Archives For April 2004

i like driving. i particularly like driving manual cars. not that i don`t love the joys of cruise control and not having to balance the clutch sometimes, but i`d rather give those up that a manual gear shift.

i think my love for driving came from my mother. she had an original 1000 mini, manual shift and drove it like a racing driver. down shifting, drafting busses, all the tricks i know now, i learned sitting next to my mother in the mini.

one of the things we used to do and i still do now is adventure driving. the concept worked well in trinidad, because it`s only so big and the principle was the road had to come out somewhere. on a larger scale it helps me find alternate routes and couple with an unfailing sense of direction i`ve found it very useful when i move somewhere new.

how it`s done, basically, is you pick a street and follow your instinct that it will take you where it needs too. it`s sort of like dirk gently`s theory about following a car as stated here.

“… A  few turnings later and I was thoroughly lost. There is a school of thought which says that you should consult a map on these occasions,  but  to  such people I merely say, `Ha! What if you have no map to consult? What if you have a map but it`s of the Dordogne?`  My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it`s going and follow it.  I rarely  end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be. So  what  do  you say to that?”

from douglas adams` long dark tea time of the soul

well, it works for me. but i`m the person my closest friends have intimated that has sold my soul for parking spaces and a sense of direction. i get parking spaces close to, if not directly in front of where i want to be and i don`t get lost. so adventure driving or picking a road and following it to see where it will take you in proximity to where you wanted to be in the first place works for me.

damn i`ve lost my initial train of thought.

some time later

i remember, i remember.

a loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter. i remember.

well that too, but i remembered my train of thought and original point of my post.

i`ve never been a huge fan of american iron. i like sports cars, i would be thrilled to drive them at least once but i don`t actually want to own one, particularly an american made sports car. that`s right, no corvettes, no camaros, no mustangs. and there is good reason, the transmission. most american cars come with automatic transmission and even if it comes with manual transmission the gear ratio, stinks.

i was completely appalled to park next to an audi tt and peep in the window to see an automatic transmission. that`s just wrong. i think there should be a law, you want to drive a sports car, you should know how to handle a clutch.

i am a big guy, the two seater sports coupe doesn`t do anything for me, primarily cause i can`t fit in them. when i was younger, thinner, much more flexible and thinking about buying my first car, i tried out a madza miata and i thought i was going to hurt myself clambering in and out of that thing. my mid-life crisis cars would either be the subura impreza wrx — rally tuned suspension and six speed gear box or a bmw m5.

give me a sedan or wagon, with a good transmission and some good broad, low profile tires i`m heaven. i like the neon it`s small but it responds well, it has nice pickup; if the ac isn`t running and it doesn`t suck gas. if i had to change one thing on it, it would the tires, the narrow, 13″ tires just irk me, those should be outlawed too.

time to get on the road again.

out of sight, out of mind, seems par for the course with me and the people i call friends. well not all of them, i`m realising i can count the true friends on the fingers of one hand.

for all the rest it`s about what i can do for them, whether it`s fixing their computers or helping them with a problem or just sitting there listening to them. i don`t mind any of this, it`s what friendship is about, right?

but when do it become to much?

there are people that will see me online and not say a word to me for weeks, but the nanosecond they have a problem, the message window pops open and in some cases without even a howdy, they launch into whatever problem ails them. aside from it being rude, i feel so used.

is it wrong for me to complain about my so called friends?

i`ve called them on it, but no one seems to take me seriously. i mean, there are people who will send four million forwards, but will never take the time to send me an email saying, `hi, how are you?` or reply to an email i sent.

i keep swearing up and down that this is the last year, i`m cutting people lose, but i never do. i`m always there when they need help or a shoulder to cry on. the big sap that i am. this is why people take advantage of me.

at least i`ve learned to say no.

i think not.

of the two places we got when we were looking the one we`re at now, has lawn and outdoor maintenance as part of the package. i, for one, am eternally grateful.

i am not a particularly lazy sod, but i do firmly believe that certain tasks are the domain of professionals or at least people who enjoy these tasks. i know i can cut my own grass and wash my own car and i`m sure there are people that own a computer and believe they can design a newsletter too. i mean just because you have the tools, it doesn`t automatically bequeath you with the ability to do the job well.

i am one of those people that is willing to pay someone to do certain jobs for me. although, because i`m willing to pay someone to a job that i`m at least capable of doing, i expect it done well, but i`m not going to hang about and tell you how to do your job, it`s one of the things i hate, so i wouldn`t subject anyone to that behaviour.

the name of my journal is actually based on a joke about my personal work ethic and star signs. my birthday is august 23, making me a virgo on the cusp of leo. according to lore, the virgo portion of the sign makes me a perfectionist, which is my line of work i think is a necessity. the leo side of the lore means i like things done my way. so, one wiseacre who worked with me branded me a perfectionist with a god complex. it`s what in some circumstances `difficult` to work with.

strangely, the standards that apply to my work and my co-workers tend to be more relaxed with people that i give my money to for one reason or another. i think it`s because if the anal retentive, detail oriented monster ever got loose in public, i`d be truly insufferable and be on the receiving end of the dreaded asshole tax.

anyone who`s ever worked freelance, is familiar with the asshole tax, it`s a fee tacked on to the base a job, calculated on the volume of trouble you expect the client to be. you can tell most of the time from the first meeting, you know what you`re in for, so you mark up the job, so that at the end of the day, you get paid for all the extra stress and heartache.

please stand by

April 27, 2004 — Leave a comment

regular transmission will resume momentarily. in the mean time go check out more geeky goodness at the joy of tech

last weekend i was fortunate enough to see once upon a time in the west and both kill bill movies. i`ve been a long time fan of sergio leone and have managed to borrow all the man with no name westerns from the library.

in terms of just sheer film making once upon a time in the west is a work of genius. the opening 13 minutes of the film have very little dialogue, no score and features once of the best opening lines in any western.

interestingly, although both once upon a time in the west and kill bill are revenge flicks, kill bill is more an onanistic endeavour on the part of tarentino. i`m not saying i didn`t like the film, but seeing both these movies on the same weekend show up the weakness of kill bill, particularly volume 1.

this weekend i watched a fistful of dollars which is an homage to akira kurosawa`s yojimbo, which was later redone as last man standing with bruce willis.

the leone westerns made clint eastwood a star and redefined the genre. in looking at these movies recently i realise that many directors have borrowed liberally.

do yourself a favour, experience these movies for yourself.

Passive Eugenics

April 25, 2004 — Leave a comment

as a corollary to my last post i thought i`d deal with warning labels. we`ve all seen this forward about the instructions on labels:

On a Sears hairdryer — Do not use while sleeping.

On a bag of Fritos — You could be a winner!  No purchase necessary.

Details inside.

On a bar of Dial soap — “Directions: Use like regular soap.”

On some Swanson frozen dinners — “Serving suggestion: Defrost.

On Tesco`s Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom) — “Do not turn upside


On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding — “Product will be hot after heating.”

On packaging for a Rowenta iron — “Do not iron clothes on body.”

On Boot`s Children Cough Medicine — “Do not drive a car or operate

machinery after taking this medication.”

On Nytol Sleep Aid — “Warning: May cause drowsiness.”

On most brands of Christmas lights — “For indoor or outdoor use only.”

On a Japanese food processor — “Not to be used for the other use.”

On Sainsbury`s peanuts — “Warning: contains nuts.”

On an American Airlines packet of nuts — “Instructions: Open packet,

eat nuts.”

On a child`s Superman costume — “Wearing of this garment does not

enable you to fly.”

On a Swedish chainsaw — “Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands

or genitals.”

and a new classic:

Levitra — “If erection lasts longer than four hours consult a medical professional.”

the thing is that as funny as this seems, those are real and there are other stories and other warning labels on everything. i see three major problems with this trend, a lack of personal responsibility, the death of common sense and the continuation of some lineage that we`d be better off without.

i humbly suggest passive eugenics. eugenics is the study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding. now the thing about passive eugenics is we don`t actually have to do anything other than let nature take it`s course. if you`re not bright enough to know that you don`t get into the bathtub with an electrical appliance then you don`t live to reproduce. i think it would make the world a better place. remove all the warning labels and let all the darwin award contenders go for the prize. i`m sure the planet would be a better place for it.

i`ve been listening to the radio and looking through the newspapers, actually i`m just familiarising myself with my industry, so when i do get a job, i have some idea how things are done to some extent.

every country i`ve worked in, has different rules about advertising. in trinidad you can`t name your competitor directly and that work because the whole industry is a good old boys club and clients aren`t necessarily gleaned through skill but who you know and play golf with on a weekend.

the first time i heard an agency say `no` to a client i was in florida at a meeting. this was our biggest client and my boss told the client no, my jaw was on the ground. never in my entire career, that`s when i realised that i was in a whole new playing field.

but that`s not the point of this post.

do you ever notice that you start writing something and one of the ancillary thoughts just decides it wants to take over the whole and you`re heading down a whole different path?

that`s the not the point either, just a thought?

the point finally…

i`ve noticed, everything has fine print and disclaimers. from some conditions apply to may cause internal haemorrhaging. i know advertising is pretty much the business of selling lies but this getting ridiculous.

all these disclaimers and fine print mean that it`s no longer about blurring the lines or bending the truth, we`re misleading people outright and only because these are such litigious times, that the truth has to be mention in some small way.

next time one of these ads for prescription drugs that airs on tv all the time comes on, ignore the happy go lucky people depicted in the ads, and listen to the disclaimers and read the fine print at the bottom of the screen, it`s down right frightening.

let`s take enzyte, the natural pill for male enhancement, here`s one:

\”Individuals shown are paid models, and not necessarily Enzyte customers.\”

and if that isn`t enough:

\”These statements have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, and individual results may vary. Enzyte should be taken as part of a healthy lifestyle and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.\”

but this is the nail in the coffin, from the enzyte website:

\”Enzyte may help create firmer, fuller-feeling erections, but it cannot alter natural physical size.\”

doesn`t this negate the whole advertising campaign? no wonder they`re giving it away.

i could go on, but what is the point. pretty soon, i`ll be joining the masses telling you to buy this, wear that, use the other, else you wont be as cool, productive, smart as everyone else.

remember the snaffleburger corporation says: CONSUME! CONFORM! OBEY!

who owns you

April 22, 2004 — Leave a comment

below are a pair of articles i wrote on digital rights ownership and management a little over two years ago, in the interim, some of the things i mention like DRM [Digital Rights Management] have moved from an emerging technology to full time commercial use, like at apple`s itunes music store. i made some changes and corrections, i hope you find it enlightening.

If you are under the mistaken impression as a legal software purchaser, that you own it, then you my friend have been completely deluded. As a software purchaser — or should I say a software licenser — what you pay for is the ability to use the software on the machine you installed it on. Don’t believe me? He is a sample from a typical End User License Agreement or EULA from Aladdin Systems’ Stuffit:

“The Software is owned by Aladdin Systems and is protected by United States copyright laws and international treaty provisions. Therefore, you must treat the Software like any other copyrighted material (e.g., a book or musical recording). Paying the license fee allows you the right to use one copy of the Software on a single computer. You may not network the Software or otherwise use it or make it available for use on more than one computer at the same time. You may not rent or lease the Software, nor may you modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the Software. If you violate any part of this agreement, your right to use this Software terminates automatically and you must then destroy all copies of the Software in your possession.”

Generally, software is distributed pursuant to EULAs. These EULAs often take the form of what is called a “shrink-wrap” or “click-wrap” agreement, where a user shows his or her assent to the contract by either breaking the shrink-wrap or clicking through an agreement when he or she installs the program.

The EULA for a particular piece of software may restrict users` rights to the software, including their right to make archival copies. Under some EULAs, users do not even own their copy of the software, but merely receive a license from the vendor to use the copy. The EULAs for individual software vary, so read the EULA for the software in question for details.

EULAs are somewhat specific to computer software. Most other forms of intellectual property are not distributed pursuant to a license. You don`t have to assent to a license agreement when you buy a book or music CD, for example.

EULAs began as a practice by software vendors in part because there were doubts in the early days of software programming (pre-1980) as to whether computer programs were copyrightable subject matter. Some people thought that copyright should and would be limited to more creative and non-functional works such as literary works, and there were some doubts as to whether copyright applied at all to computer programs.

The software industry used contracts to try to protect computer programs, fearing copyright law would not cover its work. Today, this practice continues even though it is now well established that copyright law does cover computer programs.

I guess you’re wondering what all this has to do with you? and how you US law has any bearing on your life?

Well it can be summed up in three simple words — Business Software Alliance. The global enforcement arm of the world’s major software manufacturers, they use their considerable resources to bring pressure to bear on goverments to pass legislation that is entirely benefical to them and not necessarily you the consumer. Legislation has already been passed almost everywhere on the planet which continues to infringe on your limited rights. In the software industry, cavet emptor is even worth the paper it’s printed on.

Now let`s look at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the other enforcement arm of the software, movie and record businesses and a possible horrific future of digital rights — Palladium.

With the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US, end users have even less rights to the software, they have legally purchased. The Digital Millennium Act represents the United States` compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty (WIPO), signed in December 1997. WIPO was designed to usher international law into the e-commerce era by establishing consistent rules for protecting intellectual property rights in the borderless wilds of the Internet. To that end, the act will make it illegal to defeat copy protection. The final version included a hotly debated, broad provision that restricts technology itself, by making it illegal to manufacture or distribute any “product, service, device, component, or part thereof,” that`s primarily useful for cracking a copy-protection scheme. It casts a wide net that will ensnare more than copyright infringers — the act will prohibit anyone from prying into the secrets of material they`ve bought and paid for, even if they have no intention of distributing, or even copying, that material.

The act has been the big stick many US film studios, record companies and software manufactures have applied pressure on the US Congress to pass more bills like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has allowed them to clamp down on new technologies.

The first real victims of this aggresive big stick policy were Linux users, with the extremes that the Motion Picture Association of America went after the creators and distributors of DeCSS. DeCSS is code that allows people to watch DVD movies on Linux-run computers. The application removes encryption, a big no-no under the DMCA.

Now they`ve gone to work on computer manufacturers and software developers, persuading them to release PCs with restrictive hardware, software and settings pre-installed.

Computer manufacturers seem more likely to produce computers that operate more like VCRs or DVD players than the PCs people are accustomed to. These machines have copy-protection embedded in the hardware, much like home recorders that keep people from making copies of videos they have purchased.

A possible abuse of the law and technology was Microsoft’s proposed security and rights management solution — Palladium, which provides a computing platform on which you can`t tamper with the applications, and where these applications can communicate securely with the vendor. The obvious application is digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a Palladium platform, but which you won`t be able to copy or use on a non-Palladium platform. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won`t be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you`ll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. [ed note:  The iTunes music store is actually set up on a similar model, where tracks are licensed for only 5 devices]  There is also the possiblity of remote censorship: the mechanisms designed to delete pirated music under remote control may be used to delete documents that a court (or a software company) has decided are offensive – this could be anything from pornography to writings that criticise political leaders. Software companies can also make it harder for you to switch to their competitors` products; for example, Word could encrypt all your documents using keys that only Microsoft products have access to; this would mean that you could only read them using Microsoft products and not with any competing word processor.

Welcome to 1984.

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i`ve been hearing varying opinions on the blender 50 worst songs of all time and it got me thinking, these are just songs. some of them are one hit wonders, others are mostly talented musicians who just went wrong somewhere.

the 9th circle of my own personal musical hell is more about artistes whose every utterance cause my ears to haemorrhage and my brain to leak from every available orifice.

in my circle i`m strapped to a chair, front stage; with surround sound speakers around me tuned to the deadly quartet of celine dion, peter cetera, barbra striesand and the bastard child of all that is evil and wrong on this planet, michael bolton on lead vocals with musical accompaniment by yanni, kenny g, john tesh and ace cannon. background vocalists include neil sadaka, john denver, richard marx and the backstreet boys with guest raps by the cash money clique and  a plethora of guest vocals, all of whose names escape me at the moment; singing a medley of their greatest hits, over and over and over again.

i`ll be the first to admit that even though my musical tastes are diverse, i listen to a great number of things; the current track being one in question; that most people find unappealing, but you don`t hear most of what i listen to on the radio with any regularity. these artistes; and i use the word loosely; have been unleashed on a unsuspecting public, repeatedly.

this is my own personal hell, but i`m sure you have one of your own as well.


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as if i didn`t already know this