My Holiday Gift to You: The Birth of the Dawn

Tis the season, and I for one am ready to celebrate. It’s raining in Northern California and supposedly we might get snow up here in the beautiful mountain that I call home. It’s been years since that happened, but in a year where I managed to write not one, but three novels, the Cubs won the World Series, and Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I think anything is now possible.

I wanted to give you a gift--so I posted this picture of my cat. However, after some consideration, I felt that perhaps all of you out there on the interwebs deserved something a bit more exciting.

I’ve recently received a few messages from readers asking when the next eHuman novel will be ready. Again, I apologize for the delay, I got caught in Egypt 200 B.C. for about fourteen months, but work has begun on the eHuman Deliverance and I hope to get it out soon. One of my readers suggested that until I release the last book, I should consider sharing short eHuman stories. I love that idea and after thinking about it, I decided that for this holiday season, that’s exactly what I’ll do—give you the gift of Dawn.

Thus, I’ve posted a short story on Medium, originally published in Visions of the Future, a book by the Lifeboat Foundation.  It is titled, “The Birth of the Dawn” and is the backstory to her original Jump into an eHuman body. I wrote it years ago, then modified it for Visions of the Future and then modified it yet again for you.

Consider it my Holiday gift for those who have taken an interest. Whether you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Medium, are a regular on my Blog, have read the eHuman novels, or are just friends who follow me to help me out, every reader brings my writer’s life meaning. Like the dancer who makes the musician’s notes visual, readers make the characters in my head come to life. I appreciate you always and every day.

And I hope to bring you not just eHuman Deliverance in 2017, but also many more novels to come. In the meantime, here’s the link to, The Birth of the Dawn.”

I hope you enjoy it.

Protecting Your Neural Network in the Age of Hack and Blame

A few years ago, I found myself in the horrible position of having to tell a mother that her 12 y.o. daughter was posting pictures of herself in only a thong on Instagram. I knew this because I saw them, even though I wasn’t a follower of said child. The mother’s response was to accuse me of hacking her daughter’s account because there was no way the child would have set it to public.


The news of the past few weeks about the Russians hacking our election sounds eerily similar. From the left calling for the Electoral College to postpone their voting until an investigation is done to the right claiming Obama was the one who hacked the DNC server, few are talking about the real issues here — that few Americans truly understand how their behaviors on the network really function and that individuals are the ones responsible for their personal online content.

Thus there are two networks that need securing here. First are the computer networks, which requires an understanding of the technology in order to take the measures appropriate to secure the machines as well as the messages, and second your own neural network, living inside of your head, that needs to actually think first before it posts, sends that email, or communicates in any way on the internet.

“But hacking is illegal…” Of course it is, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Speeding is illegal too and until every message sent over the network is capable of being monitored by an AI of vast computational magnitude, one should assume that hacking will happen. There’s tons of information out there about how to secure your networks, and both Hillary Clinton and the DNC are perfect examples of how not to do it. The SOS should NOT use a personal email server to send work related emails and honestly, neither should you. Work emails should be done on your work computer that ideally resides on a highly secured network behind a firewall. Personal emails can rely on the security of Google, Yahoo, etc. if you wish, but trust me, everyone is watching you there, from the service provider to the NSA (who can ask for your data without a subpoena) to the bored high school hacker who’s out to have a good time proving how stupid you are, to yes, other governments. The internet is global, so anyone can tap in. Listen, unless you’re encrypting everything on your computer using Tor, (for those of you who are inclined see: you should assume that what you put out there and store on your devices is for all to see.

So yes, the SOS and the DNC should have protected their servers to the max, and they didn’t. Other servers that need the highest of security in the political process are all computers that count votes and store voter registration information. Conducting an investigation to see if any of those nodes were hacked is important, but I don’t see that being called for.

Hmm, I wonder why not?

Conspiracies aside, I suggest that everyone pick up a copy of, “Networking for Dummies” and read up on it. NOW. Basically your computer/smartphone sends and receives packets of information. This packet has a header that identifies who you are, and some data, like an email message or a picture, as well as something to identify who the message should go to. Hackers do two key things to mess with the process; they intercept that message and read/copy it, or they insert data into messages, like viruses, and send it to you, often to gain access to what is stored on the device, like your nude photos or plans to take over the world. Regardless, they can crack most encryption, thus read your data, and they can also mess with the addressing mechanisms to hide their identity.

Sometimes you just can’t play online. For example, many famous authors aren’t allowed to write their manuscripts on networked computers. No wireless cards are even installed. They print off the final copy and hand deliver it to their editors who then scan it in to edit on a non-networked computer. Their printing computers are on a closed network. This is all necessary because hacking the next J.K. Rowling screenplay is a great coup if you can pull it off.

Thus, hackers are jerks and yet like STD’s, you need to protect your computer networks if you want to play online and if you don’t, it’s your own damn fault.

Which leads me to the second network that needs securing: YOUR BRAIN! This remarkable organ, just like a device on the network, both sends and receives data. You don’t have to put anything on the internet, nor do you have to believe anything you read, but you are responsible for both what you offer up and what you do with the information you absorb. This is your responsibility and yours alone. Complaining that Russia was responsible for the way voters reacted to the revelations from the DNC servers is like complaining that a college admissions officer had no right to revoke his/her offer to you after seeing your racial Tweets or a picture of you peeing on an unconscious person in your public Instagram feed.

Did Russia hack the poorly protected DNC servers? Perhaps. Did they force DNC staffers to email each other about their plans to use media outlets friendly to HRC to publish articles to discredit Bernie Sanders, another Democratic candidate, in order to manipulate the thoughts of the primary voters? No. Did the hackers write the emails that suggested they use those same contacts in the media to prop up “pied piper” candidates like Trump and Cruz in order to influence the Republican primary voters to select a weaker candidate? No. The hackers sent those emails to WikiLeaks who made them public. From there it was up to the public to decide whether or not to let this revelation determine their vote.

Thus, in this age of hacking as well as blaming others for any fallout that you might have caused online, I think we all need to take a step back and protect the most important neural network — our minds. We can do this in two important ways. First, we can protect what we send out onto the internet by thinking first and behaving well. Not sure what that is anymore? Check out the 10 Commandments, or the 8 Fold Path, or even the Golden Rule. If you post unto others what you’d like done to you, then you’re already in a good place. If you write an email about how weak your boss is at his job and he finds out, well, then, I told you so.

Second, we can protect our neural network from the data it receives on the internet by sharpening our logic and discernment. If what we read scares us or incites anger, lust or other such passionate responses, then we should be wary and set the article, email, or post aside. Take a breath. Take a bath. Then read it with a critical mind. Doubt it even more if it resonates strongly with those negative emotions. Research it further before you accept it as valid information for you to use to make a decision. 

For example, perhaps the revelations that the DNC effectively manipulated both the Democratic and Republican primaries via their friendly media contacts leads you to vote for someone other than the Democratic candidate. That’s your choice. You might think this is just how the game is played and they played to win and not be bothered at all. That’s also your choice. Perhaps you read on Reddit that the Podesta emails are the smoking gun proof of a Hillary Clinton child-abuse ring and you’re going to arm yourself and take matters into your own hands and investigate it. Or maybe you read that and decide it's crap. It’s your choice on how to act and no censorship law will protect you from your own behavior.

You’re the one responsible for what you do with all the data you send and receive online and it’s up to you to protect your brain, the original neural network, from being hacked.

The Fake News Cycle: The Real Bubble We Should Be Talking About

Oh #Pizzagate, what a perfect storm you are. So many people are surprised, yet many others have seen you coming for months. Unlike a hurricane, which announces its arrival quite obviously on any radar, #Pizzagate, as well as the violence that has erupted against minority groups since The Donald’s Election, has been coming at us quietly, shifting and changing shape, making it hard to predict exactly how online trolls would materialize and strike, but knowing all the long it was storming towards us.

It is now clear to most Facebook users, and the MSM in general, that the online fake news is the seed that starts the cycle. I’ve been blogging now for three years and since the beginning I’ve tried to establish valid online news sources from which to base my writing upon. This isn’t easy, but it is worth the time. There are many ways to do this, and since The Donald’s election, various authors have written guidelines to help us discern real news, such as these suggestions from NPR. This is great and it will help those of us who are seeking to communicate our ideas with one another do so without embarrassing ourselves by passing along an article that claims the Pope has endorsed Hillary Clinton when in reality, he merely suggested that those who build walls to keep others out aren’t the Good Samaritans Jesus was talking about in the Gospels. But normal people validating their news before sharing it on Facebook will NOT keep crazy men with guns from showing up on our doorsteps if God forbid, we’re ever a part of that fake news article.

There is a cycle to this madness. Call it the Fake News Life Cycle. Call it the Cycle of Virtual Anger Bubbling Forth unto Reality. Call it whatever you will, but it is time that everyone begins talking about it and understands that what starts as click bait is only the beginning. When I first began blogging, finding real news wasn’t hard, but in the past 18 months the amount of crap I’ve had to sift through on Facebook and Twitter has tripled. I’m not kidding. There’s a reason for this and it’s called anger. Anger that has been trolling the internet for years and now is having its day. Fake News providers have given this anger the justification it has been waiting for.

Most of those who procure Fake News online are hacks or writers who just want to make a quick buck. They buy fancy URLs that sound real, like the American Freedom Project or Democracy in Action. Then these folks search the internet for the latest WikiLeaks, conspiracy theory or other such exciting news item. They often search Reddit and 4chan, fantastic places where anger and fear dance daily whipping up the flames of righteousness. But these Fake News hacks will take any story and turn it into click bait. A perfect example is to create the headline that the Pope has endorsed Hillary, then write a little ditty about it, use one quote out of context and not even give a link to the actual speech made by the Pope that they’re quoting. This leaves it to you and me to find that speech and read it, only to find Hillary’s name isn’t even mentioned in it. Is there truth that the Pope was most likely suggesting that his flock NOT vote for The Donald? Yes there is. And that’s the kicker, these Fake News stories are almost always based on some strange fact** that the Fake News owner twists to make into a story with a headline that sends people a clicking and sharing.

But here’s the thing, most of these guys are just that, guys and gals just making money from our stupidity. They’ll even admit it. Take these two, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman who created an empire built on Facebook shares by the time of the vote, influencing millions with rumors, exaggeration, conspiracy theories and lies. Are they actual conservatives who give a damn about any of this? No, they’ll readily admit that they write the stories that get the most hits and in their experience, it’s the angry headlines that do this best. Conservatives and liberals alike will share the shocking piece, one side to give justification for their anger against the liberal movement, the other side to give justification to their belief that all conservatives are idiots. Thus time and again a Fake News creator will tell you that the conservative sites they host get WAY more clicks than the liberal ones and that’s the reason they focus there.

Hence stage one, the Fake News website owner writes some sort of conspiracy theory in a click bait story, puts it online, gets paid and sits back all smug. Now we begin stage two of the Fake News Life Cycle—sharing. It’s one thing to click and read, but if the article is well written while also striking a chord with our deepest insecurities, it will be shared on Facebook and Twitter. This is the beginning of discussion, but if it remained on these two platforms exclusively, it probably wouldn’t gain steam. The Fake News needs to be digested, discussed and internalized in order to grow into a real conspiracy worth following. In spite of all its failing when it comes to dealing with Fake News, Facebook has long had moderators who remove posts for all sorts of reasons, like because a woman’s nipple is showing while she nurses her newborn. Thus a story like #Pizzagate does get discussed on Facebook, but not with the deep venom needed for an armed man to confront the story head on. Twitter has failed to moderate content as well as Facebook, but with the 140 character limitation on tweets, feelings can ignite, but deep discussions that build the conspiracy are difficult.

Enter stage three of the Fake News Life Cycle—Reddit and 4chan. I myself hang out on Reddit, but there’s no way in hell I’ll go near 4chan. Call me a wimp, I don’t care, the place is a virtual empire of destitution and degradation. My eldest son once remarked over dinner that the darkest minds of the internet rule 4chan and I don’t doubt that. Reddit however, sort of reminds me of iVillage, where long ago, at the turn of the century, I met other mothers to discuss nursing, cloth diapers and entered the battle of SAHM vs. Working Moms. At least that’s what it’s like on /r/rad-decentralization, or /r/futuristparty or even /r/BasicIncome. Those are the places I hang out, but /r/the_donald is where #Pizzagate festered and grew into the nightmare you’re now hearing about in the news.

There are many ways to describe the Trump Trolls who have created, moderated and supported /r/the_donald, but I’ll just let Mashable writer, Damon Beres tell the story.

“If you haven't heard, #Pizzagate is the hashtag used by trolls spreading the unhinged, bogus claim that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring running out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. Several employees of that pizza parlor received death threats as a result. It's exactly the sort of steaming pile of trash that Reddit's uniquely positioned to cultivate—it's just surprising it took so long to get here… 

“…All of these concerns fold into the catastrophe we're dealing with now. As Gizmodo reported Tuesday, the site has now been overrun by Trump-loving trolls who've successfully turned the system against itself, so they can now occupy prime real estate on Reddit's r/all page—the page which displays the most popular topics from across the site. And that's where the real problems begin.”

One subreddit, taking over the entire site. These are the Trump fans that have come out since the election to abuse those they’ve been hating together in the safety of the virtual world for years. On Reddit and 4chan they virtually stroke one another’s egos and play a game of telephone with every conspiracy they can find online. And the rise of Fake News gives them the “facts” they need to justify their rage, their hysteria and their mania. Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman tried to intervene, first by banning /r/Pizzagate and then by modifying user comments, creating yet “gate” controversy, called #spezgate. (what the hell was he thinking???) Regardless, the banning just helped #Pizzagate grow in size as it moved over to, you guessed it, 4chan. But in the end, what exactly can Huffman do at this point? Anger is nothing new and the entire Reddit system enables the worst in us.

I do think liberals need to think beyond their bubble to understand why the Rust Belt voted the way they did in Election 2016, but with #Pizzagate exploding onto the streets the way it has, the time for shaming the Ivory Tower elites is over. The increase in hate crimes, the appearance of an armed man at a pizza joint to personally investigate Hillary Clinton's child sex ring, and any other arrogant, angry outburst by the winning team has nothing to do with job loss or the failure of the Democratic Party to see the pain in the white middle class. Those may have cost Hillary the election, but the Fake News Life Cycle, from the hack writer to the angry anonymous man behind the computer screen discussing #Pizzagate on Reddit with other very angry people, is why America is witnessing irrational, xenophobic violence on the streets. Years of internet trolls taking their anger out on women, minorities, immigrants and anyone else that pisses them off has created a world where violent virtual reality trolling now roams our very streets. This is the real bubble that has exploded.

All of this is the perfect storm that has led to the culmination of the "Age of the Internet Troll" with the election of the first Twitter Troll for President of the United States. 

Isn’t that swell?

**as for the grain of truth in #Pizzagate, google Bill Clinton and the Lolita Express... yet how this led to the Podesta/Clinton/Comet Ping Pong Pizzaria/child sex traffic ring story is just the mere brilliance of the vitriol so loving tended on Reddit and 4chan.