NY Skyline w/ Twin Towers

Where Were You On…

[08:52 EDT 11 Sep 2001]

[me, asleep in a reclining camp chair in a townhouse dining room]

[clamshell cellphone rings from my front pocket, waking me up]

[I may be hung over from club night – I am definitely sleep deprived]

Me: “Uh… …Hello?”
Friend: “Dude. Turn on the TV. World War III just started.”
Me: “Ugh. OK. …what channel?”
Friend: “All of them.”


I’m pretty sure I woke my housemates up at the point where I watched video of the first plane. You still couldn’t tell if it was an accident. I remember wondering if the plane had malfunctioned, because in daylight there was no way someone could fly into that bigass shiny building ’cause they didn’t see it. Newscasters weren’t entirely clear, either.

I lived with, among other folks, a complete shitbag who’d just gotten out of the Navy in August. This (extremely white) asshole started watching the news coverage with the rest of the house, but excused himself briefly. He came back in a thobe and taqiyah set he’d bought while on deployment. If memory serves, he had them on before the second plane hit at 09:03.

I gave up watching the broadcast and cable news reports pretty quickly, once it became clear that we were going to keep getting the same half-dozen shots from miles away replayed again and again. I went to my computer, logged onto IRC, and immediately employed my video sharing bots (as DivideByZero, I founded and ran #invaderzim for episode distribution) to the task of recirculating any amateur footage we could find – and before smartphones, that was comparatively sparse. Especially since cellular networks were all down in NY, and anyone who had grabbed footage with a camera phone mostly didn’t have a way to send it anywhere. But we did end up distributing a lot of videos that never made it to the news, and some things that only showed up later in documentaries – footage of the first plane, notably, and footage from the ground. I was keeping myself informed, and since I had a way to distribute that to others, I did. I couldn’t do much else from over 400 miles away.

Most of the rest of the day was spent with me coordinating file transfers and doing my best to manually aggregate all the available video records. This was all before cloud storage. Dropbox wouldn’t be conceived for another half decade. Neither would YouTube. The world was still sharing music with Audiogalaxy and Limewire – Napster had just been shut down, and torrents had only just become a thing when it did. And also? All over early DSL, when nobody could do better than like, 512 Kb/s.

The point here is, it wasn’t exactly easy to get several hundred megabytes of video from Point A to Point B in 2001.

I couldn’t tell you what my housemates were doing while I was otherwise occupied, but I’m sure they were busy preparing for the impending apocalypse. Or talking about preparing, more likely. I was 19; I don’t think any of us were over 25. Nobody had kids yet. In most ways, we were still kids. And we knew the world had changed – we just didn’t know how. We worried about the parallels to Pearl Harbor. We counted the ways we weren’t fit to be drafted, just in case. We talked about terrorism, and the geopolitical climate, and about how hot jet fuel can get, really. We watched the videos I’d collected, and speculated about WTC 7’s apparently unprompted collapse, or the strange lack of planes in the tapes of the Pentagon.

The world we got, post-9/11, wasn’t the one we were raised for. And I think, for all the “Generation Catalano” and “Generation Oregon Trail” rhetoric, this was one of the more defining factors for us liminal ones at the cusp of GenX and Millennials; the shift from liberty to security.

Watch this space for further thoughts. (I wanted to publish today, but I’m also still processing a lot of this.)

The Kindernet

So, right now, we have a unique opportunity.

Whether you realize it or not, we are currently building a new layer of internet on top of the existing one. Because we have too many internet-enable devices. You may have heard of IPv6 already, and how we’re planning to migrate to its 128bit addresses from 32bit IPv4. Probably the vast majority of this work hasn’t been done. (This site, for instance, hasn’t been configured for IPv6 yet – but that’s likely to change shortly.) But that’s what makes this moment magical. Admittedly, it’s quite a long moment – IPv6 began in 2006 or so.

This isn’t exactly a “migration” though. Right now, just about every internet enabled device at least has the capacity to operate on both networks. And there are translations that let IPv6 users network with IPv4. And this is the perfect chance for us to develop a second internet, inside the greater internet, that’s exclusively for kids.

Now. You may be asking, “Okay. But why would we want to?”

Because for a few decades, our children have had access to The Untempered Schism of humanity’s darkest side. They’ve been able to learn anything they could think of about our hatred, our rage, our bigotry and our phobias – from gay to xeno. And the results speak for themselves. What we end up with are maladaptive malcontented maladroits. Mass murderers. Misogynistic misanthropes. Morally misconfigured monsters. With Boomers and GenX, this effect is still subtle. From telegraph, to radio, to telephone, to television, the exponential curve was still a bit slow, and in its infancy. But now that x > 1, with Catalanians and Millennials, we’re seeing some seriously fucked up shit. It is this cesspool – which, in the interests of free speech, I have to protect to some degree – that has poisoned so many who were so young, and has sent the culture reeling backwards like a sprinter on a bungee. But the answer doesn’t have to be binary. “Do we squelch free speech or not?” How about neither. We just separate it from the spaces where our children learn and grow – from where they spend their formative years.

We already do this to some extent – many of you will have seen the iceberg image depicting the current effective internet layers. It’s basically:

Surface Web Google, Wiki, Bing, Etc.
Deep Web Academic, Multilingual, Financial, Governmental, Social Media, Scientific, Legal, Medical, Etc.
Dark Web Illegal, Encrypted, Protests, Trafficking, Ultraprivate, Etc.

 

I propose we use the deprecated IPv4 infrastructure, and repurpose it to add another layer to the top – and create a kindernet where children can explore a version of cyberspace that is decidedly more controlled and refined.

Kindernet YouTube Kids, Kiddle, NickJr, SimpleWiki, Starfall, Etc.

 

With the dramatically reduced traffic and use post-migration, it will be possible (with the help of artificially intelligent crawlers) to identify and blacklist adult content providers who attempt to operate in kinderspace, and depending on what kinds of rules/laws were broken, to either revoke kindernet access, impose a fine, or charge them criminally.

It won’t be possible until migrations have all taken place, and at least 75% – 80% of networked devices run on IPv6 by default. But soon, we’re going to have a choice, about what to do with Cyberspace 1.0. Do we just build on top of it and let it fade away like so much of our outdated infrastructure has over the millennia? Or do we repurpose it for the good of humanity? I think the answer is clear, and I want very much for us to have this conversation on a global scale. If we want to stay civilized, while also allowing for the existence of the uncivilized, we need to make a space for children to be saturated by and absorb those more noble values, rather than letting them wander into those cacophonous echochambers of immorality that are, at present, far too easy to find.

Lost in the Labyrinth

Yes, I know that technically, a labyrinth is usually a circuitous yet linear route, while a maze has dead ends, false paths, and is generally much harder to navigate – but, if I used the precise term, I’d lose the alliterative allure, so I opted for a slight inaccuracy… assuming, of course, that you’re a believer in free will – otherwise, a labyrinth is pretty much the same thing as a maze – only the endpoint differs, but the path is the same straight shot through curved space.

So, we’ll assume free will (which may eventually require a post of its own) and get to the point – or not, because the point is that I’m not sure which way to go from here. The grumbling goblins of the gamble have flipped all my markers. The skies are uniformly grey. The turns ahead and behind look exactly the same, as though the path were in fact fractal. In other lives, I’ve carried the FractalBlade and hacked away at self-repeating patterns. I’ve invoked the Flower of Life as Omicron Six. Personified (or tried to, at least) modest wisdom as Abayvynon, the stooping dragon. I’ve wallflowered flambouyantly, the InvisoWizard. I’ve worn SalineScars, and bled sorrow into my inkwell. I’ve harnessed TheDarkElectric and PositronicShock, recharging off of negativity. I’ve been Tesseractivity, the transcension of psychospiritual threespace. And now, as Protospect personified, I’m remembering futures that I’ll never live, and all my possible pasts have yet to catch up.

Which may beg the question, is it time for another incarnation? Do I have another life in me? I’m counting 9 already… Or, is it possible to “go back and get it” (as a symbol I’ve incidentally made a rather large part of my life keeps suggesting)? To resurrect those other selves, without losing this one? Who am I now, anyway? I haven’t said a lot, no matter the vast oceans I’ve felt and thought. I’m still not sure what to do with my voice. Is my journey important? If so, which parts? Am I still moving? …is it in circles?

See what I mean?

Even if you can see the futures, the trick is navigating to the right one. I haven’t mastered that at all. I’m so far off course that there’s no possible way back, and every path forward is a trial by some element or other – primarily fire, but I can see several trials by water, earth, air, and spirit that take things into territory I’m frankly not prepared to traverse. (Am I being too vague? Or not vague enough?) So, fire first. And, if I’m going to endure burning, shouldn’t I try to give light? What do I even say? Is mine just a cautionary tale, or am I the anti-hero on a journey of redemption? Or both? Or neither? Will time ever tell? Or am I just stuck here?

I don’t want to be stuck here. I want to be alive. In motion. Free. But I’m not willing to leave family behind. I won’t make the Buddha’s mistake – not again, at least. If I’m going to find Enlightenment, or even just the way out of this serpentine mess, it won’t be without them – it’ll be because of them.

The House That Silence Built

I’ve been silent for years. For just about everything that matters. At least, when it comes to you, la gente del mundo, the general public. I used to write for the world. Back when I felt like my pain and joy still mattered to anyone but me, before I let Them whittle away my self-worth. Before I let Them break me. Though I’m not sure I could have stopped Them even if I’d known then how to try. I know now that it’s not quite possible to do it alone.

But that’s what I’ve always been – alone. My life, it’s all about me being on the outside looking in. The sole child in a cluster of adults. A genius surrounded by the average. A goy among the jews, a whiteboy in the ghetto. The agnostic keeping grounds at church. A criminal in the cops’ employ. A dropout serving academics. A quasigenderless polyamorous omnisexual gynephile in Cishetmonoville. A technomancer for the hippies. French vanilla at the Baskin-Robbins of kink. I was very groucho about it all when I was a kid, claiming that I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member, but the truth of it was, I’ve always desperately wanted to belong somewhere, just like anyone. I just grew to accept where I belonged was “outside”.

That unfulfilled drive, though. It led me to some strange places. While eventually I did find several niches for myself as an accepted outsider, because that’s what’s familiar to me, I’ve longed to know how the rest of you live. Early on, all anyone had to do to get my attention was include me. So I developed this fantasy of absolute inclusion, in a world that couldn’t reject me without collapsing in on itself – many of you will recognize this concept as “a family”.

Okay. There it was. Right there. I started to uncover the details of my past, only to realize that I can’t tell the whole story yet – some things still remain unresolved and precarious. And I started to put this post on ice, like I’ve done with so many others, but no. Breaking my silence was the whole point. So, even without the context of my history, know that chasing this fantasy brought me a decade of strife and turmoil. I’ve had my children used against me, and ripped away from me, both in more ways than one. I’ve endured years of physical and emotional abuse, just to stay with them. And that changed me. Bound me. Frankly, broke me a little more than I thought I could have been broken before.

However… Crista Anne appeared during the worst part of that still-undisclosed storm, and she’s stayed with me ever since. I’m not alone anymore. My dream of absolute inclusion is now a reality, thanks mostly to her. And now that enough time has passed, I’m actually free to run diagnostics and take inventory – and what I’ve found is that I never dealt with my feelings about the decade-long gauntlet I ran. I didn’t put it all in neat little boxes first, either, I just crammed it all into the backrooms of my mind. I still have no idea how to process it all. But if I leave it where it is, I’ll never have room for all the rewards I know this new life has to offer. Therefore, out with the old, and in with the new – no matter how hard it is, I know it’ll be worthwhile.

So there you go. Not a blank canvas anymore. This is me, for better or worse. Hi, everybody. I’m Val, and this is my voice. I’m going to work on using it more often.

Why This Blog Is Still Empty

This tree has yet to bear any fruit. Occasionally, my thoughts will return to its baren branches, and I’ll hang some tinsel.

So what’s the issue?

The issue is, everything’s a soundbyte, a meme, a boosted peak. The same prechewed morsels, foisted upon anyone in range, all the savory goodness of the thing sucked out. A copy of a copy of a copy. The irony being, of course, that I’m not the only one sharing this sentiment either.

The issue is, it’s all just sandcastles, waiting for the tide. But on the off chance that mine might stand forever, what should it be a monument to? What is the form of my lasting contribution to humanity? Am I the future’s forgotten ancestor, just another name and some dates on a family tree? Will my genes survive the evolutionary process? Will my thoughts? Does it matter?

The issue is, I have a gift, but I can’t find the hat full of names to draw from for Secret Santa, and I don’t know what’s inside unless somebody asks me.

I will pick an audience, and gather my thoughts into coherent form. Shortly. Maybe.