May 28, 2005

The Absolute Disposal of Truth and Disclosure

See here, for this. Scott McClellan attempts to evade a request to clarify a previous statement that the United States is in Afghanistan and Iraq 'by invitation' by saying he meant 'the invitation of the current governments' - conveniently forgetting how those governments came to be. When asked bluntly for a simple fact of history, to wit: "Did we invade Iraq?" McClellan refuses to answer and goes on to another questioner.

I'm not going to claim that this question was posed in a friendly manner (was it Helen Thomas? The transcript isn't entirely clear). However, that's not the point. McClellan is the spokesperson for the White House. His job is to answer questions, hostile and otherwise. Further down the transcript, he's asked about the recent FOIA FBI memo which shows that in fact there was a detainee at Guantanamo who claimd that U.S. guards treated him badly and flushed the Koran down a toilet in his sight. McClellan, after first checking that "This is a detainee, right?" comes back with (I shit you not) "There have been allegations made by detainees. We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind, as well."

In other words, he's answering the question by claiming that:

  • The detainee in question (who he couldn't recall was even a detainee) is, in fact, a member of al-Qaeda
  • That in fact there was no such action, or that at the very least this complaint from this detainee should be laid down to Al-Qaeda trained 'misinformation.'
Think about that.

He doesn't even know who this person is at the start of the question. However, he's quite comfortable telling us that the reason this detainee complained of bad treatment (it should be noted that this detainee is also reported to have said, according to the questioner, that he 'had nothing against the United States') is because the complaint is an Al-Qaeda 'misinformation' tactic.

This on the strength of the fact that he 'knows the Department of Defense has said publicly that they have found nothing to substantiate any allegations.' But it's not over. Immediately following that, he reverses course and claims that in fact this is an entirely different matter:

Q: Are you saying that there is no substantiation of any Koran desecration at all at Bagram or Guantanamo Bay?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you look back, I think the Department of Defense briefed last week, and they talked about the specific allegation that you're bringing up, and they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation. In terms of the handling of the Koran, that's a different matter, and they have talked about that, so you might want to look back at what they've said.

Huh? First he was telling us that this story was because of Al-Qaeda's liking for misinformation tactics, and that it was likely so because the DoD 'hasn't been able to substantiate' any such claim (note carefully that this would require them to actually try to find evidence either way - whether that's in their best interests is left as an exercise for the reader). Now, all of a sudden, the Koran is a 'different matter' and everything he doubletalked earlier no longer applies to that answer. In other words, he just told us that despite his misdirective flailing, he didn't answer the question at all.

Next line?

[Mr. MCCLELLAN]: Go ahead, Goyal.

Q I have two questions, one on the goodwill visit of the First Lady. It looked like from the visit that she's representing well the United States and the President. She's very charming and friendly and outgoing. My question is here that there's an old saying there's always a great woman behind a successful man. How the President take this?

And they're off to the races talking about Mrs. Bush and how charming and friendly she is.

I'm going to go puke now.

Posted by jbz at 2:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Can't stop the signal


That. Was. Awesome.

No power in the 'verse...

Posted by jbz at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2005

I call official sucks on Philly airport.

The surprising bit about connecting through Philly was the quick, easy and efficient manner with which Customs and Immigration was handled. I was through both in perhaps seven minutes. Kudos to Homeland Security (ugh) for that one.

However, in order to connect from a US Airways arriving international flight to a US Airways domestic flight, I was (after going through customs and immigration, naturally, which is of course de rigeur) forced to walk pretty much the length of two terminals, around a completely pointless hundred-meter detour designed entirely to absorb the lines that would apparently result from...

...having to pass through Security. Yes, after Customs had riffled my bag, Security then wanted me to do the entire remove-shoes-put-laptop-onna-tray-step-through-sir routine. This, after a seven and a half hour international flight, is not designed to produce docile happy passengers. Couple that with this conversation:

"Sir, I need to see your computer operate."

"Open it."

"I did. It ain't doing nothing."

"Yes. That's because the battery is dead. Because I just got off a SEVEN HOUR FLIGHT."

"Well, we gotta see it turn on."

"You got an outlet around here I can use?"




"Sorry, just boggled by the fucking stupidity. Well, if you don't have an outlet, you're not gonna get to see it work."

"Sir, there's no need to be difficult."

...and around we go.

I managed to avoid being arrested before boarding my connecting flight, which promptly sat at the gate for half an hour after departure and on the taxiway for an hour. I strongly wished I'd actually assaulted one of the Security Personnel having that conversation with me, it would have spared me the full-757-held-on-the-ground purgatory.

Philly airport sucks.

Posted by jbz at 7:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

If I had a lot of money

How's that for a cliched post title?

In any case, if I did, I'd be so into the Gumball 3000 shenanigans...

Posted by jbz at 6:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

Enter the Marketdroids

Ardbeg distillery, as told in snatches by Emma the Taciturn Tour Guide.

Ardbeg was first licensed to produce alcohol (well, a farm owned on the site was) in 1815. Ardbeg has been owned by various companies, opened and closed down over the years - most recently, it was closed in 1980, sold in 1990 to a new firm and used to make only new (raw) spirits for blending, then sold to Glenmorangie PLC in 1997 and ramped up to produce actual whisky again. Glenmorangie was put up for sale in 2004 as a family company, and LVMH (Louis Vuitton blah blah) purchased the Glenmorangie distilleries (Glenmorangie, Glen Moray, Ardbeg) to add malt whisky to their stable of beverages. The distillery has been almost fully rebuilt since the 1980-1990 shutdown.

Random trivia:

  • They are approaching their maximum annual production of 1 megaliter.
  • The limiting factor is that they only have two stills, one wash and one spirit. Other distilleries with more stills have higher output.
  • The mill which crushes the peated barley to grist (there's only one) is a mechanical mill manufactured by a 'John Boby LTD in assoc. with VICKERS ENGINEERS LTD' around (they think) a hundred years ago. It was originally designed to mill flour; new rollers (metal rather than wood) and adjustments to the roller separation allow it to produce the rough grist rather than flour.
  • There are no spare parts for it, nor another mill. This mill is a single point of failure for the entire Ardbeg process. Once per year, they disassemble it, clean and maintain it, and bring it back online. It runs approximately thirteen times per week, processing 4.5 tons of barley per run in approximately 1 hr.
  • Only three distilleries still floor malt their barley - Laphroaig being one of them. The rest purchase their malted barley from the malting facility in Port Ellen. Ardbeg uses 60 tons of barley a week, all of which is shipped in via ferry.
  • This coming weekend, they will be selling the last remaining three barrels of 1975 Ardbeg from the warehouse, which have slept there through three or four owners and the ten-year hiatus from 1980-1990, and were just recently bottled. In 2010, the supply of thirty-year-old Ardbeg will run out, not to return until 2027 - assuming they save any of the 1997 barrels. They're in a bit of a crunch right now - the 'standard' bottle of Ardbeg is 10 years old, but the new production is really only seven or eight years along. In a couple of years, they'll be able to start selling the new stuff. They have a bottle called 'Very Young Ardbeg' - a six-year-old, the first barrels from the new distillery. I was warned, in strong English accent, by two older gentlemen in very polite, reserved terms that this was "firewater, and not to be trusted at all, sir."

I have purchased a bottle of the evilly-marketing-droid-named 'Serendipity.' The story they tell at the distillery is that several barrels of very old Ardbeg had been removed to a bottler's in (Glasgow?) to be packaged, and hence emptied into a holding tank for the bottling system. There was an oops, and someone emptied a quantity of Glen Moray into the same tank, ending up with an 80/20 mix of Ardbeg to Glen Moray. The Glen Moray is a highland malt, sweet and floral, and Ardbeg is...well...not. After (presumably) heads rolled, someone got around to drinking some of it (no doubt with a sorrowful mien, or possibly with a 'haha, look what we get for free!' mien) and it was...tasty.

Enter the marketdroids.

Hence, the Serendipity. It's a blend, technically - a blend of two single malts, 80/20. It's also pretty damn yummy, I think. They have (they claim) no plans to do it again, having had no plan to do it the first time, if you believe 'em - which I might, old Ardbeg being rare enough that mixing it on a marketer's say-so seems foolhardy when the stuff sells mighty well all by its lonesome. It's Ardbeg, but with a nice sweetness running through it - not quite as brickbat-to-the-head-peat as the usual stuff. So they have a couple thousand bottles...while I'm sure distributers in the U.S. can get it if they try, why the hell not?


Posted by jbz at 9:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the ground, later

I met two more nice folks at Ardbeg who, it turns out, are also from Cambridge Massachusetts. Go figure. They were kind enough to put up with me and schlep me about in their car, since they, too, were here to visit distilleries; we visited Laphroaig together for a tour, then returned to Ardbeg for the tour at 11:30 (late start since Ardbeg was short staffed). Then we checked in at Lagavulin (closed for the whisky festival other than scheduled tours, which we were not) and returned briefly to Laphroaig to pick Finally, lunch at the White Hart Hotel over pints of 70 Shilling. Nice folks whom I look forward to meeting up with in Cambridge for additional whisky enjoyment.

We learned a deal about whisky making today. I'm glad I made the trip out; I've managed two full distillery tours and several 'wee drams' as well as a few more in the pub. I purchased two bottles of potable, one or both of which may not be available in the U.S. (at least, not easily) but which aren't too expensive, coming in right around the same price as a single malt at home- the Ardbeg Serendipity and the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. By main force (and looking at the prices) I refrained from purchasing a bottle of Ardbeg Lord of the Isles (25 year, 119 pounds) or Laphroaig 40 year (1000 pounds!)

Now, in a cybercafe in Port Ellen (a hall with a pool table, a snooker table and four Windows PCs - but no 802.11 - I have parked myself to charge up the Powerbook, type a few lines, and await the 1800 ferry. Actually, I'll likely wander down to the waterfront to have a cigar before then. My new acquaintances will be heading off to ride horses, brave souls.

Posted by jbz at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the ground

It's 9:37 am (Sorry, 0937). I don't know if the touring couple on the ferry was interested in hitchhikers, as I never got a chance to ask. I did, however, meet a very nice couple who are actually on Islay for business - Sam, the wife, is organizing an environmental rally here on the island. She and Scot, her husband, also explained to me why I was unable to find a bed - next week, apparently, is the Whisky Festival, and folks have been securing lodging by purchasing week-long blocks to be sure of having a slot next week. Scot noted that one gent working with them had to make upwards of thirty calls to find a bed, and ended up having to exploit local connections hard.

So I don't feel quite so slacker in my lack of prep. Not that any of that excuses it.

In any case, after a nice chat on the ferry, I bid them goodbye - but as I was walking off, Scot came up to me. Sam was putting up posters in town, he was to meet her in forty minutes, and he offered to give me a lift out to Ardbeg, the furthest of the three distilleries up the coast road from Port Ellen. I accepted gladly, and he cheerfully zipped me the four or so miles up the lane - we discussed his attempts to get Linux running on their computer, stymied so far (apparently by a bit of British software named Serif). I resolved to send him and Sam a copy of NLD - spread the word, brother. Spread the word.

Now, however, it's 0942, and I'm sitting at a picnic table outside the Ardbeg Distillery Cafe. They open at 1000, I believe- no sense trying the door before then. Various folks are about their business - two strapping gents are working on the landscaping, and I heard (and have walked around back to see) another couple shifting barrels. Ah. Barrels. Empty but redolent with the smell of life itself.

Haven't spoken to anyone yet- all have just nodded and grinned at me. This is somehow even more friendly - the fact that strange Americans with Powerbooks sitting around at their place of work in the morning with nothing apparently to do is normal.

This means the pilgrimage is understood.

I will drink whisky here.

If I'm fortunate, as I walk back towards Port Ellen, Lagavulin will forgive my lack of foresight and allow me entry despite my failing to have phoned ahead first. We will see. If not, I completely understand - I'll wander aboout nearby, have a look at the ocean from near where the Lagavulin issues forth, and smoke a cigar in homage.

Four mile walk back, and the ferry isn't until 1800. This is good. The air is...not clean, there's a whiff of diesel in it from ships and from the various trucks shifting about, but it's definitely ocean air, and there's the hints of peat smoke and malt in it, wonders of fire and gold.

Hm, time to go inside.

Posted by jbz at 5:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Islay's pronounced 'eye-la.' Yes, I learned the hard way.

Well. Haggis, yes. Black pudding, no.

I'm reminded forcibly of weekend trips to Nantucket - I sit on the Motor Vessel Erein Arrain, or Isle of Arran, en route from Kennacraig Ferry terminus on Loch Fyne to Islay, home of so many wondrous potables. It's a two hour and twenty minute trip aboard a car ferry, out to an island off the coast in the Atlantic. Of course, we're going west instead of east.

Due to a shortness of time and piss-poor planning on my part, I'll likely only be able to spend the day on Islay - I was unable to procure a bed, and the last ferry back leaves at 6pm from Port Ellen to Kennacraig (where my car is). I figure I can make it from Kennacraig (departing around 8:40pm) to Glasgow and back to the hospitable flat of the ever-patient Mr. Skinner by around 11pm - in time for an hour or so of WoW and snooze before returning the car to Avis (Glasgow Downtown) on Wednesday. Flight home is Thursday morning.

J recently commented that Americans tend to journey for the destination rather than the trip. I'm about to prove him right in spades - due to the compressed timeframe of this excursion to Scotland in general, as well as to the original purpose. See, I didn't really plan on coming here for a general vacation. I came here to see a show, with Aidan - Alabama 3 were playing in Glasgow on Saturday, May 20th. Given that I'm a madcap A3 fan (and Aidan knows that) he informed me of the fact before he bought tickets, and given that I was a bit cheesed off with sitting in the U.S. in general, I said "Buy me one, sport."

So here I am.

My trip, then, was really a goal-based one. See A3. Several other goals, ancillary ones, layered themselves on top - drink good whisky, naturally. Aidan added one when he called a week before I was to leave and announced he was procuring tickets to Episode III for Friday the 19th, as well - good man. As I packed to go, another fell into place - enjoy a Cuban cigar or two, naturally, in a land outside that particular repression.

It took Aidan's casual mention that Islay was only a hundred miles or so from Glasgow for me to start saying to myself "Hm. Islay. Lagavulin. Ardbeg. Bowmore. Yum. Um, er, can I..."

Well, I can't for long, unfortunately. The Sunday break in the middle of my trip, plus the need to spend Wed. night in Glasgow so as to make my Thursday flight, coupled with my typical lack of foresight, meant...well...that I picked up my rental car Monday afternoon and headed off to a hotel room in Tarbert Loch Fyne Monday evening with no other plan, really. Tarbert Loch Fyne is, as I was told and have verified, 15 minutes shy of the Kennacraig ferry terminal, so I'd at least be able to determine the realism of my goal.

Tour a distillery, sample its wares, and smoke a Cuban cigar on Islay, home of my favorite whisky. Sure, I hope I can see Lagavulin, but they only offer tours by appointment, and until I knew there was a return boat this evening (which I didn't until I showed up at the ferry terminal at 0530 today - for more info on why this is difficult to determine even onsite seed here) I wasn't willing to book a tour. Plus, I don't have a cell phone.


See, I resisted the tug. Walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow, one is assaulted by all manner of shops offering the latest in personal communications gear. The Link. Carphone Warehouse. T-Mobile's branded shop. They all offer 'pay as you go' phones - one, I verified, for the reasonable price of twenty quid - a Siemens phone which would work on T-Mobile in the USA. It took a bit for me to bring myself up short at the display, there - why the hell was I shopping for a phone? My own communicator is sitting happily on my desk in Cambridge, MA, sucking at the tit of 120 VAC whilst no doubt accumulating a raft of voicemails which I'll answer in my typically tardy fashion. As I mentioned to Aidan, it's really liberating not carrying a phone for a bit.

I have a computer with me, naturally. I have, in fact, played WoW. I have banked via the web. I've surfed. All from Aidan's flat. Outside that comforting bath of 802.11, however, I've been cut right off from the Crystal Wind for the first time in quite a while. It's disturbing, really. I hadn't realized the degree to which public phones had atrophied until I reached Logan airport on the way out of town, remembered I hadn't mailed two envelopes I'd been carrying with me around the office and meaning to drop in the outgoing pile, and thought about calling my officemate. It's $0.50 for a local call. Last time I dropped a coin in a phone it was $0.25. Had to buy a coffee to get change.

So here I am, 15 miles out to sea on a ferry with no comm on me, on the way with no plan other than to try to find a distillery that will allow me to poke my nose in and pay humble homage to the low wines, new spirits, and the barley and perhaps pick up a bottle of old gold before heading back over to the mainland and a small Ford Focus.

I feel quite Scottish. I've got a packet of shortbread biscuits, a can o' Irn Bru, and I've (mistakenly) had black pudding for breakfast. Wooooo. Now to see if I can pull off the decadant trifecta. We saw Episode III in nice leatherette seats with drinks, and sat outside immediately afterward to go over it while I smoked a Cohiba and drank Lagavulin. Ding, a Good Day - New Star Wars, whisky, cigar. Saturday, we saw A3, worshipped at the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine, U.K. (The Right Reverend D-Wayne Love presiding)...and it was goooooood (despite severe tinnitus lasting around 12 hours). So here's to a distillery tour and a cigar on Islay, and to goal-oriented American vacationing. Hm, there was a young couple here somewhere who were debating the cost of bringing their car over for the day to visit distilleries...I wonder if they'd take on an American hitchhiker who'd be happy to contribute to their car tariff...

Posted by jbz at 3:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

Tarbert Loch Fyne

If you are ever in Glasgow, and decide to head West, I can heartily recommend the Columba Hotel in the small fishing village of Tarbert Loch Fyne (about two hours by car). They graciously accomodated a foolish American who hadn't made a reservation with a same-day arrival time, charged me 50 quid for a beautiful en suite double room (all they had) and breakfast, and were generally nice as heck. The hotel sits on the Loch on Tarbert Quay Road (when you drive into Tarbert on the A83, turn left at the corner rather than following the A83 to the right, and go about 1/2 a mile down the waterfront). The bar looks out over Loch Fyne, where you can watch fishing boats meander back in at the close of the day while drinking your pleasure or having dinner. For dinner, I had a spiffing deep fried brie over salad to start, and then (oddity for me, but when in Rome) a peat-smoked haddock in a cream leek sauce, topped with thick bacon rashers and Campbeltown cheddar. Yum yum yum yum.

Trivia of note: I giggled once uncontrollably at the thought of having Haddock, given that:

  • I'm a Tintin reader
  • I had driven there around the edge of Loch Lomond

Posted by jbz at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

"What do you do with it?"

"What's haggis?"

"Sheep's stomach, stuffed with meat and barley!"

"...and what do you do with it?"

"You eat it!"

"How revolting!"

Heh. Not really. It's quite tasty, actually. Especially wi' a pint a' 80.

Posted by jbz at 7:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Fuck right off, you

...said Tick. So I did. I'll be relocating (albeit briefly) to a land where they make wondrous potions. More pointless ranting later.

Posted by jbz at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Of course not, silly. You're a *boy*."

...the best answer ever to "Wings? I don't have wings!"

Now comes this news - that twenty-five years or so after the original, there may be a sequel to The Dark Crystal, which is one of my favorite non-mainline fantasy films ever. I don't know the history the various fan opinions on the thread are referring to, but I will say this - I can certainly hope the sequel lives up to the original both in campy fun factor and in genuine fantasy adventure.

Posted by jbz at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well, this should be good. 'Andrew Chambers' eh?

A couple of days ago, I got a somewhat cryptic email. Its subject was simply "eyes dvd ok to buy?" and the body was a link to an eBay auction for (yet another) illegal DVD copy of Eyes on the Prize. I sent back an email thanking the person for checking, and explained that said DVD was an illegal transfer and hence illegal copy.

I received back this email:

Thanks for the reply... Wow strange that ebay allows these to be sold. I'd really like this on dvd, but don't want to risk being sued or anything like that!


I explained eBay's position on the whole matter as experienced from the copyright holder's end, and thanked 'Andrew' again for checking with me.

So then today my auto eBay search turns up an eBay auction for a DVD release of the '2 hour condensed' Eyes on the Prize Documentary...with the following in the middle of the posting:

This is an import DVD. The disc comes with a beautiful full color high-res label, and comes in a single-dvd box, with a gorgeous cover. **English audio, no subtitles, menus all in English..**

I will not be bullied and threatened on eBay any longer, so, if you are bidding, it is YOUR responibility to either know what these dvds are, or to ASK ME, please! One further note, I will only give a refund if you are polite, as I am.. and don't leave negative feedback before asking! That's it! That's all it takes Thanks..

If you would like a FAST RESPONSE to your question, please use these links: email or AOL Instant Message (or the icons just below)


Check email...yep.

From: 	Chambers <>
To: 	'J.B. Zimmerman' <jbz@------.--->
Subject: RE: eyes dvd ok to buy?
Date: 	Mon, 16 May 2005 13:28:29 -0400
Thanks for the reply... Wow strange that ebay allows these to be sold.  I'd
really like this on dvd, but don't want to risk being sued or anything like

So looking lower down on the eBay auction listing:

Seller's payment instructions
Mail payments to: Andrew Chambers 5872 Grand Canyon Dr Orlando, FL 32810
I can take Paypal at Credit card Paypal payments at
Paypal is preferred, however I will also accept check (hold to clear) or money order. 
*Please note check/MO may significantly delay your item, if you need the item quickly use Paypal!

Hello, Andrew. Nice to meet you. Or 'peace_-man' or whatever your name is on eBay. How many copies of my Uncle's movie have you churned out so far? There was, in fact, a PBS condensed version of Eyes available on home video. But according to Forman Entertainment and PBS, it was only released on VHS videocassette. No DVD pressing of Eyes was ever made. So sure, I suppose, it's possible you bought this from someone else...but given your query to me roughly six hours before this item was listed in which you intimated you did not own the item in question, that seems...unlikely.

Thanks for your identification and home address. See, eBay typically won't give those to Blackside's lawyers without a lot of arm-twisting. But said lawyers love when people give them to us for free.

And yes, I said 'lawyers.' I have had a couple responses to this thread vilifying me for daring to bring lawyers in to 'protect' my family's 'property' for varying reasons - because it 'should be free,' because it 'is in the public domain,' etc. To all those who object in such a way: If you have objections to going after people selling patent counterfeits of the product and taking the dollars thus gained for themselves, I'd love to hear a justification. Come on. Please. I'm waiting. You've fired 'em off before, let's have 'em in the comments this time.

Sure, this could be a mistake. Andrew could have bought this from someone else on eBay and now be trying to get rid of it. But 'import' DVD? From PBS? With no mention of such a product on their store? Hm.

Let's see. You make a big deal of the indexing and teacher tie-ins. How about this:

The new Web site works in conjunction with PBS VIDEOindex VHS titles. Each tape includes a small on-screen clock that allows every segment of a program to be identified through a minute-and-second time code. The online index makes it possible to search for video clips by keyword, date range, academic area, grade level and other criteria. The Web site's database also includes program, chapter and segment descriptions, providing the video selections with even more context.


The PBS VIDEOindex collection boasts an extensive repertoire of renowned PBS programs, exploring history from the early-Egyptians to the events and people in the news today; scientific concepts and theories in astronomy, biology and brain theory; and the breadth of the arts in music, dance, the visual arts and architecture. These films have earned numerous Emmy, duPont-Columbia and Peabody Awards, as well as popular and critical acclaim. The videos include such documentary series as Africans in America, American Experience, The Civil War, Eyes on the Prize, Frontline and Liberty! The American Revolution, Jazz, I'll Make Me a World, American Visions, Stephen Hawking's Universe, Triumph of Life, and The Secret Life of the Brain - works by renowned historical interpreters such as Ken Burns, Henry Hampton and David Grubin. Video segments can be used throughout an institution's curriculum as interdisciplinary resources in history, geography, sociology, science, health, literature, language arts, economics, government and the humanities.

Well, apparently yep, there was a way to get an indexed and timecoded 2-hr version of the program from PBS. That was through this program, now reachable here: However, you should note that this was for VHS titles. Furthermore, the licensing for works from this program is explicitly spelled out here and gee, they sure don't make any reference to copying this content and reselling it. They mention explicitly that this licensed content is handled differently from PBS Home Video product, as well.

Orlando, Florida, hm...

Posted by jbz at 5:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

Separated at birth?

Is it me, or do these two look more alike every day? I keep expecting Bill to break out in a rant about not being a number while burning down Microsoft Passport...nah.

number6.jpg gates.jpg

(Thanks to Gizmodo for the 'menacing' comment that tweaked it...I wonder if Rover has a big MSDN Butterfly tattoo somewhere?

Schizoid man! SCHIZOID MAN!

Posted by jbz at 9:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Inside Dated Joke du Jour


cough splutter wheeze

From Terranova, talking about 'insider's MMOG humor' comes this gem: "For example, the World of Warcraft Horde guild that I saw the other day called 'My Little Pwnies', which is truly funny but only if you know both l33tspeak and children's culture."


Yes, I know, I'm a loser old geek. Leave off.

Posted by jbz at 5:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

Faits accomplis ou coup de main?

I live at the end of a street. To be more precise, I live on the last block of a many-blocks-long street. My house is the only residence on this last block. Across the street from us is rational drug design company. That same company purchased the complex that blocks the end of the street, then, in the parking lot that used to curve around behind our building, they built a corporate headquarters. All this is well and good, assuming I don't care to ask what's in my air and water (kidding. This land used to be a shipyard, they're probably cleaning it up) but for one small niggling thing. There's a small street that used to pass through along the back side of that second building, in a 'T' intersection where my street ends. One leg of the T is still there; you can make a right turn at the end of my street and come out a driveway-looking exit onto the next street over. Taking a left, however, now drops you into the parking lot and loading dock of the headquarters building.

I notice that there is a publicly-accessible walkway between the headquarters building and the blocking building, though - along where that street used to run. I asked an acquaintance about that, since she's been around town for years and years and served on city council. "Oh," she said, "that's because legally that's still a street. They can't block public access to it."

Excuse me?

Yep. Apparently it's still a street.

Well, not really - now it's a narrow pathway between their emergency generators and the loading dock door, which opens up into the pavilion between their two building entrances (no vehicles). But according to maps, it's a street.

In a related note, parking on my street is 'unregulated' because commuters from that company park there during the day, meaning no parking permit is required. This is a good deal for us, since we can park there during the evening when they've gone home without a problem. However it means that my friend, who is somewhat infirm, had trouble getting a spot in front of our house, because with her parking permit, she wasn't guaranteed one - and if she left her car there overnight, legally, she was liable for a storage infraction.

We also noticed that our street didn't really get cleaned very frequently. The street cleaning crew would come down the street and turn short of our block. When we inquired, they told us it was because our block was a 'private way.' No, we told them, it's not. Oh, they said, disinterested.

I should note, in the interest of fairness, that *** corp is, in fact, an excellent neighbor. I have no complaints at all about them from the POV of living next door. Quite the contrary; I commend them highly, speaking only as a property owner who has coexisted with them side by side. They've never done wrong by me, and their facilities crew are top-notch to deal with in the infrequent event of problems or during the inevitable issues that crop up ("Oh, the fence is going bad. Hm, shall we split the cost? Sounds good to me...") with real estate.

Recently, our town began to do a multi-year upgrade of its sewage and storm drain systems. Our street (along with every other street in the area) has been ripped up at least four times in the past couple of years. Finally, a week or so ago, it was paved nicely for 'the final time.'

I came home today and noticed a sign posted at the entrance to our block, in official town Construction Orange, on a signpost embedded in the new tarmac.


Fucking excuse me?

Don't think so. I pay taxes for that street. I live on that street. I have had to endure it being paved four times, had to endure that process breaking my condo's water lines, had to deal with it not being cleaned, had to petition to have town parking signs put up on it just so the cleaning crews and garbage pickup crew wouldn't bypass it.

Nice try.

Couldn't get the signpost out of the tarmac all the way (it's at a 45-degree angle) but a crescent wrench got the sign right off there. I left it leaning against the building. Wouldn't want to be accused of stealing.

Posted by jbz at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Baaa, children!

JB's South Park Avatar

Like all those other monkeys (who unlike me actually do useful stuff around here) I have followed the herd and used the tool. Behold my genius 2D self.

Posted by jbz at 6:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An excellent and thoughtful post

...that came my way via Luis Villa lays out a more moderate side of the Copyfighter than I typically rant about here. As I have said before, I agree with much of the copyfight agenda - even that of DHB, whose tactics I disapprove of. Mr. Slater says many things here that I would have said, but says them much more clearly and calmly which, if you read my blog, is probably quite a relief. :-)

Posted by jbz at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 6, 2005

Link whoring for laughter

Oh man. I'm all up dat shizzle laughing like a punk-ass beeyotch, mah nizzlefizzle.

Posted by jbz at 6:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 5, 2005

(Solaris) Ten Zen

For reasons best left unstated, I was attempting today to rectify the fact that a recently installed Solaris 10 (Intel) machine was refusing to admit that it had a network interface. In fact, it had three it could have picked from, one of which was a PCI 3Com 3C905-TXM which it clearly says it supports, but that's besides the point. In any case, I was logged into the Java Desktop environment as root, so after much pointless thrashing on a terminal in a vain attempt to either a) recall my much-out-of-date Solaris-fu or b) apply it to this situation, I decided to make-like-monkey and use the GUI. Click 'Launch'...aha! 'System Preferences.' Under that...'Network Configuration!' Perfect. Click.

A dialog box comes up. It wants information. This is hopeful. There is a Java logo...


It's asking me for an IP address.

For a server from which it can download the Network Configuration Agent.


Posted by jbz at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pace, Decisions, Software.

One of the illuminating things about working for Novell is getting to talk to people from around the company as they (or I) wander offices and locations. I don't do nearly as much of this as other people within the company, but I make up for it by being at least fifteen times as loudmouthed and opinionated as most of those I come across, plus ten times as willing to mouth off about crap that those on the receiving end of my bloviations are quite sure I have no credentials to be talking about anyway.

Recently, the topic of decisionmaking at Novell came up. (Woo! Here's my chance to get fired for blogging!) Fear not, I'm not going to get into specifics about products, organization, people, or anything like that. I'd like to talk about goals, stated and otherwise, and about what Novell is Trying To Do - since that has been a popular topic on blogs related to this company in recent months.

Let me make one thing clear at the outset of this post. I'm not a software engineer. Nor am I a project manager. Nor am I a corporate executive. My views don't reflect those of my employer. I don't have information that is not available to anyone who simply reads the trade mags (at least, not about the stuff I'm talking about). Furthermore, I in no way affect policy (thank whatever you hold holy). So there. I'm an Op. I make shit work, mostly. Sometimes I break it. Sometimes I get up at 3 am and haul my lazy black ass into the office because a server has gotten lonely and decided it needs to feel loved, or because some user has done something that we in the biz call 'stupidwrong.'

I rant about the state of Novell and its Linux strategy from the POV of someone who has now worked within Novell-the-corporate-structure for about eighteen months, and who has worked with Linux the thing and community (note I don't say product) for about seven years. I've worked in IT, part and full-time, for around fifteen years. That's not a claim to Superior Understanding; that's just a statement of my point of view, so you can decide for yourself if you are going to lend these words any credence. I can't tell you to do so; you have to make that decision.

Back to the point.

In any case, I see the tension as follows. Novell is an Old World Software Company. It was the epitome of Old World Software company. It lived and thrived on measured, managed, release-cycle engineering, with Managed Customer Expectations and predictable upgrade revenues. Shipping product on time? Much more important than fanatic attention to detail. Appeasing the stockholders? Absolutely critical. Who were and are the customers that need to be kept completely happy? Large, conservative enterprises - financial institutions, etc. - with conservative, enterprise buying habits.

Not all of this has changed. The latter, for example, is still true. But there's a tension, now. The declared future of the company rests on Linux. Linux is not something that will sit still long enough for you to shoehorn it into your corporation's familiar release cycle. Nor is it something that will permit you to ship it raw to keep the customers happy.

This is not because the final market is so very different. After all, we're not expecting (as I see it) to keep Novell alive by forsaking the enterprise customer! We're planning - and working like bees - to make the enterprise customer stable, productive and functional by utilizing the New Hotness that is linux, rather than by locking them into the death spiral of Netware. Don't take that as a slam on Netware - everything dies. Entropy, you know. Netware is a Grand Veteran of the software industry. In any case, the problem is that Novell isn't there yet. We're working to prove ourselves to our customers and to the industry that we can pull this off. I think we can. The problem is that this means that there is an incredible spotlight on the things we are doing right now - and that products that are being released now matter more than ever.

Couple that with the fact that the Linux world doesn't work like the old software world. The Linux world (I know, there's no such thing as 'the Linux world' - how about 'the new Sofware industry? Nah, no better...I'll keep trying) is one where the community watches, reads, dissects, comments, blogs...everything. No-one is immune. Open Source software, for better or worse, has a concomitant ecosystem of very smart and very dedicated people who spend a great deal of time, sometimes with motivations that 'classic corporations' do not understand, evaluating, testing, improving, commenting on and 'policing' software. Not only software - moves made in the business world that in the 'old' software industry only 'industry analysts' and stockholders would care about.

Plus, the community listens to them - not always, and not unanimously. But linux as a whole, and its uptake and use, can be swayed by the response of these watchers.

In this context, the 'old world' attitude of 'the release cycle matters because stockholders need to see a product out before year's end' is not as important as getting it right. A mediocre product, at this point in our business, is not a simple low point on the release cycle - it's an amplified perception problem. Problems that are being caught in early QA testing yet not being fixed, or being passed over due to limited time in cycle are signs of decisions which are perfectly proper in old world engineering. They are absolutely fucking lethal if carried over into the changeover period.

If cycles aren't adjusted to handle product polish, if design constraints are not mediated or adjusted to take into account the fact that these products are designed not to add 'incremental functionality' but to introduce skeptical conservative users and hyperattentive Linux commentators to a Whole New Way of Novell, then all the work, all the effort, all the Culture Change, all the money in the world won't make this happen.

In some cases, these things are happening. Sometimes, there is a sense that we're performing for the world. Sometimes there is not - there's a sense that we're doing the 9-to-5 job. This difference knows no facility or geographic boundary. It doesn't map to which business unit people are in. It doesn't map to how long people have been at Novell. But it's there, nonetheless.

You can probably guess which side of that difference makes me absolutely fucking crazy sometimes.

Posted by jbz at 4:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 3, 2005

Bottom feeders and chum

Robert Love has ascended in my personal pantheon.

Why? For this, followed by this. Also, of course, this.

Posted by jbz at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Red vs. Blue

No, unfortunately not the much more fun machinime of the same name. This time, it's John Tierney of the New York Times weighing in to condescendingly explain to coastal pundits why they're so very wrong about voters in the heartland and in the "Republican exurbs":
The favorite Democratic explanation is that the red staters are hicks who have been blinded by righteousness, as Thomas Frank argues in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" He laments that middle-class Kansans are so bamboozled by moral issues like abortion and school prayer that they vote for Republicans even though the Republican tax-cutting policies are against their self-interest.

But middle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.

They're not moving for the churches, and they don't vote for Mr. Bush simply because he reads the Bible every day. One of the main reasons they like him is that he gets bashed so often. When Jon Stewart sneers at him, they empathize because they're used to being sneered at themselves.

I see, Mr. Tierney. While we're talking about those 'economic reasons' let's have a look at this, shall we? Much discussed during and after the previous election, this report is nonetheless still illuminating - displaying the ratio of federal monies spent to federal taxes collected on a per-state basis. Those 'economic reasons' you cite that are provided by Republican politicians - jobs, lower taxes, etc. - are not free.

Let's leave the substantive claims entirely aside, however. Mr. Tierney appears (to me, I acknowledge) to be taking coasties to task for bashing Republicans - causing them to move to 'Red' states and vote for Mr. Bush, who they can 'empathize' with when he is sneered at by quintessential coastal liberals like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.

A quick aside - I remain astounded at the amount of influence attributed to Mr. Stewart and the Daily show by commentators who declaim loudly that those worthies are in fact non-mainstream and not much more than liberal mouthpieces, especially while describing the erosion of the left's influence.

In any case, Mr. Tierney, the point is not so much that some of us are shocked that middle America votes for Mr. Bush. We are in fact shocked that middle-class Americans are voting for Mr. Bush and, if they are chasing those carrots you list, that they are chasing such poisoned and illusory benefits. The GOP policy record has been a disaster for middle-class America. If your point is that middle-class Americans don't care about that, that they are 'voting with their feet' and with their ballots for Mr. Bush because they feel 'kicked around' by liberals who sneer at his malapropisms, it seems (to me, again) that you have an incredibly piss-poor opinion of the intelligence and analytical tendencies of those very voters.

But wait, that's what you're accusing me of, isn't it?

Posted by jbz at 2:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pat Robertson, Overreach, and Sheer Blithering Idiocy

According to the NY Daily News, Pat Robertson, host of the inexplicably popular '700 Club,' told interviewer George Stephanopoulos on ABC that he considered United States Federal Judges a greater danger to the United States and its citizens than Al-Qaeda. Now, while I don't hold the Daily News up as a shining example of journalism much of the time, I'll take their word on this one; it's a pretty easily verifiable bit of reporting:
"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy." Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down. "Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."

Is this really the kind of image of the world that a large number of American citizens hold? Honestly? I know that I come across as a ranting liberal bastard. I understand that. However, one thing I would like to be clear about is the following: I consider the safety of the United States - both the physical and the moral safety of the United States - of paramount importance. I know that some GOP strategists would have everyone believe that as a Democrat and liberal, I'd prefer to have the U.S. buried beneath threats foreign and domestic, but if I ever meet said strategists face to face, we'll see what they have to say about that. If we do meet, good luck to them getting out of it with 'heh, it's just a political strategy, don't take it personally' (yes, at least one Republican activist has told me that).

However, this is beyond the fucking pale. One of the prime reasons I hold the United States and its system up as examples I will defend is our judiciary. Far from 'eroding the consensus' the judiciary is in fact the embodiment of the consensus. The willingness of the citizenry to submit to the law as written, and as presided over by the judiciary, is (to me) the representation of the United States as a living, working thing - more than an idea, a functioning and vital organization that holds back Hobbes' 'State of Nature' day by day.

On the contrary, the 'erosion of the consensus' is, in fact, being carried out by those like Mr. Robertson, who seem to feel that the judiciary not slavishly interpreting the law as the current declared (note I do not say actual) majority demands. It wouldn't matter if it was the actual majority, either; that's not how the system works. The judiciary was explicitly set up as it was to prevent the mob from ruling. If Mr. Robertson doesn't understand that, he needs to return to fourth grade Civics, there to stay until he deigns to learn something.

If he won't do that, then, well, he's free to repeat his ridiculous assertions that American judges are worse for the Republic than the Nazis next time he's in my presence. As an American Jew, and a loudmouthed one to boot, I can assure him it will not be as...civil as Mr. Stephanopoulos' may have been on public television.

If you watch the 700 Club (and I can't imagine why you would, but that's my own problem) then please consider calling in and explaining to this maniac why he's wrong. Better yet, call any advertiser than buys time on this idiot's show (if there are any) and explain to them in detail why their advertising dollars are going to make it very difficult for you to purchase their products. Call television stations that run it and explain that you find it offensive (if you do) that this form of assault on our country's system is being promulgated on their airwaves.

Just don't let this loose cannon fuckwit just slide.

Posted by jbz at 3:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy has this to say...

to be read in a snotty British accent

...on the subject of American remakes of Douglas Adams' works as films: these tend to come off about as well as the first, long-awaited flying lessons of the baby elephantsnail of the G'Gugvntine Jazzolta. The other inhabitants of the Jazzolta are both too polite to explain to the sentient and extremely adorable baby elephantsnails that large, rotund shelled creatures with nothing that resembles wings or gasbladders are unlikely to conquer the four and a half standard gravities of their planet's field when they leave their inexplicably cliffside perched nests for the first time, and too fond of the extremely tasty innards of said baby elephantsnails to warn them in any way other than by standing around beneath the cliffs near the sharp rocks below halfheartedly waving small signs which read, in very small type, don't jump. It should be noted that wearing bibs and bringing vats of melted butter to these selfless warning vigils is highly thought of.

Back to the films. In this particular case, the film reminds this particular viewer of nothing so much as an elaborate, intricate and mind-numbingly faithful reproduction of a famous sculpture which, when approached closely, one discovers is so very similar because it is in fact a hollow vacuum plastic mold and was in fact most likely purchased for five cents from an extremely large sculpture-sized gumball dispensing machine. While from a distance, all of the features of, say, Rodin's 'The Thinker' or 'A Fallen Caryatid Holding Her Stone' are there for the viewing, on close examination the interesting granular surfacing of the marble turns out to be instead the rough frills of the plastic escaping the two halves of the hotmolding device, and the dark color, rather than the oxidation of age, is in point of fact a greenish purple shade produced by mixing the two least popular tinges of plastic dye which, fortunately for the vendor, were on sale quite cheaply that afternoon at the supplier's house.

The Guide continues: This movie is quite clearly a loving paean to Mr. Adams' memory. It contains all manner of inside jokes that only HHGTTG fans will get, as well as several attempts to produce humorous situations and visuals mixed with attractive special effects that 'n00b' audiences will find captivating. Unfortunately for it, the two are horribly mismatched, resulting in a movie that noobs will find full of incomprehensible in-jokes and that aficionados will discover is crammed full of ridiculous non-Douglasian bits which serve only to remove the Adamsian funny with the subtlely of No. 2 grit sanding paper wrapped around a large granite block in much the same way a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster's lemon slice is wrapped around a large gold...but you get the idea.


Posted by jbz at 2:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 2, 2005

I am wonderfully amused

by the phrase 'acres of clams.' (hat tip MeFi

Posted by jbz at 3:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 1, 2005

Creative Commons and the Bzzz

Apparently, Creative Commons has signed up for a "pro bono 12 week marketing campaign" with BzzNet, a word-of-mouth marketing firm. This firm markets by recruiting 'BzzAgents' who wander about and inject their chosen campaign targets into conversations or other face to face encounters, in exchange for points - for which they are rewarded. Good ol' guerrilla marketing.

There have been all manner of comments about this online already, some negative, some positive. I'm not totally sure what to think; I've gone and read up on BzzNet, and thought about it a tad, and I guess my position comes down to the following.

First of all, let me state that I am not a passionate Creative Commons supporter. Not because I disagree with it, but because I'm not informed enough and submerged enough in that particular part of the issue to be passionate about it. I do like the idea, and will cheerfully say so. I don't, typically, engage in arguments about it, because I don't have the information base to back said arguments up.

Having said that, I don't like this move. I do like CC in general, quite a bit actually. I think it's a Good Thing, even if I can't support that thought through very many iterations of argument. However, the Bzz move is a problem for me. That's because when I do argue with people over things like copyright, I argue with them in three general areas - one, the technical legalities; two, our respective motivated opinions; and three, the philosophical or moral considerations. Sometimes two or more of these are in alignment. Sometimes they are not. However, I have no trouble arguing with anyone on any side of the debate, so long as - and here's the kicker - our positions in each of these are clear.

Arguing this sort of stuff productively with anyone - from Copyfighter to RIAA rep - is possible only if everyone comes to the table with their motivations and affiliations freely available. In some cases we can't help it; if we're public-facing employees of the RIAA, or if we are known bloggers with on-record opinions, it's easy. If we meet at parties, however, one of the first parts of a discussion - and a critical one - is determining everyone at the table's positions and starting points. If we agree, why argue? Why not discuss? If we're going to discuss or argue copyrights, then I want to know what everyone involved has at stake - is it philosophical? Is it a deeply-held conviction? Is it because their family fortune is based on a fifty-year-old set of IP rights? These are things that, for tactical reasons within the argument (if not politeness at a party) you'd like to know. Why are these other people talking about this with you, and from what point of view?

Suddenly, BzzNet. Now, if I'm at an event, and someone brings up CC, I am in trouble. Because I have read up on this whole debacle, and I know what's going on. Now I have to explicitly wonder about their motivations. Sure, BzzNet can tell me all it wants about how people 'only sign up for things they believe in' - but is there any means of enforcement there? Hell no, not that I can see. And remember, this is the advertising industry. Faking sincerity is their stock in trade. Maybe not BzzNet's, but the industry as a whole, absolutely. So the only thing I have to go on to trust that the BzzAgents in question aren't just shilling for the rewards is the assurance of a BzzNet corporate spokeperson that in fact they're only 'collecting rewards for things they would do anyway.'

That's not comforting.

In sum, the effect of the BzzNet campaign for me is to throw a monkey wrench into what was, until now, a relatively clean intellectual fight - 'clean' in the sense that the motives of everyone involved, whatever you thought of their provenance, were relatively easy to discern, and no-one thought much about hiding. Suddenly, there are mercenaries in the ranks - and I don't know who they are. If I might be permitted my own 'reach' metaphor, you have a group of soldiers fighting for a cause - they know each other, and are committed. New recruits begin to arrive, and they greet them warmly, trusting them as comrades, knowing that unless one believed, one wouldn't join up. Then suddenly, one of the recruits admits that in fact things aren't going all that well at home, and he joined because somebody gave him a big cash bonus - he doesn't even really know much about the ideological cause.

If you were a soldier in that unit, those new recruits would feel a lot less secure at your back.

Update: Mr. Lessig has asked for feedback on CC's involvement with BzzNet, let's see what he gets.

Posted by jbz at 2:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If one more freeper wingnut tries to lecture me about judges

...I'm going to print out twenty-five copies of this and make sure every single one of his or her bodily orifices is plugged with them.

Of course, those judges were bad because Clinton nominated them. Blocking good, strict-interpretation conservative judges like the President has nominated is anti-American.

I swear to you, this has been presented to me, face to face, as justification. I did not resort to violence. But it took effort.

Posted by jbz at 3:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack