A Strange Memorial

A few years ago, when the internet was first starting to creep into the lives of the huddled masses, I was helping to build an ISP locally here, in the Greater Puget Sound area. We focused on the human side of things – a vision of the individual becoming empowered by this emerging technological wonder that had the potential to bypass, and even erode, many of the traditional power structures we have all lived within. A re-invention, in a way, of the printing press.

I loved working with all the crazy people out there – helping to get them set up with internet access. Most were technically saavy at the time, but there was a growing number of people who thought the internet was just very cool, and there were even a few grandmas and grandpas coming on.

I got to know my customers very well. When a customer calls for help, you have a connection via telephone into their lives – you hear all manner of things going on in the background. And when you visit their houses to help, you learn even more. I never charged them when they fed me. 🙂

I can remember seeing a couple’s names together on their checks, and then I receive checks with just one of their names – and when I ask them about it, they’re surprised. Many outsiders would say it’s invading their privacy, but it was a testament to their belief in our sincerity that they were always grateful when we noticed the little things about their lives, and took the time, and even moreso had the interest, in hearing what they had to say, or feel.

It was always a difficult thing when a customer would not pay – or got too far behind. You learn a good deal about people when you run a business. The variety is staggering. I never knew how to approach them about paying they money they owed – I almost felt guilty for taking it from them in the first place, but we needed to pay our bills so that we could keep offering them the good connectivity.

One day I noticed that a customer – one of my very first – had gotten over three months behind in his payments. I emailed him over the course of two more months, but never received a reply. I found it very hard to believe he would do this. I tried phoning him, but his phone had been disconnected. His userid was “fuzzyguy”.

We gave our users free webspace with their account, and I went to it to see if I might learn anything – perhaps his new telephone number, or an alternate email address. But I found something quite different.

Long before “blogs” were even conceived, fuzzyguy was keeping a journal online. He was a man suffering from AIDS, very poor, very adorable to see, and incredibly honest and brave in his words. He sounded very alone, but detailed his experiences without anger or blame – but most certainly with frustration at his decaying body.

One entry I remember in particular, which described a cancer that had formed in the back of his mouth, and was growing up into his brain. He was going through radiation treatment and chemotherapy, whenever he could somehow get money together. He described how it felt, and how he was feeling. And he always tried to remain positive, though the doom of his situation tinged the fringes of all he spoke.

The entries ended, suddenly, a few months previously. And I felt guilty, not so much for having wanted money from him, but because he was going through all this, and he was right there, and I had no idea. I wish still there were some way that I could have gotten to know him – to help, in whatever stupid way I could.

I thought he might have died. I had no address for him but a PO Box.

As I mentioned, I kept in close contact with my customers, even though there had grown to be thousands by this time. I would send out broadcast emails to them from time to time, announcing changes or possible downtimes, and always included personal things that many business people consider inappropriate, but which I know these people loved, because they were incredibly loyal customers – they never left.

So I sent out a message to them all – pointing them to fuzzyguy’s website, and asking if any of them were friends of his, or knew him – that I was worried, and explained why.

I started receiving many replies back talking about how awful his situation was, but none said they knew him. Two days later, though, I received a telephone call from a KOMO News Radio host, who apparently was one of my customers. She offered to try helping, and the next day I was interviewed about him on the airwaves of Seattle. I didn’t even know why I wanted to get ahold of him so badly – but I think it was mostly because I needed to know if he was alive still, and if he wasn’t, I thought that maybe his family or friends would want to have this incredibly intimate account the last few years of his life.

That afternoon, I received a phone call from a nurse at Bailey Bushay House, which was a homey medical organization to help people AIDS and cancer. Apparently fuzzyguy had died a few months prior. I asked her if she could contact his family or friends so that they could have a copy of his journals, and she said she would do her best, but we never heard from any of them.

So here I had the journals of a stranger – an obviously very kind, sensitive, intelligent, good looking, strong, and incredibly isolated young man. No family claimed them. No friends claimed them. I wondered if I might have every been snappy with him when he called for technical support.

I put them up, back in his website, and left them there, meaning for them to remain for all time.

That was several years ago. I sold out of that nice little ISP when it became apparent that the phone companies were doing their very best to crush the little people. And within the last few days, and many years after never even thinking about fuzzyguy, I am reminded of him as I begin this online journal. And that same sadness comes back.

I just checked, and his site is no longer there. The purchasing company must have deleted it – his memory and writings chewed up and lost in the whir of Industry. I suppose it is possible I have it, buried deeply in the many dark corridors of data from years past. I will have to look. And if I do, I’ll bring it back – though why, I don’t really know.

And I’m left thinking, of all the people out there, who feel so isolated and alone in what you’re going through – you must believe there are others who still care, even though you may be complete strangers. I wish fuzzyguy would have talked to me, and told me he felt so alone. Such a simple thing – a thing that we almost all feel – and yet it’s somehow the most difficult thing to say.

I hope I can find his last few writings.

Time, Occurances and Probabilities

No Time!I’ve been spending a little time imagining events, when they happen, and their relation to time. It seems to occupy me when I play solitaire on my cell phone whilst sitting on the toilet.

I deal the cards. In doing so, the event of the card distributions occurs. Barring a few choices I then have on moving the cards around – the outcome of the game is determined at the initial card distribution.

I finish my game, and I’ve either won or lost.

Now, I decide to begin a new game, and I am readying to hit the Deal Cards button. My question is, were I to wait to hit the button until after I’ve wiped my ass, would the distribution of cards be the same as if I were to hit the Deal Cards button before doing so? (assuming truly “random” programmatics built into the mechanical game)

I thought the answer might be a simple one, relying on mere esoteric equations in probability mathematics. But on my cursory examination of such things, it is not so apparent. In fact, it led me back to philosophy, and the arcane notions of destiny and pre-determination – or chaos. And if mathematics were to meet the physics of practical observation, does my role of choosing or not choosing to hit the button at any given time even effect an outcome?

If not, there seems to be a bit of hopelessness. If so, then what forces influence such tides?

Mathematics alone does not seem sufficient. It can just reveal the liklihood of a particular event occuring, and can even go so far as to determine the liklihood distributed over time. But it doesn’t much deal with the actuality of the event occuring.

To resolve this with physics would require observing not only an event in the future (or the past, from which no information has been transmitted), but also would require observing two or more events simultaneously – i.e., you would have to know the state of the cards both now and the state of the cards in the future – and know them both simultaneously in order to make the determination.

I know that lots of physicists don’t like this sort of thing, and one good explanation they have is to say that the “wave” representing how the cards exist (in a compound sense, which is even murkier), exists throughout all space-time, and will collapse into a specific state when an interaction occurs. That our notion of past and future and now just don’t really exist.

But then, is it all predetermined – our consciousness moving along it’s tiny and pinpoint little “peephole” along the compound waves comprised of particle waves, like a rollercoaster locked tightly to rigid tracks of a multitude of causalities that exist, statically, throughout all space-time, and rooted to the Big Bang?

Or is it perhaps our little negentropic selves, realizing more and more the growing entropy, who need so desperately to encase ourselves in a safe, hardened and immutable shelter?

I’ll have to consider it some more, and hope that my leg doesn’t fall asleep while doing so.

But, given the choice… between superluminal communication and eternally static waves, I think I would choose superluminal communication. That might explain a good many of my problems, actually.

Superluminal Communication

SpaceShipOne

Well, we’ve gone and done it. The private sector is beginning to move into space at last. Yesterday’s successful flight of SpaceShipOne up to around 62 miles above the Earth, and into weightless conditions, marks the turning point for many things for us all.

The wild pioneer who piloted the vessel during this first is Michael Melvill, who may certainly earn himself a place in history as the first man not associated with a government agency to leave the planet (as far as we know, I suppose).

However, the journey is certainly not yet for us all, having been backed financially mostly by Paul Allen, the local Seattle Microsoft-made billionaire, whose interest in the fun, and oftentimes stranger aspects of life have both benefited and frustrated many of us.

Paul brought us The Experience Music Project – a museum of rock music paraphenalia – and the strangest looking building I have ever seen. It has no form, really – the shape being chaotic, both in geometry and color. Now he’s built the world’s first Science Fiction Museum. He also turned the completely wild and insane, but deeply loved, or deeply hated, listener-supported and listener-driven Seattle radio station, KCMU, run by the students of the University of Washington, into KEXP – a well-funded, massively upgraded, yet still listener-funded (who knows why?) station playing music from now designated playlists, but still very alternative (by comparison to utterly corporate backed sound), by DJ’s that seem to stay around forever and never push the envelopes. No longer volunteers. KEXP(experience) is still owned by the University of Washington, but no students have much involvement. Mostly, it’s world-renowned for its internet-based multimedia delivery and archival capabilities now.

Oh yeah – he also purchased the Seattle Seahawks so they would not be taken away down to Los Angeles, and they now have a big nice new stadium Seahawks Stadium – or rather, just recently, Qwest Stadium, right next to Safeco Field, which, if I’m remembering right, the voters voted down twice.

Paul actually does do quite a lot of nice things, and I truly believe his heart is in the right place – it’s just that other people get involved who really want money and things to make them feel good about themselves. And the man contributed a huge amount to the SETI project – where I’ve just contributed CPU cycles. Then again, there’s the Allen Telescope Array…

So yes, the common man has made it into space! But he’s still getting there with a little help from some pretty uncommon people. But no, indeed, it is not the government.

It’s interesting to see Bush’s desire to force NASA into delegating off all of its stuff to private sector industry – coincidentally today, a presidental panel reached the conclusion that NASA should look to private industry “to assume the primary role of providing services to NASA.”

So yes, the common man. Making it into space. The Everyman rising up, in the great whir of our machinary.

Mike Melvill and SpaceShipOne Seahawk Stadium Experience Music Project KEXP Radio Allen Telescope Array at SETI

various chosen random bits

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