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Fixing coffee.

Good morning. Coffee’s warm. Too strong with grounds in it. Bought beans in both flavors, Mentalist and Original. Grind both. Visited the John. Little pests are fed, lovable, furry things. Sleep deprived. Good morning, life.


CRACKED! HP 17-F Motherboard DAY23AMB6C0 Rev. C, Model Y23A w/ AMD Processor, Fan (HP-17 F00 4DX)

We had an incident. A family member was having issues with Windows 8.1. It was midnight, a project was due, and Windows 8 was being it’s infamously unintuitive self. She walloped the HP-17 Envy right over it’s heart – over and over, I understand.
If she’d been right handed the damage to the HP-17 F00 4DX laptop might have been minimal. Instead, her left hand smashed the keyboard directly over the fan, the heat sink and processor. The Envy would boot only to shut off, again, immediately. At first there was no video, then there was video, and a message saying the fan was bad, that Windows had to shut down to protect it from hardware damage. And, the warranty period had just just ended.
The fan showed no damage, nor did the motherboard, several keys were stuck, a connector was loosened, half hanging on, but the CPU had been dislodged, and the paste had dried. We repasted the CPU. We prodded and encouraged the left side of the keyboard back into shape. We ordered a replacement fan from eBay.
We pasted the CPU in place, and installed the replacement fan, the computer booted up, and stayed on long enough to make replacement Windows disks, go online, tweak Windows 8 like adding a start menu, add boot to desktop, stop her desktop images from changing much too often, and on and on.
During this honeymoon with the HP machine we ran the four hour hardware test that stressed the machine to max. It tested memory, CPU, in fact, all the hardware; it passed all the tests. The CPU didn’t stutter once.
In fact as long as it sat there in one place, it worked perfectly. It ran without a glitch until we could stand it no more, and we moved the thing.
So, it was cracked. It malfunctioned when we gently tilted the laptop. We took it apart for the hundredth time to make sure a connector wasn’t lose or something we’d overlooked.
We examined the board from stem to stern but there were no hairline cracks that we could see. When we ran out of options we even considered reflowing the board in the oven, but the chips are soldered on the board, and couldn’t (shouldn’t) be removed.
This HP-17 system was a heavy duty, overlarge laptop that was designed to create movies and handle video projects. A complaint about the model HP-17 F00 4DX was that it was more like a desktop than a laptop. Because of it’s size and narrow market, it was hard to find a replacement motherboard. HP parts had none or would not offer any to an individual.
EBay had a used HP 17-F Motherboard DAY23AMB6C0 Rev. C, Model Y23A w/ AMD Processor, Fan that sold before we could buy it. So, now we’re searching for a substitute board with nearly the same specs that might line up with our keyboard and connectors, and chassis. Is that even possible?
Laptops are notoriously unaccommodating when interchanging parts. It’s either find a used replacement board at a decent price or attempt to jury rig a comparable motherboard.
Is that asking too much? Probably, but if anyone has an answer to that question, I’d sure appreciate hearing from you!

HP-17F00 4DX part # 763424-501
Model #17-F00 4DX
DAY23AMB6C0 Rev. C
Product # J6U79UA# AB

WNDR3800CH – Serial console – U-Boot – board_model_id_set WNDR3800. After changing the NVRAM model_id to WNDR3800, you can load most normal firmware files successfully. 🙂


Finished the book THE MARTIAN: A NOVEL by Andy Weir. It’s a tinkerer’s love letter to space exploration written by a space nerd. Read most of it today. It’s the kind of a book that gives vision to the exploration of outer space. It was so real that it felt like it was happening, now, for real. I hope more books come along that work from vision – positive vision, rather than the apocalyptic, obligatory, stale crap written in the last few years. (Excluding Neale Stephenson’s blowing up of the moon, which was awesome,  provocative and imaginative in SEVENEVES)! I hope visionary books about space travel are a refreshing trend. Judging from the 7000 excited reviews, it might just be. The Martian was a pure pleasure to read. Thank you Amazon for recommending this amazing book.This review is from: The Martian: A Novel (Kindle Edition

To one day get hardware that has low latency and good queue management at gigE speeds or higher requires better hardware offloading techniques than the bulk notions like GRO and TSO that exist today. And it has long been obvious that the rate limiting +
fq_codel techniques we now use successfully at sub 200mbit speeds do not scale higher well on low end chips to handle  #bufferbloat  . So the algorithms need to move into hardware, also.

******so… a brief commercial interruption****

I think the open source design method has worked spectacularly for software, and I think the same methods can work for hardware if only we can pull together larger communities to do the work, worldwide.

There are only 24 hours left on this kickstarter – we CAN start to take back the edge of the internet – if we can only find another 5k of funding. (obviously, more would be nice)

This FPGA board´s pcie interface and switch design – and the split memory interfaces between the programmable logic and the onboard dual A9 core – and reducing the cost from 7000 to 700 bucks – are the important parts to why the open source community needs this board – in my case – so that more of htb + fq_codel can move into hardware that anyone can build and use – in other cases? who knows what could be done with it!?

One day, we could move the logic into asics, and finally have proven, open source, binary blob-free hardware to work with for any network purpose.

There are people on these lists with money, and there are those with talent and time, and it would be great if more of those people could
line up with each other. I put in all I could spare (8500 dollars) into this kickstarter.  I have one of their high end boards, already.

It´s great.

There is a “get one give one” program that I asked meshsr (the company making the board) to put in to try and enable connecting more developers up with this board. If there is anyone here that would like to help hack together the next generation of edge network hardware, after this kickstarter completes, let me know.

I return you now to your normal despair about vendors not listening,
and crappy OSes you can´t otherwise fix.

The best thing about living in 2015 is that the horizon isn’t so difficult to imagine. Much of it is already in progress. Drone delivery, bionic reconstruction, restorative genetics, cryptocurrency, ubiquitous communication, rail and air travel shrinking the world as fast as the railroad shrank the Wild West. The years 2015-2050 are going to be momentous.

For most of the twentieth century, the year 2015 was muddy, nearly invisible — a mystery to most everybody. Looking back change was stagnant. The rock-your-world part of change that came from the Internet and cell phones in 2K took a century to happen. Who can wait that long?


Change is accelerating. Medicine will open up. Traditional publishing is disappearing, banks and banking as we know it will crumble, and a new economy will replace it. Payments across borders will be thrashed out. In the next 15-30 years a transition is taking place that will look like the stagecoach-to-jet era. Society will upturn and we’ll hardly notice it.

Medicine is medieval, now. Law enforcement is tilted, off kilter. Our balance of power is sideways. Medicine is confining, medicine is time consuming, and bankrupting. Commercialized. It is not especially about healing. It’s more about a self-perpetuating industry that is vital to each of us, that we can’t avoid. Law enforcement and medical communities are similar. In each we have unquestioning and unquestionable priests who preside over our health and well being.

Where is medicine going? Will drones mean the watchers are watched, too? Very small drones made from self-assembling nanobots or maker machines will mean a ‘press’ in everyone’s hands. I see a shakeup of society, but only initially will it seem so. The future within the next 15-30 years ill amaze and confound the ones who live through it, but those afterward will look at us like the Pennsylvania farmers lugging their produce to market in a horse and buggy. Amish travelers.

Will the future’s children see us as naive or maybe stupid? Or in their eyes nostalgic, a beautiful civilization like ancient Egypt, but a bygone place, a Stranger in a Strange Land? Or will they grok the experience? Know us intimately because of all the bread crumbs we’ve left behind?

Nanotechnology with its self assemblage is set to rock the medical world and worlds we haven’t imagined, yet. Combine it with genetics, microfluidics, and we have instant diagnosis and maybe instant treatment. Cloud data? Will the cloud survive? I wonder. And maybe one other area will advance, linguistics and self definition. Perhaps if we had agreed upon usage for words like journalism, perhaps if that word were defined, we’d know how to define ourselves. We are cursed and blessed to live in interesting times.

bluegreen underwater

I see drones for peace. I see the drone dominating our national conversation. I see a thinning opacity, like smoke clearing at our periphery. I see a drone revolution, and a revolution in medicine trailing behind that.

Here, in the US, I see the unthinkable. Drone warfare on our soil. Skirmishes, really. Whack-a-mole attacks, but by then drones will be such a part of our lives that we won’t give them up; they’ll be comparable to the microwave oven in their ubiquity and usefulness so that we’ll deal with it.

The attacks will be sporadic at first, but because we are all in the same boat, so to speak, the attacks will be neutralized before they begin, brought about by amateurs who band together to assure that drones for peace is a given, a necessity. Our greatest defense from foreign attack from drones may be something known as open source defense.

And in the business of medicine, drones will compress time. Intolerable waits for prescriptions will shrink. Delivery might be expedited to five to ten minutes for custom delivery for all but the most complex situations. We’ll track our prescriptions like we track Amazon packages and they’ll track us. A text or whatever replaces the text – likely encrypted – will tell us how soon to expect delivery.

Drones will be a natural followup to the non-doc visit. Microfluidics, the field that spans ” physics, chemistry, biochemistry, nanotechnology, and biotechnology,” will fast-check our blood, saliva or cells. A near future, Treki-tricorder will go deeper into our body for serious illness and prevention of further illness without a doctor’s orders. A drone-doc will sign off only on the uncommon requests.

A trauma-doc will patch us up when we are injured in accidents. Drones will act as first responders. Small drones will hover for triage, larger drones will aid in treatment or transportation of the injured, and perhaps drones loaded with exoskeletons and self-assembling splints, including pain medication, will help us escape across rough terrain with a broken bone if rescue is delayed.

Along with our drone notifications, alerts similar to weather alerts will pop up notifying us of impending illness or preventative measures to avoid a health crisis. If we are in an impending health crisis, like a silent heart attack, a drone might deliver a defibrillator, stabilizer or G-drug – a genetic drug that is individualized to our unique body, our cellular structure. The drone will deliver a custom therapy designed for one person, targeted to only one person, which will increase life expectancy for those whose genetic glitch is a high probability of a heart attack.

Of course, to speed the diagnosis,a template that has been previously uploaded with a patient’s unique genetics, will be available for prescriptions and/or emergencies. The genetic anomalies that are characteristic of our individualized selves will be adjusted at first by algorithm and when needed, be modified by a genetic craftsman.

Most common illnesses will fit within a common algorithm, which will be available on the fly to the genomic pharmacist. This might be called G-adjust – a genetic prescription written to match the patient’s genetic peculiarities. The prescription rewrites active changes in our DNA during an illness event by prescription, or stabilizes shock in injury, and is delivered nearly instantly in a rescue pack to the drone for delivery. Hospitalization maybe be required or not.

Yet, without the drone’s speed and knowledge of a patient’s whereabouts, whether on vacation or at work, the prescription might come too late. With the drone, lives will be saved. It will be a system set up on the premise of the privacy and primacy of the individual. It can be opt-out, though.

The Opt-Outs will be seen as the Luddites of the twenty-first century. There may be people who feel genetic editing on the fly is dangerous – it won’t be perfect. A small population may not respond to liminal efforts in genetic pharmacology. And of course, those who understand the history of encryption, understand that encryption is much easier to break than it is to use, that historically we have only a short interval before the prevailing encryption is eventually broken, thus some may not trust the system.

Encryption is at best a temporary answer for medical privacy, it’s undependable as a final answer to individual privacy. Privacy is smaller than freedom, it is about one individual. It wasn’t always, but the Internet has parsed it into units. As for freedom, that’s a much larger question. Freedom and privacy are like the waves and particles, both different states of light. Freedom is about a nation of people, a collective, perhaps a world of people, though privacy cannot exist without freedom. It’s a wicked problem.

Encryption is dynamic and ever changing. A small population may be among those who pioneer tools to self-heal, self-treat with the help of fast diagnostic tools, at the edge of knowledge, tools unavailable and unused by the bulk of patients. The threshold of knowledge is not for the risk averse.

Mistakes will be made as drone medicine and future medicine evolve. Knowledge will be gained, fortunes amassed, lives saved, lives lost by businesses competing to be the fastest but not the ‘bestest.’ Drones may be loved by some, even be seen in anthropomorphic light – we may name them, treat the like pets or decorate them as an extension of ourselves – drones, our new right arm. And if drone medicine is expedited then cryptocurrency will be implemented. The future of money will be changed. Slow payment will not block the process, this is a given. Besides our doctor might locate in Brazil, Germany, China, Russia, or South Korea. Our currency will need to cross borders, quickly.






Review Fire TV Stick December 30, 2014

Fire TV Stick has won the hearts in our household of two generalists and one techie. Google Chromecast may have been my favorite, but I’m waffling. When Amazon offered the Fire Stick for $19 to Prime members, I was one of the first wave who ordered it.

It arrived the first week of December. But, it wasn’t for me. It was for the normals. I’ve cut the cord. I cut it several years ago. I go to reddit for US & World news. I watch movies on Netflix, television on Hulu — all on my Android tablet in HD or on my old laptop. It’s not that I don’t have space for a TV, it’s that if I spend money on more electronics, I’d fill up the house with more gadgets not a TV set.

The thing that has rankled me is that although Amazon had promised a video app for Android, I couldn’t find it. I had a library of Amazon Instant video that I couldn’t access on my Android tablets. I’d bought full seasons of television shows that I could only use on my laptop. It’s five years old. The video was top shelf then, now it’s so-so compared to the HD on my Google Android tablets. That was a problem.

So, when the Fire TV Stick came up for sale, I had to try it, even if it disappointed. You know, it’s a new gadget. I had have one, and yes, Google Chromecast is very good, but I wanted to compare it to the Fire TV Stick. What I found was that in a sense Google Chromecast is more dependable than the Fire TV Stick. It’s easy to set up, it’s uncluttered to navigate from either my Nexus 2012 or 2013 tablet. (I might add that I powered both dongles.) But here’s the thing.

One person in our household has a smart phone, but not a tablet, and he doesn’t want his phone tied up with Google Chromecast, and he’s not comfortable using our tablets. He doesn’t like to navigate from Google Chromecast. The clicker included with Amazon Fire TV Stick makes him happy.

After getting comfortable with the Fire TV Stick navigation and clutter, and it’s extensive options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime literally at his fingertips, he said, “take a good look because you might never see me again!” He’s an inveterate movie watcher, National Geographic kind of man. The Comcast cable offerings were stale. He’s watched and re-watched the same Sci-Fi offerings. This was big.

As a couple they watched “Hemlock Grove” on Netflix through Google Chromecast on the living room TV in November. This hooked them. They’d been watching some movies on their desktop but the sound was muffled, so to get the Internet entertainment they wanted on a big screen with super sound was, well, big.

In anticipation of the Fire TV Stick device with a real, honest to god clicker, and Fire TV Stick’s decent sized clicker, they bought a new TV set, with of course, the obligatory HDMI connection during the Christmas season at a sale price. It had a larger screen, better sound, and the set didn’t shut off intermittently while they were viewing the nightly news or “Grimm.”

As soon as the new TV arrived, the old TV and Google Chromecast were exiled to the bedroom. It’s getting some play there, but not nearly what the Fire TV Stick has gotten. Now in their third week they’ve found fresh Sci-Fi like “The 100’s”, and “The Fall” among others. Initially, Netflix’s “Hemlock Grove” captured them on Google Chromecast, and but they sat transfixed watching a crapload of stuff on Amazon Fire TV Stick, December, through the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

And, of course we watched “The Interview” on Google Play, me included. If you’re a techie you had to watch Seth Rogen and James Franco chase Kim Jong Un around North Korea. I don’t know about your house, but at our house, Comcast must be feeling lonely, and if other families adapted to the new, inexpensive tools for Internet TV like we have, ignoring Comcast’s offerings, Comcast, too, might be feeling a pinch.

We did have some glitches during Amazon Prime video. Our bandwidth faded during Christmas. I thought it might be hackers using the connection and bandwidth tor DDoS  elsewhere,  but there was a lot of network traffic during the holidays. We had no network connection, except we really did have network connection, Amazon forgot our wireless password, but it really wasn’t forgotten, and we experienced excessive video buffering. The video buffered so much that we unplugged the Fire TV Stick and the routers, half-dozen times. In the three weeks we had the Amazon Fire TV Stick this had happened only a few times. Now the video stopped at least twenty times.

In the midst of the buffering we talked about hooking up Google Chromecast. I got out my older Google Nexus 7 (2012) tablet for the family to navigate to the movie that was interrupted, and that’s when I knew — yes, they were ready to cut the Comcast cord, but no, they weren’t ready to give up the Fire TV Stick clicker. Google Chromecast does not have a clicker. We unplugged the Fire TV Stick once again and plugged it in again, and waited for the interminable buffer to fill up with video.

Intuitive navigation via the clicker was the game breaker at our house even though Google Chromecast probably seems a lot better about not buffering. The second game breaker is that whatever they were watching was free on Amazon Prime. Prime offered delicacies that Netflix and Hulu didn’t have. It completed the cord cutting package. For whatever reason, Fire TV Stick is just convenient. Natural. Music in the cloud and on the radio.

We like a radio station from our old hometown six states away. The music is outstanding. Now we could listen to any radio station on a tablet or phone with speakers, but the convenience of the Amazon Fire TV Stick allows us to listen to our music in the cloud or our favorite radio station on Tunein in a centralized place with rich sound. It’s like Amazon packaged our wants we didn’t know we had and included everyone, techie or not. Now that’s a feat.

This little stick might be Comcast’s worst nightmare. Normals or non-techies can cut the cord and never feel it. So what did I do once the television was free. I watched the Christmas season of ” The Wrong Mans” on Hulu on the Amazon Fire Stick! Sorry Google Chromecast I can just be so loyal.

What does dead.phpYou have to do with Oprah? That was my first thought when I read the SMS in the wee hours of the morning, at least early enough that my feet hadn’t hit the tile. I hear a Hel-lo, two-beat beep, expecting an SMS from maybe family, but get this quizzical phishing request? It’s a text from Yahoo mail sent via iPhone. Any comments on whether my early morning missive is harmful or not?

Can read about it in the new Oprah book.

Can read about it in the new Oprah’s book. Alana

Loaded up new Firefox 33.1.1. browser. Twitter would connect but the page would show only files, and reddit wouldn’t connect at all. The CMOS Battery was/is dead in the old HP laptop. Internet time  and date was wrong. This is what it looked it like. Got a laugh from the message that said it contains a date in the future. After I adjusted the time and date Firefox connected to both reddit and Twitter, just fine. Chrome browser didn’t have a problem with the wrong time and date. Google and Gmail connected also, with the incorrect time.

Twitter problem Capture

reddit secure connection problem Capture

Setting up an interior gateway router (IGR) on Netgear WNDR 3800

Let’s say you want a second router upstairs in your home, where you have run an ethernet cable, what do you do? (Wireless only meshes, or failover from ethernet to wireless is also possible, in CeroWrt).

“Yesterday jg and I were working on cleaning up
 and it is still pretty dense.” Dave Taht, developer, CEROwrt.

CeroWrt routes by default, not bridges. This brings in some complexity in setup but large gains in latency.

For information on bridging, rather than routing, see Setting up CeroWrt to bridge. See also Tuning your CeroWrt default gateway.

Post is an excerpt from the CEROwrt site and a quote from an email from Dave That.

Hey Dave, 
On the G. Carlin style rant. A literary masterpiece shouldn’t be altered. One of these days a tech archivist will stumble upon that piece, and say, “Oh my fucking god, that’s awesome, and so encapsulates that era.” Keep it, it’s under appreciated. 
I read about your struggles with your project, the time out of your life, and I’d guessed about the pull of other projects, and hard choices. It seemed to me that CERO was a best-kept-secret that everyone should hear about. Your system, which is more like an operating system, than firmware, felt right from the beginning, and ready for the next step, beyond mainline Linux and Openwrt, and on to mainline users. 
I see that you have a chicken and egg dilemma, in that too much of a good thing has several outcomes, so which do you choose? Sometimes funding is slow to come in the very early stages. You’ve had a rough time, funding and working at the same time. I thought that writing about it might bring publicity that would help with funding. Because routers are more important now, than before, I wondered why a tech journalist hadn’t picked up on your project. I see a few stories have begun to appear in the New York Times, and tech magazines about MESH.
MESH networks are socially important to places like Ferguson, MO, towns under duress. Just think what a crude but fast mesh could have meant to that community, and similar communities at risk for civil emergencies, or for that matter, survival after hurricanes or earthquakes or whatever is in our future, since our physical communication infrastructure is disappearing. Think about the Comcast merger that will determine the speed of WiFi or who is allowed to log on and who is not. I’m guessing not a profane blogger who wants to make an awesome point.
A MESH network, where nodes can be thrown up on demand, and healed when others go down, is the future. And, without the bloat, the CERO MESH is possibly easier and faster than other firmwares. And though it’s a bit complex for the average person, someone always knows someone who can help them with it. The Netgear router you’ve chosen is inexpensive, prevalent and usable, and that makes it easier for CERO to spread quickly after this most recent release. It’s good hardware.
Current router firmware is so full of holes that fixing one is like digging a deep hole in the ground, and throwing the dirt in behind us, only to have it fall right back in the hole, and fill it up again. Even after the Asus, Cisco, name it, debacle with USB and other flaws in router firmware, manufacturers don’t seem to get it. People have had enough disengagement with security, with buggy software that wasn’t well developed to protect them or speed up their connection. 
Your firmware is ahead of its time. That makes it difficult. We’re just learning how little manufacturers feel about customers, and how necessary it is to our everyday lives, for banking, relationships, shopping, and future lives, when  online medical consultations become ordinary, and maker communities design prosthetic limbs to print online, and a shitload of other services that we haven’t thought up, yet, happen online, but can’t do without.
All of this stuff, I’m sure you know, but it never hurts to say it again.  Feel free to reprint the stuff from my blog on you site or wherever it helps you. I’ll be following your progress with interest.

cisco m10

My daughter found an old Cisco Valet M10 router at a thrift shop for one dollar. She eyed the Cat5e cable that was attached, and it looked good. She knows that I’m always looking for patch cables, because I break the clips off the plugs from time to time, and the plug slips out of my router or laptop, and annoys me. So, she bought the Cisco Valet for it’s hefty, gray cable, probably thinking the router was worthless, and brought it home.

The Cisco blue-and-white router looks diminutive beside my old Linksys router, the WRT610N, and my newer Asus RT. The little Cisco router is famous for catching “The Moon” worm, a self-replicating, devil of a router infection, that jumps from one router to another. I’m not eager to mess with it. So, I research it, walk around it for a few days and say what the hell, let’s put DD-WRT on it.

For those of you who don’t know, DD-WRT is an alternative Linux firmware that replaces the buggy, insecure firmware that comes on 80% of the top 25 routers sold in the US. It will only work with certain routers, but when you get it right it’s incredibly flexible and secure. When you get it wrong you’ve bricked your router. Some can be resuscitated some not.

The Cisco Valet was offered for sale in 2010, and it was marketed as a mom router because of it’s ease of set up. A thumb drive containing the network configuration came packaged with the router. A user simply plugged the USB drive into the router, powered it up, and connected to the Internet, only it wasn’t that easy. The Cisco USB set up worked some of the time, but often people were frustrated with it, so you can still find a perfectly serviceable Valet router every so often.

The Cisco had 8 MB of flash memory. The Linux DD-WRT firmware I found was almost 4 MB, but it would fit, the serial numbers on the bottom of the router began with CVJO1K which meant it is Version 1, and compatible with DD-WRT, so that was a go. Play time! I thought I could make a repeater bridge out of the Cisco. It probably wouldn’t reach across the street as the Linksys 610N had when bridged, but it might serve as a back bedroom wireless extension.

I’d recently installed TomatoUSB by Shibby on my main router. Would tomato and DD-WRT play well together? Would they bridge and repeat together, or would I have to forward ports and finesse the whole thing, which I didn’t have the patience for. Although, there is quite a great collection of information out there about these two alternative router firmwares that I’d read in forums, this question about compatibility between the two when bridging hadn’t been mentioned. Maybe it was a non-issue, but so much with Linux is not trivial.

I’d bridged my original Asus router and my Linksys DD-WRT router with no problem. The repeating function not only reached through cinder block, but it crossed the street and into the far reaches of our neighbor’s home. This, however, was different. I’d just flashed TomatoUSB by Shibby on the Asus router, and I didn’t have the slick working original Ausus firmware to fall back on, so I didn’t know what to expect. I’d tinkered to get a bridge set up between tomato and DD-WRT, which is usually pretty easy, but still hadn’t gotten it to work.


The Cisco we bought for one dollar was so peppy and responsive, I had to try it. What did I have to lose if I wasted an old Cisco router, brick it in the name of fun, or maybe succeed at setting up a repeater bridge on it.

Because the router could have a virus or worm in it, I didn’t hook it up to my modem or the Internet. Instead, I hooked the cable that came with it into an old Acer laptop with Ubuntu Linux on it. I didn’t attempt to see if the USB worked, either. As a precaution, I planned to wipe out the Ubuntu desktop, and install a fresh version after I was finished playing, since I’m not sure how this worm propagates.

I connected the cable on the one end to the Cisco router, port 4, and on the other end to my laptop’s Ethernet port, to get a local connection without Internet to allow me to connect to my laptop so I could open the router settings page. I opened my Firefox browser by typed in the search bar, and hit enter.

As I remember, admin, admin was the user name and password. “Frank & Louise” still had their information in there, along with a Bell South email address, and IP address. Apparently, it was a Canadian router that had been dropped off in Florida. Lots of information left in the router for anyone.

The Cisco M10 settings page was simplistic, with not too many options. I went to the administration page, and backed up the original firmware in case the dd-wrt flash didn’t work. I downloaded dd-wrt.v24-18946_NEWD-2_k2.6_openvpn_small.bin made especially for the Cisco Valet M10. I uploaded the DD-WRT firmware through the Cisco restore option, as per the guideline, which also said that often the Cisco router dialog would send a message saying the firmware was the wrong version, or it could just hang there and not finish. Neither happened, it installed like it was the original software. I got a message saying the restoration had succeeded. The settings page on the Cisco looks very much like my Linksys DD-WRT settings page.

Once more I try to set up a repeater bridge, but this time I go back to the original guidelines at the DD-WRT website. My notes had been wrong. The Cisco repeated immediately. It worked with TomatoUSB without a blip. Only thing is it was working at around 12 mbs, and barely had two bars in our back bedroom. It should have ran at 54 mbs. We get up to 72 mbs as we get closer to our router. I went on to set up my Linksys-dd-wrt and the TomatoUSB repeater bridge with no problem.

A footnote to my Cisco M10 signal and speed: Later I set up the Netgear WNDR 3800 CEROwrt router. I plugged the Netgear router into the Ethernet slot beside the WAN in my primary router, the Asus RT-N16 with TomatoUSB by Shibby, and the signal in the far bedroom on the Cisco M10 popped up to 54 mbs. The signal was full bars.

I didn’t get any encryption to work. The CEROwrt is set up to the internal IP,, unlike the TomatoUSB, which is At any rate, apparently, the Cerowrt could connect with my encrypted Internet, internally without any encryption. And when it connected it boosted each repeater or bridge router in the system. So, the little router who could, did, it reached through walls.



Email to Dave Taht, CEROwrt

One of the reasons I wrote “Flash Netgear WNDR 3800CH Router with TORONTO CEROwrt 3.10.50-1” is that the dev/user area at CEROwrt seemed to have only a few users; although, dev was very active.

CeroWrt  3.10.50-1 is ready for wider use —  if a non-coding user like me is installing it. I tinker but I don’t  hack code; I’m an end user. And, as full of errors as the story below might be it’s still one of a half-dozen stories on old blogs about Cerwrt that might familiarize people who search Google for information about this latest version of Cerowrt.

DD-WRT users are a group who might benefit from it, at this point in its development, but there are others like me who aren’t on those forums but might be encouraged to try it, with help.

I’d like to see a broad based users group come together. As a system this version of Cerowrt is pretty sweet. I’m as excited about it as i was when i first saw Linux many years ago. Users help each other. I want that help. I’m not an early adopter. I come in later when a technology is just ready to be baked in but too soon for the timid.

Could the site make a more visible area that doesn’t seem as formidable. I don’t belong w/ the devs, and other people w/ these routers don’t feel comfortable w/ the devs, we kind of feel in the way. There are a ton of these Chinese routers out there w/ buggy stock firmware but nice not-too-dated hardware. Can you refer me to anyone who might want to enlarge this User Area?

Thanks, also for the link on civil liberty, George Carlin style.

I bought a $50 Chinese router from Amazon.

Netgear WNDR 3800 Router

Netgear WNDR 3800 Router, WAN thru LAN with CEROwrt

The WNDR 3800 is a capable router, it’s in good shape, and it works as it should. But, it is a WNDR 3800CH, Chinese router, not a WNDR 3800 NA, North American router. And, it seems more used than I expected, not by appearance but by the fact it was previously commercially owned by a cable company, not an individual. I did finally make this router work with an alternative firmware, which was my goal, but not the alternative firmware I’d originally wanted.

I bought the router to extend my network to a back bedroom, and to follow the EFF CEROwrt open router research and development projects. First I wanted to flash BrainSlayer’s DD-WRT on it, and maybe later, in a few months, play with the cutting-edge CEROwrt firmware. Nothing turned out as I’d imagined. I didn’t manage to flash BrainSlayer’s firmware.

I needed to downgrade the router to an earlier Netgear version, and this Chinese router is finicky about what firmware it accepts, unlike the North American version. And, though the Chinese WND R 3800 CH is cheap, keeping the original Netgear firmware is out of the question, it’s buggy and insecure, not to mention it’s Charter Communication’s firmware, which, if I’m not mistaken, leaves a back door for password changes when a customer cannot access their router.

The WNDR was advertised as new and open box without a setup CD. It came packed in a brown box that said, “used, like new, MADE IN CHINA.” The router was wrapped in clear cellophane with a white label for the Charter Communication’s SSID, MyCharterWiFi6a-2G, and password, cloudycanoe219.

The North American model’s last update was December 2013, and it was V1. This Asian model came with V1., a developer’s version. The guidelines for flashing DD-WRT onto the WNDR 3800 NA suggest downgrading to V1. so that the router can be flashed. Netgear added a marker to disallow installation of other firmware on their router after V1. I could not get the Chinese router to downgrade from the 51CH version to the earlier version.

I thought about boxing the router up and sending it back – the EFF site states that the CH version does not work with their research project, either. I did, however, find a very good CEROwrt CH version by a developer who changed some code, and engineered an up-to-date CEROwrt 3.10.50-1, with Heartbleed bug update, and other fixes. It’s referred to as the “ready to bake” version. It’s ready for the not-too-timid user to flash their primary router with, and use it day-to-day.

Toronto CEROwrt works great on the WNDR 3800 CH router; it’s tough, and kind of amazing. Turning the firewall on is a rush. It cascades down the page, live. The default password: Beatthebloat refers to removing the bloat to speed up the router, which apparently works. The link is snapon Lab Index of/~Cero2/test-wndr3800CH, and the code name is CEROwrt Toronto 3.10.50-1/LuCl Trunk, build 7/28/2014.

So, now I’m running a very fast TORONTO CEROwrt on the WNDR 3800 CH and wondering how to add a repeater bridge. It seems CEROwrt 3.10.50 CH doesn’t set up bridges in the old sense, it port forwards. It does repeat when I hook it into the Ethernet port on my primary router, the ASUS RT-N16 (TomatoUSB by Shibby). And, the speed tests done with the Netgear hooked into the Ethernet port of the Asus are far faster than done on the Asus alone.

After a week of tinkering, I have a router with an option for MESH, which I don’t yet understand, and a weird type of repeater, which I’m guessing is WAN through LAN (?), where I can plug or connect the Netgear WAN into the Asus Ethernet port 1 and use it for a DUAL LAN. This speeds up the wireless connections and increases signal for all the routers connected including the two additional Linksys routers that are repeater bridges.

The thing I haven’t figured out, is how and if I can add WPA2 to the WNDR 3800 WAN to LAN connection. And, this might not be in the spirit of Openwrt philosophy, but the WNDR 3800 won’t connect with encryption enabled while it’s hooked into the Asus Ethernet Port. Although, it has every kind of encryption combination you might want, and every service you might need, including, Polipio, a light, fast proxy, that runs by default, it can be overwhelming. The interface is slick, it’s professional, an unexpected gift. It’s a perfect fit for the WNDR 3800 CH.

This router wasn’t what I expected, but it’s definitely been fun, and now, it even seems rock solid. I might add there isn’t any going back to the original Netgear firmware after CEROwrt CH is flashed, unless maybe you download the CEROwrt V1. from a developer’s site, which I haven’t tried.

I backed up my original firmware but the CEROwrt declined to restore the backup. I ran a 30-30-30 to make sure old settings were gone. I waited 30 minutes for the flash to finish, and lost patience, and shut the router down. The Netgear router turned on and the lights flashed and I logged back on. The router with the CEROwrt seemed impervious to whatever I tried to do to it for about 4 hours of trial and error, to remove it. So, if you flash it you probably own it.

Would I buy the WNDR 3800 CH again? Yes. I wanted an inexpensive router that I could run alternative firmware on, and I didn’t want to pay over $50 for it. The router works like a new router, and I don’t like that it’s been used as much as it most likely has, but it is a powerful, older router that will most likely allow me to follow the EFF research and development as an offshoot, which will be interesting.

I do wish I hadn’t been surprised by the Chinese router. I don’t remember reading in the description that the router was Chinese not North American. And I’d like to read more war stories from early adopters who use TORONTO and it’s later iterations as a primary home router.

The pursuit of sassiness Frida Kahlo

Word painting is a slowing of time so we can see, feel, 
think, in that order.

Images blur at a biological level

morning stares back at you,

a cool morning

w/ color upon color

stare long enough, you become a part of it,

a painting, that is

Inside looking out

standing still, looking back into your life

ragged and jagged, the picture from within

the frame,

flawed but clear

But the morning’s brighter

one whole flows into the next

no frame

messy, beautiful, concrete

Real life

the colors so amazing

we have to paint it in pigmented words

to catch the tiniest, chunk of it.

Word painting is a slowing of time so we can see, feel, think . . . love, hate, forgive, live, imperfectly, a water color, vague, contentious, sassy life.

Photo from Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA  The Case Files: Frida Kahlo

Andrew O’Hagan wrote a too-hot-to-touch screed titled GHOSTING about Julian Assange in the London Review of Books. It was good. It was insightful. It was anything but boring. More than anything, indirectly, it was story about what makes hacker and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange tick.

O’ Hagen’s story came out a few days ago, made the headline page on digg. The read was long. It sounded genuine, every sentence. O’Hagan is a writer, an accomplished ghost writer. He worked with Julian Assange for one-hundred plus days, before their working relationship fell apart, somewhere around 2011 or 2012. O’Hagan kept his council, until now.

From O’Hagan’s descriptions, Assange sounds autistic or somewhere, therein, but he seems to have more going on than that. He’s like a bit of a mad genius, and an unfortunate who alienates those most necessary to his well-being. Borderline Personality Disorder kept popping into my head, often, as I read the story.

I’ve been on the fence about how I feel about Assange. The release of the mass of the cables without vetting seemed wrong. Yet, after reading about O’Hagan’s experience, I think I better understand why Assange released all of the cables rather than allowing them to be vetted, which might have been the right thing to do, since they might cause as little harm as possible to innocents or those in sensitive postions, who might have their lives taken as a result.

From the many stories about Assange and his disorganization, lack of prioritization, and habits, I’m guessing this person lacks, mentally, any kind of executive function. I believe that he thinks at such an abstract level, and at such a speed that his brain isn’t set up for concreteness of any kind. And, he’s is a hacker who sees with a hacker’s eyes, and he’s probably an obsessive paranoid as extreme hacker’s are apt to be.

So, if Assange feels that the people around him can’t see what he sees, or understand at the depth he does, then he can’t trust them, period, much less with the cables, for they surely wouldn’t handle them as he would, he imagines.

And since he doesn’t seem to have enough executive function to keep up with his socks, then he surely knows that he’s not going to sort through a maze of cables. After all, gettting the cables is what he enjoys, reading others secrets, and feeling the buzz of knowing what not a fraction of the people on earth know, but organizing information is boring. Assange most likely can’t make himself do anything for money or love, that is uninteresting, or he would be wealthy by now.

Andrew O’Hagan wrote strong statements about his time spent with Julian Assange. He wrote like he had things to say that were eating a hole in his insides, trying to get out.

Assange must be ranting by now. Does he have anyone left to rant to? He lives in a world where others have to reflect what he projects, in a world where he has to be paranoid to survive, where a personality quirk drives away those most loved and needed. Maybe it takes someone like Assange to attract followers for a site like WikiLeaks. At any rate it’s a must read, and a read you can stay with to the end.

The running joke about Chemical Valley is about its eventual demise. We all know something bad is going to happen here, when we drive by Belle and smell the chemical plants across the river, Union Carbide, and others, we all kind of live here knowing it’s a disaster waiting to happen – we figure that sometime in the future there will be dead bodies lying every where, it won’t be about clean water. We wonder when DuPont will implode, and the chemical cloud will come down the valley and we will die choking. But I guess it’s like living under a volcano. It spews out magma, a few people get hurt, stinks up the place but then the news goes away. You get used to keeping a wary eye while wondering when its going to full-on explode. I’ve always wondered how people felt when they lived next to a volcano. Is our volcano your volcano, our poisonous cloud your poisonous cloud, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, DC?

Possibly 12 million people are potentially exposed to “4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation by Freedom Industries whose storage facility was last inspected in 1991, and the source of the leak.” It occurred not from terrorism but ineptitude.

MCHM was released by two escapees from a Carl Hiassen novel. It affects, not merely 300,000 easily dismissed West Virginians, but if you count Cincinnati, Louisville, and all the population between there and the Gulf of Mexico you exponentiate to the millions.

Our nightmare has come true, our water systems have been compromised, and not from terrorists but from ineptitude, from surgical budget cuts that hobble inspectors, and from a no-regulation ideology in a state desperate for employment. Two companies that lacked oversight, and one that lacked zero regulation have endangered the population of the middle America and its water supply.

Think it doesn’t affect your city, it’s a West Virginia problem – not thinking is why we are here – it is recommended that we don’t think. A city runs on water. Water seeks it’s level. You cannot stop rushing water, nor can you control seeping water. It is a force. You cannot keep it out of your tap water, unless you take action.

Call, write, persuade your representative to intercede in this national crisis. It’s not just those West Virginians who live in Chemical Valley who are not able to drink municipal water after the NO DRINK BAN was lifted.. The Elk River spill will slither its way to the your doorstep. If you escape this one with the aging infrastructure, and a state with few or no regulations, will your town be next?

Cincinnati, Louisville, and cities and towns down the river route to the ocean are exposed to a sinister chemical that although it has not been tested thoroughly, and has been known to kill rats, to interfere with the formation of the embryo, lower white blood count, and possibly cause leukemia and lymphoma, according to the wording of a major lawsuit filed in the brink of a major toxic water event that is unfathomable. Is there any acceptable level for this chemical? Are sores, burns, rashes, and pneumonia acceptable?

Any city’s financial health is tied to the daily delivery of drinkable, useable water to restaurants, salons, schools, and hospitals, communities at large. MCHM does not disappear when Cincinnati closes its valves for 48 hours. Louisville, regardless of what American Water, a corporation traded on the stock exchange tells us, the source has not been eliminated, the river banks, as well as the streams will most likely release it for sometime.

If perchance this stuff gets into your water supply in sufficient quantity, your customers will not drink this stuff. It stinks like cherry-liquorice commode cleaner. Wash a customer’s hair in it they might have sores on their scalps, or not, you might have introduced a stealth carcinogen to your customers. Like to fish, and like to eat your fish: caution.

So, it happens to you, but your neighbor’s water is flushed, but the ban has not been lifted in your area, the offending company brings “clean” water around, distributes it to the high school. All is good, right? Wrong. In West Virginia, the water company runs around back, loads up its tankers with dirty water, distributes it at the local high school, still smelling like commode cleaner. They pass the tanker water off as clean water; they don’t admit it is dirty water until people begin complaining. So, you ask yourself, can a company who tells you it’s delivering water from clean source be believed when it says it’s tested the water, and it’s safe to drink?

The CDC is usually the agency you go to for answers, but this time they wouldn’t back themselves up. It was the same mantra over and over. When the CDC was asked if the water was safe the questioners were referred to the American Water Company, and when the reporters went back to the water company they were told to contact the CDC.

The people of West Virginia were told the chemical was safe to drink and bathe in. Forty-eight hours later they said, no, wait, maybe pregnant women, children under three, and those with immune system problems shouldn’t drink it. A doctor from the health department said essentially that it is all in the heads of the complainers, it will go away. Who are you to believe. You want to bathe, you want to wash dishes, you want your life back.

And, the CDC decision to call the toxic water fixed at one part per million is a joke, and the real joke is on all the states bordering the rivers that the Elk River in West Virginia flows into, and leaks away from to free standing wells and septic tanks, because this chemical cannot be turned off by closing the valves for 48 hours, it’s still coming. The 60 mile plume is only the most evident sign that it’s passing your cities.

And if you can smell it, and you get pneumonia are the particles in the air hazardous? The smell is not a detector like Mercapton in natural gas. Natural gas smells funky because it has an additive that smells, and warns us when it leaks so we can detect it. Gasoline smell is simply gasoline. It irritates when ingested or breathed. MCHM does the same.  MCHM has an odor described as faint. Crude MCHM contains six additional ingredients, which we may or may not have an odor, and may or may not cause lungs, eyes, and throat to burn. [There is too little information about the crude MCHM in combination with the other six ingredients to say for sure if the combinatorial chemical is hazardous to breath.]

I am nothing if not cynical about West Virginia, my state of birth and the nation I’ve respected and loved. We are led by leaderless, self-absorbed, greedy, without conscience, arrogant, superior feeling group of politicians who spy and lie to their constituents – barefaced lies, that barely conceal their contempt for those they deem inferior – anyone who is not them. They are smarter and more deserving, smug and sure, and ripe for political upending.

Our elected representatives from the president of the United States down the line through the Senate and Congress failed to report to duty, or rather reported, then ran off when the real work started in West Virginia, offering flats of water without offering words of assurance or compassion, or a plan. The city of Charleston’s fragile economy is falling apart. A city runs on water. Do you understand the implications, Cincinnati and Louisville? West Virginia is small enough to fail. Cincinnati may be too large to help.

California burns, North Carolina leaks radioactive water, poor children miss the only sure meals for the week because they cannot attend school in West Virginia, a mother whose husband has died chooses between buying kerosene for heat or water for her children; a school shooting happens in New Mexico, but who cares or notices.

The national pundits fiddle while California burns, the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers are poisoned, and North Carolina streams – who knows, so little about the recent radiation damage is published. While our children are hungry, and our unborn babies development threatened, the national media fawns and fumbles over the Chris Christie cat fight, a footnote in history. Not all of the media, thank goodness. Some are brave and relentless, appalled and letting us know it, like Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette, giving us information to make decisions for an about our families.

When you have two corporate weasels and two corporations not locally owned, and politicians bought and paid for, and a system not propped up by regulations, inspections, and regular maintenance, it’s surprising it has not happened before on a larger scale.


 THE INTERNET IS OFF AGAIN 8:00 AM. : The Internet went out again. All the lights were lit up as they should  appear on my modem. The blue light for the Internet was lit on my router. All was well with the world except the Internet would not work. Modem doesn’t work again this morning, Thursday, December 19, 2013. Unplugged, rebooted, waited 20 seconds, tried all the stuff you’re supposed to try. Hooked the modem directly to the computer, no router attached. Next move, the REFRESH.

Called Comcast technical support, asked for a modem refresh –not able to send a refresh rate message comes back, and I’m sent to TECHNICAL SUPPORT immediately. The last time, two days ago, when the Internet went out, the Internet signal intermittently did get through every 45-50 seconds before it went off, so it looked like we had signal, it seemed a whole lot harder to deal with. So, this time  got Dianna, quickly. She sounds Spanish, easy to understand. I ask for technical support to come to the house right off the bat, but Dianna asks to run diagnostics. After about 45 minutes, and several recycles she gets the modem working.

She says that if we continue to send signals from Comcast it could ruin my modem. She believes that there are STRONG POWER SURGES coming into the house causing the modem to go into STANDBY. She asks me if the modem is a Motorola. She says that an ARRIS modem would work better, they almost never have a problem with them. I say that I’ve been looking at the ARRIS. She doesn’t go as far as suggesting that I rent the Comcast modem. She explains that the ARRIS modems are built to deal with electrical current better than other brands.

Dianna also said to get something to modulate the power. Something on Reddit that I have to read. What’s the difference between upstream power and downstream power?  I’ll check those stats in my modem software page. Been having a problem with an intruder in Gmail and a few minor annoyances. Guessing that’s a coincidence. How unlikely is it that someone would attack a cable modem? I’m scratching my head here. Moving on. Will read reddit page again.

Dianna has explained each step that she has taken and why she has taken it. Part of the solution for Comcast is better customer service. Dianna is a better customer service representative than the last four to five male representatives I’ve had to deal with. In fact, the ARRIS female representative was better than those five males that I’ve dealt with in the last 30 days or so.

POWER SHUTDOWN:  As if on que, at 9:38 AM, the house power has flashed off and on, shut down my computer and the lights in the entire house have flashed off and on. A few moments later, and a resiet, and the modem is back up but the orange link light is flashing so that means the connection is slower. The blue solid light is gone, forever? grrrrh.

Next step: Go to reddit to read about a power modulator? Buy an Arris modem?


 THE INTERNET IS OFF AGAIN 8:00 AM.  The Internet went out again. All the lights were lit up as they should  appear on my modem. The blue light for the Internet was lit on my router. All was well with the world except … our customer-owned modem didn’t work again this morning, Thursday, December 19, 2013. I unplugged, rebooted, waited 20 seconds, tried all the stuff you’re supposed to try. I hooked the modem directly to the computer, no router attached. I’d jiggled connections, and checked and rechecked connections, but nothing. I had one option left, the COMCAST REFRESH.

Called Comcast technical support, asked for a modem refresh, and a “not able to send a refresh rate” message comes back. I’m sent to TECHNICAL SUPPORT immediately. The last time, two days ago, when the Internet went out, the Internet signal intermittently did get through every 45-50 seconds before it went off. The intermittent problem seemed a whole lot harder to deal with than the other problems we were having. So, this time  got Dianna, FAST. She sounds Spanish, easy to understand. I ask for technical support to come to the house right off the bat, but Dianna asks to run diagnostics. After about 45 minutes, and several recycles she gets the modem working.

She says that if we continue to send signals from Comcast it could ruin my modem. She believes that there are STRONG POWER SURGES coming into the house causing the modem to go into STANDBY. She asks me if the modem is a Motorola. She says that an ARRIS modem would work better, they almost never have a problem with them. I say that I’ve been looking at the ARRIS. She doesn’t go as far as suggesting that I rent the Comcast modem. She explains that the ARRIS modems are built to deal with electrical current better than other brands.

Dianna also said to get something to modulate the power. Something on Reddit that I have to read. What’s the difference between upstream power and downstream power?  I’ll check those stats in my modem software page. Been having a problem with an intruder in Gmail and a few minor annoyances. Guessing that’s a coincidence. How unlikely is it that someone would attack a cable modem? I’m scratching my head here. Moving on. Fugetaboutit! I’m grasping at anything that would make just a bit of sense.

Dianna has explained each step that she has taken and why she has taken it. Part of the solution for Comcast is better customer service. Dianna is a better customer service representative than the last four to five male representatives I’ve had to deal with. In fact, the ARRIS /MOTOROLA  female representative that I’ll deal with before the end of my ordeal, is better than those five males that I’ve dealt with in the last 30 days or so.

WHO WANTS TO VOLUNTEER TO CALL COMCAST, AGAIN?  As if on cue, at 9:38 AM, the house power has flashed off and on, shut down my computer and the lights in the entire house have flashed off and on. A few moments later, and a reset, and the modem is back up but the orange link light is flashing so that means the connection is slower, and the Internet is off. Grrrrh.

Should I go to reddit to read about a power modulator? Buy an Arris modem? Or ask my daughter to call this time. She’s level headed and smart, she can sort this out better than I can.

“Nope I did it the last time,” my daughter says, backing out of room with her hands raised, palms up. “I just can’t do this today. She’s refusing to call Comcast Technical Support, and I don’t blame her. I don’t want to call either but it’s my turn.

The Motorola, SB6141, SURFboard eXtreme, (now owned by Arris?), greeted me with an odd intermittent, flashing red light that wasn’t timed exactly right for the third time in a month, which, before I finish, will eat up nearly five days of my life, and has most likely made surfing the web frustrating for weeks. Our modem worked right out of the box. No trouble ’til now.

We waited an hour for the Internet to return, another hour fumbling with cables to see if I’d tripped up something, and nothing I do works. The inevitable Comcast call is staring me in the face. So, I make the call.

“Would you like to answer a survey BEFORE you talk to a technician?” Press 1 . . .

Is this a new twist on Chinese water torture? It won’t be the last time I’m asked to take a survey today.

I press 2 for NO. It’s best I don’t. I know right from the beginning I’m probably in for a day-long ordeal. I’m not happy.

It takes less time than usual, maybe 10 minutes to get through to technical support. This is going better than usual. I ask my daughter to at least listen in on the conversation. “What is your name?” Just tell them you’re me, she whispers. I pay the Comcast bill monthly, and I take care of the technical support, here, but I’ve never put my name on the account. Always before, I’ve been accepted, so I give him my name; I know it’s recorded in their notes.

He blitzes me: Sorry, you are not authorized to access this account. He’s going to hang up. So, I jam the phone into my daughter’s hands before the tech can hang up. She rolls her eyes, but takes the call.

The tech walks her through the expected steps, during which, he describes how much in love he is with his girl friend and what his plans are this weekend. Like a good sport, she chats with him, while giving me the WTF look; the conversation takes psychic energy, her face grows pale. The call goes on far too long, and ends with nothing resolved. She gives up, and goes to a dark room, puts a pillow over her face to block out any light. She has a migraine. In fairness, she says the migraine has been coming on for days, now.

So, the problem is mine. I give the next three techs her name when they ask, and I spend the rest of the day, on the phone with Comcast, going through the same diagnostics, over and over, with non-native language techs, who can sometimes make listening, a blood sport.


On her first call, several weeks ago, a tech told my daughter, “Your modem might be getting old.” She tells him,“We like owning our modem, but thank you, we’ll buy a new one if this one is bad.” After she hangs up, while we are deciding what we should do about no service, the Internet comes back on like magic, like nothing was ever wrong. But, this time the Internet has not come back on it’s own, and perhaps we should buy a new modem.

The OLD Motorola modem was bought from Amazon this spring, but just in case, we chug over to Walmart to buy a NEW cable modem, which is ninety-dollars for the same model 141 modem because that’s all they stock, but it’ll allow me to double check the modem and all our connections, before the Comcast service provider comes tomorrow evening, between 3 and 6, and maybe fix our Internet problem, ourselves.


Google or Yahoo users would mutiny, if they were told they’d have a service outage of thirty hours. No reddit, no Digg, no morning coffee with the news, no bedtime Netflix or Hulu. It’s an information blackout.

And, what’s worse, although I buy inside coverage, each tech will tell me at the end of our impotent conversations, with somber, emphatic intonation, something like you know you are going to be charged $50 – $80 if the problem is INSIDE – not outside, meaning, you really should rent a Comcast modem?

Maybe not. Maybe it isn’t a ploy to get us to change to Comcast equipment. After all, these trained technical support representatives for Comcast cable, all agree that the signal is getting through, the problem is on our end. It would seem that either we have something hooked up wrong or the cable modem is bad.


I unbox a new modem, hook it up. In an hour I’ll have Internet. I make the call.

“Would you like to answer a survey before you talk to a technician?” NO!

“We appreciate your patience, please continue holding, our customer account executives are still assisting other customers.” Every 30 seconds or so. Shrill, relentless. It might discourage the lesser obsessive, but not me.

Number 3 tech picks up the phone, non-native, but well-spoken, he begins by asking, “What do you need?” Ahhh! Someone who understands me, and I understand them, who doesn’t speak at the speed of light.

“I want to activate a NEW modem.”

“I see you have a history.”

The farther down the line I’m kicked, the edgier the tone of voice of the subsequent tech. Number 3 tech knows that I have ticket(s), that nothing was resolved by previous techs, that indeed, I have a history, I’m a trouble maker, and just like a Gitmo interrogation on Groundhog Day, the tech asks me to try the same frickn’ things over, again.

And I’m tired. I’m screwing up. I notice a plug has come loose in the back of the modem, I’ve broken the tab that holds it in the modem, and now our last try is a washout. And what’s more annoying, the tech INSISTS that his signal is going through, just like the other techs had insisted.

I beg for just one more try. It must be something I’m doing wrong if three techs agree. We are so close. I have a NEW modem. Ah, but no one likes the smell of desperation. He wants me off the line, gives me another number to call.


“This number activates your modem.”

“But I thought that’s what we were doing, you know, activating my NEW modem?”

So, I call the NEW activation guy. The tech says, “let me read something first.”

We go through the same steps that failed before. Did he say, “You might need a new modem?” What did he say? I started at eight this morning, working on the modem, calling, and it’s four-ish… what did he say? Deep breath.

Did he say you know I can get you an appointment to get a tech to come out to your house, blah… blah ..blah $50-80.00. I haven’t eaten this afternoon, and his words are a frickn’ blur. Robotic like, I say, “I have an appointment, if you check I’m sure you’ll see.”


Just because Comcast tag-team takes turns wearing down my resolve doesn’t mean that I’ve hung my hat up at 5:00 this evening. No, way. I notice while packing my new modem in it’s box, a warning: BEFORE RETURNING THIS PRODUCT TO THE STORE for any reason, please call Motorola Broadband Technical Support.

So, I call the modem manufacturer, 1-877-466-8646, and get ARRIS tech support, and a helpful, lovely female tech, who tests the modem to see if it’s answering.

The ARRIS technical support representative is communicative and she knows how to problem solve, but she can’t get the box to respond. She walks me through some ifconfig for Ubuntu, and pings, but nothing.  The modem must be bad she says, but there’s more to this story.


After talking to the ARRIS tech support representative about the NEW Motorola Modem, I think I know how I can prove that my OLD modem is good, that it’s the Comcast signal that’s going and coming. I remember the IP Widget that I installed on my Google tablet. I hook up my old cable modem, I hook up my Google tablet directly to the modem with an external Ethernet dongle. I open it up, and there it is, an IP address, it’s live. 

And there it isn’t. My IP pops up, then in about 43 seconds it shuts down, intermittent hell. No wonder I couldn’t get into the modem page on Ubuntu or Windows 7, I had to log in at the exact window when the Comcast signal was live.

I lose Comcast signal again, so I reboot the modem by pulling out the power cord. Again, I have an IP address on my tablet. I open the Motorola cable modem page  in Chrome. Beautiful! The Comcast statistics show every self test on the modem is good, my OLD modem is operational but the signal stays for only 45 seconds. 

I find that I can not only log onto my modem, again, and run all the tests, but I can reboot my cable modem from the page. The Comcast tests say “Done” and “Operational,” and it gives me the voltage and signal information. So the OLD Surf Modem works but it looks like the stats the ARRIS tech gave me for optimal performance on the Surfboard, are fluctuating, they’re off a bit.

ARRIS/Motorola support suggested 36 – 44 for optimal performance on Surfboard modems, if I read it correctly, mine reading was 57. The signal noise was off, too.


To make this very long story shorter, after watching similar behavior in the signal the next morning, with no Internet, still, about 1:00 p.m. the Comcast modem statistics look like they are changing, getting better, stabilizing, and that afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., I check my Google tablet, and the Internet is back. I notice the design of the cable modem page may be different, an update, a patch, a fix, or was it the Comcast signal in their lines, intermittently, going out every 45 seconds? At one point I had 75% packet loss on Windows 7.

If indeed, Comcast fixed a signal that arrived every 45 seconds, only to leave every 45 seconds, no call came in saying that it was fixed. No email report. No text to say “You can surf now.” No one offered to reimburse me for five days of lost time, and a month’s hassle, or even knock a little off my bill. No one explained what had happened, and I’m damn sure not going to call them to ask. We cancelled the service visit.

Did they work on the lines? Did they patch the modem? Did they roll out the new IPv6 update, and it tanked? We don’t know what the problem was or how it was resolved. My modem page shows IPv6 service, but I checked, and I’m still running IPv4. Did Comcast send an intermittent signal that dropped off every 45 seconds? Surely not?

We’ve lost Internet time, which should be reimbursed, plus the stress of dealing with Comcast technical support, plus listening to wait-messages, every thirty seconds or so, like fingernails on a chalkboard, and for what?

Am I wrong to feel that I’ve been sent running around in senseless technical support circles? Am I to believe this is the first time Comcast has had to deal with an intermittent Internet connection? I see plenty of frustrated customers talking about similar problems on the Internet.

Am I wrong to feel that Comcast’s technical support seems more like a cold war to me than an attempt at good customer relations.

I have one take away from my experience with Comcast. Google I love your Nexus 7 tablet. Hurry up, will you, with Google Fiber super speedy Internet.

National Science Academy

Credit Allvoices


Below is a reprint of my story about my 23&me experience from Allvoices. At the time I’d just tested with 23&me. It was an incredible experience. The information added to my life. Dollar for dollar it’s been worth it. It’s been several years since the testing. Since the latest controversy about 23&me I wanted to reprint my story for others to read. The graphic above was added to my site after an enthusiastic reception by thousands of readers. I have borrowed it for my site asking forgiveness rather than what ever it is you ask for, for using the graphic but it feels right. So, read on.

Somethings I’ve learned since the story, of course, but most everything I wrote is spot on several years later. For instance I’m pretty darn sure now that my father is my real father, and anyone who knows me could’ve told me that but hell I wanted to know. I found out that I’m related to my son-in-law, quite Appalachian, there. I’m not Jewish I’m 99% northern European with 2% American Indian. On my father’s side, my two brothers tested, and they are 99% European, 1% African.

Our family shows high to average amounts of Neanderthal genes. Now tell me would you ever get that kind of information in a doctor’s office? Early on the test didn’t say specifically that we had Neanderthal genes. It showed up in other DNA programs that enthusiasts had built to study their genomes. I was hesitant to add that we might have Neanderthal genes at the time. Later 23&me added graphics to show everyone who tested how much or how little Neanderthal genes they had inherited. It was great fun!

Good news for Alzheimer’s genes, low risk. I show an intolerance to wheat. That was the biggest find for me. I’d toyed with starting and stopping eating wheat products, even though wheat will send my brother to the emergency room, I still doubted that I had a problem because the symptoms were so hard to pin down. Stopped the bread, the wheat, and I am so happy to say I feel not just better for it, but wow! I’ve bought some Glutenease now, and take it when I eat a verboten pizza or roll, but I can say that knowing that I’m prone to Crohns Disease changed my life.

Sure some of the information might change in the future when more is known, and some of it might not be correct, but very large part of it made sense to me — it rang authentic. I got more diverse, more useful information, more interesting information from the 23&me test than a doctor would have time or resources to test for, for the small price of $99. When does a medical customer ever get out of a doctor’s office for $99? And I didn’t expect a medical outcome. I don’t expect a doctor to know everything or tell me everything about my body, because that isn’t possible. Why expect perfection from an early effort at genetics? We are early adopters who realize the potential. As early adopters we were a group mostly of educated professionals. We were not rubes who had to be protected. For me this test was great fun! I didn’t expect to be wowed! but I was and still am.


I’m not an adoptee looking for parents, I’m not dying from a genetic disease that needs a fast cure, I’m not a student molecular biologist or an armchair scientist, I’m definitely not a genealogist tracing bio-ancestors. I am not über educated.

I’m one of the curious who came to 23and Me, a genetic testing site, co-founded through what looks like a gutsy move by biotech analyst Anne Wojcicki, and imbued with the aura of Google and 23andMe investor, Sergey Brin , Co-Founder of Google.

I came to look and stayed.

I waited until testing fell to one hundred dollars, a price too good to pass up. I’d call myself a pioneer homesteader; one who came after the true pioneers who blazed a trail for me starting in 2007 on 23andMe, who did a lot of the hard work defining the forums, and asking questions of the staff, and asking for changes that improved the site.

And, I brought my family with me, in all our dysfunction and scientific ignorance. We are important, though, and those like us are important because we are a trend. We appear when an idea has found its time and its time has come. Personal genetics’ time has come, and along with it, predictive medicines’ time has come. And, I don’t think it’s the vision that Pharma and doctors nor the FDA had in mind. Nevertheless, plug the dike all you like this personal genome thing is too cool, too personal, too useful, too empowering to overlook or diminish.

Three months ago I paid for the 23andMe genetic test that included risk percentages for illnesses, including breast, colon, and skin cancer, which I was sure I would never have. No one in my family had them. Everyone I knew died of heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, COPD or aortic aneurysm, and something odd my grandmother had that included dementia that I could never accept as Alzheimer’s.

I sort of feared Alzheimer’s disease because my youngest daughter had already begun preparing mentally to care for me when-and-if, and I wanted to spare her that hell, which knowing me, she was pretty sure would be hell, but mostly, my family did not live long enough to get it, so I didn’t worry much about that either.

Three days after my sixty-fourth birthday, I got my results – the first results of many of my family who would test. I’d fretted the closer it got. I waited six weeks and in those weeks I had time to think about what I might find. I hoped that I would find Basque, a Spanish-French nationality, in my family. I read about the Basque and wanted to be one. I wondered about Aspergers and Autism or ADHD in some form, and was I Jewish?

Where did these odd questions and expectations come from? I don’t know but they did make more sense after I got my test, and found genes to match some of what I wondered about. I expected heart attack to be high up on the list. No surprise there. Not such a bad way to go for those you love, if it’s fast, and if I had to choose between Alzheimer’s and a quick exit, I’d take it. Yet, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know my risks the closer it got. And on the other end of it I wondered if the science was far enough along to get past my skepticism. Would all this be a hodgepodge of smoke and mirrors? Or would something valuable come of it?

I pretty much knew in my heart my father was my father, but I wanted to see it in pictograph, in black and white genetics, so I asked my brother to test. I had a night or two of fitful sleep around my birthday, two days before it posted, not from paternity worries but from risk factors I might not have anticipated; then when I saw my stuff post the angst disappeared, and curiosity and anticipation set in. It’s kind of like having your first child, and worrying you might not be able to do this thing, that maybe it wasn’t a good idea, and then you see the child, you hold the child, and it is so full of promise, you never think those things again.

In earnest, I mostly wanted to know why I was so eccentric. Born in a small, rural town in West Virginia, into an eccentric family that inordinately valued books and ideas, and into a family culture that was mostly alien to those around us, and into a family who was surrounded by Baptists and Pentecostals, but who were not outwardly religious in a traditional sense, and did not participate. I wanted to know why I was different. Why my family was different. Why my children were also different.

Some women and some people can drop themselves into a slot and fit like a key in a lock: click. I hadn’t found the door that fit with my key, and it didn’t look as if I would. On every Myers-Briggs personality test I scored as the rarest of rare, a female ENTP – a human salmon who swims against the current it’s whole life. I wasn’t sure how far research had gotten for personality traits but I’d at least wanted to see what the early research on personality said about my genes. Did I have the infamous DRD4 marker, for a risk taker; did I have a tendency for ADHD?

Why do I score so high in abstract thinking and seemed to lack the concrete ability to do more than basic math, yet loved math theory even though I could not fathom most of it? Did I have some kind of genetic glitch? Seriously.

And, the one medical issue I wanted to confirm was do I have the gene for Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease: too many in my family take thyroid hormone and are diagnosed with thyroid disease and autoimmune issues; my brothers, my sister, me, my children. It has taken a chunk of our lives. So I thought.

As I clicked on the left column, medical risks were listed first, and below that fun stuff like traits; color of eyes, tongue rolling, photic sneeze. Parkinson’s disease was the scariest to open. Alzheimer’s didn’t show up on 23andMe health risks at that time. I assumed I was okay (later results showed a decreased risk). I clicked on the locked Parkinson’s report, I sighed maybe, but I didn’t hesitate to click. I didn’t have the high risk gene marker. I let out a deep breath.

I quickly ran down my many high health risks: Celiac, high; Crohns disease, high; colon cancer, high; heart attack, high; no diabetes; Behcet’s disease, a red arrow pointing up. What is that? I look it up. It is more of an Arabic disease not common in the US, rare even, that helps me understand maybe my grandmother’s illness, but not where it came from. She wasn’t Arabic, and furthermore, our family isn’t Jewish; so I was a non-Jewish adult with a risk for a prevalent Jewish disease? Crohn’s disease?

Next Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, typical; plain old thyroid disease, typical; thyroid cancer, typical. If I didn’t have a high marker for thyroid disease was it possible that the diagnosis was wrong? Might that be why I’m having such a problem getting well? I’d spent most of this winter in bed, sick, fatigue, trying to get my thyroid levels to stop bouncing up and down from one lab to the next. I’d been sick since 1992, on and off. I didn’t see what I expected in health risks. No Hashimoto’s thyroid risk but plenty of other cancer and autoimmune disease.

Inexplicably, it wasn’t the cancer that upset me, even if I didn’t expect it, the thing that got me, was the alopecia, hair loss. I’d had a nightmare before I received the test that I had inch wide strips of hair missing from my head in corn rows, and a big pile of knotted hair stuck in my hairbrush, as huge as a toaster, and there it was alopecia, as one of my higher risks. Every time I brushed my hair after that I cringed until my daughter said you know that amount hair loss is normal.

I put the health risk area away for a month. Just put it aside, emotionally, and looked at Ancestry Painting and Relative Finder, and exchanged emails with genetic genealogists, some, who had been around since 2007, old timers, who were waiting breathlessly for the next boatload of 23andMe immigrants for them to compare to their genes.

On both sides, our family is from the US going back to the 1700’s. Yet, my brother is R1a1a, or northern European with 1% African genes. I am U3a1 or northern European on my mother’s side, descended from a very old clan of women from the Jordan area and the Caucasus Mountains, and maybe the Roma . And, I can say, if my mother resembled these women or acted like them, they have white-white skin with dark black hair and characteristically, are of a fierce, protective mothering temperament. Strong, independent women.

In Relative Finder I am related to a lot of males with Basque genes. On the female side I’m related to lots of Jewish women, and Bedouin. By now, I have nearly 800 relatives in Relative Finder of various degrees from third cousin to distant cousin. My brother is related to nearly the same number in his Relative Finder account. (Men automatically learn both their father’s and mother’s haplogroups or lines they are descended from. When women test, they find only their mother’s line, women have to test a father, brother or uncle to find their paternal line.)

I have quite few Brits for relatives, and some Irish, Finnish, German, Cuban, even a Macedonian. I’ve contacted maybe fifty people or they have contacted me about family genes that we share even though genealogy is not a favorite pastime for me.

After I downloaded my password protected gene cache from the 23andMe site – and burned it to a DVD – further searching with the help of the site not associated with 23andMe, took me to an Kamaran Island off Yemen where an ancient relative once lived.

And I had to ask myself if the Behcet’s mutated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), which can cause dementia like my grandmother had, and her mother had, could be sent down the line from earliest times from an ancestral migration through Arabia to reside in my body? Passed on through parent after parent through ancient times to modern times. I was thinking in terms of a few hundred years not thousands of years. It was a concept that was alien to me. What about Crohns disease. Did I have Jewish ancestors? I had no family history of Jewish family.

Since I knew nothing about genetics, and wanted to know the basics, I began reading. I read a book by Craig Venter [Unlink], genetic pioneer, A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life, whose book I really enjoyed, and who I am guessing has about as much trouble fitting in sometimes as I do, and truly made me feel better about myself, and I read books about the imperfect, but perfectly interesting Watson, and his co-discoverer, Crick, Cambridge geneticists, who uncovered the DNA double helix, and a slew of other scientists, so I could understand some of what I was seeing, and appreciate what genetic scientists have accomplished to make this a personal biology.

I read fourteen books on the history of genetics and genetic biographies, like Misha Angrist’s book Here is a Human Being, and Bryan Syke’s Seven Daughters of Eve, and The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine by Kevin Davies .

I Googled Geneticist George Church’s Personal Genome Project, and looked up DNA terminology, and asked genetic genealogists questions. I asked dumb questions that I knew were dumb but I wanted an answer. I asked smart questions, too. I asked questions as long as someone would answer them. I looked up each new gene or SNP that I found in the news. Still do.

Taking time to learn how to navigate 23andMe helped me understand that the 23andMe site is a layer upon layers of possibility, set up for the beginner to the enthusiast, to the researcher, and I could understand some of it, and could hope to understand more. I began to see it for the treasure the 23andMe site is with all the flaws that might be inherent in an early system. And when I saw my genome represented with my chromosomes on the screen in “browse raw data,” it was one of the most exciting experiences of my lifetime. I’ve stopped worrying over paternity. I’ve seen lots of things to explain my personality.

I don’t have DRD4. I do have genes associated with ADHD, Schizophrenia and Autism. I think I have the Neanderthal gene MCPH1. But don’t quote me on that. I’m still learning. I learned that I had gene MTCO1, which results in up regulation of marine oil that reduces adipose fat in the abdomen, which I’m guessing might mean that if I eat fish my metabolism will work better. I’ve learned that I’m meant to be lean. I’m sure these studies will be up for grabs and changes in the future. But that’s all right because I’ve begun thinking about my health and who I am differently because of the personal genome test, and the ease of use designed into 23andMe.

The biggest surprise was the changes I made to my health and to the way I think about the rest of my life. This test has changed my life. I had to take a closer look at Celiac and Crohn’s disease and consider that with that high a risk I had to give it some consideration. My brother had to have a special diet to control his celiac disease, and it had been years since he could eat wheat.

I was sick I wanted to get well. I’d already come to the conclusion that my well periods were due to the things I “didn’t eat” as opposed to what I did eat. My up and down health seemed to coincide with eating and not eating wheat foods. As a test, I ate fish and spinach and blueberries, and non-wheat breads, and suddenly I was no longer ill. Ill health that had dogged me, taken me to my knees, curtailed my business, and personal life; but my illness evaporated with the no-wheat diet.

The medication, thyroid hormone, I thought I would have to take for the rest of my life, was no longer necessary. I started swimming, walking, not sleeping most of the day, I could think clearly, I stopped going to the bathroom immediately after I ate. I cannot tell you how valuable this genetic test has been for me and for my daughter, whose health also gotten better with a no-wheat diet. I think it means a longer life for the both of us. I know it means that I have a better quality of life.

When I saw those risk numbers beside Crohn’s, I thought about my brother’s celiac disease, and realized, perhaps, many of the other high risk diseases might be an affect or part of a larger problem from wheat intolerance, and the subsequent inflammation, such as maybe, colon cancer, and inflammatory heart disease, and lupus, celiac disease, who knows? inflammatory breast cancer? Stomach cancer?

I quit wheat then and there. No, it wasn’t necessarily scientific, but I will not look back. I have had it out of my system for three months, now. When I eat it I know what to look for: swollen abdomen, diarrhea, flu like symptoms, gas, deep fatigue and sleepiness, and nausea. I would not have quit wheat if not for the 23andMe genetic test. I’d thought I might have a problem but always I rationalized myself back into garlic bread sticks and Danish filled pastry, and whole wheat cereal. I think the test may have saved my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. I have a life now, at least.

When 23andMe offered their kits for zero up front and a monthly subscription of $9.00 a month per person, this April, I bought five more kits for my family. In all I think we will have tested 11 family members and one non-family member, who will likely become related through marriage.

Over a year, my cost is $108.00 per relative. I didn’t particularly have the money at the time but I felt that I couldn’t afford not to grab this chance for other members of my family to be among the genetic pioneers. And, how soon would it be before the FDA decided to appropriate control of my family’s human genome to medical Machiavellians or expedient corporations, who don’t allow us to have access to our genomic information? The FDA hearings during April 2011 didn’t look promising. And could my grandchildren’s health and lives be changed with predictive medicine if our mutations were known?

I thought so. So, I agreed to allow 23andMe to study my data. My brother has done the same. My daughter abstained. Other family members have opted to not release their genome for study. I think it’s important that some of us do this. It isn’t for everyone but I’d like to think by 2020 that in some way my contribution helped my children and grandchildren live longer healthier lives.

If not, I will not have played it safe, and not played it greedy, I will have shared my genome with the hope that good comes from it – knowing that there are no guarantees in life. And, by then the FDA issue about whether an individual should own their own genome, uncensored or whether the government should own that information, and only a doctor should be allowed to access it, and charge the owner for each peek, should be a historical footnote.

It is my family’s decision, what we do with our genomic information, not the FDA’s, and because it is our decision, and because we can learn from our genome about our own biology, we might prolong our life, or improve our quality of life, and with predictive medicine, the medicine of the 21st Century, genetic information might change to accommodate not only my family of early adopters, but all people. I participated in 23andMe, January 24, 2011. After I tested my life changed, and my health changed for the better. I’d like to yell from the highest building. Go get tested. It might change your life. In some cases it might save your life.

To read Shirley Grose’s comments on the FDA regulating the human genome, May 2, 2011, go to, Docket number FDA-2011-N-0066, Comment Tracking Number: 80c3dc1d

If you’d like a definition for the modern euphemism, food insecurity, or to really understand the feel of day-to-day poverty, and the desperation it engenders, read my Grandmother Johnson’s personal letters to her daughter, Carol, who left Upper Glade, West Virginia, to move to Akron, Ohio in 1953, the day she graduated high school to find a job at Goodyear. 

Virginia’s weekly letters tell a story about her struggle to hold her family together during years of joblessness. The UPPER GLADE LETTERS are poignant and warm, weary and heart breaking. Virginia DeVaughn Johnson’s determination is the only glue she had to hold the family together.

Whipped by an economy that had too few jobs, and a husband who was afraid to tiptoe into the world, a son who slowly was lost to her through schizophrenia, and my father, who she feared was a failure because he dreamed dreams that didn’t include working in a coal mine. The letters are a daily correspondence written by my Grandmother Virginia DeVaughn Johnson during the family’s often joblessness between 1953 – 1968. The letters characterize my childhood, and chronicle my father’s climb from poverty to the middle class.

Neither she nor my Grandfather were born to poverty, in fact he was born in a house locally known as the Johnson Mansion. A college stands now where that house stood. The land for the college was donated by the Johnson family. My grandmother was a writer, a poet, and a musician. Poverty engulfed them the same as it has many talented middle class people of the recent economic crisis.

My father, Hays Johnson, made it out of the grinding poverty. He, my mother and my brothers and sisters, built an impressive home from the ground up with their hands and sweat, and my parents income from both their jobs. All of his children became productive, well-respected members of their community. His sisters migrated to Ohio to jobs and husbands. My Grandmother died in that horrible lifestyle in 1972.

Now, once again, I’m watching as others quietly trudge along rationing their groceries so they can stay in a rented home, but this time migrating to a new state will probably not find new jobs for the mass of people who are out of work, and have run out of unemployment compensation. Some, especially the well-educated are leaving the nation. Brain-drain. Brain drain is catastrophic for any country.

Noam Chomsky tells us there is a class war against the poor and the poor has been redefined as the middle class, and is even encroaching on the upper middle classes. Those are fine sentiments that mean something to those who stand up against corporations, and laws that make us less well than well off, and those powers that encourage joblessness, but those words as true as they are do not get down to the floor, and scrub up the nittty-gritty, dirty bottom of the poverty of soul, heart and stomach of joblessness that degrades our humanity in a nation that has sponsored democracy with our ancestors blood, and sometimes personal financial ruination.

Poverty for black & white and all colors between isn’t lack of initiative. It is the result of skilled predators who are good at privatizing others wealth, and ignoring the betterment of the whole. It’s time it stopped. As I read my Grandmother’s letters again, I feel sickened at the waste that was her life. She may or may not have become famous but she could have lived her life, and died with some dignity, if there had been adequate jobs. Jobs wouldn’t have solved all the Johnson family problems, like a son’s schizophrenia, but it sure as hell would not have been hell on earth for her, the idealist.


June 29, 1910 – March 8, 1972

Virginia Devaughn Johnson, mother, poet, writer of philosophy and above all, companion and friend to those around her.

During her life she tended to the sick of body as well as those of spirit, asking nothing in return. She was a totally unselfish person.

Her life style was that of a lover of all things and activities. Matter not, they be eccentric, for her philosophy was: no human activity is alien to me, for I too am human.

She did not follow a particular religious doctrine but instead imparted her own wisdom to those who would accept it. Many did and they are here today, be what they be.

Hays Johnson

20130422-DSC_0153Photo by saltypalette


Living energetically and working on a second and third career are within our reach, working and supporting ourselves into a late middle age — 80-100 — is nearly within our grasp, but we are not quite there yet. Medicine has a ways to go, especially medicine for the currently aged. Sometime in the next ten to twenty years this may change.

But, before it does, disparaging social security for those who will need to depend on it in the next few years by the well-heeled, who will not need it, is a bit cold, and a bit too fashionable. 

In his book Ageless Generation, author, Alex Zhavoronkov explores the current social thought about social security, and its negatives, and the economics of biomedicine and how it impacts longevity and worker productivity. It’s sometimes controversial, sometimes relevant.

The Ageless Generation  is a book about the business of biomedicine, not a book about the biomedicine of aging. Ageless is not so much about the latest advances in biomedicine, as it is about behavioral economics. The title seems to infer that managing to live a longer life through future biomedical advances is it’s main topic — instead, Zhavoronkov writes too often about money, and the cost senior citizens put upon society in general.

Zhavoronkov uses pejorative phrases like senior welfare, old age welfare, senior welfare programs, state welfare, when referring to programs for the retired. Citizens pay into social security – it’s incorrect to refer to social security as welfare. And to put it all in perspective, after the Federal Reserve misplaced nine trillion dollars, social security could have been replenished with a few trillion dollars that has disappeared.

Zhavoronkov’s book is more like a slant view of our social history written by someone who echoes his personal bias rather than actual history. Nevertheless, renowned theoreticians in the field of longevity wrote blurbs for The Ageless Generation; so he does have professional gravitas.

Zhavoronkov writes about compliance or conformity to a health regimen, overseen by an employer. He talks about getting “compliance” from the middle aged worker. Compliance is similar to the happy theory of government just now, or the “nudge” tactic, which is behavioral economics, that for instance, nudges the middle aged worker to do the right thing, the thing which is economical in the long run for a company or government, and as a side affect may be good for the worker.

Zhavoronkov seemed to be saying that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the corporations have nearly all the answers to our upcoming aging problems, and everything will be okay if workers just do as they say  —  perhaps  go along or lose their jobs or their promotion? The worker of the future may need to ask do I trust my health in the hands of my employer, which might be Walmart or Verizon or any corporation for that matter?

Do these ideas empower the aging or aged person – empower them because it’s a human impulse, a good thing to do, is it an idea that will increase their happiness, health and well being. Or is the customer of the health policy a distant vision, removed from the picture where only the economics become important.

Most of what we believe about aging and health will be turned over within a very few years, much of what researchers think now most likely will not be true even in five years if indeed Moore’s law works for longevity medicine. So, what if compliance amounts to bad health advice or advice that cannot realistically be achieved?

What if the all-knowing experts are wrong? Someone will always know what is best for you; if you will just let them, they will make better decisions than you or so they believe. Problem is, you, the aging person is the one who has to live with those health decisions that look a lot like they are cookie-cutter shaped, meant for the masses not customized for an individual and their personal DNA structure. What if the experts are wrong?

Zhavoronkov seems to be saying that he, the expert, has seen the future and knows what is best. He seems to make these financial and health decisions about seniors from his apartments in Moscow and Los Angeles, which sounds like a lofty financial position to make decisions that affect the mass of less wealthy seniors.

Zhavoronkov did discuss the proton therapy machine, an interesting treatment for cancer. The proton machine is not widely available. Apparently, it’s very effective. It “treats cancer with a thin beam of protons with an accuracy of less than 1 mm, or the width of a pencil lead,” which might be a mind saving treatment for someone with an inoperable brain tumor or breast cancer.

The proton machine requires a cyclotron the size of a football field. “As a result, there are only 13 such machines in the United States, so there is a long waiting list for patients to utilize proton beam therapy.” A website for the National Assoc. for Proton Therapy says, “The patient feels nothing during treatment. The minimized normal-tissue injury results in the potential for fewer effects following treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”A lot was lost in translation. The proton therapy information was buried in paragraphs of political thought.



Photos by Salty Palette

Put a few things aside in the attic I wanted to keep. It’s like a museum piece, a memorabilia, signifying my digital awakening. Apparently, I’d set it aside amongst all those items I’d purged from the house. At the time it must have seemed important.

The name plate says Commodore 1541. It’s the wildly popular computer system that took the world by storm.  Obsolete Technology  says it was  sold first in January 1982. For purists, mine was made in Japan. It’s medium brown with rainbow bars across the head. It has a door for a large floppy, which I was so proud to own back then. The floppy was loaded with DOS, and if I remember correctly I could swap floppies, and store text or play a game. Found this thing at the old house.

My daughter brought it to me with a handful of books, and some family pictures. She had a car load of her own stuff but she hauled it eight hundred miles, and presented it to me like a long lost trophy. “I knew you’d want this.” It was packaged in a white box with the words Commodore Computer, Single Disk Drive written in large letters on the front.


I didn’t recognize it at first until I unboxed it. Let me first say that I belong to that inexplicable set of people known as the “cult of unboxers” who like to watch home videos of nerds opening new technology gadgets. So, whether I could place this bit of nerdology or not, it was an unboxing and I was too happily busy to record it.

The box was musty and it’s second unboxing made my head swimmy. I stared at it for a long time like a stranger who after a bit of looking materialized into someone I once knew. And then it clicked, the chunk of metal stored in its original card board sleeve wrapped in Styrofoam, in good shape with the exception of a minor scuff on the top was an old friend.

Where did I get this? When did I buy it. I can remember every desktop computer system I’ve ever bought or built, and only two were bought, not counting my laptops. It took me back to when bits were so precious that spaces were counted and sentences shortened to save space on the disk. I’d thrown the large program floppy away, the one that held the operating system. The keyboard is gone, only the fourteen inch floppy drive remains.


I remember how I felt when I saw this thing that cost a pittance, three-hundred-fifty dollars. Disbelief, joy, hustle, impatience to buy; I was breathless, not an exaggeration. It was actually a portable device, maybe five pounds, it wasn’t a main frame, it didn’t cost in the thousands of dollars. I could afford it.

I could actually own a bona fide computer. The screen might have been green with a block cursor that made a noise when the keys were banged. It didn’t seem like much of a system years later after Windows 3.1 with DOS 7, but then . . oh my!


The system I remember didn’t have a real mouse, and oh, how I yearned for a mouse. This incredible piece of art came between my leaving and my getting a job, the custody battle, and a whole lot of history in only a few years. This little jewel gave me the first hint of knowledge that later I’d need to make a living.

Did I buy this thing before or after the divorce? That’s important. I have trouble remembering the ’80s. I was writing and fighting for my independence. I’d won a trip to a writer’s conference. Snatches, glimpses, foggy inklings come back to me. It’s a black hole, those memories for good reason.

A memory edges in, furtive, here and there, like a dog that you’ve scolded. It’s not sure whether it’s welcome but it slinks in any way. Forgive me if I don’t get this memory exactly right but there were disruptive changes happening in the computer industry and in my life.

It was 1978, and in a few months I’d get hellacious waves of morning sickness all day long with my third child, now that my two other children were both in school, now that I could take basic classes toward a degree in journalism, and explore computer languages, which were all any one could talk about, I was pregnant.

It’d wouldn’t be easy, but with help I could do it — drive two hours to the closest college to become a journalist. In a little over six-weeks the plans I’d held for ten years, crashed and burned. The brutal commute, morning sickness and a child, I could navigate – the other stuff, well.

Another memory – was it winter 1983? I was sitting with dozen other folks at the local Votech taking a night class in C++ I think it. Mr. Z., a computer programmer, Italian descent, taught a class in code. Again it’s vague. But that cruelly cold night was my introduction to computer systems. Rusty, my computer mate, was a natural at programming. I hung to his coding coattail, as he patiently explained the steps.

The class overflowed with adult students like Randy who worked at a coal mine on shifts that left him on the verge of sleep when he got there. There were maybe a dozen computers stuck so close together that our backs touched if we turned a bit. I finished the class got a certificate.


Ah, now I remember. Mr. Z. introduced me to my first ever computer, the Commodore 1541 from Japan. He had a small computer supply store. It took 45 minutes to drive there — mountains you know, two lane highways that should have been one lane, they were so narrow, and coal trucks who took the road, slopping pieces of coal at your windshield, daring you to hold your side of the road, and don’t get me started on the logging trucks which didn’t have enough power or speed to travel more than 15 mph loaded. There’s a cliff on one side and a drop off that’ll land a car in the river on the other, and lots of gravel to slide through the hairpin turns.

The Sears electric machine with digital correction was showing it’s age. My Commodore 1541 supplemented my digital word processor from Sears Roebuck & Co. I didn’t have a printer but I had a computer. I could write a journal on it or write drafts for papers. I could get my thoughts down faster, rearrange my ideas, check my spelling with a paper dictionary, then type it out on the Electric. The Commodore improved upon a typewriter as far as I was concerned, but I was a bit-head from the beginning.

The next system I owned was a Windows 3.1, 386 (maybe) that needed DOS to boot. I made a six hour trip to the nearest computer business, and the owner built my first Windows computer. I was divorced, I had custody of my daughter, the last child at home. I had a job in publishing, I had a new love. He asked do I want a diamond ring or a mink coat for my birthday. I said I want a Windows 95 computer and a printer, and of course it had to have a freakn’ mouse. He shipped a never-been-used Windows computer system and printer with a bona fide mouse, and I never looked back. At the time, they were both the love of my life. Since then it’s Linux all the way. Ubuntu lately.



Put the Kettle on

Never start anything on a Monday. Began with good intentions. Put the kettle on, sat down to write, got distracted cause the Internet bill was four days late. Forgot the water. Put the kettle on, the kettle boiled empty, lights flashed all over the Cuisinart. Impending meltdown.

Paid the Comcast bill over the phone. Bill paying they make easy. Service is good unless you ask a question. They don’t like that sort of stuff. Sat in the sun on the patio tweezing hairs from my big toes. Everyone needs vitamin D. Washed my face with the all purpose handmade foamy soap that smells like lemon grass, massaged in cream on my face and neck.

Sighed deeply. Intention to write on a Monday morning is a serious way for me to get nothing done.

I Did What?

Read two percent in the Amazon book on Africa. Downloaded it for inspiration [procrastination]. It has some good pages and some okay. I’d like it if it had a bit more complexity. Style is lacking. I like style in prose. [insert profanity] WTF am I saying?

The non-African author wrote better than respectable prose, shared the inner workings of his Hippocampus, finished, published, and got money for those three-hundred pages, sacrificed a year of his life, most likely, and it’s not so bad a book that I don’t learn something every few pages; it just that it simply shuts down my hippocampus  [similar to G-spot]  the opposite of which, when I find a damn good book to read, bonfires are set off in my neurons.

This morning I said bonfires be-damned I’m gonna fill up that spot in my hippocampus with writing; the little sea horse in the brain, the one that London cabbies grow larger by taking different routes for faster and faster ways through a hulking metropolis pulsating with tiger passengers who are already late before they flop on the back seat.

Fire in the Mind

I’m gonna build a cache full of writing, irrelevant, mundane, serviceable-if-it must be cache. I’m gonna fill it with words that taste like milk chocolate. Oh no I didn’t! There I go again, playing in the word patch instead writing. [yet another form of procrastination]

That African book mightn’t held my interest if it had helped me build a cache of tiny words with bite: tart, sweet, gingery words that rich up sentences, or a sublime sentence structure that makes the heart palpably happier.

The born elsewhere, African author/teacher touts intimacy in his preface; instead his sentences are impersonal, he stands at the back of the room mouthing words from where it’s emotionally safe to write. But then maybe he’s only a surface, he can’t write any deeper, like a John Irving character, scratch his surface and there’s another surface under that. Or maybe he was afraid he might say what he really felt. I get that.

Not that I’m not learning from his deep knowledge of the continent of Africa, but the plebeian prose hurts my stomach. I crave “fire in the mind” prose, convoluted thinking parsed like a knitting needle picking at yarn, subtle colors woven through textury yarn sheered from a genuine ruminant.

But who takes time to knit brilliant socks in brilliantly subtle colors, easier to buy a consistent thread woven by questionable laborers. I like a good pair of socks. Socks can be functional, full of perfectly recurring patterns that don’t challenge my beliefs, my favored reading threads, though, better not be.

Dear Mr. Grisholm It’s Not You It’s Me. Seriously, it’s me.

Yeah, ya know, I’ll read the Africa book in short visitations – piecemeal – like the latest John Grisholm, who I’d like a word with about our reading relationship. Dear Mr. Grisholm it’s not you it’s me. Seriously, it’s me. Your 1980 setting for your latest book is an echolocation of a distant last century that I barely believe I lived in and a small community mindset that drives me nuts. That said, had I written your book, and not you written it, I would be so proud, to know that a lot of people do love your latest book, and read it breathless to the end.

But, I don’t want to revisit that time with its racist worries about how mixed race in Mississippi reacts to scandalous money. The personal genome challenges the concept of race in this century. Whatever skin color, we are all junk yard dogs, a hardy breed. Race discrimination conversation is updated, now, and very much alive. So, Mr. Grisholm, forgive me if I don’t want to revisit last century; the eighties were not my best decade.

Since it seems I’m not writing a novel this morning or maybe any morning, here’s my pared down goal: write a thousand words for thirty days, design an eBook, plunk it down for sale on Google Books and Amazon clouds. I am rusty at design but my skills are serviceable enough to publish on Google Books and Amazon. Decide at the end of thirty days whether to publish a 30K non-fiction novelette or write a 60K book in two months.

Sounds so doable when the prose is from stream of consciousness and not “fire in the mind.” Decide whether to publish on WordPress  [rewrite, second draft country] first or wait for the big book to come out. In reality only a half-dozen readers will catch it on WordPress. If I publish it on Google Books maybe a dozen more might read it. I think I’m safe to publish what amounts to dumping my plebeian output on the Internet. Anonymity in the midst of the crowd is my preferred outcome. I can live with that. Whisper so I can’t be heard at the front of the room.

Found Essay

The “found essay” worked for me yesterday. “Write it Slant” writing book suggests that the writer find an object from the past and free associate. It’s a technique that rated over one thousand words in a not so bad memory of my Commodore 1541. At least, the quantity of words is going up steeply from nothing to 4000 words by dropping the quality or the “fire in the mind” essaying. But if I forget to pay attention, to hide my most inner thoughts, the strangest thoughts sneak into a harmless essay about my first computer.

Before writing a few paragraphs the helplessness and hopelessness of my marriage bled through a story on code and computer classes. It’s hard not to write about him, he’s entwined in every struggle I made to become a person in my own right. Computers were entwined with writing, he was entwined with stopping me from finishing what I started, becoming a journalist.

He stood over me when I typed the title “Tracking Snow,” the name of a short story that I  didn’t grow to a full book. He screamed and I typed, he jerked the cord from the wall, and enunciated each syllable, “I’ll grind you to dust, WHORE if you don’t stop.” And as I those words sneak into my story, I’m right back there, my heart beating faster, like an Iraq veteran it never wholly leaves me.

Oops! Uh mm, have to whip that 1980 history out of my essay. Getting into Grisholm story telling. It is me not you Mr. Grisholm who doesn’t want to read about the eighties. Human dignity is important to me, and you serve it well when you write. I don’t want to look back at the eighties lest I turn into a pillar of salt, and no longer write. The wounds of marriage are fresh. The African book hovers above the surface denying the individual African mind for the universal African, for which there is none. My brain in marriage felt like Africa, the gold and minerals taken, the humanity denied.

There I stand beside the author who tried to stand at the front of the room and be heard but didn’t have the courage. I see that filling a page with one thousand words encourages that which is below the surface to come up. Not sure I like that but I made a promise to write one-thousand words and that I’m going to do. I’m going to publish these words whether they sound odd or not because who will read them? It is illogical to think writing practice could upturn the customary routine of a life. There! I’ve written my quota. It’s somewhat readable. I swear Mr. Grisholm it is me not you.

bluegreen underwater

Life at the Speed of Light

Sitting here in a cushy chair staring at a screen for half-a-day, reading whatever I want to read, I get a little philosophical, and that’s not difficult to do when I read geneticist, Craig Ventor’s book that attempts to answer the big question “What is Life? I start from disorganized ignorance, and get off the track from there to politics.

I start out wanting to understand words and concepts from Craig Ventor’s recent book ” Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, a good read by the way about how he lead his team to create synthetic life.

I highlight phrases and terms that I want to know more about like resistivity or resistance in current flowing through an object as it applies to life, and a periodic, repeating pattern or DNA, and then I come across a phrase asking “what is life, that discusses the Erwin Schrödinger “lecture to the thermodynamics of life.”

In defining life, it seems Schrödinger was unhappy associating human beings with low entropy, so he created a new rule for humans, and perpared lectures about it. The 2013 book,  Life at the Speed of Life  by J. Craig Venter, is an attempt to answer the question that Schrödinger asked in his 1944 book that influenced so many future scientists, “What is Life.”

This pastiche takes me to another search that turns up The Natural Order of Things, which has  a nice twist, wherein, Matt Ridley says that “Darwinian selection explains the appearance of seemingly ‘designed’ complexity throughout the world — not just in biology but in the economy, technology and the arts.” And, where at some point he famously says, “living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.”

And of course I couldn’t stop there, so I applied it to politics. And the question I asked myself, are democracy and freedom, then, an expected and persistent eddy in the stream of entropy or a fluke?

Political eddies in the stream of entropy

Is then Democracy an eddy in the stream of entropy, like a living being? Democracy and freedom almost seem a fluke at times. Democracy, however, continues to persist despite the obstacle flows, rocks and boulders, if you will. It does not seem to get swallowed up in low entropy; instead it has evolved quite nicely over the centuries, regardless of our impatience or the blood spilled.

And how about resistivity in Democracy? Do some groups, cultures, people’s possess more resistivity than others? Is it due to education, or education and hard fought battles for independence? And I’m not suggesting American exceptionalism for America is without equivocation a melting pot of the world, and rationally cannot claim exclusivity since we originate from the rest of the world population.

My mother’s DNA is European and American Indian. My father’s DNA is European and African. Our last ancestor from another continent left Amsterdam in the 1500s and Ireland around 1700. We are American born, yet our cells are citizens of the world.

If I go back thousands of years I am from Haplogroups U and R, some of the oldest peoples who started with a journey from the Caucasus Mountains and a Siberian steppes, carrying a smidgen of Neanderthal in their DNA. Geographically I’m an American, but as an eddy in the stream of entropy I’ve recombined many times over, picking up a half-dozen origins of ethnicity, and so have the whole of Americans.

Seeing ourselves as eddies in the political stream

Is the DNA of freedom and democracy encoded in all our blood? *Halliburton drilling states that a difference exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons, which are poor conductors of electricity compared with those filled with salty formation water. Are we a different kind of rock? Do we have what it takes to resist entropy of democracy.

I think we do. And for most of America’s history, internally, with the exception of the American Civil War, mostly we’ve achieved it with intelligent resistance such as that of Martin Luther King Civil Rights movement and the Women’s suffrage movement in the last century. It is my belief that an expanding world democracy as well as American Democracy, is enduring just as sure as DNA because it is encoded within us, in the dignity of each and every one of us.


*[Resistivity is the ability of a substance to impede the flow of an electrical current. This is a very important rock property in formation evaluation as it helps to differentiate between formations filled with salty waters (good conductors of electricity) and those filled with hydrocarbons (poor conductors of electricity). Hence, a difference in resistivity exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons and those filled with formation water. Resistivity and porosity measurements are used to obtain values of water saturation to help evaluate producibility of the formation.]

Speedometer blurred

Blurred Politics

Do I live in the US of America, still, or are we the previous US of America, and the present Homelandia of America? Do I live in the Land of the Free or do I live in a geopolitical ideal, the Homeland? Who am I? American or Homelandian? Am I to believe in the Land of the Free, still, in the land of a noble idea, abstract, complex and enduring; or am I to cling to the artificial construct thrown up, haphazardly, after 9/11 – the Homeland?

Isn’t homeland a Nazi word? How can I feel pride in that? Isn’t homeland a self-referential name claimed by nearly every nation state at the beginning of nearly every imperialist undertaking? How can I not feel shame? For that matter, how can our European neighbors not shudder?

Who redefined me? Did I fall asleep and agree to be redefined? When exactly were we renamed the “Homeland?” Or maybe I and others like me were not asleep, maybe it was an assumption made by our leaders made when we were shocked and awed.

Is it within one person’s power to change a name, to remove it from our stationery, our websites, our consciousness? If that were so I would remove the name Homeland from our nation’s collective experience, and I’d do it before breakfast, today. It is harmful. It labels us as a nation of sheep grazing in a predefined geopolitical pasture.

After 9/11 we were redefined as a geopolitical blob redrawn forever on NSA maps to include Canada, Mexico, and Central America, to name a few, a map strategized by a failed war under dubious motives, a war followed by a similar militaristic, corporatist, administration running a shadow government – this time by a president that I thought would put Abraham Lincoln on notice as one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America.

So, yes, I’m disappointed, but in the meantime, I want our name back. I want to sweep the legislative cobwebs away, I want to take back our name and reputation. I want to stop allowing the US of America to be labeled a chunk of land with a people who need contained like an enemy. I want the US to be known as the Land of the Free again.

I’m not a Jeffersonian; I’m not an ism; I’m not much of a Democrat or Republican any more; I’m not a Libertarian or Socialist or any label; I am an American who despises the name Homeland, who cringes at it’s incarnation in print or speech.

I want to ask that we legislate the abolition of this hateful, Nazi word from our national consciousness and vocabulary. I want the word homeland to never be capitalized again in a sentence bearing our nation’s reputation. Sunset the name Homeland. Set the world aright again. We are a nation where the people still hold influence. Exercise it. We cannot be both the Land of the Free and the Homeland. It’s just schizophrenic.


A family friend, then twenty-three-years old, finds she has the Parkinson’s gene. She calls me, and is upset, and asks me what it means. I have no idea at the time what to say to her or how to say it to make her feel better. The following is our conversation that day, describing what it is like to find out at twenty-three that you are genetically predisposed to develop the devastating disease, Parkinson’s. Lee found out after testing with 23andme genetic testing company.  (This story is a re-post from Allvoices, from last year. Lee, of course, is not her real name).



I am Italian. I really am Italian!

You kiddin’? No one doubted it but you. I mean look at you there’s no doubt.

Born in Jersey, big brown eyes, gorgeous thick layers of dark hair, and perfect skin, Lee’s mother was adopted, and she knew little of her origin other than she came from Italy as a small girl.

After all the laughter and chit-chat over the phone with my daughter about the fun things, a pause.

Mom, she says she’s at risk for Parkinson’s.

I’ll let you talk to Mom.

I’ve got the Parkinson gene.

I held the phone a second. Blindsided by this one. I fumbled out a sentence about how she had sixty years before she worried about Parkinson’s, and how either stem cell or gene therapy would cure it before then. I wanted to say something soothing, something wise – something her mother might have said – it came out awkward. No one I knew had had Parkinson’s.

Lee’s going to be marrying into our family, she’s twenty-three. After I took my DNA test at  23andme she wanted to take one, too. She said she wanted to have kids, and she thought she should have them early because she said her family didn’t live long. Odd, for a young woman to think that way I thought at the time; I would never have, but then I’m goal-less. She isn’t.

For Lee it wasn’t a simple decision that she was making as a very young woman. She was on the fast track with a full scholarship working towards a degree in chemical engineering. She talked about how she’d love to get into MIT. She’d been accepted to several choice colleges with scholarships.

We forgot about Parkinson’s for a while then she sent me an email.

  • >>>Are there any really early symptoms of Parkinson’s? Ones that develop in your 20s? I’ve done a little research but its very unclear.
  • >>>I think maintenance of this disease is what you are after. You may never get the disease, but I think even if you don’t get full scale Parkinson’s it will affect you, and from what I’ve seen it starts early, it just isn’t recognized early, because the body is young enough to fight it off or maybe repair itself. What they are finding now is that diseases are not just all go or all stop, but are partially expressed or maybe even minimally expressed depending on (protein folding) (?).
  • Also, glutamate is another part of the puzzle. There are toxins made in the brain that attack brain cells. Starting young is a must. This disease starts when you are born I am guessing, and progresses on an individual basis. I’m also guessing that if you figure out how it is personally geared to your body, you have a really good chance of pushing the disease further down the road, and not damaging your brain until either genetic cures or something comes from the SergeyBrin and Michael J. Fox research.
  • >>>So theoretically if I have it, my brain is already deteriorating? That explains a lot haha.
  • >>>I think that even if you don’t get Parkinson’s it will affect you slightly.
  • >>>Oh, you think that my brain is deteriorating?
  • >>>Oh, remove foot from mouth. Was never known for my diplomacy. Sorry.

Again, an awkward, unsatisfying answer for her, from me. So, I dug into Parkinson’s research, an unfamiliar area, to get answers for me and for her.

I was surprised to learn the positive things about Parkinson’s. It’s not your grandma’s disease anymore. In 2011, researchers are putting a new spin on an old syndrome.

  • After testing many drugs, the team found that phenylbutyrate could activate DJ-1 and keep dopamine neurons from dying. Next, they put the drug in the drinking water of mice genetically programmed to get Parkinson’s disease as they aged.
  • Aging mice receiving the drug were able to move normally, had no decline in mental function, and their brains did not accumulate the protein that causes Parkinson’s. By contrast, older animals that did not get the drug saw a steady decline in their ability to move as their brains were damaged by abnormal proteins. (Drug trials on Parkinson patients began in 2009)
  • Source: Drug Stops Parkinson’s in Mice, Human Trials Begin – ResearchersPublished by:Steven J Hendrikson 17th Mar 2011 | bySteven J Hendriks

The next ten years truly may truly be revolutionary in brain medicine. Neural cells from the most complex organ on earth are now grown from skin cells where they can be stressed and observed. Never before have living brain cells been so accessible. It’s an exciting time if you are researching Parkinson’s disease.

As I researched further, I was surprised by what I thought was a cut-and-dried disease, narrow in scope, treated easily with L-dopa, and a disease that one out of two older people will get eventually. A disease that Michael J. Fox has, that’s relatively rare in younger adults, but he looks fine (?) He’s wickedly funny, and talented – except now, when I see his performance on the “Good Wife,” and then read about his trials with this disease, his performance is more than impressive.

I was surprised to find a website for “Young People with Parkinson’s SA” that has links for young women who want to get pregnant who have Parkinson’s, reassuring them that they can have children. Richelle from Australia says, “I am a 22 year old who was given the title of a Parkinson’s sufferer at the age of 17. I decided there wasn’t enough information out there for people my age…” Australia’s second leading disease is Parkinson’s, and many younger Australians have Parkinson’s, more so than in the US.

I was surprised to learn that Parkinson’s is a syndrome. Syndromes are almost impossible to pin down or diagnose or cure. I was surprised to learn the energy it takes to live with it, the many forms it takes, how some people have any where from level one to level five stage symptoms and these can vary from hour to hour, depending on medication. And onset can range from juvenile to octogenarian.

I was surprised to learn that Nebraska is the king of Parkinson’s in the US. The Nebraska Chapter of American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, says, “The world’s highest prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease of any region is in Nebraska, U.S.A. with 329.3 people per 100,000 population.” “The Amish, Nebraska, the area around the ferromanganese plants in Breccia (Italy) have rates of 407 per 1000, and the Parsi of Mumbai (India), have the highest rates with 328.3 per 1000 Parkinson’s in the world.” Agricultural states, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa known as the “Heartland Hub” have the highest rates for the US.

I was surprised to learn that southern Italy is home to Parkinson’s through the Contursi family. Jill Marjama-Lyons, MD, says “Perhaps the most famous family with inherited Parkinson’s disease is the Contursi family…in which sixty members of the same family over five generations were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”

Most of all I was surprised to learn from Jill Marjama-Lyons’ and Mary Shomon’s book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic program for Optimal Wellness that early diagnosis is very important. The disease is around at least 10 years, sometimes twenty years in submarine mode before a diagnosis is made. “The dopamine cells that die off in Parkinson’s disease are in such a small area of the brain” that a CT scan or MRI “of the brain is not able to show these microscopic changes, and most patient’s with Parkinson’s disease will have normal scans.”

During this time, 60-80% of the dopamine neurons will be killed before motor symptoms become evident. This time of submerged stealth may be a time for intervention. The earlier it is diagnosed the better the management of it.

There may be neuroprotective agents that might minimize brain neuron loss until a cure is indeed found like taking large doses of COQ10, and antioxidants to clean up the free radicals, maybe coffee and exercise, and much more that can be found in the book  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness

So, if you’re in your twenties, like Lee, and any of the five Parkinson genes discovered so far are yours, they might just be medically “actionable” or correctable, in the sense that you are an individual, and your body may be healthier than others, you have time on your side. You can make better decisions based on what new things you know about Parkinson’s research. You can comb the Internet, read research, read books written for and by those who have gone before you. You can ” Save Your Own Life” as Marie Savard, MD says in her book to patients.

You can choose not to live near farmlands with the pesticides like rotenone , and you can choose what you eat, what you don’t eat (wheat), and take antioxidants to forestall motor loss in your brain. You can do Pilates and Yoga or dance, any exercise that actively engages your mind at the same time as your body, you can take yourself out of stressful situations, and manage anger, rather than suppress anger, and put good things into your life that naturally trigger dopamine instead of gobble it up and plug your brain with Lewy bodies.

Lee was born into an era that will be the fastest changes in medicine in over a century. She may be the first generation to never know what it is like to live with Parkinson’s disease. She has a lot of reasons to be optimistic. And, if I were to give one bit of advice to Lee, or anyone who has the same DNA results, I’d say read  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. A Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness. It is a wealth of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease written by a physician who deeply cares for Parkinson’s patient’s lives.




On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

via On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

In three weeks, I move across the country to a house near Kissimmee, Florida. My wife and I are starting over, and for the first time in my life, I’m not holding on to anything except the essentials for work and life. We’re hoping to take only what can fit in two cars

Phishing for poetry

So, I was half-asleep and clicked a phishing email, and, there inside the source code, at the very bottom where I almost missed it, was the first line of a poem that Anvari attributes to John Muir, American Naturalist. I liked it so much that I added the quote as my tagline. Below is a few more lines to make the thought complete.

wizard of oz

Photo by Saltypalette

As goatherd learns his trade by goat, so writer learns his trade by wrote.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.

I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of the flood, storm, and avalanche.

I’ll acquaint myself with glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near to the

heart of the world as I can.


Size 2 inches x 1 inch.

Geo Art Cache

‘A series of geocache trails created by artists.  Geo Art Caches are being hidden  . . . for you to find! IN A NUTSHELL: Geocaching is like treasure hunting with a GPS.’

Benefits of abstract engineering

“Want to study photography? Grab a camera and go take some pictures. Want to be a writer? Start a blog. Want to be a civil engineer?” The following quote from Engineering Revision describes how to begin.


To be a successful software engineer (or indeed, any engineer), one first needs to be utterly and completely broken by failure. One must be so humiliated by a complex system that they give up and realize that the only chance of moving forward comes from being a supplicant to the complexity, by approaching it with humility and caution, not with hubris. You have to listen to the system, coax it into behaving. Commanding it does not work.


Virtual Wallet


Bitcoin & Ripple used by everybody?

It’s really difficult for the average person to understand how digital money works if only because it’s unfamiliar. The average person has conquered complex technology before, though, and digital money is getting better. In that case, Bitcoin and Ripple may become household words.

My feeling about Ripple is that it, or something very like it is going to be used for micro-payments for the average person worldwide. It may be that in the near future Bitcoin and Ripple will run in parallel channels, mutually beneficial to one another. Yes, it might be commercialized just like the web was when .com was added at the end of web sites rather than .org. The wealthy may gravitate to one and the rest of civilization gravitate to the other. Commerce has shifted many times in history.

I agree with Charles C. Mann

I’m reading a book titled 1493. It’s about ecological globalization. It tells about how quickly the world globalized after Columbus landed in the Carribean, which led to the Spanish trading with the Chinese in the Philipines from the new route. The book is by Charles C. Mann. He says, “Nothing like this worldwide exchange had existed before…nor had they operated on a scale large enough to disrupt societies on opposite sides of the planet . . . the worldwide network is still viewed w/ unease, even by many of its beneficiaries anti-globalization . . . In the end, though, they lost, each and everyone of them.”

I’m guessing that we are watching a seismic globalization of commerce. Merchants need speed in the money exchange, frictionless transactions. Google and Amazon-like businesses are hungry for territory, the poor are hungry for opportunity. Give them a phone and some Ripple XRP, and watch them acclimate. Today’s commerce is far behind what the market can handle. This won’t be linear; it will be exponential technological change. It won’t be just one technological change. When one change erupts others come along. I think what we are seeing is strong emergent system that ignores borders.

I disagree with Jon Matonis.

“Ripple’s trusted pathways are unlikely to be formed between people who are not already connected socially, he added. “Someone in Japan is not going to care about someone’s reputation in California,” he said. “I see Ripple being used more in localized, regional community environments rather than as a global international application like gold or Bitcoins,”

Does Matonis forget about the students in colleges and Universities the US, and Canada, worldwide for that matter, who have connections in Japan and other places, the student who needs money for an emergency, now, not in 48 hours or not in a week? Does he forget about the refugees from Africa and Egypt, and the immigrants from Mexico who have family who could use their help or vice versa?

Does Matonis forget about our military strewn about the world who have trust relationships? Walk through Union Station in Washington DC, that’s almost what the US population looks like now, it’s international. The average American is a myth. There is a trust network far greater than he imagines. And the trust from that group that will branch out will be exponential. Each family will bring friends of friends of friends.

Could it be that Ripple is going to be larger than Bitcoin, and actually be the unexpected concept that changes the world? This remark on reddit about the average person caught my attention.

We Are the Hosts of the Let’s Talk Bitcoin! Show! We just spent 4 days at Bitcoin2013, Ask Us Anything!

Bitcoin is important for the average person. We just forget who the average person is.

*The average person is a South-East Asian male, aged 22 without any bank account, access to credit or ability to participate easily in the global economy.

The reason Bitcoin fascinates me is that it embodies the possibility of bringing the other 6.5 billion online into the global economy on a level playing field.

Even in the US, 18% or more of the population are “unbanked” – lacking credit, legal status, or access to banking services. In the rest of the world, the unbanked are much higher percentages of the population. Some estimated by the UN and others put them as high as 6-6.5 billion.

Bitcoin can change all that and make it possible for anyone with a cellphone or an Internet kiosk or share computer to acquire the means to transact internationally with very small fees. It changes everything




Like me, you’ve probably read about the couple who invested when Bitcoin was a nickel and cashed out when it skyrocketed,  and now they’re millionaires, and you’ve heard sound bites about Google Ventures investing in “Ripple” — whatever Ripple is.

The black-market slash Silk Road chatter is dying down and this thing looks like it might become legit, and might take off.  The Wall Street Journal headline reads Bitcoin Startups Begin to Attract Real Cash. And, Forbes, Kashmir Hill writes about living on Bitcoin for a week or Bitcoin 2.0: Can Ripple Make Digital Currency Mainstream?

Think if you will an updated more efficient Paypal account whereby you can now buy select goods from Etsy members or buy a Pizza from a local Bitcoin merchant, or whereby “BitPay is [now] integrated with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), so you can accept BTC payments on your website, and automatically have Amazon ship the merchandise.”

You’re ready to try it. You’re intrigued but none of it makes sense because you’re not going to buy a $2000 dollar ASIC Bitcoin Miner to get a Bitcoin to experiment with. You want to date Bitcoin not marry it. After all this is a blind date. And we’ve heard about those.


There are  less expensive ways to understand crypto currency before you commit to it than mining. Then if you get hooked on Bitcoin, and are one of the very few who immerse themselves into the culture, then Bitcoin mining is an exciting, James Bondish way to increase your wealth.

The easiest way I’ve found is to open an account at Ripple open wallet and fund the account at Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange. Open wallet for Ripple is free, it’s activates immediately. Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is an inexpensive way to fund  your first wallet.

The gift card should be at least the amount of the gift card plus the $2.00 fee. My first gift card was for $5.00 ($2.00 fee included), you can purchase, which will give your account more than enough Ripple XRP to grant a trust, so you can begin trading. RippleXRP can be exchanged for Bitcoin once you have accumulated enough Ripple XRP, US dollar, Euro, or currency of your choice. You are now in a position to see how Bitcoin and Ripple work in your world.

“The concept, community, and [Ripple] technology are from 2004. The new implementation and creation of a start-up company all happened earlier this year.” 

Ripple is still in beta. It’s been described as one of the least risky Bitcoin APIs, but Ponuleus on reddit said it best, “NEVER keep excessive amounts of funds in any of such payment processor systems.” That said, OpenCoin  is the firm behind the Bitcoin exchange Ripple, and Google is putting their money behind Ripple.

If you need more reassurance, you might like to read about OpenCoin the firm behind Ripple at Google Ventures invests in OpenCoin, the firm behind Bitcoin exchange Ripple or  Now Backed By Andreessen & More, OpenCoin Looks To Build A Better Bitcoin — And A Universal Payment Ecosystem, OpenCoin | 2020Here’s another helpful link on how Ripple works.


RippleUnion Gift Card Exchange is a user friendly site that I use that allows me to fund a Ripple account with gift certificates. I buy an gift card certificate for myself, and I email the card’s code to RippleUnion Gift where I exchange it for RippleUnion CAD IOUS, which I can use to buy XRP or anything else. (I email the gift code to along with the address for my Ripple Open Wallet account.) My wallet address is public, I share it with the world. Your Ripple address will look like the address below.

You can view my transactions at Ripple Live at wallet address: 


 To see what transactions look like between Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange and my Ripple account go to the Ripple Live page. In the upper left corner of the site where the address box is, copy and paste my Ripple address from above into the box and click GO.

You can see all my transactions with Ripple Union Gift Cards gateway including our first transaction. If you like, after you get your Ripple XRP you can send me 1 XRP (value less than 1 penny today) to this address. I’ll return it to you. This is a check to help you see how it’s working for you. You can then go to the Ripple Live page, paste your Ripple address into the box, and you can see the genesis of your Ripple ledger.

 You can exchange as much as $25.00 gift card every ten days. At this time RippleUnion will add 500 Ripple XRP to an empty account, and return any money due in Canadian dollars. Or if you already have a few Ripple XRP in your wallet, then it will top it off to 500 R-XRP, and credit your account with the change in Canadian dollars, which you can convert to US dollars if you like.

Weber: Ripple, like the traditional banking system, is a system for tracking debt between parties.  You trust some entity to borrow cash from you (just like you loan your money to the bank when you deposit it there), and in return you get a balance that can be traded with anyone else who also trusts that entity.  Ripple takes this one step further, allowing you to trade this so-called “IOU balance” to anyone who trusts someone who trusts the entity, etc, so that people all around the world can be paid as long as there is a path for liquidity between them and you


Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is the brilliantly crafted, easy to use gateway service that Stephen Paul Weber  and Jonathan Lamothe launched to help the Ripple community catch on.

Weber, who is singpolyma on Reddit says, “My partner and I are long-time Ripple users (I’ve been using Ripple since about 2004, maybe 2005).  When the new one launched, we knew there was going to be a demand for gateway-like services, so we just kept our eyes on the community for ideas of what would work. Ripple as a technology is already seeing great strides in this new incarnation.  A lot more exposure (mostly because we never tried to do any marketing on the old system, since we all were waiting for a distributed version to get built by someone).

I interned with a startup called AideRSS (later PostRank) for the whole life of the company, which was then sold to Google, where I worked for 4 months.  After turning down a full-time offer from Google I moved on to, where I am currently a partner.

My partner at RippleUnion, Jonathan Lamothe, has been with Ripple since 2010ish.  He works in low-level systems automation programming and services, having worked up through the ranks from a line worked at the same firm (he lacks a degree, but makes up for that by being more awesome than a lot of people who have degrees 🙂 ).”


Maybe you’ve wandered over to reddit, maybe someone there explained Bitcoin in a thousand words or less, and maybe it’s still not clear, maybe you’re as mystified as you were to begin with. Then a redditor suggests that the best way to understand Bitcoin is to try it, so just for shite & giggles, you open your first virtual (crypto) wallet, its a either a Block Chain or a Ripple wallet, and it doesn’t look a thing like anything you’ve experienced before. Below are sample wallets.

Two wallets are especially good for beginners as well as for pros: Ripple and Block Chain. Of the two wallets, ripple is the one I recommend to beginners. Both wallets are free, and do not require cash or credit card information. They do require an email address. If you like you can set special email address to use for this account only, one up especially if you are trying out ripple.

Step 1 How to Set Up Virtual Wallet (RIPPLE Or BLOCKCHAIN)
Step 2 How to Back Up Virtual Wallet (RIPPLE OR BLOCKCHAIN – DROPBOX)
Step 3 Two Simple and Inexpensive Pathways to Fund a Ripple Wallet
a. Fund Ripple Wallet From A Friend for Free
b. Fund Ripple Wallet From A RippleUnion Gift Gateway – $5 – $25.00 (scroll down page for step-by-step illustrated guidelines)


Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is located in Ontario Canada. If you’d like to read more on Canadian law for Bitcoin exchanges, see Canadian regulators welcome US Bitcoin refugees with open arms. Also, interesting is the FINTRAC letter that’s discussed in this story,  Canada becomes bitcoin-friendly FinTRAC does not see the need to regulate several Bitcoin exchange models at Pokerati.



This guy’s book will cost 0.1 Bitcoin or approx. 2700 ripples if you care to convert your hoard to Bitcoin, which is about $11.64 (amirite or amiwrong?) When the book debuts on Amazon June 3, 2013,  it will cost $4.99 on Whisper net. It’s available pre-order on Amazon, only.

If anyone orders this book would you please let me know how easy (difficult) it was to buy the first book w/ Bitcoin.


CHOOSING YOURSELF by James Altucher, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. Wikipedia

Found “Choose Yourself” review in a BUSINESS INSIDER story.


I’ve made money, I’ve lost money. I’ve lost my home/family/friends. I’ve made some of the above back. I’ve gotten really lucky. Several times. With determination I’ll make it stick, and I think you will also.




 I expected to read details, hitherto unknown to us, about that weird country, North Korea, in Eric Schmidt’s book, The New Digital Age. After all, North Korea is a hot topic, and Schmidt, recently, had a bird’s eye view of it.

Schmidt is on the short list of a very few Americans to experience North Korea intimately, notwithstanding the blinkered Dennis Rodman, who attended a North Korean “celebrity sporting event” a month before Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear annihilation to four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Or, let’s not forget the photo-op of ashen-faced, hostage negotiator, ex-president, Bill Clinton who stood on stage beside the elder, Kim Jong-II during a tense hostage situation. We are curious about North Korea, as-is, on a day-to-day basis, rather than a sanitized distance. Schmidt entered the inner sanctum.

Yes, there were many quotable lines about North Korea and the future of business in Asia in The New Digital Age, but for the rest of us, seeking ephemera, the chapters were like dry lake beds encrusted with cracked mud. 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen dual authored The Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The book was published this April, several months after Schmidt’s business and sightseeing tour with his daughter, Sophie, to North Korea.

Since books are printed in bits instead of ink, mostly, nowadays, it seems like Schmidt and Cohen could’ve updated their Kindle version to include more North Korean local color before it was published; could’ve added a page or two of local kitsch slash melodrama for those readers who are so very curious about, but will never see the innards of North Korea; with those edits in mind, Schmidt could’ve let his daughter write the book.

Daughter, Sophie’s hot-wired blog post written after her visit to North Korea with her father, Eric Schmidt, was far more fun, informative, and readable than Schmidt’s and Cohen’s book. You might like to visit Sophie in North Korea or read Eric Schmidt’s Daughter Recounts the Duo’s Bizarre Trip to North Korea, a Gizmodo story. It’s lively.

Seemed like the Schmidt-Cohen combo was possibly cautious about letting loose Google secrets or damaging a future working relationship with that Manchurian Candidate-kind-of-country, North Korea. Or something.

A Kindle search for the phrase ‘North Korea’ in The New Digital Age leads to no less than thirty-four instances. But for all those talking points the authors might have been describing a dull gray, nondescript, electrical box that every body owns.

Yeah, we know the North Korean government filters their public Internet. Give us details we can chew on. Give us concreteness. Give us gossip, any morsel, scrap, tedious leftover. Linsday Lohan gets better coverage than that bad-boy, North Korea, after a Schmidt visit.

Maybe informed readers with insider views to Google, and the future, read more into Schmidt’s lines than disappointed reviewers read. I’m sure, reading between the lines totally titillates CEO’s and those who like to guess what Google’s next move is about — readers get that, but a good read that broadens our understanding of the future, sprinkled with some bling-bling, and magic dust, particularly, when describing North Korea is what most readers expected.

A few reviewers on Amazon reviews were disappointed. We were in the minority. Below is the gist of my comment left on Amazon:

Bought The New Digital Age book on Amazon Pre-Order because I thought it was a book I might enjoy a lot. Rarely do this. The first chapter was interesting enough, but the writing kept me, the reader at a distance.

After the first chapter I would find myself flipping through other books in my Kindle. I didn’t get much past the first chapter, though I sampled later chapters to try to find a place to anchor my interest. I gave up on it.

Had just finished reading James Merkosi’s Burning the Page with little effort; I read it page for page, and gave it a good review on my blog. The distance between the two books on the WOW scale was wide. I read Burning the Page without a bump, but there was nothing but turbulence in the cockpit when I attempted to navigate The New Digital Age.


Internet computer conversation has changed. I like to tinker. But, lately, it’s like standing in a room full of people chatting up something interesting like Mountain Lion 10.8 OS X when without notice you are alone. Everyone suddenly exits to see something more exciting outside the building. You wonder over to the window to see what all the babel is about. On the lawn techies are crowding around this seven-inch rectangular mirror thing that’s got everyone mesmerized. No mess of cords: simplicity.

That’s how I felt as a tinkerer before Nexus 7 Tablet arrived at my place. Alone, behind times. OS X was no longer fresh. I was on the line about abandoning Snow Leopard 10.6.8Mountain Lion 10.8 was more of the same, a buggy system that requires updates to fix the bugs that the last version didn’t fix. Shades of Windows. My 2006 Intel dual core PC is to this day a work horse, ahead of it’s time when I bought the $1500 motherboard and power supply fashionably ensconced in what is still a bad ass black X Blade case.

It became clearer everyday that if I wanted to stay current with OS X I had to buy more hardware like a sound card, video, or buy a motherboard, and Mountain Lion OS software. I adopted a used Mac desktop from a family member who couldn’t fix it. It just quit. Took it apart to find a tiny bit of solder missing on a fragile metal object that made it not fixable, at least by me.

Windows 7 shelf date came and went, OS X grew a dull patina starting with boot, too. When Google Chrome developers decided to dump OS X Chrome browser, and it acted finicky when video played, that was it. What is a middling, not serious tinkerer to do? Buy a $180 video card. Throw good money after bad? TonyMacX86, goodbye. You’ve been a great site!

I de-tethered from my desktop. I want battery life that is as promised. Nexus 7 has 10-11 hour sustainable battery power. My HP Pavilion DV7 lasted three hours when it was new. Writing a simple column on battery only was a pain. No goofing off with housework to return to a black screen from where the battery had fully discharged, and lost text.

In two years the HP battery was dead, anyway. I either had to spend more dollars to replace it or stay hooked to an outlet. That’s for a device that is stationary, runs too hot to balance on my lap, and runs the power hogging OS, Windows 7. HP runs Ubuntu or a Linux, too, of course, and can do OS X, but like Windows those have lost luster. Drag that five pound monster to Starbucks, and all the fun is missing.

I wanted a genuinely portable tablet like the Amazon Fire, like the one I bought for my daughter. Kindle Fire is has an elegant design, limited browsing power but is a damn good first in an affordable 8 GB tablet. Ever since I booted the Kindle I’ve wanted to break it, to root it, but since it was her gift, bricking was not in the spirit of the gift. This spring Google announced Nexus 7. The reviews read like every nerd’s dream, every spec covered most of my bases, and those things that were not covered, new apps like the Nexus Media Importer and the new OTG hardware hack written about on forums, made possible the last wish on my list.

The final Lego fell into place when Larry Page (I think) dropped a tidbit about wired Ethernet as a possibility. A hack made possible by the On The Go or OTG cable. Our Internet is wired. If I were to run the wireless I had to interrupt the household Internet for fifteen minutes to get online for minimal browsing, and email. OTG, an unpublicized option, made my decision final. The Nexus 7 Tablet 16 GB was my next computer system. I didn’t have the cash to spend upgrading hopelessly clunky systems.

The OTG cable hooked into Ethernet, and a 50 ft. cable, LOL. (and Belkin USB Ethernet adapter.) A wireless tablet is nice but a wired tablet is really nice. I wanted the option to tether my phone, ditto. Bluetooth, ditto. I wanted the option to type on a keyboard for speed or thumb-type-touch for convenience. I wanted to connect at Starbucks without weight or complexity. And I wanted to try the apps tech writers raved about.

Google gave a $25.00 gift certificate to spend on Google Play with purchase. Spending someone else’s money is fun I’ve got to tell you. Google’s money was spent well. It was a win/win. Google educated me about their App Store and Google Wallet in a direct meaningful way that it would have taken me years to get to.

I bought my first apps, yes, I know this is sad, but these were the first Apps I’d needed to buy since I own an inexpensive Samsung phone. I have never owned an iPhone or iPad, nor have I wanted to own one. Those systems are too slick — to limiting — too expensive.

A big chunk went to Quick Office. And a good choice for a writer. At first it didn’t seem that way. Now, after three weeks, Quick office is a ritual. After I check my email, browse the news, I open Office to write. I get a choice in file formats.

I save doc files compatible with 1997-2003 Office — my current software version. Upload the docs to Google drive or email them to my personal email account without ever exposing my business account to Android’s ever-open email access. Download the files to my HP laptop, which is looking useful again, and print them. Or I could print them from the cloud. Or upload posts to my blogsite The Nexus 7 Android OS, Jelly Bean 4.1, ecosystem is consumer friendly.

Google has thought the Nexus 7 Tablet strategy through. They’ve integrated their ecosystem, which is remarkably like the one I want, to make email simple, browsing fast, an ecosystem that has open frontiers to explore. It’s not a walled-in community on the level that Amazon built.

Kindle books are a must. The reader is backlit. Kindle is awesome on Nexus 7. Sunlight. I can sit under the canopy at Starbucks to type or browse. Google needs a shipping and customer infrastructure to match their product but as a frontier-settler-nerd this works exceptionally well for me. I had one disappointment.

The Nexus 7 official case covers were sold out at $20. I ordered the swiss army knife for Nexus covers from a company named CrazyOnDigital, described as a “Rotating Stand Leather Case Cover for Google Nexus 7 Tablet (Black)[Smart Cover Function: Automatically Wakes and Puts the Nexus 7 to Sleep” from Amazon. Got it in a few days at a cost of $14.85. And it absolutely revolutionized productivity on the Nexus.

And, behold another computer system has come to my attention, the Raspberry Pi. Gotta have the $35 credit card size motherboard to make a HDMI home theater. Android Ice Cream Sandwich works for video on the Raspberry Pi. If only it played sound. Google’s AudioFlinger is missing. Debian works pretty good for now. Oh, well, another day. Another OS. Reprint from defunct blog at


BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.


via Worked.


Daily Beast made an interesting point in a story about the Tsarnaev brothers. “For all the different labels that get attached to it—terrorism, serial killing, ethnic war—much of mass violence is actually one big thing: the attempt by a small group of nihilistic and idiosyncratic individuals to murder, indiscriminately, a great many more.” Every American Muslim’s Fear

In other words, this urge to “murder, indiscriminately,” that played out in the Boston Marathon bombing might be less political, and more the act of one or more garden variety psychopaths, who’ve found absolution through the “book of the guilty” by attaching themselves to to an ideology, terrorism.

It’s too common for caring people to look for THE reason when an unfathomable, mass murder occurs, but maybe because we know how to care, we’re overlooking the basic cause of the problem, the reason a teenager and his older brother became enthralled with extremist philosophy.

I can’t help but feel that one of the brothers is a psychopath. Or maybe both, but the one who seems the most pleased to perpetrate this act on the crowd he’s passing through, and the one who gives the appearance that he could pass Hare’s checklist for psychopathy, wearing the “mask of sanity“, is the baby brother.

Salon published “The Depressive and the Psychopath: At last we know why the Columbine killers did it” by Dave Cullen. There are many parallels between these two tragedies. The Salon story draws the surprising conclusion that the depressed Klebold did not lead the seemingly normal Eric Harris in the murders, as it appeared, but Harris, the psychopath lead Klebold.

Cullen writes, “He [Eric Harris] was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as “nice.” But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. “Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,” Fuselier says. Harris was not merely a troubled kid, the psychiatrists say, he was a psychopath.”

In reading the many stories on the Boston Marathon attack, generally Tamerlan is deemed leading his younger brother astray. But much like the Columbine killer’s profiles I believe the older Tamerlan was the depressive, religious brother, and Dzhokhar was the one who had the confidence to carry out their audacious plan. It could be that Dzhokhar played Harris the psychopath to Tamerlan (Klebold) the depressive; Dzhokhar kept Tamerlan focused and calm. Tamerlan kept Dzhokhar energized with his know how in inventing explosive devices.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ actions reflect something akin to school shooters, even though one of them was in his late twenties. They reflect a combined fantasy: an egocentric, self-serving wish for devastating, international notoriety, duplicity on a grand scale, and the completion of a homicidal urge against all those they hold in contempt, which is everyone except for the two of them.

Many similarities exist between these two sets of killers. Both chose guns and explosives to carry out their plans and schemes. The Columbine killers chose the United States as the backdrop for their drama, the Tsarnaev brothers chose the entire world for their staged drama.

Like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were “gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale.” On the surface their violent Tsarnaev acts look like they might be connected to a larger cause, which most likely will be true, but to what extent I would not predict.

Psychopathy is found across all ethnicity. Psychopathy is a trait that’s found in all religions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, name one. It’s found in CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, ministers. It’s found in men especially, women to a lesser degree. Psychopaths make up about four percent of the population.

I’m not sure what the Tsarnaev brothers saw during their childhood that would make them so disaffected from those they shared everyday life with, but I’m guessing it was bad. Genetics affect the DNA endowed psychopath profoundly if early childhood is harsh. It will be interesting to see what psychological profile is decided upon for the Tsarnaev brothers. I believe that the younger brother had many possible futures but with the same tragedy that extreme psychopathy brings.

stories that matter

THE EMERGENCE OF NOVEL IDEAS. Below is a blurb from the new site MATTER, which will introduce you to a journalism subscription concept that I’m excited about. It features emerging ideas on the fringe of our knowledge. If you’re like me you like to read magazine length, in depth stories about science, technology and the future. If you’re like me sometimes you like to listen to these stories or parts of them while you’re doing something else. Now you can. If you would like to download science journalism the length of a novelette to your Kindle or reader, you can. Read DO NO HARM, Why do some people want to cut off a perfectly healthy limb? Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). for your introduction to MATTER, a Kickstarter project that consolidated MEDIUM and MATTER.

Stories that MATTER

MATTER is the new home for in-depth writing about the ideas that are shaping our future. We publish a single piece of extraordinary long-form journalism every month, from tales of corporate misdeeds and untold environmental scandals to stories of radical new scientific ideas and the people behind them.

We also think it’s crucial to find smarter ways to fund this kind of journalism. That’s why we’re building a community of readers, contributors and supporters who agree. For just 99c each month you can be part of it too.

Sign up today, and you’ll get:

• Access to all of our stories, including each month’s new release and our archive.
• Audio versions of every story, so you can listen on the go.
• E-book editions to read on your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
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Bit Coin fascinates me not because it is a get-rich-scheme or a convenient way to buy weed off the grid, which I don’t smoke, but don’t mind if anyone else does, or because I’m a Libertarian with gold on hand, I’m not. Bit Coins are the perfect storm heading our way, and the perfect opportunity.

Bit Coins or Bit currencies are the tip of the “Fat Tail.” Fat tails “are events that appear highly unlikely to occur but that are earth-moving when they do.” Bit coin is the Cat 5 hurricane coming to you and me in the next five to ten years. It could be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how world wide acceptance shakes out.

Bit currency is an emergent electronic payment system similar to Pay-Pal, which is an over simplistic way towards explaining it but about the best I can do. It’s an electronic money system whereby we all could become merchants. It’s a system where a few law abiding entrepreneurs now pay for a pizza or buy a WordPress site or sell yard sale items without a credit card or without cash. It’s a money-medium that’s convenient for not-so law-abiding people to buy and sell items, or move money they don’t want traced. It’s a money system without bill collectors. It’s permanent; you can’t get your money back. All sales are final.

Speculators are drawn to it. It has a future. It’s security is okay — that is until you cash out your cyber bits in exchange for dollars. That’s a crack in the system right now. There are robbers waiting to take your money when you cash out. It helps if you’re tech savvy. And, oh yea, speculators may try to crash the currency so they can buy it back from you when the price drops like it recently did. Or you may lose your encrypted back up file or accidentally wipe it out, and your Bit coins are gone. Yet, this nascent system is the tail end of the hurricane.

Since it’s an emergent system, it’s also similar to a snowflake or a termite cathedral or DNA replication or Wolfram’s computations where a pattern begins simply but generates complex designs over replication. Like DNA something pleasing might come from it like a baby or like the termite cathedral something not altogether likable. Emergent systems like Bit Coin don’t emerge in a vacuum, they bring other systems to the forefront with them, hence complexity.

Eric Schmidt, Googleplex person, says that by 2020 the entire world will be online. If so, we will want to buy and sell from our neighbors, which will include the entire world, which will require other emergent systems as helpers. If that’s so, a fairly secure Bit currency is going to be necessary, a stronger Maker culture will most likely be put in place, and a faster transportation system might have evolved.

We’ll need a world wide communication system to propel the buying and selling, and making, and a same day world wide system for delivery of concrete goods, and a maybe an unsettling shift in government. But like termites when disturbed governments are self-organizing, and seem to fare well after turmoil, coming back stronger and we should hope, more democratized.

A fairly secure Bit currency: Fairly secure but not absolutely secure Bit currency with a fast connection, and maybe free phones, is all that’s keeping us from buying instant art from an African artist in Timbuktu or hand knit wool socks from North Korea (well maybe more). The network doesn’t need to be absolutely secure, just secure enough. If products were cheap enough that I could afford to lose money on a small percentage of my purchases or sales, then it would would work as a currency. If we accepted a small loss it could work. It might be called fuzzy accounting for Bit currency instead of bank or credit card accounting where each penny is accounted for, and an over-priced transaction fee is charged.

A healthy Maker culture: Couple Bit currency/micro payments with a home or community based, Maker printer, and an artist living in Timbuktu, Africa, could send me her sculpture plan, created in her village, or the North Korean, homemaker could send me his sock design created in his village, ready to print anywhere in the world on a Maker printer in any suitable medium, be it yarn, wood, plastic, or steel. Or if the fat tail is really fat, and imaginative, those original North Korean socks could be delivered same day by a transport fueled with a NASA UW fusion rocket recently proposed to reach Mars within 30 days. Far fetched, maybe, but … I’m still waiting for my robot.

So, why should Bit currency matter to you and me? Bit currency is an emerging technology that’s going to revolutionize commerce. It may not stay in the present form but mutate into something we haven’t anticipated yet. Whatever it is when Bit Coin was unleashed it was like going through a gate that had a one way spring, there is no going back — Bit currency is here, and it’s a reality. Oh, yea, there are going to be Bit currency billionaires made just like railroad moguls and oil barons. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them.

It’s a circus this morning. Opened up my digital wallet, BitCoinSpinner. One Bitcoin’s worth $69.11 at this moment.  It dropped like a rock from $266.00. A new sheriff is in town – Ripple backed by Silicon Valley behemoths announced they were releasing into the wild 50 billion coins in May for those who sign up. A new posse is trading up Bitcoins for Ripples this morning, raking gravy from the nerd-famous, volatile currency for drug lords, libertarians, and those who can’t help themselves. Mt. Gox sounds like a biblical place but it’s the Japan based home for a centralized, math-based, coin exchange. Looks like the Winklevoss twins have saved the day or BitCoin currency I should say. The trade slide has stopped for now, the wounds cauterized. Watching the currencies battle it out is like watching a new sport for the new decade — Bitcoin-ball.

Bitcoin has received its most high-profile endorsement yet as the Winklevoss twins, famous for their legal battle with Facebook, reveal they could be the largest holders of the controversial digital currency – just as the bubble bursts and the price plummets.

burningpageOh, am I bad. Embarrassed myself on the last post about the Twitter Feed. Took the time to sign into twitter — @technosociofile. Now I get that the “Burning The Page” twitter site for Jason Merkoski’s book tweeted twice for me, attractive tweets advertising the released book in my Twitter account, Technosociofile. Where the account revoked came from is a mystery, but all is good, cause I now “get it.” I get why Twitter is awesome and why it’s a good resource for stories. Took me long enough. Sincerely, LMAO. Chalk up my ignorance to my ongoing digital literacy.

Somehow during a phone conversation I wandered into Nick Bilton’s Twitter feed. He writes Bits column for the New York Times. While I’m talking and clicking I tweeted that I’d read the first chapter of Burning the Page. Twitter message pops up goes something like your account has been revoked. Oh, well, big deal. It took me just a second after my phone conversation ended to see I had interrupted Bilton’s conversation tweeting about a book he may or may not review. Am I an unintentional spammer or just damn rude? Burning The Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading is already on the Huffington Post this morning. Nick if you read this, sorry ’bout that.

Burning The Page” is a great name for a book, especially if it’s by Jason Merkoski, book innovator who worked on the Kindle team to bring us eBooks on reading devices. So, far I’ve read the first chapter, and it’s yellow with highlights on “far off futuristic ideas.” I got sidetracked though. Merkoski added a hyperlink to Twitter for gifts like a digitally-autographed cover for his book. Ooh, proper good, and wicked keen idea his, this Reading 2.0.

Only thing is I’m antisocial, and resist Twitter. I’m a novice. Technosociofile has a slightly used account, so much so that Twitter sends me an email saying it’s good to see you, it’s been sometime since you joined in the conversation. But Merkoski’s autograph lured me to Twitter.

Bilton’s feed is the only Twitter Feed that I follow. He gets the futuristic stuff right in his column. I read his referrals. I am embarrassed to say as a Technosociofile that a social network that’s as widespread as Twitter is pointless to me. I’m such a privacy freak that I break out in hives near Facebook, and like fellow techie-paranoids, I wipe out my last web info with the Google tool that asks if I want to erase it from the beginning of time. If I had more time I’d spend it tearing down my system and rebuilding it again, not Twittering.

What Twitter does give me is long form journalism in the form of Bilton’s excellent Tweets. So, I’ll pursue the in-depth stories through my email alerts for Bilton’s Tweets where I don’t sign on, and refresh that which should not be refreshed — Tweets. In the meantime, I’m anxious to get to chapter two of “Burning The Page.”

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

REVIEW: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

Dale Stephens says he wants to teach you how to navigate the Kafkaesque educational bureaucracy. If you are twenty-something buy this book, or if you are fifteen, and thinking about going to college read this book. If you feel helpless to find a job in this economy this book will have something concrete you can try like his “52 cups of coffee” focused networking, which isn’t anything new until Stephens tells his story, and why you should do the same.

In fact, the book was so full of new strategies and new ideas it wore me out reading about them. This isn’t your parent’s self-help book. This is real world stuff. If you can’t afford college, definitely read Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will.

Stephens talks about education like someone treading lightly through a mine field gingerly avoiding the financial education trap. He says that “there is a bubble in education and it is on the brink of bursting.” I agree.

Stephens says that “Universities do not train you for the real world: they exist to make money”; that an “MBA program is worthless”; that “schools can only teach what is settled”; that it “takes years for knowledge to become a part of formal curriculum.” And by then the expiration date on your education is stale.

Dale Stephens offers a path for the upcoming generation to get an education that is relevant, and not stale, and debt free, or at least less so that of those recent graduates who’ve spent a fortune on their masters degree, and work in the service industry when they graduate. He calls it UnSchooling or UnCollege.

UnSchooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. Dale Stephens says you need to “stop giving a s*** about grades and start building things.” He says ” Project-based learning is a style teaching in which students define problems they are interested in and then solve them with guidance from their teacher.” He talks about collaborative work groups instead of competition, creating a website and a personal portfolio, and networking with people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. He says make something.

Stephens says “hiring managers want to see experience. He says business has changed but education hasn’t kept up. He wants college age people to take their life into their own hands rather than handing it over to an institution that is trying it’s best to keep up in a fast moving century.

Stephens persuaded his parents to allow him to drop out of school in the fifth grade to school himself. It seems to have worked. He dropped into college then dropped out, again, forming a group to school himself. He founded UnCollege for non-traditional higher education. Stephens says he “agreed to write a book, never having written more than twelve pages.” The book is well-written. It’s more than readable, it’s enjoyable.

If Hacking Your Education . . . had a shortcoming it is that the book is ahead of it’s time. Degrees are still the currency that is valued, too often. The educational system is in flux. This might be the last decade for traditional education, but it is, yet, here. And, yes, Universities are a business first, but some are there to teach, to put the maker ideas into the curriculum.

Stephens probably had more financial and family resources available than a lot students heading for college, but he talks about strategies that work whether a learner has resources or not. He’s ingenious in his own life, and wants to teach others how to be ingenious. He asks for help from a friend or relative who works at Google, and gets a foot in a door he’s after. Too many will not have an uncle or friend of a friend at Google, or network connection in a high profile firm, but even that might surprise the ingenious student who buys 52 cups of coffee.

Technosociofile's Favorite Books

Technosociofile’s Favorite

Favorite Book List

  1. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter (Oct 27, 2009)

  2. Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran (Jan 29, 2013)

  3. Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George M. Church and Ed Regis (Oct 2, 2012)

  4. We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson

  5. Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty (Jul 3, 2012)

  6. Black Irish: A Novel by Stephan Talty (Feb 26, 2013)

  7. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan (Sep 13, 2011)

  8. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson (Oct 2, 2012)

  9. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Oct 24, 2011)

  10. Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens (Mar 5, 2013)

  11. The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service by Gordon Corera (Jan 9, 2013)

  12. The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick by Benoit Mandelbrot (Oct 30, 2012)

  13. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak and William L. Simon (Aug 15, 2011)

  14. Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire by Bruce Nussbaum (Mar 5, 2013)

  15. Machinima: The Art and Practice of Virtual Filmmaking by Phylis Johnson and Donald Pettit (Mar 7, 2012)

  16. Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott (Mar 19, 2013)

  17. Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein (Sep 25, 2012)

  18. Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks (Apr 26, 2012)

  19. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Vintage) by George Dyson (Dec 11, 2012)

  20. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy (May 27, 2010)

  21. Phantom by Jo Nesbo (Oct 2, 2012) – Deckle Edge

  22. Adrenaline (Sam Capra) by Jeff Abbott (Jul 1, 2011)

  23. The Psychology of Dexter (Psychology of Popular Culture) by Bella DePaulo PhD (Sep 7, 2010)

  24. The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World by James Shreeve (Jun 28, 2005)

  25. Biopunk: Solving Biotech’s Biggest Problems in Kitchens and Garages by Marcus Wohlsen (Jul 31, 2012)

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.


Subspecies of nerd primarily interested in digital technology and the social implications and applications in a wired world. (Abbreviated TSF) A technosciofile may fall on a spectrum anywhere from “techie” to “socio.” May have issues with authority.

Type of benign hacktivist. Not exactly white-hat but not exactly malicious either. Some may seek notoriety.

“Just because you steal Wifi to watch Colbert, it doesn’t make you a technosciofile.”

“You may be a technosociofile if… you’re fascinated by Anonymous and paranoid about the FBI.”


“I think the case against Auernheimer is deeply flawed, and that the

principles the case raises are critically important for civil liberties online.”


“In a blog post Thursday, Orin Kerr, a professor from the George Washington University Law School, said he is stepping in to help Auernheimer due to concerns over the length of his sentence and the manner in which the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was applied in the case.”


A few days ago, I read about “Weev” Auernheimer hacking AT&T to reveal a deep flaw. He did it for the challenge and a notoriety. He was hacking for fun not profit. He’s going to jail. Why?

Why are our brightest minds wasted in jail? A rapist gets one year and a non-malicious hacker gets three to four, and another altruistic one is driven to take his life, and yet another one, a talented Texas journalist rots in jail. It’s more than unfair. It’s wasteful. And, heart breaking.

I’m not a hacker. I tinker. Yet, our society is so backward, and so under-educated about technology that I might be lumped into that category. I tinker, like so many others. To say that I hack is like saying that singing Karaoke is the same as performing a musical virtuoso. What I like to do is write or at least think about writing. It’s probably what Barrett Brown likes best, too — what he thinks about while in jail for hacking, which he probably didn’t know jack about, what he knew about was writing and investigative journalism.

Technosociofile, Subspecies of the Nerd

Years ago I got fascinated by a new thing, a bulletin board, run by a skinny teenager who worked at Walmart. I don’t remember his name; I remember he killed himself, though. One day I had someone to share a hobby the next I had no one. I used to talk to him about computers when I went there to shop. I’d look him up. One day he wasn’t there, and they told me they found him by the wood pile near the shanty he lived in. He’d shot himself. He was a Technosociofile, not a terribly understood subspecies of the nerd. Seems they are the most vulnerable.

Brown, Swartz, and Auemheimer

In a small way that’s why I feel so bad for activist, Aaron Swartz, altruistic JSTOR hacker at MIT who committed suicide while under Federal indictment “facing decades of prison”, and to some degree, I feel bad for Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer in what is considered “Federal overreach”, for the AT&T hacking. And then there is Barrett Brown, who got hold of a story that his journalistic personality wouldn’t allow him to let go.

Cyberwarfare Discussion

Don’t get me wrong I don’t like or support malicious hacking but hacktivism is another story. It often doesn’t come tied up in a nice bow with manners and etiquette. It’s comes in the package of a sometimes obsessive, reclusive, inquisitive mind who just wants to know if they can climb one more level in the game. And when they are caught, nowadays, lately, the crime often does not fit the punishment. I’m not saying all who hack and get caught should go unpunished I’m saying recently this is beginning to look like a witch hunt.

Is this an era we will look back on as a destruction of the best minds of the early twenty-first century, the ones who are self taught, self-motivated, the possible geniuses who might protect our country against cyberwarfare through exposing holes in the technology-Internet-infrastructure? I’m saying let’s have open discussion, let’s have oversight in sentencing, and let’s understand the difference between malicious destruction and hacktivism. It’s a very fine line but democracy has always allowed us to tread that fine line delicately.