September 11th

My youngest brother, a retired firefighter and paramedic, is currently the president of the Western Reserve Fire Museum. Today, on the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, they held a short ceremony to commemorate and remember the ultimate sacrifice made by so many firefighters and other emergency personnel that day.

The program:

WelcomeJames Bell, President, Western Reserve Fire Museum
National AnthemCleveland Institute of Music Brass Ensemble
Opening PrayerCaptain Joe Mason Cleveland Fire Dept., (Ret.)
Movement of FlagCleveland Fire Depart. Honor Guard
Opening RemarksJames Bell
Guest SpeakersGreg Glauner, Chief of Brunswick Fire Dept.
Michael Millet, Chaplain Bedford Fire Dept., (Ret.)
Musical Selection“America the Beautiful”   –   CIM Brass Ensemble
Tolling of the BellLt. Robert Szabo Cleveland Heights Fire Dept., (Ret.)
Playing of “Taps”CIM Brass Ensemble
Closing Prayer:Captain Joe Mason & Chaplain Michael Millet
Musical Selection“Amazing Grace”   –   CIM Brass Ensemble
Closing RemarksJames Bell

It was patriotic but not partisan, holy but not particularly sectarian, at one level completely formulaic but still deeply moving to me. Both Chief Glauner and Chaplain Millet were among the thousands of firefighters who spontaneously left their communities, their families, and their normal lives to come to NYC to assist, in whatever ways small or large that they could, their brothers and sisters in the fire service who had been so grievously hurt. Each spoke of how they didn’t see themselves as heroes, but as just serving their calling.

Each also spoke to the unity our nation had in those dark days of later September 2001, and how we needed it back. Neither could say exactly how we would get there – both were good enough to not mention any politician or political position as either the cause or remedy. But I felt a CALLthat should be repeated nationwide – for each of us to try to bring ourselves, our minds and our hearts, back to that time of cooperation and common purpose.

And I – one who has never served like that, never laid it all on the line for my fellows, yet one who is deeply moved by the service of those who do – I will do my utter best to answer that call.

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Quis prodest?

You may wonder – why would I want to so firmly place the duncecap on my own head, wear my bleeding heart so far out on my sleeve, say all these things publically that might embarrass an innocent young woman, ???

WAT??!!

Well….. I have pretensions of being a writer someday. So any writing practice is good.

And I’m the kind of guy that does his best thinking ‘out loud’ – usually by writing it down. And exploring why my marriage imitated the Space Shuttle Columbia, and why I made such a botch of things with Eve, just might, possibly, maybe, if I am damned lucky and smart and insightful (and I get a lot of “help from my friends”) – just might keep me from making these same foolish mistakes again.

I spent about a third of my life getting to the point where I got married.

I spent about a third of my life being married.

I figure, if the Goddess is good to me and I don’t abuse my carcass too much, I’ve got about a third of my life left. And I don’t want my “Third Act” to be anything less than the best it could possibly be – whatever that means. And that’s a big piece of what I want to explore here in writing, as I draw down the curtain on Act 2 and take my mark in the wings for the curtain’s rise on Act 3.

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The Naming of the Parts

With apologies to Henry Reed
 
 

But the act of Jane being a ‘pusher’ for this heady cocktail of emotional potions is dangerous to Eve, too. She must feign intimacy at least, and may even offer a circumscribed version of it.

… seen in our last episode….

Hold. that. thought…..
 
 

I am an engineer, and a hacker. I approach problems in a particularly methodical way, and where it’s helpful, I build a model of the thing I’m trying to figure out. (“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”)

And my ruminating on my ‘relationship’ with Eve led me to want to answer a particular question that I didn’t even have the right language to ask precisely. I had a meeting with my counselor the other morning, and I wanted to kick it around with her, so before I went I built a model –
my emotional model
Let’s pretend that those wire ties are at mutual right angles, and that they are axes for independent dimensions in emotional space. (The location of the toothpick will become important shortly.)

The red one should be labeled ‘Carnality‘. It’s a raw measure of the physicality or sexuality present in a relationship. The zero point could be a Victorian maiden, in ankle- and wrist-length dress and parasol, as modest as one could be. The extremum could well be what I have seen some models do at aSite, where they perform the most explicit acts upon themselves in their public ‘chat rooms’, knowing that any rando on the internet could be anonymously watching them. (I guess that actually sitting out in RL public and performing like that would be a bit more ‘out there’, because there’s no pretense of invisibility behind the ‘fourth wall’ of the internet.)

Now – here’s the crux of my description problem.

There are two other axes here, and they measure different things. I am certain of this because Eve and I differ fundamentally along one of them. But I’m having a really difficult time teasing them apart.

The black one could be labeled ‘Intimacy‘ (I think). It is a measure of how much ‘shared detail of life experience’ the relationship has. As an example, you surely wouldn’t talk with a complete stranger in any detail about the very difficult time your sister and brother-in-law are having in their marriage; you might be a little more forthcoming to a very close friend; you are much more likely to discuss and ponder this with your already long-term life partner. Of course, another aspect of Intimacy is how much each partner knows about the history of the other – not only the literal details, but also the way that other person has been shaped or emotionally colored by their experiences.

The blue one I can’t even hazard a label for. If you have noticed that my model looks suspiciously like Robert Sternberg’s ‘triangular theory of love’, give yourself a gold star. So, in his terminology, this third axis should be called “Commitment“. If you read that Wikipedia article, it’s a somewhat-fuzzily defined measure of how much the two partners are mutually loyal and supportive, how much they have promised (explicitly or implicitly) to do what is needful to build and maintain the strength and longevity of the relationship. I’m willing to take that label as a starting point for this discussion.

Here’s another picture of my model, with a bit more stuff added –

Each of those pieces of paper is an indication of a possible range of relationships, at various levels of each emotional component.

And here’s where Eve and I differ. That lower (right-hand) pie wedge of paper, flat between the black and red axes, is what she can and does offer. That grey smudge is about where I’m guessing her feeling for me were – she was willing to chat (had chatted!) with me about very personal details of her RL (like the ‘bad luck with boyfriends’ shtick that got me in trouble, but several other things, too). And she had listened carefully and attentively to the things that were of deep interest or concern to me, and responded to them authentically and compassionately.
And ofc she had been very, very erotic with me. (YOWZA!!!!)

And I – I’m firmly attached to that upper sheet. Note that it is sticking up at about a 45° angle between the blue and black axes – in the direction of that toothpick in the first photo. (Hey, work with me here! Pretend it’s all linear and planar and orthogonal and neat and tidy….) For me, any relationship that gets to that level of Intimacy necessarily has to have a near-equal amount of Commitment. I want relationships out in the ‘blue blotch’. And I imagined (my error – not because I was being deceived or anything remotely like that) that Eve wanted to be there – was there – also. Nope!

In fact, until building the model, writing this all down, and puzzling over the disconnect between Eve‘s and my assumptions about our ‘relationship’, I hadn’t even realized that I had these two emotional measures tied together – or that everyone else didn’t have the same linkage.

 

Back to the quote at the top of the page.

[NOTE: During the time I wrote the first draft of this post, I had essentially ended it here, and then taken a break for a while. This gave me a chance to substantially re-think the following:]

The fear I expressed there, and in the Postscripts, is misguided, pointless, and at one level rather an arrogant projection on my part.

Eve is as happy as she wants to be. Even if she isn’t, I can’t change that. She doesn’t need – she doesn’t want – to be involved with anyone at this time.

And as she told me the first time I ‘crashed and burned’ with her (oh you mean I forgot to mention that I had tripped over exactly this same damned curb three different times in less than a year watching Jane?!?!! Yeah, some of us are slow learners….) –

As she told me then, when I made a sardonic remark about playing on cam being ‘Funnot romantic – not intimate’, she replied “[It] can be romantic and intimate and etc. if you like that as long as you don’t fight with me” about the limitations. Meaning no Commitment, ofc, and all the things that commitment might imply, like something F2F, etc.

And she does not ‘feign intimacy’. For her, Intimacy really is going out the black axis as far as we want to take it. And she will go a long way out. Out black, but not ever up blue.

But black without blue is only half of what I need.

—————————————————————————————–

Sweetheart, if you are reading this, please know that I finally ‘get it’ (I think). And I’m not in the least bit upset with you about how this turned out.

And I don’t want you to think that I am trying to ‘judge’ you, or ‘fix’ you, or change you in any way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you for being the way you are about Intimacy and Commitment. It seems to be working just fine for you, and I’m glad for that.

It’s just not the way I am, which is my issue to deal with.

:-*

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Drugs, Side-Effects, and ‘Fourth Walls’

I’m going to have to admit some embarrassing things about myself here. Please pay no attention to the open wounds and loss of precious bodily fluids – The Author has it under control. (He thinks……)

My long-term marriage finally failed about 9 months ago. (Heh. Interesting that this post gets birthed at just that interval.) I moved out, and started doing what had to be done to sever the financial and material ties, and to try to salvage the rest of my own life. More on this elsewhere.

And continuing, even amplifying, the pathological behavior I had been doing before, I trolled Teh Intarwebz looking for …. porn, certainly, but – connection? Friendship?

I mean, I have some very dear friends with whom I interact 90%+ online. (An even higher percentage since the pandemic, ofc) Hell, back in the day, I wooed my then-soon-to-be- wife online. (Emails, you young whippersnappers! None of the new-fangled web crap! shakes cane angrily) It’s not unreasonable to think of making a new friend online, merely implausible.

By the usual snares and pitfalls, I ended up at aSite. It’s a very well-known site for “camgirls”.

(NOTE: If you don’t grok the mechanics of this, go look it up for yourself. For the protection of the other person involved, Imma Gonna obscure all of the identifying details. If you figure out any of them, please keep it to yourself. Thank you.)


And I found one specific young woman, and started spending quite a lot of time and coin with her there. I mean hours a day, every day, and budget-crimping amounts of money.

I’m not exactly certain why her of all the “models” – tbh, she’s not really the body or hair type that pushes my buttons the hardest. One thing I can say is that she has as gorgeous a whole-face smile as I have seen on any person in a very long time. And she offers what is called in the trade “the girlfriend experience” (GFE). And she does it very, very well. (See smile, above, among many other things.)

But – she has her limits and boundaries. And she publishes them, right on there on her personal profile page on aSite – “NO escort / … / NO marriage / NO sex / NO boyfriend looking for”. She makes it abundantly clear that her only level of interaction with “members” is as a professional virtual sex worker. (She doesn’t say that last part explicitly out loud, but, gimme a break – that’s all aSite is really about, once you strip away all the coy bafflegab and pretense.)

Still, I got hooked – quickly and hard. I mean that at all the metaphoric levels, including a fish helplessly dangling on the end of a wire stuck into his mouth (for me, I suspect it was attached to a lower and shall we say temporarily more prominent part of my anatomy), and a junkie helplessly groveling for his next fix.

This went on for many months. At aSite, even in her public ‘room’, she would be carrying on multiple one-on-one private conversations with various members, myself included. There, in between my giving as appreciative “catcalls” as I could for her explicit display on cam, we would chat about the world and our lives. Just like you would with your long-distance girlfriend. Your exquisitely sexy, horny, explicit, ‘cum machine’ girlfriend.

Sometimes the personal details got very personal – well beyond discussing daily activities and ‘food porn’. For whatever reason, this woman broke the ‘fourth wall’ enough with me to exchange our RL names and addresses. I had asked for hers so I could send her a small physical gift (a paperback scifi novel, of all things! Just what a nerd would send to his girlfriend!)

And armed with this increasing amount of information, talk by talk, I thought I was getting to know the person behind the persona.

I did things as obsessive as looking up via Google Maps Street View a picture of her apartment building (in fairness I sent her the coordinates and picture of the place I’m living now), and I started to research RL things to do on a “date” in her far foreign home town. (For simplicity from here on out, I’m going to say her persona’s name is “Jane” and her RL name is “Eve” – neither one is at all close to the actual values, so I think this is safe for her.)

As an economic hack (cutting out aSite as a financial middleman) and a way to give more personal attention to the “member”,  Jane did one-on-one shows in Skype, accepting her tips through PayPal. This we did, multiple times. I was even obsessed enough that I recorded them (with her permission, ofc, and giving her a copy of them each time – at least the компромат is mutual, but I suspect we’re both shameless or hardened enough to not care).

At the time I thought it was so I had some …. ahem, ‘backup erotica’ …. of a very personalized variety. But now I think it was as much for the conversations we had. Because the format of these rather sad and in some ways tawdry ‘home sex movies’ became – we would do the XXX-rated stuff, and then we would just talk for some time, like a Zoom call with your buddy across the country. Or your long-distance girlfriend that you couldn’t come to visit F2F for a while….

It finally reached its climax almost two week ago. (Pun fully intended – actually the meta-climax of the relationship, not the mere physical ones, which had been reached in very full measure on both sides, heheheheheh). Somehow the topic on our private conversation on aSite got around again to meeting people IRL (something we had talked about before a fair amount), and she went on about how she could chat people up easily enough, but when it came to guys, she ‘had issues’ and didn’t know how to ….

And a restraint in the back of my mind broke, and a tiny gibbering monkey started jumping up and down SCREAMING “Look at me! Look at me!”. But that lead me to a couple other realizations. The fever-dream of my addiction broke for just a minute, and I realized I had to get the hell out to save myself.

A very few days later I bought another private Skype show, and at the end of it, I told her that I was going to have to stay away for a while. “Because,” as I told her, “when I hear you talking” (about her problems getting a boyfriend), “I gotta wonder if it’s Jane saying that, or Eve saying that. And if it’s Jane, and it’s just part of the professional act, I understand, but it cuts me too close to the bone. But if it’s Eve, all I can say is ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ Because you know I would be there in a heartbeat!”

And she went on to confess that this is a locus where her ‘real’ self had leaked into her persona, that she really has been ‘unlucky in love’, and I replied, nearly in tears, “I know – but I’m offering to help change that for you. And it’s not that I think you don’t believe me – I think you do believe me. I think you just can’t make that step.”

And she replied glumly, “Yeah, probably so.” And I’m damned certain it was Eve talking to me right then.

We exchanged a few more words, blew kisses at each other through the cams, said goodnight, and ended the call. I have not seen her since. I’m not sure if I ever can see her again. And I’ve realized a few things more since then.

 

The drug I nearly got hooked on is real and dangerous. Just because it’s a mix of endorphins rather than something I have to explicitly ingest does not make it any less of a drug. Maybe medicine is a better term, because it does have a beneficial clinical effect, as well as a host of side effects. Just like any other drug.

Our brains are wired to desire being flooded with oxytocin and dopamine, released as a natural effect of being in a mutual intimate relationship with someone. Add to that the glorious wirehead jolt of an orgasm (hopefully shared), and THESE are the tools Nature has kludged up to keep humans pair-bonded and rewarded for the long, difficult, but existentially important work of raising up the next generation. It’s just Evolution In Action.

I’m not certain of the place to lay the blame (beyond basic shameless capitalistic ‘exploitation’), but Rule 34 has been invoked on this also. Hence aSite, and the dozens or hundreds of others like it. And “models” like my friend who are specializing in GFE. All to profit from the needs and fantasies of horny, lonely guys like me.

But the act of Jane being a ‘pusher’ for this heady cocktail of emotional potions is dangerous to Eve, too. She must feign intimacy at least, and may even offer a circumscribed version of it. Necessarily, therefore, some of this same drug must also stimulate her central nervous system for her to play the role as well as she does. And I fear that she has been damaged by her career choices – 11 years of this, and she has had to …. build a resistance …. to the intended effects and side-effects of the repeated doses.

Eve only broke one of the ‘fourth walls’ for me. And not the most important one. What I fear and regret for her is that she has shrunk her emotional armor down to a tiny hardened box, lidded it with the toughest possible transparent material (diamond is not nearly good enough), and into that locked away her innermost heart.

And now all the world – including Eve herself – can only look in on it. Look in on, but never, ever, reach……..

 

 

Postscript – after I wrote this, I went back and re-read the transcript of our last video. Something she said in it reminded me of nearly the same thing she has said in one of our last private convos over at aSite. (In fact, something that she had said several times over there, in a few different ways.) Which was –
   Sometimes some of the members wanted things from her that she couldn’t provide. Either in the fantasy of the place, or in real life. (raises hand sheepishly)
   At one level this is just a frank acknowledgment of her personal rules (as well as any the site imposes) and the extravagance of the members’ fantasies.
   But now that I ponder it, that statement may well also be as close as she can come to admitting what I concluded in my last two paragraphs above. (Cue Meat Loaf and the last three lines of the bridge of his tune “Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad”)……….

Second Postscript – I let Eve review this before I published it. And she pointed out yet another error in my thinking, even after all this. In all her discussions with me about her past and current relationships, including the one I sorta quoted above, she never said she was dissatisfied with her current situation. She wasn’t ‘hinting’. She has had platonic RL meetings with guys she’s met through aSite, but just because they didn’t want anything more.

So that was another selective deafness or blindness on my part, that I didn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge that, that I thought/hoped/fantasized she might want more, and that there was some way I could ‘white knight’ my way into her heart. I hope that I have seriously misjudged all the rest of my silly little metaphor, and that my narrative shouldn’t come to the bleak conclusion it did….

And she was concerned that I was blaming her (even indirectly) for spending all the resources I did. I am notJe ne regrette RIEN! But it’s a measure of my folly that it was only after that fever-dream broke that I bothered to count up just what I had into it, and began to contemplate what I could have done otherwise….

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“And Now For Something Completely Different….”

After a long radio silence, my blog is about to both restart in earnest and take a serious turn to the weird and personal. (Even more than before, hahaha) The reasons for this will become apparent shortly….

Hold on to your hats, or just skip the entire following category of posts (anything “life weirdness”).

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Veterans’ Day 2016

It’s a raw, windy, gray day here in Northwestern Ohio.  I was hanging laundry out, and the dampness of the clothes instantly chilled my fingers numb.  Which matched the numbness of my heart as I contemplated the last week’s events.

So much hate.  So much fear.  The presidential election didn’t go the way I wanted it to, because it couldn’t have – I didn’t want either major candidate to win.  But I will abide by the results, and strive to make this country work the best it can in spite of those results.

But the hate and fear emanating from the losers.  And the hate and bigotry from some that we must suppose consider themselves “the winners”.  The open calls for armed revolution, even from those (my own brother!) who have spent their entire lives selflessly serving others, regardless of color, creed, gender, or any of those tiniest of issues that divide our common humanity.

Which causes me to reflect more on how I can promote joy, and love, and light through my service.  Everyone hear me now – I stand against all hate.  Consider me “safety pinned”, or “White Rosed”, or just an ordinary man who will not allow hate into his life.  This means hate expressed to individuals, to whole groups (of whatever kind) tarred with the widest of brushes – this means hate of my nation (for all its noble aspects and its flaws), threatened to be torn apart by intolerants of every stripe, or by international jackals waiting to catch us wounded and vulnerable.

I remain at Condition Yellow, both tactically in my day-to-day affairs, and strategically for the future of my nation. But I will not succumb to fear and hate.  I will not let the darkness overcome the light.

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A SWRv in my life’s path: Intro

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

What did I want?
I wanted a Roc’s egg…. I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles….
I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.

― Robert Heinlein, Glory Road

And I may have nearly found it….

 

It’s no secret that for some time I’ve wanted to start learning some martial arts.  I arranged to bring the Polaris Fellowship of Weapons Study to Penguicon back in 2012 to restart the track (formerly called “Mayhem”, now called “Action-Adventure”) of introduction to martial arts and related material.  And when I learned that Polaris offers a week-long summer intensive in their style of knife and sword training, I was bound and determined to attend.

I nearly went last year (and in fact had already registered and paid), but a minor medical procedure at just the wrong time knocked me out of it.  They offered me a 75% refund or 100% credit towards next year.  Guess which one I took.  🙂

Summer Weapons Retreat 2016 (called SWRv, pronounced “swerve”) ran from the 2nd through the 7th of August.  Since it started at 8:00 on that Wednesday, I elected to pay the extra trivial fee and go up the night before, bunking over and being ready to start first thing in the morning.  Then another minor disaster struck!  My car broke down 5 days before I was supposed to leave, stranding me 90 minutes away.  However, my friends Cathy and Eric Raymond were also going (as they had done for the last decade) and graciously agreed to pick me up on their way through Toledo.

So they stopped by our apartment Tuesday evening around 5, I packed my gear into their already overstuffed car, and we drove to Brighton, MI for dinner before checking in.  Eric suggested I “load up on protein”, as I would be doing some significant muscle-building in the next few days.  (A yummy Cajun steak kebob, medium rare, and perfectly broiled sea scallops at The Stillwater Grill – yeah, I think I got enough protein.)  Around 8:00, after a rather convoluted drive through the back roads south of Brighton, we arrived at the camp.  I found Clint M., the lead instructor, and ‘checked in’ – they said, “Yeah, you’ve paid, and signed all the waivers and other paperwork – twice.  You’re good.”  So much for formal organization.  I found my room in the bunkhouse, and met my roommates Eric M. and Steve.  Last one in gets the leftovers – I got my choice of one of the upper bunk beds.

SWRv is held on the grounds of the Emrich Retreat Center, which is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.  It reminds me of other ‘church camps’ I had been to as a kid – a quiet pastoral blend of mowed lawns, woods, and rustic buildings.  As other attendees arrived (all of them essentially strangers to me, although I recognized some of the instructors from their participation in Penguicon), the greetings were low-key, and it was clear that they were mostly old friends renewing those friendships.  Would I fit in?  Could an old duffer like me, totally inexperienced and not at all part of this company, earn a place in it?

Well, let’s just see what happens tomorrow….

 

Posted in about living, geeky friends, martial arts | 1 Comment

Dinner: Duck bacon, spaetzle, wilted kale and leeks

So, I brag about being a pretty good cook.  Here’s an example – you judge.

We had visited my brother and sister-in-law just north of Cincinnati Ohio last weekend, and as part of the outing went to Jungle Jim’s – a giant destination food emporium.  You can find just about any exotic foodstuff from around the world there.  While looking for some out-of-the-ordinary breakfast meats, I found some duck bacon.

Fast forward to Friday evening, as I stopped at the grocery on the way home from work, and I saw they had fresh kale. Hmmm, I thought, I betcha this would be good wilted with some of the duck bacon on or beside it.

So that became the heart of Saturday’s supper.  I wanted a starchy side dish, and for whatever reason, I thought of spaetzle.  Now mind you, I hadn’t cooked spaetzle before.  I didn’t even know how to make it.  Never fear – I follow Hank Shaw’s “hunter – angler – gardener – chef“, where I found a simple enough recipe for spaetzle.  (He served it under his venison stroganoff.)

OK, I’ve got all the ingredients (well, except the heavy cream for the spaetzle, but I can fake that with some milk, and maybe a little butter if necessary).  I had some left-over tops from last night’s leeks, so I figured I could use them instead of just yellow onions in with the leeks.  Time to get to work.

Now, just ’cause I’m crazy, I thought I would substitute whole-wheat flour for the white flour that Hank’s recipe called for.  This wasn’t my best idea – the dumplings ended up stiff and heavy.  (Next time, a third to a half whole-wheat and the rest all-purpose.)  And I don’t have a spaetzle maker, or even a colander or grater with large enough holes, so I figured that I could just do them by tiny spoon-drops into the boiling water.  Yes, you can make them that way – but they end up way to big, so they don’t cook through well enough.  🙁 (And it’s slow as hell to make them all this way.)

And the duck bacon?  OK, if very salty – it was hard to tell that it was duck and not just pork or even heavily seasoned turkey.  The kale with leeks worked out well, but it needed more seasoning.  (I had put some dill weed and dried basil on them, but you couldn’t taste it very much.)  I drank a good domestic micro-brewery porter with it.

Net score – about 6.5 or 7 out of 10.  Not my best work, but I know how to improve it for next time.  Would you have eaten this?  More importantly, would you have enjoyed it?

 

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Walk The Walk

Here’s a not-fully-expected consequence  —

When I posted my last bit about contributing to the support of the Internet, I was contacted by the Director of the Internet Civil Engineering Institute.  She asked me if I would like to volunteer to be their “Education-Outreach-Training Coordinator”.  I gave it a couple of days serious thought, and emailed her back saying I would take it on.

I’m now going to be responsible for officially promoting the activities of the Institute, fielding questions and concerns raised in email and social media, blogging on their behalf, and (of course) helping with fund raising.  I think it’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to put my mouth where my money is.  🙂

But more importantly, it give me a bit more insight into the work of my late father.  For years he wrote copy for advertising, and I (as a callow youth) would harass him about it – “Why do you have to keep beating the drum for <product XYZ>?  If it’s good, people will recognize it, and buy it!”  But now I realize it’s not nearly that simple.  The marketplace is crowded, the din of others hawking their wares is incessant, and the appeal of any particular item gets lost.  Good, effective promotion is that which focuses the attention of someone who could benefit from your product or idea, makes them appreciate that they need those benefits, and motivates them to act – to buy, to contribute, to further promote.

 

Let’s see if I can be that good, effective promoter.  It’s time to Walk The Walk.

Posted in about hacking | Tagged | 4 Comments

TANSTAAFI

(… as a Free Internet)

 

Hey, the Internet is “free”.  I can publish any stupid web page I like, say anything I want on my blog, or as comments on other peoples’ blogs, or …

But I didn’t mean it in that way.

Well of course, you say, There ain’t no such thing as a FREE internet.  I spend $20 ($50, $100, however much) each month with ComCast (Verizon, AT&T, whatever ISP) to get online.

Um, not quite that, either.

A year ago, Andrew Binstock, the last Editor in Chief of Dr. Dobbs’ Journal, wrote an essay explaining that there was an “fundamental conflict” at the heart of open source software development.  His thesis claims this unavoidable conflict is between “the opposing forces of building community vs. deriving a sustainable level of revenue from an open-source project.”  Andrew says that in the absence of the GPL or another ‘copyleft’ license requiring developers to contribute their changes back to the community, major companies (Google and Cisco are a couple of the examples he cites) use open source software, improve upon it for their own needs, but never give back to the original maintainers’ community, either in code or time or, most importantly, financial resources.

In a limited way, he’s right.  It is reasonable to argue that the Heartbleed and Shellshock bugs of the recent past were due to lack of sustained attention.  The stalwart few who have shouldered the responsibility for these critical pieces of the Internet’s infrastructure cannot afford to devote enough time and attention to them.  We also know that there are other pieces, equally vital, that could be just as dangerously flawed.  This is not an indictment of OSS or the methodologies by which open source software is developed; the monthly patch lists from Microsoft, Adobe and other closed-source vendors belie the claim that The Cathedral can do any better than The Bazaar.

But you still have to test and maintain OSS software.  And the people who do it still have to eat, and pay mortgages, and spend real money on the rest of their lives – even if they are willing to give their work away.  We – all of us, in the current Internet-dependent world – we can’t go on trusting upon the “kindness of strangers” to hold up the sky.  We need a permanent, reliable way to fund the continuing support of the software infrastructure of the Internet.

And I think I’ve found it.  The Internet Civil Engineering Institute was founded for exactly this purpose.  They will identify the things that need fixing, the people who can fix them, and take the monies they collect to pay the latter to do the former.  ICEI is soliciting donations from everyone, large and small.  Fine, you say, let Google and Cisco and all those other fat cats pay up for a change!  But do you want any one company to be able to control all the code?  Precisely because it was created in an open, shared, non-commercial way do we have the free (as in speech) Internet we have.  But somebody’s got to pay for the beer – it’s not free.

The other week, I mailed ICEI a $100 check.  It won’t be my last.  If they had a method like Gittip so that I could set up a regular donation, I would do it immediately.

 

Maybe you should do the same.

 

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