Because It’s There!

In my college apartment, back when my roommate and I had a collection of (Gasp!) two computers and an Xbox 360, we had the beginnings of a respectable home network.  In actuality, this consisted of a single router and a discreet hole punched in the wall between our rooms to allow for an Ethernet run.  But it was a wired home network, dammit!

One evening, probably after imbibing too much, we had a discussion about stress-testing the network, for no other reason beyond idle curiosity.  And so, we each began a bandwidth test on our computers, while simultaneously transferring a large file between them, and playing an Xbox game.  In actuality, this didn’t represent much of a stress test, but it was sufficient to fry the router–a Linksys WRT-something.

The router was my roommate’s, and since he already had it at the time, I felt no need to purchase something better.  After the test though, I went to a different brand: D-Link, with whom I’ve stayed since, at least until I have a bad experience.  In any case, this utterly pointless test broke an expensive electronic and forced us to be offline for a couple days.  What was the lesson?  NOT A DAMN THING!

Fast-forward to present.  I acquired a 5 terabyte USB HDD, at the time intended as a master backup drive.  I encrypted the drive, then manually copied over every file from every computer we owned.  I then locked this drive in my desk at work.  Clumsily, I had created an off-site data backup.  But the process was cumbersome and time-consuming, and the encryption didn’t play nice cross-platform.  So when Amazon started offering unlimited cloud storage for a fixed yearly rate, and I found out my NAS could integrate with it and maintain client-side encryption, I really couldn’t think of a reason to continue with the arduous task of manual backups.

But now, I had an unused giant hard drive.  What to do with it?  My Xbox One, always suffering from a critical shortage of storage, won the prize.  I connected the drive, followed the formatting prompts, and subsequently solved all my storage problems for the foreseeable future.

In fact, it was so much storage that I decided to download every free game offering that came with my Xbox Live Gold subscription.  Generally, they’re mediocre games that neither I (nor anyone) will ever play.  But, I can.  So now, every month, I download these games simply because it’s there!

…at least until my ISP finally institutes data caps


Frost (Part 2)

Damn weather.  Sure enough, the frost 4 days after last frost took out the basil, peppers, and half the tomatoes.  This sets my garden back a month.

If my morning glories are imbued with unholy virility, why can’t my basil?

I realize in a fortnight I’ll be complaining about the heat, but would it friggin warm up already?!


The Internets and Social Medias

That’s actually how a company higher-up referred to it: The Internets and Social Medias.  I felt like a kid, talking to some adult who was desperately trying to understand “what the kids are into these days”.  It was painful.

Anti-gay chicken sandwich

The point of that particular email communication was to be careful that when you take to the Internet to obnoxiously voice your opinion about something, as we are all apt to do, that you take pains to avoid having your opinion interpreted as a representative of your employer.  Remember Chick-fil-A and that comment against homosexuals by whoever that executive was?  I get that it’s a Christian company, but it seemed odd to me that we were holding a company accountable for an employee’s personal opinion.  I don’t recall the company ever catching flak for refusing to hire homosexuals, or denying them service, so as far as I know, the company itself hadn’t done anything ethically questionable.  But it demonstrated that people as a whole didn’t want to make that distinction, and so proved my own employer’s concerns.

My point is that this is one consequence of the Internet, which represents something greater: open access to exercise free speech to a worldwide audience, and the major consequences it can have against a powerful individual, whether or not those consequence are justified.  It’s a definite point of concern, but it got me thinking about something even bigger: who specifically would be against this paradigm that we’re in a constant state of disagreement regarding the openness of the Internet?

And my conclusion is simply, that it’s those with the most to lose.  Let’s consider some logic: knowledge is obtained through experience and study.  Study is written information, vetted and discussed.  The Internet is the biggest and most available source of vetted information.  The internet is therefore knowledge incarnate.  An argument against the openness of the internet, therefore, is an argument for greater widespread ignorance.  So who would benefit?  I surmise that it would be those who are in power.  Why?  Because the mere fact that they hold positions of power demonstrates that they have benefited from the existing system to this point, which compared to today’s access to information (courtesy of the Internet), has been a period of relative ignorance.

People fear to lose what they have acquired, even when recognizing it doesn’t benefit the common good.  More tangibles means a higher standard of living–something for which we fight tirelessly–human nature.  Conclusion: those in power don’t want to lose power, and consequently perceive the Internet as a direct threat to their power.

Enter: government intervention.  The trend has been to cripple the Internet where its ubiquity benefits the commoner, without threatening areas in which it benefits commerce (AKA: the flow of money and by proxy, power).  This translates to being able to monitor who does what on the Internet.  If you can build a profile on every citizen, then through historically successful tactics of government action; such as intimidation, threats, political imprisonment; you can then silence anyone who’s informed enough to be a direct threat without destroying the technology itself, and therefore still capitalize upon it while maintaining the power dynamic.

The first approach was to damage the first threat to surveillance: encryption.  In the 1990s there were actual laws which dictated the effectiveness of Internet encryption strength, and even went so far as to classify the technology as a munition, and therefore precluded from international export.  Review the history of PGP for an amusing example.

But stifling encryption ultimately harmed commerce, as the Internet became increasingly commerce-centric.  Money had to flow and it could only do so with encryption.  The restrictions eased, but encryption remained cost-prohibitive to anything outside of commerce, so for a time the government was still in a winning position.  More interested in communication and people’s access to information, the government was still comfortable with the fact that while strong encryption existed, nothing they were interested in monitoring was encrypted.

But then, encryption became universal, recently thanks in part to the push for it by companies such as Google, Mozilla, Apple, and the EFF.  Suddenly, it became infeasible to police the public based on their Internet traffic.  So the government responded with what they tried before: breaking encryption.  Except this time, the commercial Internet entities were no longer solely comprised of companies who unquestionably took the government’s side in all matters.  Encountering resistance by these powerful companies, attempts to renew similar legislation have so far failed (in the US, anyway–Brazil and Britain are two notable counterexamples).

So the power play has taken a new approach.  If you can’t control the technology that runs the Internet, control the infrastructure itself.  In order to do that, it needs to be consolidated–monopolized.  Enter the era of mega-mergers.


Time Warner/Comcast/Charter/Verizon/Level 3/AOL–the Internet backbones of the country are quickly becoming one.  In a closed-door tit-for-tat arrangement, these companies assuaged the government leaders’ fear, by providing all the financial incentive required to keep these leaders in power, while the leaders responded by further de-regulating legal restrictions, allowing these companies to squeeze additional capital from it’s customer base.  But as stated, there’s a bigger plan.  This mutually-beneficial arrangement extended to ignore antitrust regulations, giving companies the monopolistic power they wanted to maximize revenue from a competition-less industry, while becoming unofficially indebted to the government, true, but the government will then will exercise its power to regulate these indebted monopolies for its own purposes, finding away around the technology to access customer data through the gatekeepers themselves.  And once the industry is monopolized, there will be no fringe competitors available to offer alternatives.

So what is the next step?  I will theorize.  Ultimately we’ll end up with one or two ISPs.  We’ll pay increasingly exorbitant prices for Internet access.  Then they’ll leverage their monopoly over the Internet backbone itself to force a technological loophole.  ISPs may require that customers install an ISP-provided encryption certificate, which would break encryption to the ISPs while still maintaining secure communications for commercial purposes.  They may require customers to use ISP equipment, designed for a similar middle-box proxy service.  They may require something at their business customers’ end, such as logging and surrendering customer information.  There are many specific possibilities, but what’s important is that we as the customer, with no other ISP alternative, will be in no position to refuse.  And the pseudo-anonymity, open exchange of ideas, and access to the world’s repository of knowledge; will gradually be lost to the ages until the next violent revolution.



Like any gardener, I consult the frost dates when deciding to plant.  April 19 was our average last frost, so a 50% probability that after this date, there will be no more freezes.  50% is not a good bet with my tomatoes, and I’ve been burned by this in the past (or rather frostbitten), so I go off the later date: the guaranteed last frost date, or whatever they call it.  It seems to go by more than one name, but it’s basically the almost certain guaranteed date after which there will be no more frost.  Ours was May 3.  The weekend after, I planted my tomatoes.

What could go wrong?

That weekend, Sunday night–last night, May 7, the weather report predicted a low of 34.  But, there was no frost advisory.  It would be cutting it close, but ultimately after an exhausting weekend, I lacked the energy to consider going out and covering my tomatoes.  I trusted to fate.

This morning, as I rolled the trash to the curb, I noticed with dismay that there was frost upon the grass.  I quickly inspected my tomatoes.  One appeared frostbitten, but the others did not.  I noted that the line of frost only just barely touched the edge of my garden.

The coldest period of the night was 6-7AM.  This was the time during which I was reviewing my garden, so it is possible that I was seeing the worst of things.  The garden is against the garage, so maybe enough residual heat leached from the house to keep the garden thawed.

The Farmer’s Almanac had this to say about the date:

‘You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost’

Apparently “almost” is the key word.  After work, I go home to determine the damage.  And I hope that one night has not destroyed 6 weeks of indoor growing preparation for my first garden at the new house.


Like a Record, Baby

Standing desks are hippie-dippie crap.  Just because you want to lessen your chances of fatal cardiac arrest one day, I have to hear you and your stupid call as you talk way too loudly over the cubicle walls.

That is not the topic of this post, but a mere introduction.  I, too, feel my fragile physical form atrophying as I sit in a chair for hours.  And so, partially out of concern for my musculature, partially because I can’t bear to hear standing desk guy talking loudly on his eternal call anymore, I venture forth into the harsh and unforgiving wilderness that is the paved perimeter of the building.

I started taking walks whenever I had the time very early in my employ at this company.  And now, years later, I again went walking, but this time with someone else.  I’ve done that before of course–I’m not an antisocial weirdo.  But apparently I always take the lead, for on this occasion, upon our mutual egress from the edifice, she turned right–a direction I had never considered.  She wished to circumnavigate the building in a clockwise direction.  I implored her to rethink her rash and unwise decision, but nay said she, for the wild called to her in that direction.

Actually I think she just said she wanted to go that way, followed by a rhetorical question along the lines of what the hell was wrong with me.  And I, being the eternal gentlemen, acquiesced.  Then, 10 steps into the walk, I collapsed from an anxiety attack.

Which brings me to my question: why are sporting events which involve circular autotransference always done so in a counterclockwise direction?  Once again I sought the Holy Oracle for its wisdom of the collective consciousness.

Google quickly directed me to several sites, wherein the answers were many.  Explanations included but were not limited to: Coriolis effect, faster movement in relation to the planet’s rotation, more natural for the majority right-foot dominated athletes, and the interpretation of chronology as athletes moved from left to right from the perspective of the spectators.

But I recall an X-Files episode in which a buried naval antenna, miles long, generated ultra-low frequency radio waves for communication with deep-sea submarines.  Except, this being the X-Files, there were unanticipated consequences, and local residents suffered some sort of explosive decompression of their inner ear if they stopped moving–some sort of bone-resonance in relation to the antenna.  The guest actor was the guy who played the Breaking Bad dude.  Anyway, things didn’t turn out so well for Breaking Bad dude, the navy denied any wrongdoing but mysteriously shut down the antenna, and Mulder got the usual berating from FBI Assistant Director Skinner (or maybe it was his new boss after he was officially removed from the X-Files).

It is therefore my preferred theory that my panic attack was not due to some simple neurological disorder like OCD, but rather that, let’s say, the gel in my inner-ear is in resonance with the earth’s rotation and it causes me physical pain to travel clockwise.  One day, I will travel to the southern hemisphere to confirm this theory.

For now, let’s take a walk, and turn left dammit!