP Morgan Chase Official Bankers for the United States Treasury Department”

Because when I see a gmail address being provided as an official email address of one of the largest banks in the world on a supposed official communication, I know it is totally legit!

 

“Note that if you still wish to receive your funds do get back to us immediately so that we will remove your funds transfer from the list of those transactions to be seized by the United States Government.Also be informed that we need only a DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY SEAL OF TRANSFER(DIST) to complete the wire transfer.The fee to obtain the SEAL was reduced from$600 to $200 and no other fee is involved.”

Who knew diplomatic seals were so affordable? And so easy to obtain by simply wiring money to some far off land?

“You are required to send the fee of $200 by WESTERN UNION or MONEY GRAM to the issuing officer at the bank where your transaction originated as stated below:”

INFORMATION”

 

(Snipped this bullshit referencing the same oh-so-official gmail address and some jackhole in Benin.)

“If we receive the MTCN today,we will transfer your funds ($20,500,000.00) before we close office and the funds will reflect 3 hours after the transfer.We will send you all the transfer documents to enable you start making cash withdrawals from your account same day the funds are transferred.We have waited for so long and we cannot continue to wait.”

Sure you will. How can one not trust this?

 

“Blah, blah, thanks for being a sucker if you agree to do any of these things.”

My summary: go fuck yourself, spammer.

 

Writing. Writing. Writing.

Just received the best critique from my instructor for the five pages I wrote in the last assignment for a class I’m in about novel writing.

“Wow! Awesome pages. Very little I would change. Great sense of POV, forwarding plot and characterization. Your dialogue simply shines here.

I can’t wait for more.”

There were two changes she made, simply to better identify who was performing a particular action outside the dialogue. Nothing else.

Sweet!

Ladies and gentlemen, to the right of the aircraft you’ll see…

Most people will never see a launch of the space shuttle live. We went two years ago to the Cape and saw one, and I have to say it is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed, being a space buff – I’m very happy to have gone, sitting in the blazing hot sun waiting, hoping the countdown would not stall. This one was likely no less a treat for the folks on board.

How to destroy your business and goodwill in one easy step

Let us have an object lesson in How Not to Do Things.

The business and goodwill to which I refer in the title is not my business or goodwill – those are both fine. It is, rather, the business and goodwill previously generated by the Dervaes family in Pasadena, CA. I’m not linking to them, now or ever, for reasons that will become clear soon enough. You can do a search and find them easily enough, I imagine. These people – a father and three adult children who all live at home – run a site that used to be called Path to Freedom and that is now apparently called The Modern Urban Homestead (or, as their header seems to suggest, Path to Freedom, with a subtitle of The Modern Urban Homestead). They have been mastering the art of self-promotion and solicitation of donations to their “nonprofit” organization – which is incorporated as a church – for years now.

I stumbled across them a few years ago, checked out the site, blog, and whatnot, and never became a frequent visitor. I never linked to them, either, from my site. I would pop in from time to time, but that number could be counted on one hand in the past two years. The fact is, I found the site to not be terribly useful for practical applications, and heavy on the self-righteousness, aren’t-we-cool meter. I’ve never thought the writing was particularly good, and it certainly isn’t well-proofed before being released. In addition, I always caught a weird, almost cult-like vibe from the site, something echoed by others here and there.

This is not to say it’s strange for adult children to live with their parents. These days, it’s more and more common given the economy and other circumstances. But reading the posts and watching a couple of the videos from the press they’ve managed to attract just made me think more “cult” than “commune”. I give them credit for doing the work necessary to do what they do, for building themselves a brand of sorts, even though they’re not as huge as they’d like to believe, and for the nonstop self-promotion. It takes time and energy to do that. The constant “donate” vibe and/or “purchase stuff from us” I’m not terribly fond of, but if they want to always seem like a fund drive, so be it. It’s their thing.

It also takes time and energy to do incredibly foolish things. In the past several days – while I was working on my own urban homestead (or rural homestead, or, as I like to call it, “the ranch”), apparently the Dervaes, in a serious case of myopia combined with arrogance, began sending out cease and desist letters because they managed to get the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to allow them to trademark the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading”. Now, to hear them tell it, those were not actually c&d letters at all. Oh no: they were “informational notices” designed to tell the recipients just how they should be using these terms, among others, complete with the trademark symbol and acknowledging that they belong to the Dervaes. There is even a helpful suggestion of alternate phrases to use as “generic terms” rather than the very same generic terms people have been using long before the Dervaes family decided they need to suck up to every media tit they could find. Here’s a sample of one of those quaint “informational notices”, sent to Google. Notices were also sent to individual bloggers, a library, a Denver-based community, and others, including to the authors of a book called The Urban Homestead, published before the trademark was even granted, and to Facebook, which instantly pulled down at least four pages, without regard for the validity of the claim. Here’s a tip to the Dervaes family, trying to defend this: you don’t have to use the words “cease and desist” for it to be a cease and desist letter. Here’s another tip: urban homesteading is not your “intellectual property”, as you claim in your silly notice. It is an idea and movement that has been around longer than you have. It will continue to be such.

So what happened? As you might imagine, the community of urban homesteading people didn’t care very much for this strongarm tactic. People began to comment negatively about this on Twitter, on the Dervaes’ Facebook page, and on their site. A new Facebook page sprang into life, garnering (at this point) almost 3500 people who like the page in just over 24 hours. A Twitter feed urging people to dump the Dervaes, and other general Tweets about the issue.. Numerous negative posts have been made in all sorts of places about this incredibly stupid move:

After all this negative publicity for their boneheaded move, did the Dervaes see the error of their ways, pull the trademark application, and apologize for pissing off  – and pissing on – the very community that made them what they are? Nope. In the spirit of politicians like Sarah Palin, they doubled down and went on the offensive. They posted a series of posts on their own blog whining about how people are misinterpreting their protection of their “unique” version of urban homesteading, whining on Twitter that people should try to see “the truth” and not be taken in by “hoaxes” (hey, you sent out the notices, that’s no hoax), blamed bloggers and rivals for the issues and accused them of not reporting the “facts”, when the “facts” were their own words, claimed to be doing this out of the good of their hearts, by trademarking the phrases before some corporation did – ironic, given that they are a corporation and are acting like one – taking down their facebook page, turning off comments on their blog, taking down the forums on one of their other sites for “database work”, posting strawman arguments about plagiarism as if this has anything to do with trademarks and as if there is no mechanism to deal with copyright infringement, and not replying to questions sent directly to them. They then began weaseling their way around their own words by claiming they were not suing bloggers or sending “stop or pay” notices – and yet in the notice they themselves posted to show what they had been sending out, the legal threat is clearly there, indicated by the boilerplate “we can resolve this without resorting to legal action” phrasing. On their latest blog post, they disingenously link to what they call “news” but which is their own press release, and which represents the ultimate doubling down on this. You can find the press release on Yahoo or via a link in the comments on some of these sites, or you can get to it from the reaction from the OC Weekly, which is worth a read itself.

Let’s examine part of that so-called “news item”:

“No threat was made against anyone’s first amendment rights; yet, there has been a heated argument in the media against what should have been the Dervaeses’ normal rights to protect their trademarks.”

If there is one thing that drives me absolutely bats, it’s people who cannot or will not understand what the First Amendment actually means. Here’s another tip for the socially and legally challenged Dervaes: you cannot make any threats against someone’s right to say what they want based on the First Amendment. You are not the government. The First Amendment was written to prohibit the government from infringing on the rights of people to speak their mind (with certain common sense limits). And amazing as it is, peoples’ ability to speak their minds also allows them to comment on your idiocy in this matter, while you have the ability to cry about it. Isn’t that wonderful?

As it turns out, when you irritate a large group of people, they’re going to go off and start finding out anything they can about you. Like the fact that Jules Dervaes appears to be some kind of end of the world religious type, based on the sites found – and now, mostly removed or redirected to attempt to sanitize history. This would explain that strange cult-like vibe I was getting, after reading through some of these pages via archives. The next tip for you: it’s very, very difficult to completely sanitize your history, and your history speaks volumes. You remind me quite a lot of the guy complaining to us that his name came up in a search as appearing in several posts on a site we host and demanding the removal of those posts and for us to forbid the user from the mere mention of his name. That, of course, was something we certainly were not going to do. I suppose he, and you, should have picked battles more wisely.

As a topper to this ego-fest, Jules Dervaes claims to be  the “founder of the urban homestead movement” on his eponymous site. Just because you tell yourself something like that, it does not magically make it true. You are not the “founder” of urban homesteading. You’re someone trying to capitalize on it by engaging in litigious and egregious practices by attempting to trademark common phrases you did not coin, and a movement for which you are no leader, and by trying to shut down other sites you deem as competition. Also, sorry to break this you, but your site was certainly not the “first” ever about urban homesteading.

What has it gained the Dervaes family by trying to strongarm people people, businesses, and organizations with this silly trademark battle over common, generic phrases? Disdain, disgust, and an avalanche of negative publicity from the very base that used to support them. People have already removed their Facebook page from their lists, unfollowed them on Twitter, started a petition to the PTO to revoke the trademarks, removed links to their sites from their link pages/blogrolls, stated they will never donate another cent to their constant fundraising, and publicly refused to purchase another item, whether it’s a shirt or a seed, from them.For my part, now that I have finished my research across their site, I will never visit it again, just like so many other people who have now seen them for what they really are.

You want to know what real community is? You’ve just seen it in action: it is bold, it is swift, it does not forget, it votes with its dollars, and it ensures that searches for your family name or site names will reveal the underhanded nature of this attempted power grab.

I am refusing to use the trademark symbol next to the common phrases urban homestead and urban homesteading. I am refusing to substitute any of the phrases helpfully provided in the nonsensical notice that has been sent out. If you would like to contest this, feel free to send a notice to my web host – oh wait, I AM my own web host, and I’d tell you to pound sand. So, Jules, feel free to try to sue me over use of your so-called trademark. I’d be delighted to pull examples of prior art from those very same Mother Earth News magazines you note on your own site in your fluffed up bio page, which were around long before you decided you were king of the urban homesteading mountain. I’d be just as delighted to collect attorney fees and court costs from you for such frivolous action.

US currency only, please

Yes, I can certainly see this catching on. It really makes me wonder if people like this sit in their offices trying to come up with stupid ideas to sponsor a bill on in whatever legislature they happen to be in. Sorry, our SC clients: even if this nuttiness passes there, you’ll still need to pay with gold old US dollars and not Palmetto Bucks.