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Category Archives: writing

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

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.

EULOGY

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.


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NANOWRIMO DAY 4

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.

Warmstrip 

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’VE GOT THE PARKINSON’S GENE!

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. http://youngparkinson.wordpress.com/

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.

 

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.

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.

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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.

EricSchmidt

 

 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.

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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.

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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.
• The MATTER newsletter full of amazing links and tips from great writers.
• Editorial Board membership, so you can help shape the topics we cover.
• Exclusive Q&A sessions with the authors and editors of every story.And it’s easy to change your mind: you can cancel your Membership at any time with a single click.

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.

Technosociofile

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.”

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“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.”

AT&T HACK

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.

RDIO APP

TV is last century. It might hang around like radio. I cut the cord long ago. Ah, forgot about RDIO! compliments of Nick Bilton’s tweet for his Bits column, Test Run: Rdio vs. Spotify in the New York Times. Installed the PC and the Android app yesterday. It will clean the air pollution. TV pollutes the air. RDIO masks the sound, blunts it. New music.

The Writing desk

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My white cup has black tea in the bottom. I’m at my desk, I can hear them. I know her, Isabella, our cat, and I know him, and I know Sunday mornings in the in-the-routine way that peaceful households are alike. She’s wrapping herself around his legs; he’s pattering to her, something inconsequential. The artist among us is still dreaming in abstracts.

My tax stuff sits in sight. Speakers lay sideways, collapsed on the desk entwined like a set of crossed fingers. Dvendra Banhart song plays on RDIO. A twenty-two inch monitor, a purple, half-inch storage cylinder for my tooth cap that came off w/ a caramel hard candy, a clotted canister coated with lotion, a bottle of bilberry sups to forestall the loss-of-light cones in my green eyes, hard bound notebooks to scratch notes in from books I read, short story ideas, and tasks to complete, mundane everyday stuff done over and over.

DVDs in a stack, spring water in plastic at hand on my right like a flask protecting me from thirst on a prolonged journey, the bottle beading drops of dew on mom’s oak desk, her long gone DNA captured in hand-applied varnish. My feet crossed at the ankles resting beside my laptop that’s switched on less and less since owning a tablet. A black HP keyboard w/ the stuck shift key damaged when it took a tumble when I got my toe tangled in the cord.

All the clutter I collect around me claims me. I have to see this stuff. It comforts me. I don’t want matching objects. I prefer asymmetry to balance. I prefer intermittent chaos to stagnation. I prefer change. Change is lop-sided. Even change doesn’t stay that way. It gets more symmetrical as stability rolls in.