For the past three seasons, we’ve been engaged in a knock-down drag-out battle for Google rank with the Flying Cloud Farm in Petaluma and the Wikipedia entry for the well-known clipper ship. Usually, The Flying Cloud Farm has claimed the top spot. We can hardly begrudge them this, for they’re a commercial operation, with bills to pay and profits to earn, and by all accounts, they’re also a fine place to visit – I recommend them to any of you who might pass through Sonoma County. At other times, Donald MaKay’s masterpiece has taken the lead. This too, is something we must approve of, for the ship was a legend in her time – fast, beautiful, and she always got her people home. But there are moments when ranch resorts and clipper ships give way to our favorite airship crew. One of these occurred last week. I’ve attached a screen shot as record of the occasion. And I’d like to thank all you readers and supporters for making this possible. The Royal Navy Airship Service owes you a debt of gratitude!
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
This business with the Office of the UK Secretary of Defense turns out to be stranger than I thought. Esquire found several links, shown below, that shed interesting light on the affair. It appears that red, white, and blue roundels have been a popular fashion accessory in England for quite some time (remember the Mods, the 1960s, and the Who?). Recognizing this, the Office has been making what can only described as an extremely belated attempt to prevent clothing stores from using this emblem. Their website suggests this is intended to protect the dignity of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, but one of their spokesman rather gave the game away when she ‘admitted the MoD was also interested in the commercial potential of owning the trademark.’
There two ironies to this situation. First, the RAF doesn’t even use that insignia. It was retired sometime before WW-II in favor of one with red, white, blue, and yellow circles, but apparently England’s classical education system no longer includes that bit about Aesop, dogs, and mangers. Second, the RAF quite clearly lost this one. In a landmark legal decision back in 2004, the UK Patent Office said, in effect, “Sorry chaps, but Pete Townsend and his lads beat you to it. You can’t claim trademark protection for that ‘target device’ when it’s used on clothing.” Then, to drive the point home, the judge ordered them to pay the majority of the court costs. The decision is worth reading. Beneath all the dry legal wording, one cannot help but suspect the magistrate was struggling not to laugh, particularly in clauses 71 and 72.
This hasn’t stopped the Office from fighting a futile rear-guard action in defense of other consumer goods. As of 2009, they were trying to prevent the Next department store chain from selling boy’s bedspreads marked with those threatening WW-I roundels. Wow! Judging from the commentary this produced, I suspect the attempt has caused far more damage to the ‘dignity of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces’ than commercial sales of some a retired military insignia ever could. (“Never have so many laughed so hard at so few,” etc.)
Why, then, did they come after our t-shirts when the UK legal system had already decided against them? It’s possible they felt the UK decision might not apply in the US, but a more likely explanation is official harassment. There might well be some hapless underclerk whose job it is to search the Internet for sellers like Zazzle, who can be counted on to a) not know about the decision in question and b) be unwilling to fight back, and jump all over them. After spending quite some time at an organization that has forgotten more about bureaucracy than the Office of the UK Secretary of Defense will ever know, and also flew much faster aircraft (Panavia Tornado: Mach 2.2. Space Shuttle: Mach 23. Neener neener neener), I’m not too terribly curious about the matter. But I cannot help but wonder how they find… ahem… ‘targets’ for their ill-fated crusade. Do they pay staff to search millions of Web sites by hand? Do they have a Roundel Watch program for anonymous informers? Or do they have some pattern recognition software — which can’t be very well-written if it confuses grey insignia with red, white, and blue ones — that searches the Web for… drum roll please… illicit circles?
On March 28, 2012… a day that will live in incredulity… the Office of the UK Secretary of State for Defense contacted Zazzle and ordered them to remove merchandise from the Flying Cloud Store because it ‘references the Royal Air Force’. Apparently they objected to the tiny WW-I roundels on the airships. This objection even extended to the design shown above. (At least I believe this was one of the images in question. I don’t want to claim absolute certainty lest I risk some accusation of libel by an organization armed with nuclear weapons!) I leave it to you to decide the extent to which this particular graphic ‘references the Royal Air Force’, but it’s difficult to escape the impression that some low-ranking servant of the Crown has too much time on his hands
This rather disappointing behavior by an organization for which I retain considerable admiration and respect raises several questions.
1) What about the millions of other products in the world that ‘reference the Royal Air Force’, such as photo albums, air show t-shirts, warbird calendars, plastic models, computer games, and the like? What about Microsoft Flight Simulator? What about the estate of Charles Shultz? Why don’t they go after those? It’s difficult to imagine a more direct commercial reference to the RAF than Snoopy and the Red Baron. Surely we can expect a bit more consistency from a nation that prides itself as one of the birthplaces of reason! Unless… dare I say it… they lack the courage to attempt targets of that magnitude and must content themselves with smaller fry such as myself.
2) Does the Office of the UK Secretary of State for Defense actually have some junior civil servant whose job it is to search vendors like Zazzle to eliminate the dire threat to the Crown posed by amateur graphics that could, by some distant stretch of the imagination, be taken to reflect unfavorably on Her Majesty’s armed forces? That would be way cool! I want a job like that!
3) Will they go after The Flying Cloud itself? Will my ISP receive an email to the effect that they must shut down the adventures of Captain Everett and his crew or they can expect an air strike as soon as the relevant ministry can work this into the budget?
I’m not particularly worried about the Zazzle items because they weren’t exactly major sellers, but this latter question is a matter of some concern. Since my own air assets are limited to a hang glider, a paraglider, and a sling, I may not be in a position to stand up to a major airborne assault, or even an over-ambitious barrister. This suggests that some preemptive publicity might be in order. If you’re concerned about the possible threat to our favorite airship crew, spread the word, let other people know about this site, and help build support for the side of truth, justice, light, airships, adventure, gallant gentlemen, and sultry island maidens!
We’ve all had the experience. You hit a key, click the mouse, and your computer hangs. You reboot, minutes pass, and you get, not one of the Good Blue Screens of Death (“Your computer may have been shut down improperly. Notice how this message evades the question of who might be responsible for this situation.”) but one of the Evil ones (“Obscure hex code 65A78CDEx. The next few days of your life are not going to be filled with joy.”)
Several minutes of fiddling with the BIOS screen sufficed to determine that the system was well and truly dead dooby dead dead dead. A disk crash seemed the most likely cause. The years have taught me to be obsessive about backups, so I’d only lost an hour or two of work, but it was still annoying. Relieved that matters hadn’t been worse, I headed off to Fry’s, picked up a new drive, and returned home to swap it in.
The system wouldn’t recognize the new disk. Indeed, experiments with another old drive I found sitting in a closet showed that the computer couldn’t recognize any hard disks at all. This was ambiguous news. On the one hand, it suggested that something on the motherboard had died. This was Bad. On the other hand, it meant that my old disk, my old OS, and all my work might still be intact. This was Good.
Back to Fry’s I went to pick up an SATA docking station. A bit of fiddling with USB cables and my old laptop sufficed to demonstrate that the old drive was quite readable. The word, “Whew!” leaps to mind. And it did. Still, this left me with something of a logic puzzle. I had three computers: a dead PC, a dying laptop, and the new laptop without any software that I’d bought to replace it. I also had three disks: my old one, my new one, and a spare I’d found sitting in my box of software. The canoe can only carry one computer and one disk at a time. If the computers on one bank of the river outnumber the disks, they’ll eat them. How can you get all the computers and all the disks across the river without… oops… wait… sorry… that’s an entirely different logic puzzle
It was clearly time for a new PC. This was not too terrible a tragedy, for I’d already budgeted money to replace the antique that had just died. Off I went to Fry’s again. Home I came with a box of microelectronics. I opened the chassis, swapped in my old drive, pushed the on button… and discovered that new 64-bit system wouldn’t run my old copy of Windows XP.
Aargh! Well, heck, what could be more fun than switching to a new OS and spending days reinstalling all my old software? What besides root canal work, brussels sprouts, or waiting in line at the DMV?
By now, three weeks later, things are almost back to normal. And all of my old software seems to run under the Dark Lord of Redmond’s latest whimsy except for some obsolete utilities, a symbolic math package I rarely use… and the venerable copy of Corel Photopaint 8 I use to generate graphics for the Flying Cloud. I suppose it would be too much to expect a 13-year application to run on a modern OS, but this has left me with a bit of a poser. The options seem to be: 1) pick up a copy of Corel Photopaint 9, which is alleged to run under 64-bit Windows 7, and hope for the best, 2) move to Corel’s bloated and unusable modern substitute, or 3) get some for-real art software.
We’re open for suggestions here. All you for-real artists out there: what are you using?
A friend forwarded this one to me yesterday. Apparently it’s all over the Web, on so many different sites that I’ve found it quite impossible to track down the original author. Appalling, isn’t it? And darn it, why didn’t I think of it first?
In the aftermath of the Manatee disaster, the decision was made to fill all future aquatic mammals with helium. Which is why dolphins talk in such high squeaky voices…
Happy New Year to you all! And I hope the year 2010 is off to a good start. It seems fine so far. But I can’t help but notice that we’re well into the 21st century and we still don’t have any Flying Cars.
In the absence of suitable opportunities for aviation in our world in this new decade, I’ve been working on Captain Everett’s world in 1926. This has involved any number of small but necessary site upgrades, revisions to the database… and installing the Forum.
This last took a bit of work. Indeed, I cannot but wonder if those ancient Romans ever have similar problems with the original forum in Rome. Did Julius Caeser ever come walking down the Via Sacra to find a big ‘Error 404: Locus Not Found’ sign in front of the place, or to discover it filled with spam (from the Latin, spamus)? But it’s almost ready to go. And with or without a forum, Season Two is scheduled to begin…
…Monday! (Perhaps even Sunday if I post it a day early.)
Everybody seems to want a copy of the spear from Episode 7. That makes sense to me; there are times when I could have used one too. So because you’ve all asked, and because it could be fun, there is now a Flying Cloud Store on Zazzle. Like the story itself, this will grow and change in response to reader’s suggestions, so if there’s a graphic or item you’d like to see, let me know!