The Next ‘Internet’

I remember the moment when I became an entrepreneur, or at least when that critical epiphany happened that planted the seed. It was the early 90’s, and I was working in my first ‘real’ job after college as a tech professional in a major industrial electronics manufacturer. As a defense contractor, they were connected to the Internet. The Internet wasn’t the big, pervasive, commercial thing it is now. It was mostly universities and government labs and the like. The Internet backbone was still funded by the National Science Foundation, and commercial traffic was barred from it. Your average person had never even heard of the Internet.

But that was changing. The move to commercialize the Internet was already in motion. I was ‘the Internet guy’ where I worked, in charge domain name services and email accounts etc… so when this group called CommerceNet came around to talk about the commercial future of the Internet, I was invited to the presentation.

That’s when the light bulb went on for me.

It wasn’t a terribly flashy presentation. They showed off a prototype e-commerce web site, a first ever on-line store where a person could buy networking cables and adapters and similar gadgets. It was crude by today’s standards, but what it represented was huge. The restrictions on commercial traffic still made something like that impossible, but when that was lifted, the floodgates would be open. And I could SEE it. Not just shopping, but the broader adoption of email, the downloading of news and entertainment. The utility and advantages of connecting to the Internet was so great, nothing would stop the juggernaut once it started moving, and I knew I had to be part of that. I wasn’t sure how, but I was convinced that’s where my future was.

It didn’t happen immediately, but with the seed planted, it didn’t take long. One of my jobs included managing Novell Netware file servers, so I participated in some Netware specific technical forums (on something called Usenet… google it). The World Wide Web had just become a thing, and no software existed yet to turn a Netware server into a web server. I thought, “how hard can it be?”. As it turned out, not that hard. A few hundred dollars in software tools, a cobbled together server assembled from spare parts, and a couple weeks of late night development time, and I had a prototype.

I posted a request for beta testers on Usenet. My email inbox quickly filled with eager participants. I began taking pre-orders, and sales took off like a rocket. The growth was exponential. I quit my day job to dedicate myself full-time to my new business.

Those were heady days. I was running a global business from a spare bedroom. I hired a couple friends to do customer service, found a graphic artist to design packaging and promotional materials, and farmed out development of e-commerce features to two different external developers. I was running ads in magazines and renting booths in trade shows. My customers ranged from small mom-and-pop outfits to fortune 100 corporations and foreign governments. It was a niche market, but I had it all to myself, and the money rolled in.

It couldn’t last.

Web servers were becoming a ubiquitous commodity. In most other operating systems, web server software was bundled for free. Unix had the open source NCSA server. Microsoft was bundling IIS. It was only a matter of time before Novell woke up to that reality and included one with Netware. My worries were confirmed when I received a phone call from Ransom Love, then an executive at Novell. He made some cautious inquiries about purchasing the rights to my software. He also let slip that they were talking to a company called American Internet that was in the process of porting the NCSA server to Netware. I had beat American Internet to market, but they had far more people and resources than me, so in the race to become Novell’s preferred vendor, they had some serious advantages. They won that race.

But I at least had enough warning to reposition myself. I co-founded one of the first Internet Service Providers in Milwaukee, eventually sold my half of that, then redirected my software company toward consulting services. I’ve been making a decent living at that ever since.

But looking back, I can see the missed opportunities. I was a kid barely out of college making the leap into running his own global business. I made every mistake in the book and probably invented some new ones. It was a combination of crazy market growth and blind luck that kept me from crashing and burning. I had stumbled into an untapped, very profitable market niche, and I could see the need to diversify away from it, but I wasn’t able to leverage that into the sort of massive success that others did during the dot com boom (despite being ahead of the curve in many respects). I sometimes wonder what the result would be if I could go back and relive those early days of runaway Internet growth with all the business experience and confidence I’ve built up over the years. I think back to that day in a presentation about the commercial Internet when the light bulb went on for me, when I could SEE the inevitability of it even if I lacked the experience to fully capitalize on it. I’ve wondered for a while when the next Internet scale opportunity would present itself.

And then… a few days ago… that long dimmed light bulb burst into brightness again.

I’m not exactly ahead of the curve with this one. People have been talking about the inevitability of this trend for some time. Heck, it’s been a fixture in science fiction and popular culture for decades. But it wasn’t until I was playing with a friend’s Amazon Echo and marveling at recent advances in speech recognition that it struck me. We are reaching an inflection point with Artificial Intelligence. Decades of slow and steady progress are giving way to exponential growth in both the capability and deployment of A.I.  At some level I’ve always known this was coming, but I never really internalized what that meant, both for the world and myself as a computer professional. This will be as transformative as the Internet itself. And I need to be part of it.

That’s really what the light bulb was about, not a realization of where the world is heading… I think I already knew that… but the part I need to play in it. Suddenly I feel the same about Artificial Intelligence as I did about the Internet in the mid 90’s. This is the way the world is moving. And while lots of big money and large market segments are already on the move, there is still a lot of opportunities out there. Because while the Amazons and Googles of the world might see the potential, I think most people don’t really get it.

We are not really wired to recognize disruptive, exponential trends. We tend to see the future as only a slightly shinier version of the present. We play with these clunky, early versions of speech recognition, read stories about self driving cars, but it’s hard to fully internalize what the technology is evolving toward. The world is changing, and we all need to change with it. And I think my future is in helping people make that change. Just like I previously helped companies understand and embrace the Internet, the future will be about integrating Artificial Intelligence into our lives and business models.

I’m ready for that change.


Our Frugal Path to Wealth

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend about financial issues and explained how Kirsten and I live very frugally even when I’m making bank on a really good contract. That philosophy pays dividends in times like this when I’m between contracts, and the long term benefit becomes more obvious as retirement grows closer. It was a useful conversation, so I thought I’d share some of the ways Kirsten and I save money on a regular bases. Feel free to mention your own ideas in the comments.

The first home I bought was a duplex. The rent from the other unit paid most of my mortgage. I bought the duplex I was previously renting, and my monthly out of pocket cost actually went down. This was a great way to build equity, and it has now turned into a nice little income generating property.

We don’t tend to buy pre-made microwave meals. Instead I make massive batches of stuff and freeze individual meal sizes in reusable freezer/microwave containers. Examples: rice and beans, Indian rice+vegetable dishes, chicken+vegetable+lentil stews, oriental stir fry, and chili. Added Bonus: I know exactly what is in my food, so I know it’s healthy.

We don’t buy bottled water. A high quality water filter will give you the exact same product and will pay for itself in a few months in most cases. Just invest in a few stainless steel water cans or thermoses and keep them in the fridge.

You can buy those water cans and other perfectly fine dishes at most thrift stores. There is also plenty of other things you get cheap used instead of new. I draw the line at buying used underwear, but I don’t mind a nice pair of jeans that someone else has broken in. Just launder the hell out them before wearing… many stores don’t bother.

I’ve completely eliminated soda and the like from my diet. I instead make my own beverages by adding fruit juice to sun tea and putting it in reusable bottles in the fridge. I also make lemonade+juice mixers. Again, way cheaper and usually healthier.

Buy in bulk when getting stuff that does not go off, like paper products, cleaning supplies, and even many foods. We buy stuff like rice, beans, lentils, pasta, and oatmeal from our local food-coop, getting the hippie organic versions, and still pay far less than the boxed stuff from the typical grocery store.

Shop counter-seasonally. Buy lawn furniture at the end of the season, not the beginning. The same with clothing. Shop for Christmas gifts after the season, not right before. Buy last year’s model of car when the new one comes out… you’re sure to find a few on the lot they are desperate to get rid of.

Get produce from your local farmers market, but wait until the end. Vendors don’t want to take stuff back with them, so you can aggressively haggle and get plenty of stuff for pennies on the dollar.

Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie (sort of)

Yesterday’s Kitchen Experiment: Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie (sort of)

  1. Dice up two carrots and a sweet potato into a pot of of water. Boil until veggies become very soft. Mash up the veggies with potato masher (or large spoon).
  2. Simultaneously, brown some ground turkey in a pan. Add sliced, fresh mushroom. Spice with garlic and Herbes de Provence. Cook a few more minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and mushrooms to water / carrot /sweet potato mixture. Add additional spices if desired (you can’t go wrong with garlic).
  4. Add a cup of milk. Bring back to a low boil. Mix in dried potato flakes until it thickens nicely. Should be stiff enough to make a small sculpture of Devils Tower.
  5. Sprinkle grated cheese on top (your choice). Garnish with some parsley flakes. Put the lid on the pot and turn off the heat, wait a few minutes for the cheese to melt.

Recommended Sides: Steamed broccoli, asparagus, or brussel sprouts.
Pair with an amber ale or a white wine (like a Pinot Noir). Or not… Drink what you want, I’m not your parent.


Zen and the Art of Remembering Passwords

Today I had to log into a server I haven’t logged into for some time, and I couldn’t remember the password. After four failed attempts, I knew the next one would lock out my IP address. It’s a server I used to log into often, so it’s a password I’ve typed many times. I decided to to try something. Hands on the keyboard, I let my mind go blank. I didn’t think about the password, I just filled my mind with the intent to log in. I brought myself back to that time when I used that server frequently, when logging into it was a routine thing. I let my fingers move.

And it worked! I was in. But here is the really funny thing…

I still don’t know what the password is.

The Technological Event Horizon – INTRODUCTION

 Captain Amanda Wellington tried to keep the fear from her voice as she activated the comm circuit and shouted, “Baxter, I need all available power routed to the engines immediately or we’re all dead!”

Chief Engineer Baxter Poole took an agonizing number of seconds to reply. “I’m giving it everything I can, captain, but that explosion took out our port side EM drive.”

Amanda stared at the telemetry display. Two colored lines crossed each other. One represented the ship. The other represented their doom. A clock rapidly counted down the seconds toward the intersection of the two. “Helm, plot me the ideal heading and minimum thrust we need to break orbit, and send all data to engineering.”

“I’m on it,” the helm officer replied, “but it’s going to take a bit. Our telemetry gets less reliable the closer we get to the event horizon, the computer will have to extrapolate some of the numbers using dead reckoning.”

“Baxter, how long before you can get that engine back on line.”

“At least three months. That’s the travel time to the closest shipyard that can replace it.”

“I need answers, not jokes.”

“That’s not a joke,” the engineer replied, “the port engine is beyond saving. I can overdrive the starboard engine and get you thirty percent over spec, at least for a while. That’s the best I can do.”

“I can work with that,” the helm officer interjected. She tapped at her terminal for several seconds. “We can’t break orbit with that, but I can plot us a sub-orbital bounce that puts us close to Hawking Station.”

Amanda took a deep breath. It was an all or nothing gamble. A bounce would delay disaster and give the Hawking Science Station time to mount a rescue, but if it failed, they would be worse off. They would eventually plunge toward the black hole at even greater speed.

Precious seconds ticked away.

“Do it,” she ordered. The helm officer immediately turned her attention back to her console. Amanda tried to remember the officer’s name. Julia something. She’d only just joined the bridge crew yesterday. Amanda hadn’t even gotten around to her usual welcome speech yet. No time for that now. “Richard, contact the station, tell them what we’re doing, and have them ready every available grav tug to meet us.”

“Got it,” the communications officer replied. Amanda turned her attention toward the engineering damage report.

It was not good. The explosion had taken out one of the engines, damaged one of the primary power manifolds, and destabilized the fusion core. Baxter must be holding things together with vacuum tape and spit. Oh, and the satellite they’d been sent to repair had instead been knocked off its orbit and sent spiraling toward the black hole. Hawking Station would not be happy about that.

Richard interrupted her thoughts. “Captain, Hawking Station isn’t responding.”

“What, we’ve lost communications now too?”

“No, I’m still getting a signal from them. They’re just not answering my specific hails.”

Amanda brought up the comm screen on her own console and began reviewing the message queue. There was a lot of messages. Personal messages to individual crew members. Messages directed to her from Fleet Headquarters. Too many messages, all sent in the last few seconds. Then she noticed the time code on a recent message. It was dated two years in the future.


She switch from comm back to telemetry. She looked at the line showing the path of the ship, dipping dangerously close to the event horizon before curving up into a sub-orbital bounce. Then she looked at the error bands, a colored region around the line reflecting the amount of guesswork the computer had engaged in because of telemetry problems. The lower bound of the error band dipped below the event horizon.

“We’ve already crossed it.” Amanda gasped, her voice cracking as hope fled. The rest of the bridge crew fell silent. She turned back to her console and flipped back to the damage report. There it was. Damage to the power manifold had deactivated the shields. They’d fallen victim to relativistic effects. Because of the rapid speed of their decaying orbit, time was passing more slowly for them than the rest of the universe. That had thrown off their calculations.

Jason was tapping at his console. Amanda looked up to see him scrolling through the message list. She could see understanding overtake him as he took in their contents. He finally spoke. “We crossed the event horizon only seconds after the explosion, at least from our perspective. We’ve been spiraling toward the singularity for several years already. We are well and truly screwed.”

“No, there’s got to be something…” Julia couldn’t finish. She knew the physics of it as well as the rest of them.

Hawking Station wasn’t answering because the ship’s signal wasn’t reaching them. Nothing could escape the event horizon. Not light, not radio transmissions, and certainly not the ship. Stuff still flowed in with no problem, so they could still hear the station. But from the outside they were long gone and beyond reach.

Nevertheless, Hawking Station hadn’t just written them off. They knew it would take decades for the ship to spiral into the singularity, even if it felt like mere minutes to the crew. They’d spent those first years sending farewell messages from family and friends, the transmission slowed enough that the ship’s computer could keep up.

Amanda flipped back to the comm screen and opened a message from her sister. The tone was sad but affectionate, expressing how much she was missed even as it filled her in on all the family news. It was like a wistful Christmas letter.

The comm app chirped with another incoming message. She glanced at the header and saw it was from the head of research at Hawking Station. She skimmed. He prattled on in his usual long winded manner, so Amanda nearly missed the reference to a research paper titled ‘The Application of Gravitational Warp Field Theory Toward the Breaching of Event Horizon Barriers’. She went back and reread the section.

She read on. She read past the scientific jargon to the deeper story it told. The scientific community had caught fire. The story of the lost science vessel had captured the public imagination, unleashing a torrent of research into gravitational warp field theory. The technology that powered starships across the galaxy might provide the key to their rescue. It was a race between gravity and human ingenuity.

Amanda stopped reading. Her vision had grown blurry. Her initial hope was being overtaken by a sense of amazement. An often fractious galaxy had united around the mission of their rescue. She tried to wipe her tears from her console and only succeeded in closing the comm app.

She laughed. The rest of bridge crew looked at her like she’d gone crazy, but she laughed again. Somehow, beyond all probability or understanding, they had reached up through the impenetrable event horizon to reshaped all human society. Whether or not they were actually rescued seemed secondary to that.

Julia finally interrupted her musing. “Captain, I’m seeing something strange on the sensors.”

Ships were appearing in orbit, just outside the black hole’s event horizon, moving at seemingly impossible speed. A structure was taking shape. Something massive. The ships were bees around a growing hive. The giant machine was like nothing Amanda had seen before. Dozens of kilometers across, with massive antenna-like structures pointed down toward the singularity. The ship’s spiraling course took them directly under it with each orbit.

Amanda activated the ship-wide address system. “All hands to duty stations. Secure for acceleration.”

“What is it,” Richard asked, “what’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know,” Amanda answered. She switched the main display from aft to forward sensors. The approaching black hole disappeared, replaced by the growing machine above them. The ship’s clock ticked away years like seconds. “But I think it’s going to be miraculous.”

* * *

Despite first impressions, this is a work of non-fiction. No, the preceding events did not actually happen. That mini-story only serves to introduce concepts that are central to the larger work. I needed to talk about singularities and event horizons, but I struggled for some time deciding how to go about it. Ultimately, I fell back on the mechanism I’m most comfortable with, fiction. I will likely continue to use this tool going forward.

What do we mean when we talk about a singularity. When you put “definition of singularity” into Google, it comes back with several answers. One definition is “a point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space-time when matter is infinitely dense, as at the center of a black hole.” Another is “a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change.” That second definition is inspired by the first. Such a world changing event is more properly called the Technological Singularity, but in the appropriate context it is often shortened to just the Singularity. It’s an apt metaphor. In mathematics or in space, a singularity is a point at which the usual rules break down. Extending the metaphor, Google defines an event horizon as “a theoretical boundary around a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape; a point of no return.

Think about that for a moment.

In our story, the singularity isn’t the critical point of transition. That would be the event horizon. It’s the point of no return. Beyond that barrier, the forces at play will allow movement in only one direction, toward the singularity, and at ever increasing speed.

Scientist and futurists argue about when and even if we will reach the Technological Singularity. Some say it’s only years or decades away, others say centuries. Some say it’s a fantasy that will never occur. I’m not going to argue about the time line. Don’t expect me to stick a pin in a calendar predicting when it arrives. But I will suggest this… we have already crossed the Technological Event Horizon. We are beyond the point of no return. I can’t predict exactly what is coming, but like our heroes on the ship, I can be sure of one thing.

It’s going to be miraculous.

The Golden Age of Video Streaming

I’ll admit it… I’m a fan of Netflix. It’s not just their original programming that I like, it’s the shake-up of the entire video content industry. When they first made the switch from mailing DVDs to streaming video, few in the entertainment industry took them seriously. Now, a few years later, they are spending around 5 BILLION dollars a year making original content, more than industry stalwarts like Time Warner, Fox, Viacom, or even Disney. There subscriber base has surpassed HBO. While the old guard previously fought the entire idea of streaming video as a threat to their established model, now they all must participate or get their lunch eaten.

This is great news for viewers. Streaming has a lot of advantages over the old cable and broadcast model. First, you get to watch the content you want when you want to. Sure, a DVR helps in that regard… but its an imperfect solution. Also, the idea of waiting a week between episodes now seems archaic in this day and age. Netfix’s model of releasing an entire season at once lets you watch at the pace you prefer. Most of all, however, streaming removes the limit that channel based delivery puts on the quantity of content. As long as there is space on the servers, there is always room for another show. This opens the door for niche programs that might not find space on limited cable or broadcast channels.

And as the speed and availability of high speed Internet improves, so does the prospects of streaming vs traditional cable video. Kirsten and I spend a large part of the year traveling the country in our RV. Previously, this would limit our video viewing to DVDs or whatever we could pick up on an antenna (satellite was just more hassle than we wanted to deal with). But recent improvement in cellular mobile Internet have changed that. We now regularly get 10 to 20 Mbps via the mobile hot-spot on our phone, more than enough to stream Netflix, Amazon Video, etc (indeed, it’s often better than we get on our land line Internet). For a while, mobile data caps would make video streaming unthinkable, but recent competition has all the major mobile phone companies offering unlimited data plans or data cap exceptions for video streaming.

I wouldn’t call it the Golden Age of Video Steaming, but it’s getting there.

The Republicans now own Obamacare…

… it’s on them if it fails.

Let me explain. When the Democrats passed the ACA (Obamacare) seven years ago, they were able to do it only because they held the Presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. Shortly after that, Republicans regained the majority in the House and later the Senate, allowing them to obstruct further legislation by the Democrats. And additional legislation was definitely needed. The ACA was never intended to be the end of the story on health care. Complicated legislation often needs amending after it rolls out, and that was expected in this case. Obama himself even likened the law to a “starter home”… something we could build on.

And renovation is definitely needed. While millions of people have been helped by the law, many others still suffer from rising premiums and lack of choice among insurers. Even before gaining the White House, Republicans have had the opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation, but for the past seven years they’ve preferred to obstruct any effort to fix the law, instead favoring a goal of repealing it. Indeed, not only have they refused to fix the law, they’ve actively worked against it. Premium increases in 2017 are in large part because of Republican sabotage. The GOP succeeded in stripping funding from the ‘risk corridor’ reinsurance program that was meant to stabilize prices while new insurance pools were created. This caused many of the new insurance companies, including most of the non-profit insurance co-ops, to go out of business, reducing competition and choice on the health care exchanges and driving up rates among the remaining companies.

And now that they also have the Presidency, Republicans have even more power to sabotage the ACA. They’ve wasted no time in doing just that. One of Trump’s first actions after taking office was to pull the advertisements reminding people to sign up for insurance before the end of the 2017 enrollment period. Having as many people as possible sign up is important because larger risk pools makes for lower premiums. This is especially true with those last minute sign-ups because healthy people are more likely to procrastinate, and getting them on board will definitely improve the risk ratio, creating lower rates for everyone.  We know this from examining sign-up patterns from previous years.  But trump canceled the last week of advertising despite the fact that it was already paid for with no way of recouping the funds. The only reason to do it was to hurt enrollment (which it did).
And they’ve signaled that the sabotage will continue. The current health care bill being debated in Congress takes a wrecking ball to Obamacare, but even if they fail to pass that, they can do a lot of damage. Trump himself has said that, should the bill not pass, they would just ‘let Obamacare die’. But will it die a natural death, or will this be an assisted suicide? The GOP now controls Health and Human Services, the department that administers Obamacare. They have the power to do things like eliminate cost sharing subsidies that help make insurance affordable for lower income people. That will drive poor but healthy people from the insurance pool, further driving up rates for everyone else. Even the hint that they might do this could drive up rates as cautious insurance companies price the possibility into their future rates… and Republican leadership is already talking about doing it.
For seven years, the GOP has campaigned on repealing Obamacare. They now have the power to do it. They have the power to replace it with their own legislation or nothing at all. They can fix Obamacare or undermine it. It is all on them. They cannot just stand back and ‘let Obamacare die’ and hope the Democrats get all the blame. Democrats have no power to pass legislation right now. Republicans do. Whatever happens is on them. If they can’t get it together enough to actually deliver on their promises, then they need to get out of the way and let someone else do it (like maybe the party that passed Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, etc.. the party actually committed to helping people get health care).
It is now almost 19 months until the 2018 midterms. Republicans still have a window to deliver on their promises, but it won’t stay open forever.
The voters are watching.

Rule the World!

Given the popularity of my Mad Scientist Wisdom aphorisms both at open mic at Nerdcon Stories and with the Superliminal Suggestion Backpack at Teslacon 7, I’ve decided to create a MadScientistWisdom.com website as a permanent home for the Wisdom.  I’ll also use it as a place to document geeky science related projects and the like.  Head on over and check it out.  It doesn’t have a comment section, so if you see anything that needs fixing or just want to make general comments, this post will be the home for that.  I hope you enjoy it.

Together, we will rule the world!  😉

The Truth About Net Neutrality

OK, it has come to my attention that a lot of people have no freaking clue what Net Neutrality really is. As someone who used to own an Internet Service Provider, let me dump some knowledge on you. Net Neutrality, in short, is the idea that ISPs (i.e Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, etc) must treat every packet of data they route across their network in a neutral fashion… that means not blocking or degrading traffic based on where it is going, were it comes from, or what the content is. In the telecom industry this is called being a ‘common carrier’. They just provide a pipe and don’t concern themselves with what you send through it.

Why is this important? It is the entire concept on which the Internet was built and the reason it is hugely successful. When you pay your monthly Internet subscription fee, you expect to have access to the ENTIRE Internet, not just the parts that sit directly on Time Warner’s cables. You are paying Time Warner to plug into the global system, not just provide you access to the content they deem worthy. Net Neutrality assures that YOU get to choose what parts of the Internet you see.

Without Net Neutrality, large ISPs can use their near monopoly status to extort additional fees out of companies (and this is the important part) EVEN WHEN THAT COMPANY IS NOT THEIR CUSTOMER. Comcast could go to AT&T business customers and say “If you want our Internet subscribers to see your website, you need to pay us additional fees.”

Think they won’t? They are already doing this to Netflix. Their supposed justification is that Netflix is chewing up a lot of their network capacity… but that is a distortion if not outright lie… it is Comcast’s own customers that are using up that bandwidth when they CHOOSE to connect to Netflix. Basically, Netflix is being punished and extorted for being popular and successful.

If the big ISPs get their way, Netflix will be only the beginning; they will extort similar fees from other popular services and websites. They will degrade services that compete with their own. It will be the death of the Internet as a level playing field of entrepreneurial opportunity. Gone will be the days that your tiny start-up can have the same professional looking web presence that a billion dollar company has… only the companies with deep pockets that can afford the extortion (i.e. the Internet ‘fast lane’) will be able to compete.

So when you hear some politician or telecom executive railing against Net Neutrality, understand that they are not trying to protect the Internet or look out for your interests. It is all about lining their own pockets.  This is important to keep in mind in the months ahead, since a new FCC under Donald Trump is likely to scrap Net Neutrality, making the Internet less useful and more expensive for everyone.  But only if we let them.  If we all work together and make our voices heard, we can save Net Neutrality.

I welcome your opinions in the comments.


Devious Origins – CHAPTER 2



She seemed to consider my question as we made our way outside to the sidewalk.

“What sort of superhero would I be if I immediately let you in on my secret identity?” she playfully answered.

“OK, so what is your hero name then?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” I responded, “How can you be a superhero and not know your own hero name?”

“Haven’t you ever read any comic books?” she asked in mock incredulity, “The hero never comes up with their own name. It is always someone else. Someone they rescued. A reporter. Someone like that. The hero has to earn a name. Society bestows it on them.”

“So you haven’t earned yours yet?”

“Not yet I guess. But that’s OK. It isn’t about making a name for yourself. It’s not about getting recognition. It has to be all about the mission, or you are not a true hero.” She seemed to be totally sincere. “So here we are.”

We had arrived at a classic yellow Vespa scooter parked only a block from the court house. My companion plucked a shiny black helmet from the seat. It was small, form fitting, and lacked any sort of eye protection.

“Here, wear this,” she said as she handed it to me.

“Shouldn’t you wear it?” I answered.

“What sort of hero would I be if I let my passenger go unprotected,” she insisted, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep the stunt driving to a minimum.” She then proceeded to take a pair of tennis shoes and a set of aviator goggles out the storage compartment of the Vespa. She changed shoes, put on the goggles, and climbed on the scooter. “Well don’t just stand there, get on.” (more…)