People, I need your input…

I started Eskimo North as a single line BBS in 1982.  By 1985, it was taking as many as 300 calls on a single line.  If I unplugged the modem at 4AM and plugged it back in it immediately took a call.

In 1985, I went multi-line.  We decided to go with a Xenix platform, Xenix was a Microsoft port of Unix.  It was basically the least expensive Unix platform I could get my hands on.  Initially I set it up with four lines but that grew to eleven even though the machine was not designed to handle more than eight.

In 1991, I upgraded to a Sun 3/180 with 16 lines.  In 1992, started offering Internet services.

In 1995 I incorporated and also left Qwest, the telephone company I had worked for the previous 17 years.

Eskimo North presently has about 1/6th the customers it had at it’s peak.  In the last 1-1/2 years, I’ve totally reworked the infrastructure and eliminated the reliability issues, greatly enhanced some of the services such as e-mail and the shell server.

Mail is now reliable, fast, capable of handling multiple devices simultaneously, and very configurable allowing the end user a great deal of control over how they handle their e-mail and filter spam.

The shell server now has a graphical interface, several actually, allowing users far more access than the old text-only interface provided, though the old interface is and will remain available to those who prefer it or who must access over a low bandwidth connection.

This has greatly reduced the rate people leave, but it hasn’t greatly increased the rate that new customers come to us.  And this is a problem, because while Eskimo is bringing in sufficient income to pay it’s expenses, it is not generating enough for me to sustain my family or retire some of the debts I have.

So if I can’t find a way to increase the user base, I’m going to have to take a job and make this a part time thing like it was in the beginning.

Part of the issue seems to be that I just can’t find a way to make it relevant to more people today.  I’ve really put a great deal of effort into making this a secure reliable platform, but it seems few people even care if they’re being spied upon these days.

So folks, instead of my having to guess, I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me what is important to you today.  What do you need to make this service useful and relevant to you?  What would you need to make it something you would want to tell your friends about?

 

1984

The thing I have the most difficulty understanding is how willing people are to go along with this.

Somebody That I Used to Know Cover

I don’t usually have a fondness for covers but this one is fun.

 

Speaker Surgery

I’ve got some ancient Radio Shack bookshelf speakers in my office.  These things are at least 30 years old. They sound horrid but until today they were indestructible.  But today, the woofer in one stopped.  No bad noises or anything, just all the sudden nothing except tweet in one channel.

So I pulled the grill off to find the suspension missing.  Whatever crap they make the foam surround out of, it had totally rotted out.  The only thing holding the cone in place was the spider.  Kind of gives a whole new meaning to “air suspension”.

I replaced it with a not so great woofer that I used to have in a tower speaker.  It doesn’t have an adequate magnet, won’t handle a lot of power, but still it’s a step up from what was there, still has it’s suspension intact and still works.  So now bass in one channel digs down to, oh, about 80 Hz.

I was going to replace the other while I was at it, since I have two of these and know the suspension on the other has to be in the same condition, but the little cap that covers the voice coil fell off the other spare so I’m gluing it back in place before I replace it.

Fight Club, Life

Rented and re-watched Fight Club.

I think the most salient moment in the film is the scene where Tyler Durben holds the convenience store clerk, Raymond K. Hessle, at gun point and then after he lets him go he says,  “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessle’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever had.”

We are on this planet for a relatively brief time and the awareness of that makes the time much more precious than it otherwise would be.

And on that note; I find myself questioning a lot of things lately.  I have half of my family and have alienated the other half.  I miss the other half.  I’ve learned some really hard lessons but I don’t understand why it had to be so difficult, the lessons were costly.

I’m not happy with the way things are going with Eskimo.  I had hoped that once I resolves the service issues, it would take off in a big way, instead it’s just drifted sideways.  It’s stemmed the bleeding and income now covers costs but it’s not generating enough income for me to continue doing this full-time indefinitely, which would be my preference.

The world is changing and I feel like I don’t fit anymore.  I’m not quite 55, and yet it feels like things have changed so much I can hardly stand it.  The Orwellian world described in 1984 is here, the surprising thing is nobody seems to care.

Part of what is messed up is my fault, the time I spent in prison, the alienation of part of my family, and the loss of customers that resulted, but there is also a lot that has changed that isn’t my fault, the rabid commercialism and consumerism that has taken over, the lack of craftsmanship, and the fact that people don’t even seem to care, those things aren’t my fault, and I have a feeling I’d be feeling out of place regardless.

I recently stumbled across this television series on NetFlix called the 4400.  The premise of the show is that people were abducted individually over a about half a century and then returned all at once.  When they were returned, they all had no memory of the time they were in alien custody, hadn’t aged at all, but found themselves out of time, things had changed while they were gone.  It is a feeling I can identify with very much.

My oldest Son turns 30 this year, I turn 55, where has the time gone?  Honestly, I never believed I would live this long, and now that I have I feel like all bets are off.

I like to believe that God isn’t arbitrary.  If he drags us through the muck, there is some reason for it.

Those of you who believe in God, if you would be willing to pray for me, I would ask that you pray for my family to be whole again, for my children that I’ve hurt directly or indirectly to be safe, recover, and thrive, and for God to create in me a clean heart.

Dream

Had a dream where several friends over, two of whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of decades, one of whom went on to become a movie producer and doesn’t spend much time here now and I imagine also in a totally different class these days, the other his wife, and a third whom I do see frequently.

This person had produced a video animation and was showing it to us.  We were the first to see it.

My television is still an old school rear projector thing, big thick case, so from the side you can’t see the screen.  I was off to the side when the video started, it sounded like sex sounds, and his wife who just came out of the bathroom and wasn’t in view of the screen yet thought the same thing but I got around to the front where I could see it and actually it was a very cutesy and very clever animation, nothing sexual at all, and I felt kind of embarrassed for thinking what I had thought.

His wife was still not in view of the screen and didn’t want to be, and I’m like, ‘no no no you want to see this, it isn’t what you think (how did I know what she thought).

It does make me wonder what they’re up to these days.  I haven’t heard from either of them in literally decades.

Microsoft buys Nokia

Maybe it’s just me but I can’t see how Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia can possibly portend anything good.

Microsoft was the first company to get in bed with the NSA and join the PRISM program contributing data about their customers to the NSA.

Now, do you want to be carrying around a device with a built-in GPS, microphone, and camera, manufactured by the first company to give your information to the NSA?  Not me!

Smart phones should be carrier and operating system independent.  Just like you can take your desktop PC, load Windows, Linux, or a variety of other lesser known operating systems on it, and then connect to the Internet with Comcast, CenturyLink, or a variety of lesser known companies, you ought to be able to do the same with smart phones, and it ought to be possible to choose and operating system and carrier that doesn’t spy on you.

Of Conflicts and Lies…

In my view, there are several fundamental conflicts that underlie the human condition.

  1. There is the conflict of the individual verses the group.
  2. There is a conflict between the biological needs of men and women.
  3. There is a conflict between the physical and spiritual realm.

Nobody wants to be honest about these conflicts which makes reaching reasonable compromises impossible.  That leaves us with little option for resolution.

The story of Adam and Eve and original sin and getting kicked out of the garden of Eden and having to till the Earth I believe was a metaphor for the beginnings of agriculture which took humans from very tiny groups that lived by hunting and foraging and had little time for anything else, to the beginning of civilization where the production of food was efficient enough that there was time for other things.

The beginning of agriculture created a situation where functioning more on a group level and less on an individual level lead to great efficiencies in food production, distribution, and allowed the production and distribution of other goods and services.

Before, the only thing that was important to an individual was his or her own survival, after agriculture, the survival of individuals strongly depended upon the survival of the group of which they were a member and anything that disrupted that groups survival was sin.

Humans are unique among species in the length of time it takes for our young to become independently viable.  Our brains develop much slower than any other species and it is that slow development that allows our brains to be shaped by our environment to a much greater degree and that had lead to our success as a species.

That slow development also means it is much more important to our survival for both parents to be involved in our upbringing.  As infants and children, we are much more dependent upon our parents than are the offspring of other species.

Men produce million of sperm each day. When men mate, their reproductive machinery isn’t tied up. They can mate with someone else and produce another offspring the next day.  Women produce an egg a month. If they mate, their reproductive machinery is tied up for at least nine months.  Given this, it is biologically more important to them that an individual offspring survives than it is to men.  The choices of a mate with genetics that favor survival of their offspring more important.  This creates a biological conflict between the sexes.

The physical realm exists within time and the spiritual realm exists outside of time.  In time, in the physical realm, entropy exists.  Over time things deteriorate and become less organized, and that includes humans.  You look at any young person, you see smooth skin and sharply defined features.  As we age, our skin becomes less smooth, or features less well defined.  Our DNA deteriorates and the efficiency of all of our cells declines, eventually to the point where life can no longer be supported.

In the spiritual realm, time doesn’t flow, it just exists, as another dimension. In that realm everything exists. Living things don’t die or reproduce.  There is a conflict between our physical self and our physical mortality and our physical need and desire to reproduce and our immortal spiritual selves which has no such need or desire.

All of these conflicts exist and nobody wants to acknowledge them.  Spiritually focused want to believe that everything just blinked into existence and deny the physical reality and our physical evolution through time.  Physically focused people want to deny our spiritual existence and can not or will not try to look at our world from a perspective outside of time.  And there is little compromise between these groups.

We all tell each other and often ourselves lies, refuse to acknowledge that these conflicts exist, let alone try to come to any sort of reasonable compromise.

It would be healthy for us to explore these conflicts, to have a dialogue, and where possible to reach some reasonable compromises.  It would help us understand each other.  It would help us live more securely, peacefully, with less stress and anger in our lives.

My Experience in Washington State Prisons

Recently, I’ve had a couple of nightmares of being in prison.  I thought I’d have these when I got out a year and almost five months ago but I didn’t until the last few days.  There are some things about the experience I want to relate.

Most of the guards belong to the Teamsters union and the Teamsters are pushing for more guards for safety reasons.  The murder of officer Biendl was a tragedy and it’s something that shouldn’t have happened.  It was able to happen in part because officer Biendl was alone.  More guards would allow activities without leaving officers alone and placing them in that kind of danger.  The safety is important to everyone and the activities adequate staff make possible are important to the prisoners and society in general because it impacts how they will function in society upon release.

There are many other issues that fuel anger and create hazards in the prison system.  Just adding officers isn’t going to make society any safer when prisoners are eventually released but addressing some of the other issues would.

I went first into Shelton.  That is what they refer to as an intake facility where they haven’t got people sorted out at all yet.  People who are non-violent are put in cells with people who are gang members.  So much goes on in the court system and there is time that you spend in the county jail before hand.  This time should be used to perform some classification before someone even gets to prison so that those groups can be segregated from each other.

My next stop was Airway Heights, a prison just outside of Spokane Washington.  One of the things that readily became apparent is that many of the people who are in prison are there because they have severe mental illnesses that render them incapable of functioning in society.  At Airway Heights people with bipolar disease, that is manic-depressives, were extremely common, people with schizophrenia or other forms of mental illness that left them prone to hallucinations and paranoia, also not uncommon.  People with generalized anxiety disorders, like I had when I went in, also not uncommon.  People with serious anger management issues, NOT uncommon.  Most of these people either weren’t be treated or they received very minimal treatments.  Psychiatric drugs were problematic in prison because of their potential for being abused and psychotherapy pretty much non-existent.

There were also people with serious physical health problems that weren’t getting treated.  One man with a pacemaker with a dead battery fainted almost daily.  They’d take him away and he’d come back later the next day until the next time he passed out.

I was fortunate in so many ways.  I snore like a bear.  When I came to Shelton I hadn’t slept in three days.  Every time I went to sleep my cell mate would wake me because of my snoring.  I ended up in what they refer to as the IMU (the acronym means Intensive Management Unit, prisoners refer to it as “The Hole”, the media refers to it as solitary confinement).

While in the IMU I had an experience that resolved my anxiety issues.  If you don’t believe in God, or do believe in God but aren’t acting according to your beliefs, your heart knows what your head doesn’t, and that will cause you anxiety like nothing else.  God made that clear to me in my stay there and I resolved to do my best to act according to what I know in my heart and that has been a blessing, I learned there what forgiveness is, now I’m trying to learn to apply it myself towards other people and that’s been a bit more difficult.  But the 2-1/2 year trip would have been worth it for that alone.  I had suffered from often severe anxiety issues for three decades prior.

I was also fortunate in that I had family to write to me, talk to me, and when I got back to Monroe, visit me.  So many people there have no family, few if any friends.  Both Airway Heights and Monroe had volunteers that came in and performed religious services and helped prisoners with one-on-one counseling and other services.  The prisons often made it very difficult for these people to function but the importance of their presence there can’t be understated.

It is true that a lot of prisoners will “get religion” and within about a week of being out will lose it.  But some of them will get God and have their lives altered in a way that not only benefits them but also benefits the community when they get out.

In prison, some of the tiniest things are the source of the greatest anger, and addressing those things would be a lot less expensive and more effective than adding a boatload of guards, things like razors that cut skin but not facial hair, toothbrushes that are garbage, pens that won’t write, people like me who snore badly, being celled with people who don’t.

One problem at Airway Heights is cold.  In the winter it gets very cold, the cinder block walls do not provide much protection.  They give you two cotton blankets that have an extremely loose weave and let much air through.  I spent many nights there balled up shivering all night long.

I owe a great deal of debt to Steve McColm, a therapist that is now retired.  His retirement is a loss to the program, but he deserves to be able to spend some time with his wife.  He had stayed up there 100 miles from home during the week to work with us.  He introduced the concept of mindfulness, which really comes down to being aware and in the moment.  I’ve found it very helpful in managing my emotional state.

There was a group of Buddhist volunteers that came in and they offered a mindfulness course and I found that helpful.  I don’t know the name of the group, but I also want to thank them.  Which brings me to another point.  So many people who are religious put down other religions, but I’ve seen God use people of different religions in so many beneficial ways.  The Buddhists were one example, but also, the day before I was to go down and plead and turn myself in, a Jahovas Witness came to our house and witnessed to me, and really hit on some things that were important, and they visited me every week while I was in King County and there is no doubt in my mind that God used them.

One of the women that came in with one group up there, I talked to her about this and she said, “God is so big that no man can wrap his mind around him”, and I think that is so true.  I do believe in one God, but I think God is God, not a particular label we want to put on him and is so much bigger than any of our religions can get a handle on.  All you have to do is look at this vastness of a universe and realize that is just his creation, and even that part of his creation is only a very tiny portion that is visible to us, there is much more that we can’t even see.

So what is the point of all this rambling?  Well there are a few points actually.  1) Listen to your heart, and if it’s telling you you’re not doing the right thing, change.  2) Addressing mental health to help those who can’t function in society become able to function would be more cost effective than putting them in prison as well as more compassionate, and is just the right thing to do.  3) These churches and other groups that volunteer their time to help prisoners have a huge impact and they deserve your support and participation.

I’d like to urge people to write their congressman and representatives and urge them to provide funding for treatment of mentally ill rather than imprisoning them.  Also, write them to encourage the prison system to allow these volunteer religious groups to function as they are very helpful.  Educational programs are also helpful, another reason people end up in prison is that they don’t know how to make an honest living and for those people teaching them a trade is valuable.  The SOTP program is valuable, has been proven to reduce recidivism to less than half of what it would be otherwise, and is worth funding, and just little things like having enough blankets to be warm in the winter is valuable.  Most of these people are going to be released back into society, they are already damaged goods, they need repair and healing not more damage.

Sleepless in Shoreline

Watched The Avengers (the movie with super-heroes not the television series) before going to sleep last night and had a very restless night where I kept dreaming I was a character in the movie, not sure on which side, but was in constant physical battles being thrown up against walls, etc.

I don’t always have movies intrude upon my dreams like that but for some reason it seemed like REM sleep was the only sleep I could get and I’m feeling a bit stressed out over some things, and my shoulder is gimped and giving me pain, the result of an ancient injury resulting from hanging from playground equipment, followed by neglect of not keeping things exercised enough to hold the joint in place, to then being aggravated by moving it in a manner it didn’t like while disposing of brake rotors.

When I awoke I thought I needed to be grounded a bit and I turned to the Bible hoping for some reassuring words or direction, but I opened it randomly to a section of commentary about the profits and it was talking about the book of Obadiah being the shortest book of prophesy, and then randomly opened exactly to the one page in the entire Bible that was that book.

I don’t know what to make of that, what it means to me or about God in general.  People say God never changes, but it seems to me the God of the Old Testament is characteristically much different than the God of the New Testament.  But perhaps it’s a perspective thing, man in the Old Testament is perceiving God from a perspective of not knowing a savior and from the new knowing a savior that gave his life for them.

What I do know is that life is a struggle and I am having some problems focusing and getting things done that I need to get done.  Sleep has been problematic and I’m tired and need a way out of a situation that I’ve created.  And I know it’s not going to happen overnight but it just seems like one thing after another, and sometimes all at the same time.