And then there is batshit insane.
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.
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.
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.
What? You mean we are NOT the center of the universe here? This will be so disappointing for all those precious snowflakes who were told they were.
I had originally started this post on November 1, thinking the end of hurricane season for us would be a good jumping off point to begin posting once more, and specifically, to begin ruminating about fall. Then two things came to mind: first, that the next day was election day, and I needed to post network traffic warnings (because of all the sites we host that would be posting/following various things) and take care of some things before the next day, to make sure all the pieces were in place for appropriate monitoring. Second, that it’s hard to think “fall” when it’s still in the mid-80s and there are various medical appointments that are weighing on your mind.
So I stopped, saved it as a draft, and thought I would pick it up again post-election, and when I might be in a better frame of mind. But I didn’t, and tonight I deleted it since it seemed rather pointless to pick up a draft of five sentences when anyone who knows me knows that five sentences takes about a minute flat for me to recreate in a new post. I do ted to be verbose.
I’ve been a blog slacker of late, for reasons I don’t quite know, although I am by nature a quiet, private person, something that drives (or drove) certain people nuts. As it happens, I now firmly believe this is also something holding back my writing, because although I’ve have ideas bouncing around in my skull for 20 years, I’ve yet to put any of them to paper, so to speak, as this may have the result of showing something within myself and as a bonus, it may also well and truly suck and not live up to what are likely impossibly high standards I usually set, even though I know at the same time I am perfectly capable of crafting good writing. Quite the dilemma.
As usual, I digress. Fall is indeed upon us, such as it is here, and this month we’ve had several nights where we’ve dipped into freezing temperatures. Not many, naturally, as this is the south, and fall here means mid-70s in the day and 40s-50s in the evenings. The freezes are here and there, scattered like so many leaves giving up and spiraling to the ground. Tomorrow night, and again in the latter part of this week, we’re expecting more freezing overnight, which means it’s time to drag out the plastic and make covered wagons to protect the tomatoes, peppers, and other things that are a bit fragile from the weather in hopes that we can baby them through and get a harvest out.
There is more to come, and I’ll be backtracking a bit to pick up the pieces of my tales that I have missed by not taking a break from work.
Serious business. Obviously.
That would have to be this guy, who I suppose by his own Illogic 101 doesn’t have a job that was created by the government. And didn’t have one when he was Lt. Gov., either. And all those emergency services people working at the federal, state, and local level? No jobs for them, either. Military personnel? Nope. And on and on. It’s hard to believe the depths of stupidity this one statement encompasses.
On (yet another) visit to the dentist today – another root canal, yay – I saw these signs:
From a church: “If I’m ok and your ok then why did Jesus die on the cross?”
Beyond what I see as the lack of logic behind the question, did you run out of apostrophes and misplace that other letter e in your collection? Maybe you should pass the plate at your next service.
From a swimming pool place:
“Summers on it’s way”
Four words. Very simple. Is it so difficult to get it right?
By the way, if anyone happens to stumble across this blog looking for cancer-related information, especially for oral cancer, let me make this recommendation: find yourself a dentist who knows something about oncology as it relates to dental health. Make sure you get your dental work done BEFORE you go in for surgery or radiation/chemo. If you have wisdom teeth that need to come out, get them out – hell, even if they don’t need to come out, get them out. While you’re going through treatment, to avoid the rather hideous issues with trismus that I have since no one apaprently deemed it important enough to stress that this should be done, make sure you do some stretching of your mouth throughout, even though you aren’t likely to be eating or drinking much by mouth. It may be painful, especially when the burns start showing up on your face and neck and any movement hurts, but do it anyway: hop yourself up on the pain meds and do the stretching. It will be worth it after treatment when you’re able to fully open your mouth instead of having a very limited opening that makes eating diffcult and dental work (and you’ll need dental work, trust me: the lack of salivary function is hateful to oral health) a frustrating, time-consuming, and very painful event. If I had to do it over, I would have a) found my current dentist first, rather than getting a cursory review from my previous dentist who deemed everything “ok” and left me with two impacted wisdom teeth, one of which is now starting to appear through the ripped skin at the back of my mouth and which will be incredibly tedious to address should it need any work, and b) done daily and frequent stretching exercises to keep my jaw muscles from contracting and the scar tissue from building up to the point where my opening is extremely limited at 18-20 millimeters. Know how limited that is? Put your thumb between your teeth, so the nail points either to the left or right, depending on which hand you’re using. That’s how far I can open my mouth. Don’t end up like this.
It isn’t just animals that die, of course. People can (and do) die both suddenly and not so suddenly.
Case in point: one of our customers, who had been with us since almost the very first, died unexpectedly early in February of a heart attack. We did not discover this until late in the month when one of his clients contacted us directly. While it probably will not be the last time we have to do this, it is a bit odd and sad to have to make arrangements for the disposition of his client accounts with us, as the rest of his family knows nothing about what he was doing and has no idea how to provide hosting support to those clients. I’ve been working on notices to those clients, straddling the line between breaking news they may not know and yet being businesslike enough to make sure that they understand what has to be done.
But life carries on, no matter what happens to us. It may be difficult, it may strain the people left behind (one of my chief concerns should anything happen to me), but on it goes.
Another case in point: one of my mom’s old long-term neighbors (Jo, in case those of you reading this knew her) died in February as well, the same week Boots did. She had been receiving treatment for cancer that had invaded her brain, and they found out it had spread to her liver. She’d been in the hospital for a bit, but when there was nothing more they could do, they brought her home with Hospice care. She died that same night, around midnight.
But again, life carries on, and we move on with it.
I knew someone once who was incredibly anguished about all the bad things that happen in life, and dwelt constantly on that aspect: wasn’t it horrible, life is unfair, it all seems such a waste, how can we possibly go through all this, and the same, ad nauseum, with no break of sunshine, ever.
How can we go through all this? How can we not?
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