Linux Journal Lost South Of Calais

I recently wrote a post about the words of the sea and included therein some of the words and phrases defined in the wonderful book A Sea Of Words .

I didn’t find one phrase in that dictionary, though I am sure it has been uttered countless times since the earliest days of the Royal Navy. Had it been included, the entry might have read as follows:

South Of Calais

As a ship cleared the English CHANNEL and found itself in the open sea, a MIDSHIPMAN would take aside a young LIMEY on his first voyage, perhaps while enjoying their daily ration of GROG. Glass in hand, he would confide, “We are South of Calais, where the wogs begin.”


Sad to day — to this day — such views can still be found, not only on ships, but in homes and the seats of power such as corporate boardrooms and publisher’s offices, as I was reminded by a recent post Linux Journal: How Not To Run A Business, in which Ms. Carla Schroder takes offense at an ad that appeared in Linux Journal this past August.

I’ve been a subscriber to LJ for a couple of years now, and while I had read that issue, I didn’t recall the ad that Ms. Schroder found so offensive. So a few days ago I went back and re-read the issue page by page. Though I don’t have my copy with me as I write this, I recalled it shows a picture of an attractive young woman with the text below along the lnes of, “You don’t want your server to go down, so ….” [2]

However, I was finally — after American Airlines delivered my tired body to Indianapolis several hours later than promised — able to read Ms. Schroder’s post and the links given therein, one of which reproduces the ad; see The more things change …. The exact wording, overlaid on top of an image of a presumably seductive face, is “Don’t feel bad. Our servers won’t go down on you either.” See also “Our servers won’t go down on you either.”.

My first reaction on seeing the ad was that it wasn’t that offensive, then I realized the key point.

It DOES NOT MATTER that the post did not offend me greatly; that is my problem, though the more I think about it the more I find it offensive.

But it DOES MATTER than Ms. Schroder and other women who had seen the ad were offended, for that is a problem we all share.

I have looked forward to each issue of LJ for many months, and I usually read at least part of each article, as well as the letters to the editor.

I have seen several articles and columns about Linux and education, and one of my TODO’s had been to write a blog post on a recent article by Jon “maddog” Hall. (His latest piece on Sun is also well-worth reading.)

“Maddog” is but one of many Linux luminaries who write for LJ. Others include “Doc” Searls, Nicholas Petreley, and others whom I won’t bother to name now.

Ms. Schroder said that she and her colleagues had received no reply from LJ about their objections.

I plan to continue subscribing to LJ, and did note that the latest issue has just one ad picturing a woman in a favorable context, at the center of a group of people in a computer server room.

However, I do believe that not only has LJ’s publication of that ad diminished its reputation, it has also diminished the reputation of everyone who writes for LJ on a regular basis, and I am writing this in part to remind those folks that Ms. Schroder and her colleagues are not alone in finding the ad offensive.

I also suggest that LJ form a review panel of proposed ads. This panel should consist primarily of women, as they are clearly more sensitive to these sexist issues than the current LJ management.

LJ needs to foster a culture that can weed out ads meant for those who think there are only “wogs” South Of Calais, and I look forward to a policy in which the only mention or suggestion of “Cox” in LJ’s pages will be to report on the latest doings of Alan Cox, a well-known hacker from Wales, which is North of Calais. Mr. Cox — a well-respected COXSWAIN of the good ship Linux — labors to keep Linux up and running, not down and dirty.

I will post a comment to lxer in response to Ms. Schroder’s post, directing her attention to this post.

However, I do not plan to send this letter directly to either LJ or lxer.

That is because, as A. J. Liebling once remarked, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

Those words were written decades before the arrival of the internet, and I think A.J. would have appreciated that one of the greatest contributions of the internet has been to enable anyone to start their own press, as in doing so they become a publisher, all at no cost. Indeed, I suspect that were he around these days he might well have called his blog, “The Wayward Word Press.”

I also suggest that the publisher’s of LJ should themselves read the rest of this post, for the following reason.

I was an avid follower of LinuxToday, and its successor, lxer, for many years. This happy association came to an end near the end of March, 2006.

I had observed that lxer had been running many articles attacking Microsoft, some of which I found quite virulent. I have written of my own views in this matter, as I think that over-the-top attacks on MS do nothing to make Linux better, and so are a needless distraction to the open-source community in that they are a form of yellow-dog journalism that we should discourage whenever we encounter it.

So I suggested, via a comment, that lxer might want to rename itself “anti-ms-er” or some similar phrase. I tried to be a bit playful in my comment, hoping to make some humor in doing so, but I clearly failed in that within ten minutes I received an e-mail informing me that my account had been terminated since I had violated lxer’s Terms Of Service.

I responded by trying to clarify my intent, though did say I took offense in to their terminating my account without even bringing their concern to my attention in an open fashion.

This was the first time in almost a decade of dealing with any web publication that I had received such an immediate and abrupt response to an article or comment.

I have made no further comments on lxer since then. In those days I was known as chappaquachap.” However I have continued to read lxer on a regular basis and often tag articles of interest that I first encounter there, as can be seen by looking for the tag “via:lxer” in my list of links.

I have just re-activated chappaquachap as I learned this userid is still on their books, and I will use that account to bring this post to Ms. Schroder’s attention.

However, as a publisher in my own right, I won’t make further efforts to bring these matters to the attention of either LJ or lxer. I’m writing as one publisher to another, “man to man,” or mano a mano, as publishers probably often say in their private offices — offices that I would venture probably often have few, if any, women present.

I have often written that

“Open-source is supposed to be fun: if you aren’t having fun then something is wrong and you should try to fix it.”

Among the reasons open-source is so much fun is that, when done right, it is based on open collaboration and thus a public thrashing out of any disputes, not by fiat or decree.

But sometimes things go wrong, even by people who claim to understand open-source so much that they offer themselves as reporters and observers about it.

Well, to quote the old radio show, “Tain’t funny, McGee.”

Not funny to McGee, not to me, and not to Ms. Schroder and her colleagues, though it appears funny to LJ and lxer.

I’m trying to help put the fun back and fix it by writing this post.

We shall see if anyone “gets it.” I’m hoping they do.


1. In my post of the words of the sea, I included the defintion of CHANNEL as given therein, but forgot to make the link between the ENGLISH CHANNEL and today’s memory channel. LIMEY dates back to the 18th century. Ships in those days could be at sea for months on end, with their sailors living on a protein-rich diet with little, if any, green vegetables, and no fruit. As a result many fell victim to SCURVY. Eventually someone found that the juice of the lime could prevent the disease, and as a result each sailor was given a daily ration of lime juice. As a result sailors came to be referred to as “Limey’s.”

That the disease was due to a deficiency of Vitamin C was not discovered under many decades later; lime juice is a good source of Vitamin C. Linus Pauling, after whom Linus Torvalds is named, wrote often in his last decades on the merits of high doses of Vitamin C in preventing the common cold, though I don’t think his claims were ever scientifically proven.

Sailors were also given a daily ration of grog, with an extra bonus serving after a battle was won, or a prize ship seized.

I continue this tradition of the Royal Navy as I write this blog, though I prefer the occasional glass of wine, or more frequently, beer, as an award for a post well-done.

2. I’m writing this in O’Hare Airport, waiting for the next flight out since American Airlines canceled my scheduled flight to Indianapolis. I had hoped to make use of their Admiral’s Club to while away the hours, but when I showed my ticket and explained that AA had canceled my flight, the attendant there said they didn’t do that, and I couldn’t use the club since I wasn’t a member.

I then asked to speak to a manager, only to be told none was present. Before I left I suggested he might want to raise my problem at the next meeting with management, as I was surprised AA was so failing in basic business intelligence and decency.

I was as surprised by the inability of the American Airlines employee on the scene to take any initiative as I was by the lack of respect for what to me seemed a fair request.

Thought I have started a a post about the letters I have written to CEO’s and their responses, I will keep it on hold until I report this problem to AA’s CEO and have received a response.

The CEO’s involved are those of Citibank, Control Data, IBM, Lockheed-Martin, the Wall Street Journal, and American Airlines.

This post itself constitutes a letter to the CEO’s of LJ and

I did finally make it to Indianapolis, several laters later than AA had originally promised to do. Both of my seat mates in Row 18 were fellow refugees from the canceled flight. When I mentioned that AA had neither given a reason for the cancellation, or said they were sorry, they were both sympathetic.

The man sitting next to me was a grandfather from Yuma, Arizona. He said that when he had tole the AA rep that he was trying to reach Indianapolis to see a soccer game featuring his five-year old granddaughter, he had received no sympathy, nor had they given any reason for the cancellation, which as we all knew occurred on a bright and sunny day, so weather could not have been the reason.

As I write this, I realize I am more troubled than when I first started writing this note. To wit,

If AA does a poor a job in creating a culture that promotes common-sense business practices in its customer representative, then what are we to believe about the culture and training it gives its pilots, pilots to whom we entrust our lives every time we board an aircraft operated by AA?

That’s enough for me to try to fly other carriers even though they may have a poorer track record than AA in canceled flights. The most important thing is to arrive at your destination,as only then can you comment on the service, good or bad, that you received.

Dead customers don’t file complaints.

I would rather live to fly another day.

Wouldn’t you?

I did learn that the gentleman was a lifelong farmer and was currently a consultant on advising growers on how to properly inspect their food. He relayed several anecdotes about food from Mexico and China that provided me a strong inducement to now buy only food grown within our own borders.

Though we have our problems, they are as nothing compared to what goes on outside our borders.

Take heed. Both in what you eat and which airlines you trust with your life.

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  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerpt, at the center of a group of people in a computer server room. However, I do believe […]

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