License to Mock

When it comes to the end of the world, some folks assume it’s going to be brought about by a group of mad scientists. Another theory is that lawyers will destroy it. The lawyers will almost certainly be involved, but it wouldn’t be fair to put the full blame on them either. No, the end of the world will be the responsibility of Apple Computers CEO Steve Jobs.

A few days ago I decided to make one of my rare online music purchases. Most of the music I acquire online is made available for free by independent artists such as Tom Smith or the various members of the Funny Music Project. Other music purchases tend to be actual CDs so I can play them wherever I want to. But sometimes I only want one or two songs, and that’s when I use iTunes.

It’s not that I’m particularly fond of iTunes, quite the opposite really. I don’t own an iPod and getting the songs to play in the car or on anything other than my PC involves jumping through a number of hoops. (So far, Apple hasn’t taken me up on my quite generous offer to evaluate an iPhone.) But all the other online music stores also seem to be tied to a particular device and early on at least, Apple seemed to have the largest selection of songs. (Though they still don’t have The Beatles.)

It’s been a while since the last time I bought anything through iTunes and the version of the software on my computer is kind of dated. It plays the music just fine which is what I’m most concerned with, but to actually go and buy a song, Apple requires you to have the most recent version of the software.

So I downloaded the latest version of the iTunes software and set out to install it. Unsurprisingly, when you install the new version, you have to agree to the latest version of Apple’s software license agreement. This is a key element in Steve Jobs’ plans for destroying the world.

Apple makes it very easy for you to agree to their license terms. Or at least, they make it a heck of a lot easier to just click the “I accept the terms in the license agreement” than it is to actually read it. To keep you from being overwhelmed by its length, the license is “conveniently” displayed in a little window that’s less than two inches high and less than five inches wide. Only 12 lines of text are visible at a time and reading the license in its entirety requires you to hit the “Page Down” key a total of 35 times. They also don’t point out that when you accept the license, you agree to everything in there. Every last bit of it.


With a little effort I can imagine the sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that would allow iTunes to be used in controlling a nuclear reactor. Something where a rise in the reactor’s core temperature trips a heat sensor which activates the speaker attached to a PC running iTunes. The iTunes computer is playing Barry Manilow’s Mandy at top volume. This wakes the baby who starts crying and startles the squirrel which pulls the string attached to the switch that turns the reactor’s cooling system back on.

So that’s how you can use iTunes to control a nuclear reactor. Using iTunes in air traffic control, etc. is left as an exercise for the student. But here’s the thing, because you agreed to the iTunes license agreement, you’re not allowed to use it that way.

Hit the “Page Down” key another 15 times and under the “Export Control” heading, you’ll find another forbidden use for the iTunes software. Now you’re agreeing (this time without unneeded capitalization) that you won’t use iTunes for “…the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.” It seems to me that if you use the iTunes software to control a nuclear reactor, then whether you know it or not, you’ve already used iTunes to develop a nuclear weapon. (Suppose for example the squirrel chews through the string and isn’t around when baby starts crying? Or what if the baby’s taking a lunch break?)

By making the license agreement so lengthy and giving you such a small display to read it on, Apple pretty much assures that most people won’t read it. And if they don’t read the license, they won’t know that they’ve agreed to not use iTunes to control their nuclear reactors.

And that’s how Steve Jobs is going to destroy the world.

Gee, Thanks

Someone I thought was a friend sent me another of those stupid chain letters with the supposedly inspirational poems. Those things are annoying enough, but this was one of the threatening ones. Along with the inspirational stuff, the chain letter promises good fortune if you forward it to your friends. But if you don’t forward it, the letter goes on to say something bad will happen to you.

It’s not the first time someone’s sent me one of these, and it probably won’t be the last, but it does raises a question: If I’m a friend, why would you send me a threatening email? And if I’m not a friend, why are you sending me email in the first place?

What really bothers me though is the note he added at the beginning of the email. It says that he hates getting these emails too. Apparently he discarded it, but a few minutes later he nearly wrecked his car. Rather than take any chances, he decided to forward it to a group of friends.

So the outcome is that in his mind, he’s no longer in danger. I guess that means the rest of us are all in danger instead.

What a pal.

The Littlest Browncoat

I went to my parents’ house two weekends ago, partly to visit them, and partly to visit with my brother and his family who were also in town.
On Saturday, Mom and Dad took us to the local amusement park for the day. We were waiting for one of the rides when my sister-in-law drew my attention to the fact that without any prompting, my youngest niece had started singing. Then I noticed the tune, and then the words she was singing:

He stole from the rich and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to The Man and he gave him what for.

She was singing, The Hero of Canton! Just like her dad taught her.
So I did the only thing I could and joined in on the next verse.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, AJ decided to give the tumor a name and think of it as a malevolent entity, separate from herself. The name she eventually settled on was Priscilla, personified as an overly perky, evil cheerleader.

AJ had a CAT scan yesterday. The doctors have declared Priscilla dead. AJ is now officially cancer free.

Joy seems like a good word for describing my feelings.

Fender Bender

Wylie and Riley got into a fender bender on Thursday evening. The good news is that the damage was superficial and didn’t involve any cars. And unlike the incident between Wylie and the parked car several years ago, this one didn’t involve any rabbits either.
We were out for our evening walk and as you’ve likely noticed if you’ve ever taken a dog for a walk, most dogs aren’t very good at watching for oncoming vehicles. Particularly cars that might be turning into the road you’re about to cross. (The dogs who are good at looking for oncoming cars tend to find employment as guide dogs.) Fortunately, I’m pretty good at looking out for such things and when I saw the SUV signaling to turn, I stopped and pulled the leashes up short so the kids wouldn’t go out in front of it.
My experience has been that, even when they pull, dogs tend to walk slightly to the side of the leash. As a result, pulling the leash causes the dog to turn, whether he was planning to or not (Using the dog’s own inertia to steer him in a direction he didn’t intend to go is one of the keys to the ancient art of Dogjitsu). When I pulled up short, Riley was out in the lead and was the first to turn sideways so that he was blocking the sidewalk.
Wylie was lagging a little behind and his leash is a little longer than Riley’s; or, it could be that Riley himself is a little longer than Wylie. Either way, Wylie didn’t receive the “stop” signal at the same time and instead of gong sideways across the sidewalk, Wylie bumped into Riley. As a result of the collision, Wylie ended up with his left ear flipped up on top of his head. Instead of shaking his head to put everything back where it belonged, Wylie walked for the next 3/4 mile with his left ear flipped up, looking for all the world like he’d been dented and prominently displaying one of the gaping holes in his head.
Not to be outdone, during Friday morning’s walk, Riley stopped to scratch and afterward flipped one of his own ears up. He didn’t carry it that way for nearly as long as Wylie did, but you do have to give him credit for the attempt.


I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
            – Douglas Adams

I’ve run across this quote quite a number of times, and although it’s not always attributed to the same person, it does seem to most frequently find itself attributed to the late Douglas Adams and I’d very much like to believe that if it wasn’t original to him, then perhaps he was quoting someone else to whom it was original.

One of the stories told about Douglas Adams was that when Geoffrey Perkins first met him, he gave the impression that among other things, he was a man who was about to fall off a chair. The context doesn’t make it entirely clear why he was standing on the chair, but no doubt exists that in short order he did indeed fall off.

Part of the same story is that while he was writing the scripts for the original BBC Radio production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mr. Adams would frequently hand the actors their parts just minutes before they were due to go on the air.

I never met the man, but I may have some small idea of what his life was like. I’ve been hearing a lot of whooshing lately.

Update from Camp Barkalot

So far, Wylie and Riley are getting along great. Best of all, neither of them has got his head wet again — which is not to say there haven’t been a few close calls.
Walking two dogs at once continues to be an adventure. A couple years ago, Wylie and I encountered a woman who was walking two black labs. They saw Wylie across the street and she nearly fell as she tried to keep them from dragging her across the street. Fortunately, these two aren’t that coordinated in their efforts. So far, they haven’t even managed to walk on opposite sides of the same tree! (Back in April, they did that once.) Amazingly, I’ve also only had one or two incidents where they both dug in at the same time to sniff a tree. (Fortunately, I know dogjitsu and was able to overcome their inertia.)
Probably the best dog-walking story was Tuesday evening. Riley combined a side-step with an unexpected stop-and-sniff with the result that his leash came up against his back legs. Feeling his legs being pushed, he promptly sat down, thus pulling his own leash even tighter. The poor fellow couldn’t figure out how to stand up again until I extricated the leash.
Tomorrow, Terry is planning to teach the dogs how to make lanyards as an arts and crafts project. It’ll be interesting to see how that compares to today’s fingerpainting.

Interstate 270, Clopper Road and Elvis

Back in June, The Gazette carried a Letter to the Editor wondering why I-270 is being repaved but Clopper Road through Germantown is only getting a quick patch job. It’s a fair question; after all, Clopper Road really is in dire need of some new pavement.
To the uninitiated, the answer would appear to be that Interstate 270 is maintained with federal highway funds while Clopper Road falls under county maintenance. The two separate agencies simply don’t have any connection with one another. The deeper answer however involves both Elvis and the fact that Clopper Road is just too curvy.
As you may have heard, The Weekly World News this week ceased publication of its print edition. (The online version will remain, at least for now.) The Weekly World News (WWN) has long been one of the last bastions of investigative journalism, covering such under-reported topics as the reports that not only had Fidel Castro been hospitalized, but that his doctors were Space Aliens and that “Bat Boy” (a half-human, half-bat found living in a cave) had been recruited to help seek out the cave Osama bin Laden is living in.
The decision to cease publication was first made known to the federal government some six months ago, and that’s why this summer has seen a spate of interstate highway construction projects on the East Coast.
Part of the lore of the interstate highway system is that when it was first being laid out, one of the requirements was that a minimum of one out of every three miles had to be straight. That way, in time of war, the interstate highways could also be used as emergency runways for jet fighters. If you’ve ever seen the Space Shuttle return from a mission, then you already know that jet planes aren’t the only things that need long, smooth-surfaced runways.
With the termination of the WWN‘s print edition, the interstates are going to be put into service as the newspapers’ editorial staff leaves the planet to go to their new assignments. And that’s why Clopper Road isn’t being repaved – it’s too curvy to be used as a runway.
The road construction is certainly inconvenient, but there is some good news. At the same time that the WWN‘s staff is leaving, Elvis will at long last be making his comeback tour.
Crossposted to Germantown Info.

Return to Camp Barkalot

Riley has come back to visit for a few days. When I went to pick him up, MJ asked whether I needed food for him. I laughed and explained that during Riley’s last visit he and Wylie had just ended up eating each others’ food, so there probably wasn’t much point.
I don’t think MJ was completely convinced that I wasn’t pulling his leg. It certainly sounds funny enough to be a joke, but sometimes reality is funnier than anything I can dream up.
Less than two minutes after I brought him into the house, Riley was nose down in Wylie’s food dish and Wylie was busy giving me “The Look” because I hadn’t set up Riley’s dish yet. Sure enough, a few minutes later, Riley had cleaned out Wylie’s bowl and Wylie had cleaned out Riley’s.
After some initial running around barking and getting to know each other again, the two dogs are now quietly taking turns laying in front of one of the fans I’m using to supplement the air-conditioning. All is calm and Wylie and Riley are getting along just fine.
Hopefully they’ll be able to get though the next couple days without getting their heads wet again.

Post Office News We'll Never Hear

Somehow I doubt we’ll ever see anything like this on the evening news.

News Anchor: Good evening, I’m Greg Daniel and this is Evening News Tonight. Today’s big news story comes from Long Island, New York where physicists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory have stunned the international physics community by creating neutronium in their relativistic heavy collider. For breaking details, we take you to our On the Spot Witness News science reporter, Candace Barr. Candace?

Candace: Hello Greg. I’m standing outside the Brookhaven National Laboratory. With me this evening is Doctor Edith Von Secondberg. Doctor Secondberg, thank you for joining me this evening. Can you please explain to our audience what neutronium is?

Dr. Secondberg: Good evening Candace. Well, simply put, neutronium is the densest form of matter possible in our universe. It usually forms under circumstances of extreme gravity when a star collapses and all the electrons, protons and neutrons are forced together.

Candace: (laughing) But you didn’t collapse a star, did you?

Dr. Secondberg: (also laughing) No, no. What we did was to accelerate a collection of atoms to 20 percent of the speed of light and then cause them to smash into one another. This collision caused them to come together with a force similar to that in a collapsing star, allowing them to form the super dense material we call neutronium.

Candace: When you say this material is “super dense,” can you give us some idea what you mean?

Dr. Secondberg: Well, if you were to picture a block of steel a foot on each side, that would probably weigh several hundred pounds, right? Neutronium is so dense that a mere thimbleful would weigh more than Mount Everest.

Candace: A mountain! You didn’t use a mountain for your experiment, did you?

Dr. Secondberg: (laughing again) Oh no. All told the piece of neutronium we produced is only the size of a grain of sand. I doubt it weighs more than 20 or 30 tons.

Candace: I see. And where is the neutronium right now?

Dr. Secondberg: Oh, we shipped it out to California about half an hour ago so our colleagues at Berkeley can verify that we’ve created what we think we’ve created. You probably saw the truck leaving as your news crew was setting up.

Candace: No, we must have missed it. The only truck we’ve seen since we arrived was the mail truck.

Dr. Secondberg: No that was it all right.

Candace: (puzzled) A mail truck? But you said it weighed 20 or 30 tons. Wouldn’t that require some sort of special equipment to move?

Dr. Secondberg: Not at all. People think scientists have no concept of economy, and I suppose it’s true that some of our colleagues can be spendthrifts at times. But no, we just sent it out through the mail. All told, it cost less than $10.

Candace: How is that even possible?

Dr. Secondberg: Oh, it was easy. My lab assistant Carl had a flat-rate envelope that he’d picked up a few weeks ago. The post office will deliver anything you can fit into one those envelopes to any address in the US for a very reasonable rate, no matter how heavy it is. And this was only the size of a grain of sand.