Woohoo! A cease and desist email!

This is actually the second time I’ve received a cease and desist demand in regards to a Web site that I run. And boy, is it a strange one.

So some of the readers of this blog may be aware that I run a Web site called Fine Tuned Mac, which is a Macintosh technical troubleshooting forum. It was born when C-Net bought the largest Mac forum site, MacFixIt, so that they could shut it down and direct traffic to their own rival Mac site.

Anyway, this evening, the following gem of an email appeared in my inbox, which I reproduce in all its glory for your entertainment:

From: brandprotection@ip-rosettastone.com
Subject: finetunedmac.com – Notice of Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights of Rosetta Stone Ltd. [Case #70995]
Date: December 1, 2011 9:37:35 AM PST
To: Franklin Veaux
Cc: Brandenforcement@RosettaStone.com
Reply-To: brandprotection@ip-rosettastone.com

To whom it may concern:

This is to inform you that a website you manage, finetunedmac.com, has come to the attention of Rosetta Stone Ltd. (“Rosetta Stone”).

Rosetta Stone’s automated monitoring software continually monitors, collects and stores instances of unauthorized use, sales or other violations of Rosetta Stone’s intellectual property rights on the Internet. Our records indicate that your site, finetunedmac.com, has employed an advertising or sales campaign that may have incorporated Rosetta Stone products and/or trademarks or terms confusingly similar thereto.

In order to ensure your compliance with our request, you should (i) delete “Rosetta”, “Rosetta Stone” and any variations thereof, from your search engine keyword list, and (ii) add “-Rosetta” and “-Rosetta Stone” as negative keywords (negative matching) to your search engine keyword list. If you have questions, the search engine websites explain how this is done.

We believe that there is no legitimate reason or basis for you to rely on any Rosetta Stone trademark, image or product in your marketing or sales campaigns, and encourage you to review all of your advertising campaigns and sites to avoid such practices in the future.

Sincerely,

BrandEnforcement@rosettastone.com
Rosetta Stone Ltd.


Now, there are a number of things about this email that jump out at me, the first and perhaps most relevant being that Fine Tuned Mac doesn’t have a marketing or advertising budget, and the second being that if we did have a marketing or advertising budget, advertising the site using Rosetta Stone’s logo or trademarks wouldn’t do fuckall for us, since our target demographic is Mac geeks rather than hipsters who think they can get laid if they learn Italian.

So I wrote them this reply. What do you think, too formal?


To whom it may concern:

Your IP department appears to have gone mad.

I can’t tell if it’s too much time spent listening to crappy language tutorials on CD or too much time spent shooting moodily lit photographs of said CDs to appear in Skymall magazine, but Fine Tuned Mac does not, and never has, used any Rosetta Stone image, product, brand name, trademark, or any other intellectual property for any reason.

In fact, I am quite baffled (German: verdutzt; French: déconcerté; Italian: sconcertato; Finnish: hämmentynyt) by your email. Try as I might, I can not make head nor tail of what you’re talking about. Fine Tuned Mac is a free forum-based Macintosh technical troubleshooting site. We have no marketing campaigns, and the only Google ads we’ve ever run have focused solely on Macintosh troubleshooting terms.

Now, I can perhaps, if I squint REALLY hard, perhaps see where you might have run off the rails, insofar as there are troubleshooting threads on the Fine Tuned Mac Web site that talk about Rosetta. However, what you may not know is that Rosetta is Apple’s trade name for their proprietary real-time interpreter that permits machine code written for PowerPC processors to run on Intel-based computers. If you’re unfamiliar with any of those terms, you might find a Google search enlightening.

Should you have a problem with Apple’s use of the word “Rosetta,” I respectfully (well, as respectfully as I can manage, anyway) suggest you take this up with Apple’s intellectual property lawyers.

I trust this concludes your interest in Fine Tuned Mac.

Regards,
Franklin Veaux

Boston Chapter 4: The Horror of Middle America

If you drive across the American Midwest on Interstate 70 for long enough, a sort of hypnosis begins to set in. The road goes on and on and on and on, and there’s nothing interesting on it, save for the occasional dead animal of indeterminate species on the side of the road.

If you continue driving, eventually your brains will liquefy. Your eyes will begin to bleed. Strange apparitions of Hunter S. Thompson doing battle with Napoleon against the backdrop of war-torn Sarajevo while gibbons drift high in the sky strumming gently on lutes will slide in and out of the corners of your vision. When that happens, keep driving until you find your happy place. You know, the one where small insectoid life-forms crawl out of unexpected parts of your body demanding Pop-Tarts.

It is about then that you will see Prairie Dog Town, in Oakley, Kansas, just a stone’s throw from the interstate.

Prairie Dog Town is a microcosm of everything that is strange and horrifying about Middle America. It is the quintessential slice of Americana. Ray Bradbury could set horror films there. It advertises the world’s largest prairie dog, among other wonders and atrocities too numerous to mention. So it was a given that we had to stop there.

But before I talk about that, I need to talk about the Jesus of Wheat.


The Jesus of Wheat adorns a series of billboards that cluster along the interstate near a small town almost exactly an hour west of Prairie Dog Town. We pulled off the interstate to eat, as up until this point we had subsisted largely on lovely, succulent grapes hand-fed to us by Claire. This is a wonderful way to dine, and I highly recommend it, but inevitably we hit Peak Grape and it was all downhill from there. Soon we were forced to confront a stark reality: There Were No More Grapes, and it was time to deal with that, whether we liked it or not.

So we stopped for sandwiches, and met the Jesus of Wheat.

I don’t know what this billboard means, other than Jesus really, really loved wheat. This image occurs on every onramp and offramp in the town, as near as I can tell: Jesus, looking enigmatic, holding a stalk of wheat in His freakishly-long and perspectively-challenged arm.

Or at least I think it’s his arm. Maybe that hand is thrusting up from the ground, clutching wheat in its cold lifeless fingers, as a parable for the cycle of all life and the inevitable coming of the Zombie Apocalypse, I don’t know. I spent some time trying to work out the mechanics of whether He could actually hold wheat that far from His body, and I will admit, ultimately, to theological bafflement. Perhaps there are some things Man was not meant to know.

At any rate, I really had to record the billboard for posterity, by which I mean my blog. So while my companions dined, I slogged back up to the interstate on foot in 99-degree heat, roughly a half mile away or so, to get this shot.

The 99-degree heat turns out to be relevant later, as we shall see.


The theological ambiguity of the Jesus of Wheat left all of us, I think, in a fragile state of mind, so when an hour later we saw signs advertising Prairie Dog Town, our natural resistance–what little was left after the endless drive, anyway–was already considerably eroded.

Prairie Dog Town is a small, dilapidated building with signs promoting the World’s Largest Prairie Dog and other wonders beyond mention. It’s the sort of place that serial killers stalk in Oliver Stone movies, or the Great Cthulhu might seek out for a midafternoon snack of moon pies and the souls of the damned. We went in the front, picked our way through a gift shop overflowing with rattlesnake egg paperweights and small carved wooden toys, and bought our tickets in the back.

The back of the shop is crowded with the fruits of the taxidermist’s art, applied to various abominations of nature like this two-headed sheep calf:

It’s also lined with a series of very large wooden crates, about five feet tall and topped with wire mesh. “Go ahead!” said the lady working the till to my traveling companions. “Look inside! See what’s in there!”

As soon as they did, she hit the crates with a stick. About a dozen rattlesnakes, all of them more pissed off than Dick Cheney on a quail hunt, immediately started rattling and striking at the wire mesh, much disconcerting both of my companions. The smile on the woman’s face suggested that she lives for that.

Payment appropriately rendered, we walked out the back door into Prairie Dog Town. This…is Prairie Dog Town.

Each cage contains a forlorn animal or three. There are two aspects to the Prairie Dog Town Experience which this picture cannot convey: the brutal, oppressive heat that settled on us like a tangible, suffocating thing; and the smell. Oh, God, the smell.

Though, in all fairness, most of America’s heartland smells that way.

Beyond the eponymous prairie dogs, the pride of the collection at Prairie Dog Town is their herd of mutant five-legged cattle. Yes, they are mutant cattle, and yes, they have five legs, the fifth one of which dangles pathetically from their back.

This is exactly the sort of thing one sees when something goes wrong with an organism’s hox genes, as I was talking about a bit ago.

The place also offered for our amusement birds of various descriptions, some really forlorn-looking foxes behind a wire enclosure, a couple of pigs, and a very friendly donkey who was quite happy to see us.

And, of course, it had prairie dogs, who perched in the heat and chittered at us reprovingly, as if to say “You paid money to be here? Didn’t the Jesus of Wheat warn you about this place?”

It also had, true to the billing, the World’s Largest prairie Dog, which is neither a prairie dog nor particularly large. It’s a big fiberglass sculpture of something that’s vaguely reminiscent of a prairie dog in overall body plan, though the artist seems to have missed some ingredient, some artistic flair that might have captured that spark, that fundamental essence of the Platonic ideal of prairie dogs, or for that matter even of mammals in general.

That’s Claire standing next to it, using the high albedo of her sweater as a partial defense against the blistering hot radiation of the uncaring sun bombarding us from above.

A bit dispirited and lighter of currency, we finally wandered back to the safety and relative sanity of the car, each of us bearing the psychic scars of the time served in that place.

Fortunately, the most amazing thing the eight-year-old within me has ever seen was in our near future. Unfortunately, the time was now close where we would lose one of our numbers to the Guatemalans. But both of those stories will have to wait.

Don’t Stop the Sandman

So, let’s say you were a fan of 80s music. And let’s say you weren’t terribly particular about which 80s music you liked; if it was recorded in the 80s, it’s all good.

And let’s further propose that you’re a fan of Metallica’s particular brand of pop-mental, too, while we’re at it.

Well, then, if this is you, rejoice! Your ship has arrived!

This video is a mashup of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” set to the music of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” And that combination fits surprisingly well, for some value of “well” that means “for the love of God, make it stop! My ears are bleeding!”

World news: NASA Sensors Detect Barking Moonbats

Yesterday, NASA’s LCROSS mission impacted the moon at high speed.

The purpose of the mission was to create a large plume of dust from impacting the bottom of a deep cater near the moon’s south pole so that the plume could be analyzed for signs of water ice. In that particular respect, it went swimmingly, no pun intended.

However, the mission also revealed something totally unexpected–a treasure trove of barking moonbats here on planet earth. The moonbats have set up a Web site in which they claim the LCROSS mission is a part of a conspiracy by a “powerful syndicate of military-industrial criminals” that was “inspired by fanatical terrorist airline hijackers” to bomb the moon. From the Web site:

Of course, there is much more behind this attack than casual scientific curiosity on whether or not there is water on the Moon. First of all, since the long-range accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles has never been proven to work, the LCROSS suicide mission serves as a live-fire test exercise for US war strategists with an interest in the precision of orbiting satellite weapons—in other words, the southern hemisphere of the Moon will be turned into a firing range, making this mission one giant leap for the global reach of space warfare. Secondly, LCROSS has been promoted as “the vanguard” for the US military-industrial-entertainment complex’s return to the Moon—according to NASA, finding water is a necessary first step for “building a long-term and sustainable human presence” there. Historically, the purpose of exploration has always been the exploitation of resources and the colonization of territory without regard for ecosystems or indigenous peoples, and clearly the Moon is the next territory coveted by imperialists.

This so-called “NASA experiment” is a hostile act of aggression and a violent intrusion upon our closest and dearest celestial neighbor. Does any love song or poem or fairy tale worth its salt not mention the Moon? Who can take a walk in the Moonlight with a lover and not feel the romance to your very soul? At night, when the Moon rules, we sleep, and we can visit the Moon in our sleep with ease. The Moon is our night light, our blanket, our grandmother, our mother—it is woman, child, domestic life, tides, bodies of water, liquids, circulation, comfort, nurturing, paintings by Remedios Varo, stories by Jules Verne, and so much more.

It’s not entirely clear to me that the authors of this Web site understand what the word “ecosystem” means or why the moon doesn’t have one, but I’m particularly curious about who, exactly, the indigenous peoples in question are.

On the bright side, at least they’re not trying to deny that we ever landed on the moon at all…

High Weirdness of the Week: Lawson’s Vaginal Washer

From the depths of Victorian sexual prudery comes this device, the Lawson’s Vaginal Washer, designed to clean the inside of one’s vagina by means of a perforated water-spraying tube surrounded by–and I shudder to say this–rotating squeegee scrapers.

I can think of about a dozen uses for this in a BDSM context right off the top of my head. Just over half of them involve joreth. That brings two questions to mind:

1. Anyone know some person in the Portland/Seattle area with the necessary craft skills to build one of these?

and

2. Hey joreth, when are you coming to visit?

Fun Historical Facts #107: Abraham Lincoln and Han Solo

Not many folks know this, but at the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was cloned.

The clone was genetically modified to gigantic proportions, then immediately frozen in Carbonite. Once his life signs were stable, the gigantic clone of Abraham Lincoln was transported to Laramie, Wyoming, where he would remain in storage until the zombie apocalypse.

When that day comes, Lincoln will be free of his Carbonite shell, ready to offer his leadership to save the Union once again. Folks around these parts sleep easier knowing that Lincoln stands ever ready, prepared once more to save us all.

Strange things this morning

So David and I walked down to the car this morning to head in to the office, and David noticed a folded scrap of paper tucked in the window.

Now, my first thought when there’s a note stuck to my car is always “Oh, no, someone ran into my car in the parking lot.” I don’t know why that’s my first thought, since to date I’ve found a grand total of three notes on my car in my entire life and not one of them was about an accident, but there it is.

Anyway, this note was not, in fact, about someone ramming me in the parking lot. Or maybe it was; it’s hard to tell:

Though honestly, I think it’s more likely that it was aimed at David than at me.

I can’t give you any rational reason for it, but I have a feeling that this note was more likely written by a man than a woman. I could be wrong, but it feels that way…

This, apparently, has been an ongoing issue with David, as well–he tends to get hit on by a lot of guys. I might be being unreasonably modest in assuming that the note’s intended for him but not me, though in all honesty I have to say he’s most likely the “hot” one: