Releasing my Inner Rust Monster

It’s no secret Ziggy’s book is based off a DnD campaign that I ran many years ago, but due to the miracle of Intellectual Property law, I’ll probably have to obfuscate that in the book. The problem is identifying the legal lines in this situation;  it’s unclear what I am and am not allowed to use.

Let’s take the lowly Rust Monster in my book, Rusty. Wizards of the Coast does not appear to own a trademark on the term Rust Monster, however Gary Gygax did invent the creature for the first edition of DnD. So, can I use the term Rust Monster, or the general concept of a giant cockroach that rusts metal and eats it? IP Law breaks down into three categories:

  • Is there a Trademark?
  • Is there a Patent?
  • Is there a Copyright?

For me to be in the clear to use the term rust monster, I need to check and see if WotC has any actual legal claim over it. If they do, I need to get permission from them (of which they will ignore or demand entirely too much money to use), or change the creature in my book so it does not infringe of their IP.


After a quick lookup on http://tess2.uspto.gov/, there does not appear to be a trademark filed of any sort relating to rust monsters. Since they have not registered it, nor does google reveal any indication of intention to trademark, I may be in the clear here.


Reading up on patents, I don’t think the concept of a monster qualify as Patentable Subject Matter under Section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C.:

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

Since it doesn’t meet one of the base requirements, I don’t think monsters in general are patent-protected.


Copyright is where it gets tricky. Micky Mouse is an IP megastar- his name is Trademarked, and his likeness is copyrighted. Now, presuming the rules are the same for everyone, there’s not much difference between a dancing mouse that wears pants  and a metal eating cockroach. From the copyright.gov site:

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar sym­bols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamen­tation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

So, the idea of a metal eating cockroach is not copyrighted (nor is the phrase “rust monster”), however the description, explanation and illustrations are protected. So as long as I don’t use their verbatim descriptions or illustrations, I should be safe.

So am I Safe?

Who the hell knows? I probably need to consult a lawyer to make sure I’m covered. It’d be really nice if WoTC would give me cart blanche on these critters, but I’m not gonna hold my breath on it. Their website is focused more on authors who wish to publish through them and write stories for their worlds. Short of a few critters and some generic spells, my world has no overlap with Greyhawk, Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms.

In Conclusion

It’s crap that I have to even think about this. The sad part is Rusty was probably the simplest example, and there are hundreds in my book that are close to the same case. It would probably cost a small fortune in legal fees to have my book vetted, and even then it may not be a guarantee that I’m in the clear. Also, if there are any lawyers out there interested in some pro-bono work, I would gladly accept it.

IP Sucks.

Mockups and Tools

IRC can be an excellent source of information, especially on the right networks, but every once in a while you have a conversation that is so disappointing you have to share it.

22:15 < morgajel> I'm using mockito to mock up a Dao, but I've run into an issue: What is the proper way to mock up chained getters, i.e. sessionFactory.getCurrentSession().createCriteria(Account.class).list()? a mock with a mock with a mock is considered bad form, so I'm not really sure how I *should* handle this.
22:15 <@toolA> Stop using mocks?
22:15 <@toolA> They are damned pointless anyways
22:16 <@toolA> Use somthing like Junit or spring-db tests, setup a whole cycle with a in memory db, then run that against your queries.
22:16 <@toolB> ~mock toolA
22:16 * javabot points at toolA and laughs
22:17 < morgajel> toolA... really? that's the advice you're gonna give me? "Don't use mocks when unit testing?"
22:17 <@toolB> yeah. i prefer that route over mocks, personally, even though it means testing takes slightly longer.

He continued to rant against mocks and declare them useless. A couple of things disappointed me about this:

  1. I asked a well formed, non-inflammatory question, and the response was to completely ignore the question and say what I was doing was worthless, despite being a well accepted development practice.
  2. Not only did one oper state that mocks were useless, but another one didn’t disagree with his blanket statement. While they *may* have a point that mock objects do not cover everything, to call them useless is unreal, especially in a programming channel.
  3. Rather than say “I don’t use mocks” and let someone who could answer my question respond, the conversation was then dominated by a diatribe about all of the faults with mocks.
  4. The thing I took away from this was “don’t bother asking questions in this channel because people who don’t use the tech you’re asking about will pipe up and shoot you down regardless of how nicely you ask.”

It’d be one thing if I were off topic, or it was not a programming channel, but damnit I expected better. So I don’t think I’ll be going back there anymore.

(And no, the irony isn’t lost on me.)

AT&T still sucks 9 months after cancelling.

So I got a call from a company called West Asset Management the other day- they’re a collection company. AT&T apparently sent us to collections.

WHY, you ask? Because we had the audacity to cancel their service.

Let me take you back to the beginning:

– Had AT&T Phone + DSL at apartment
– Moved to House
– AT&T botched the DSL install, then canceled my contract and told me I had to sign a new one if I wanted DSL or pay 50% more for the monthly program.
– I told them that was unacceptable- gimme monthly because I’ll have a new DSL provider by the end of the month.
– Got cyberonic DSL a month later, spent three months working with them to figure out why the line sucked- the actual AT&T line was damaged, and AT&T refused to acknowledge it. NO DSL provider would ever work at this address.
– Canceled Cyberonic AND the phone line and went to cable.
– In September AT&T sends us a bill for $260 something dollars. turns out they were charging us DSL when we couldn’t have possibly been getting service for them (you can only have one DSL provider on the line at a time, nimrods).
– We pay the amount owed for phone ($57.31) and are told the other $210 will be credited to our account since we never received service.
– In November we get a dirty letter from them telling us we owe $210. We call them, the assure us it will be taken care of in the next billing cycle.
– In December, we get a dirty letter with threat of collection agency if we don’t pay. Jackie calls, they say everything is good and to call back on the 16th to make sure everything is good.
– She calls back on Dec. 16th and they say that everything is in process and good to go.

So we thought it was done, right? Wrong. The asshats sent us to collections. So I gathered up all my paperwork I could find and faxed it to the collection agency (who have so far been cool, other than calling me twice before their actual letter showed up). Hopefully they’ll side with me and I can be done with this stupidity.

Now for the fun part. Jackie and I have spent way too much time defending ourselves from AT&T’s attempted fraud and libel. As of December we had let the matter go, but now that we’re wasting time with an actual collection agency, I’m pissed. Once the collection agency sides with us, I will be sending AT&T an invoice. At our current consulting rates that equates out to about $330, minimum. Not only will I send them an invoice, but I will also complain to the Michigan Attorney General, Better Business Bureau, and Michigan Regulatory Commission.

Why will I pursue this? Because this is Fraud by Statistics. If you leverage these kind of bogus charges against 1% of your customer base, they won’t make enough noise to matter, and most of them won’t have the time or inclination to call them out on their abusive behavior. They’ll just roll over and take it.

To hell with that. They wanna start shit? Fine, BRING IT.

Church of England apologizes to Darwin, booyah.

This is excellent, yet disappointing at the same time- both the Pope and now The Church of England have come forward and said “mah bad, Darwin was right, sorry about oppressing science… again…”

The depressing part is while all of the old-world christian religions are coming to terms with evolution, those in the US are still desperately fighting reality. I’m wondering what it’s gonna take for people to accept it. It’s like there’s just enough unverified data and blatant mistruths out there to convince people who’ll deny the enormous mountain of data that disagrees. Argh I find this so frustrating! the worst part was I had to follow up and make sure this wasn’t an Onion story.

And the fact this BS is gonna enter into a presidential race? For frack’s sake, if someone ran for president insisting the earth was flat, what chance would they have, seriously? Is this really that much different?

Stupid People Wasting My Time

ok, this has been gnawing at me for the last few weeks. As I get older I become a lot less patient with people who waste my time on stupid things. I try not to get involved with religious or political debates mainly because they always seem to lead to hurt feelings and me putting someone on a life-long banlist.


I’m getting *really* pissed at the anti-science bullshit that’s going on. I’ve made the unfortunate mistake of reading Bad Astronomy and Angry Astronomer as of late. It’s straight up madness. This shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century. What am I talking about? Well, let’s see here:

  • People pushing creationism in science classes who can’t comprehend that creationism IS NOT SCIENCE BECAUSE IT HAS NO TESTABLE HYPOTHESIS AND CANNOT BE FALSIFIABLE. JUST SHUT UP. Come back when you have a real theory. I fear the day my son is dragged through a high-school level class where this vomit is spewed under the guise of ‘teaching alternative theories’. It’s not a goddamn theory. Stop it.
  • People who claim evolution is false because it doesn’t cover what happened before the big bang or how life was started. News flash- SEPARATE THEORIES. Evolution makes no claim about that sorta thing.
  • People who claim evolution shouldn’t be taught because it’s ‘just a theory’. Yes, much like gravity, atomic theory, game theory, string theory, etc. are all theories as well, should we not teach them? Either way…You FAIL.
  • People who claim a banana is proof of intelligent design, while turning a blind eye to coconuts, poisonous berries, pineapple and of course the Durian. These are all either delicious or will kill you. Does that seem like a good idea? Ever see the delicious red berries of Belladonna, aka Deadly Nightshade? You FAIL.
  • People who think the world is flat- seriously, there are people who think the world is fucking flat. It boggles the mind. This has to be some sort of sick joke- are we really still this backwards?
  • In no particular order- people who deny global warming because winters are getting nastier, people who deny gravity is strong enough to cause stellar formation without having ANY science to back it up, people who think “controversy” should be taught in science by allowing bullshit into the classroom, people with political agendas who claim to know more about science than the experts in the field, people against stem cell research, People who buy into crop circles despite the original perpetrators admitting they did it for 15 years, etc

Before you try and argue this shit with me, go read The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. It’s very readable, if not slightly depressing.

I’ve had some great science teachers in my life – my father and Mr. Mac being at the top of the list. I remember watching Nova and Newton’s Apple when I was a kid, specifically an experiment where they created a tornado in a box. I remember thinking how cool that was. I never forgot that clip, and whenever I think of science, it reminds me of that fuzzy memory from the early-to-mid 80’s. I can only hope I can inspire that interest in science for Ian as he grows up.

Now, I’m all for imagination and testing new hypothesis, but you DAMN sure better have some heavy science behind you before making that claim. It’s absolutely unreal that this shit is still going on. They’re not attacking just the ideas or the theories- I’d be fine if it was just that.

  • Got an alternate theory for String theory? Go for it.
  • More accurate equation to calculate gravitational forces? FINE.

Show me the math and wow me. More importantly, wow the people who are experts in the field. I’d love to see someone put out a theory that makes Hawkings say (in a robotic accent) “holy shit, why didn’t I think of that.” Just don’t attack science itself. Don’t attack Scientific Theory, the method for understanding our world. Don’t crap on how we try to understand our world unless you have a better way, and throwing your hands up in the air and saying “God did it!” doesn’t count. It doesn’t even come close.

At one time people thought a flaming chariot dragged the sun across the sky – seems silly now, doesn’t it. At one time, they thought the sun rotated around the earth – crazy talk now, huh? Hell, people even used to think the world is flat, but we know better…Oh right, we still don’t.

If you disagree with this rant in part or in whole, read the Sagan book, and follow the astronomy bloggers I mentioned above. Pay attention for one month. Then we’ll talk.

I also missed the AntiVaxxers– that group of wonderful people who pin an epic woe on a vaccine and encourage people not to get it. Thanks to this, there are people dying and suffering from easily treatable diseases, like polio- POLIO for crying out loud. Hey- the 1950’s called, they say they want their eradicated epidemic back.

What’s blue and white and still not working?

My internet connection.

SO here’s the scoop

5 days until cutover:
I call AT&T, tell them I’m moving and need to transfer my Static IP DSL service on the 30th(Monday). Tech says no problem it’s all set. I am pleasantly surprised at how little of a hassle it was and that it was way smoother than any other interaction I’ve had with them.

Saturday, 2 days until cutover:
We’re planning on doing the actual moving Sunday morning and plan to spend Saturday packing and planning. However at 3am Saturday morning, the internet connection drops, leaving me unable to contact many of the people who may be able to help us move. It sucks, but ok, we can work around it. I still have enough people to get by with and have ways to contact most of them. Since we asked to be connected on Monday, maybe they had to disconnect the old line the day before in order to get their stuff in place. Maybe they cut it on Saturday rather than Sunday because nobody works on Sunday. I get that, I can understand it. While annoying, it’s still better than my previous interactions with them.

Sunday,move day, day before cutover:
We move on Sunday and realize that we never actually checked to see if the house had any phone cables in it. It didn’t. Fortunately my father-in-law knows a bit about phone installation and was able to help me wire up a stub for the AT&T guy to connect to.

Monday, 1 day after move:
AT&T shows up, runs cable, says service will be enabled withing X hours. yippie.

Tuesday, 2 days after move:
Connection is there, but my ip address has changed. “crap,” I think, “now I gotta update dns entries for our sites.” But I can understand this, perhaps my old static ip was tied to the network near my old apartment and didn’t reach this area. I can buy that. So I change my DNS entries… and they don’t work. I look again and I apparently mistyped the IP because the new DNS entry doesn’t match the external IP on the router. So I change it again. and 20 minutes later the external IP has changed again.

They had me on a fricking dynamic IP. For the non techies out there, large ISPs only have a limited number of ip addresses, and more often than not don’t have one for every customer. Since few customers stay online 100% of the time, they can take addresses away from people not using them and redistribute them as needed. This is called a Dynamic IP account. For people who run servers from their homes, keeping the same IP is important, so when your computer goes to connect to morgajel.com, it needs to be able to find the right IP address. That’s why I pay extra for AT&T to guarantee me the same IP address. That is why I am pissed. While there are ways to get around this (dyndns) but they’re a pain in the ass an not an option for me since I run an IRC server as well.

So I tinker around, thinking maybe *I* did something wrong- maybe my router was reset and it cleared the static info. I dig around with Jackie’s help and find the original documentation and try to set up the networking listed manually. No dice. Then I remember that yes, they did manage the info via the PPOE settings, and that just required a user name and password, which is what I was originally using. I switch it back and get yet another dynamic IP. I should point out that my static IP range was 75.x.x.x, while the dynamic stayed in the 66.x.x.x range- this made it easy to keep track of what was going on.

So I call them up and surprise surprise, they screwed up. See, they don’t really transfer accounts so much as shut off the old one and create a new one. The tech didn’t bother to notice I had a static account and replaced it with a dynamic account. I’m livid at this point, and tell them that it needs to be switched back. “Ok, I’ll put in the order. It’ll be ready in 10 days.” Now, this should NOT take 10 days from a technical point of view, this is all red tape causing the delay. But WTF can I do, so I say hell with it and go along with it.

At some point my father-in-law comes back over to help with the baby gate and notes that the technician illegally ran the line through the neighbor’s yard. While I’m half tempted to yell at them to fix it, I just wanna get a connection up and running again so I can actually write about the house.

Saturday, 5 days after cutover (timeline gets a little fuzzy here)
Connection is still flaky, but generally working. I call to check on the status of the static IP order, and find out it was never placed. They’ll get right on that.

Sunday, 6 days after cutover
Connection goes down at 7:37am. Completely. It does not come back. Jackie calls tech support this time. Flames, brimstone cries of the undead ensue. Eventually I take the phone and find out there’s still no mention of a static order of any sort for our account. Guess what? They can’t do anything about it because “orders” isn’t open on weekends. They agree to send out a tech to look at the line since they can’t see the modem from their end. He should be out between 8am and noon on monday

Monday, 7 days after cutover:
Connection begins working again around 7am- I think to myself “great, maybe they just took it down to switch over to the static IP- finally I can get my stuff up.” Nope, still a dynamic IP address. I call AT&T to get the static IP address set up and let them know the connection is up. They say hold off until the technician confirms it’s not an issue. ok. I’ll call back later. I spend my time waiting for the technician looking for any other ISPs in the area on dslreports.com

Technician comes out, nice guy, doesn’t see anything wrong, says he’s seen this behavior before when switching from dynamic to static, but the business won’t fess up to it. Whatever. At least the wiring was good, presuming that both the installer and the inspecting tech were both competent. While he was tooling around, I found out that Cyberonic, my ISP from DC, covers this area (they didn’t in grand rapids or rochester hills). They resell business class Covad lines to residential customers. I contemplate switching over to them, but figure it would be too much effort since I’ve gotten this far. I’m not even sure they’d have a decent plan in this area.

So he leaves and I call AT&T back and get the static all set up. She also said the static IP would be in place tomorrow. Just as we’re finishing she informs me that since I don’t have a contract, my payment will go up to $70 a month from $55. “WTF, this isn’t my screwup- you guys said you could transfer service, then you pooch it, then you want to charge me for it??”

“Oh, no,” she says, “When we transfer service, we don’t transfer contracts. If you want the original rate, you’ll have to sign up for another year of service.”

This is where Jesse snaps.

“You know what? Fine, make it the month to month price, because it’ll take me about 3 weeks to get covad in here.” She was a bit shocked by that statement, and the conversation ended awkwardly. I think she was supposed to ask if I was please with my experience but she knew the answer.

I then spent 10 minutes looking through DSL reports for ISPs in the area and narrowing down their plans- turns out that Cyberonic offers the same plan I had in DC for $60. Lets compare the plans side by side:

AT&T Cyberonic
Download speed 3meg 6meg
Upload speed 386k 768k
IP address 5 static 5 static
Stability False True
Cost $55/mo $60/mo

I call up cyberonic, phone is picked up on the 3rd ring. I tell the technician that I’m interested in their plan, I get signed up, cc infos taken, etc. The entire call lasted 22 minutes and 28 seconds. I was never transferred once, my call was never dropped, the technician never once said “I don’t know,” and they were going to do a hotswap on the line and cancel the AT&T DSL for us since we obviously can’t have 2 DSL services on the same line. The transfer should take place in the next 7-14 business days.

I’d like to point out that AT&T still hasn’t got their act together as of this morning (Thursday), and dropped my connection while I was beginning a deployment for work. That was real awesome btw. Thankfully my neighbor is allowing us to use his wireless connection until we get it straightened out. If the issues aren’t resolved by switching to cyberonic, I’ll have the neighbor report the cable crossing his yard and they’ll have to come out and redo it (this is my backup plan).

The good news is we’ve moved our blogs to gopedro.net. I’m still in the process of converting them, but expect to be done by next Monday. The only site that will still point to my static IP is morgajel.com, for my streaming music, IRC server, etc. We’ve also decided to move all of our pictures to flickr, so expect to see broken images for a while.

I really want to thank gopedro.net for in all of this. I highly recommend them for any domain name purchases or hosting. They’ve been handling our domain names for years now, and their service is outstanding. I’d also like to thank our new neighbor Bobby for being one hell of a cool guy.

I’ll keep you updated on how things go. Hopefully I’ll start writing about the house soon.

*UPDATE 2008-07-14*
Cybronic called and told me they’d be sending a technician out tomorrow to verify the lines. Hopefully I should have a working connection soon.

*UPDATE 2008-07-16*
My bad, it was wednesday. Connection is up now and I’m back online with a static IP!

We hates them, yess prescious, stupid fat banks….

So jackie and I put in an offer on a house march 19th. The sellers agreed on… lets say the 25th of march. So we should have a house, right? Not so fast. Our offer was less than what was owed on the mortgage, so they had to get THEIR bank to approve the short sale. One delay after another. Every 1-7 days they give us another excuse. I’m getting really pissed at this point and needed to vent. 3 damn months to decide whether or not to take the money we’re trying to offer them.

Shutup Shutup Shutup!

die you wretched pc speaker beep that is so loud when I use the find bar in firefox or tab complete in the cli and nothing is found!

  rmmod pcspkr
  echo blacklist pcspkr >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist

aaah, glorious silence.

AT&T disappoints yet again.

So my father in law has been going on for years about how great Ameritech/ SBC/ AT&T’s new broadband service is gonna be once it was activated. I personally like the idea of having fiber to the curb, so I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

A few months back they sent a rep out to let us know they were offering ‘U-verse’ in our area. I wasn’t home at the time, so Jackie got information and said I’d get back to them. I didn’t bother since we’re looking for a house. I figure I can look them up after we find a house.

Well, they came back Wednesday. They had already been by when I got home, and Jackie told them to come back later. I hadn’t been in the door more than 20 minutes when they knocked again. I then listened to them go through their spiel about how they were going to save me money by charging me more per month than I was paying already. ($30 phone+ $30 DSL + $15 static IP < $59 TV + $30 fiber) I managed to get them to understand that I didn't want the TV or telephone service- just the internet connection. I also asked them one question that proved to be their undoing: "How much will a static IP cost?" I asked that question 10 minutes into the 2 hour conversation- most of the time was spent with the rep on hold with AT&T's customer support, who gave the following responses: * What's an IP? * What's a static IP? * You mean dynamic IP? * Yes, we have those, it's an extra $15/mo for DSL * We don't have those. * You can change the setting in your router so your computer has the same address. * We don't have those in Michigan. The first five we receive several times, the 6th I was told by one of their "technicians" who didn't get that I wanted the router's external ip to be static so I could host this site. Finally the rep called a friend of his who was a "technology director" and found out they didn't offer them in Michigan. I told them that was a dealbreaker and bid them farewell. Two hours later, they came back- apparently he called someone else and was told that U-verse does in fact have static IPs, and they're $15/mo. That would bring the total price to $45/mo (once I cancelled the TV portion), where as now I'm paying $45/mo + $30/mo for a phoneline I don't use. Quite a deal, right? Sign me up. He tells me that the form he has doesn't cover the static IP and I'll have to call in the morning to have them append that to my order. So the next day I call to have this set up- and guess what? After 3 hours standing outside talking and now 30 minutes on the phone, they decide they do not in fact have static IPs available for U-verse customers. I ask the phone lady to call the rep I talked to and figure out who's right. after another 5 minutes on hold, she says his source was mistaken, and he will correct whoever he talked to. So I cancel the service I just signed up for because it didn't provide the only feature I requested. I'm not sure what's more disappointing:

  • The fact that NO ONE seemed to know what a static IP was
  • The sales rep was given the run around just like us customers
  • They apparently don’t offer this very simple service
  • The fact that most of the support people couldn’t find this information
  • They charge $15/mo whereas Jasnet charged a one-time $15 fee
  • That the sales rep probably misled me to get the sale so he could get a comission
  • So, if anyone knows of an ISP in Madison Heights, MI that offers a static IP, decent upload speed, no blocked ports all at a decent price, please let me know.

stupid spammers

so I removed about 8 user accounts from this blog because I didn’t recognize the email address or the username. Apologies if any of those were valid.

Stupid spammers.

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