Why net neutrality is important

Why does net neutrality matter? Two reasons. First, there’s no improvement in speed planned, which means those who don’t pay will be slowed down from today’s speeds which will make accessing basic websites problematic.  Second, slower speeds on websites will affect more than your Netflix or Facebook account – slower speeds will impact your ability to pay bills, access your bank accounts, renew your driver’s license and even register to vote!

No improvements in infrastructure are planned . . .

I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen that the carriers plan to dramatically improve the infrastructure of the Internet in the United States to provide a ‘fast lane.’ Just for the record, by every measurement I have seen, our Internet access speeds are slow when compared to the rest of the world. In fact, depending upon the measurement you use, U.S. connections rank behind some countries we would consider third world nations. In the absence of any improvement in the infrastructure, what will happen is that whoever pays for faster access will get the same speed they have now – and those who don’t pay will have their pages and services slowed down from today’s benchmarks.

Slower access will impact your daily life, not just your Netflix account

Why does it matter if a website slows down? Because the Internet isn’t just about Netflix and Facebook. It’s about paying your bills AND YOUR TAXES, accessing your bank accounts, renewing your driver’s license and even registering to vote! And we might have to forget about checking our business emails 24/7 or working from home.

Tried to pay a bill lately? You either need the Internet to access the company’s website – or you may pay a fee to receive a paper bill and use the phone or a check to pay. (This assumes, by the way, that you get the bill in your hands in a timely fashion to make that payment by phone or check, not at all guaranteed under today’s mail services.)

Most of my service providers have gone paperless – they will charge me if I want paper records, and some now have a service fee for paying by phone or check. Some of my providers’ pages already have access issues (my cell phone provider, for one). I’m quite sure that if they must pay for increased access to the Internet, a fee will be tacked onto the already-outrageous number of fees I pay for basic services.

The same with banks. Again, they’ve gone paperless. You need the internet to get your statement, balance your checkbook, and use the website to make bill payments. Want those records in paper? You’ll have to pay for it, and then experience the same problem with fees if the banks must pay more for access to the Internet.

Want to renew your driver’s license, or the car registration? You can either wait to get a renewal in the mail (see the previous comment about timeliness, I got my car registration renewal notice a week AFTER it was due), or hit the Internet.

Voting is the foundation of our Republic, right? So how do you register to vote, or change your party affiliation? You need the internet. My county requires me to access the form online. I actually asked a couple of years ago if they could send me a paper form in the mail. The girl I spoke to didn’t even know to what form I was referring. Same problem with communicating with your elected representatives – you need the Internet to keep track of what they are doing, how they are voting, and in some cases to contact them with your concerns.

As goes voting, so goes taxes. You want to file a return and pay the taxes owed, you need the internet. Oh, you can still use a paper return, and a check. But that paper form will take months to process. And if you’re filing on behalf of a business? Forget paper. I handle corporate taxes, and the Federal government and most states don’t allow my company to file a return or pay taxes using paper – we’d be assessed fines and penalties if we did that! I am quite sure the states aren’t going to pay for faster access, which means the slow-loading pages they already have are going to be positively moribund come tax season.

Most of us are now required to be connected to our offices 24/7. I’ve had to check emails, review documents and edit them at midnight. On bad weather days, when it’s impossible to get onto the roads, I’ve had to work from home. I don’t see most businesses paying for faster access to the Internet so I can look forward to waiting for Outlook to load, and delays as my emails to go out and come in. Slower response times will definitely endear us to our employers, I’m sure.

I could go on, but you should have gotten the idea by now. The country AND the carriers have spent the last decade urging us to go online and transitioning all services to the Internet. Now, when there are no longer free redundant systems in place, the carriers want us to pay to access basic and necessary services essential to daily life. I don’t believe that should be allowed to happen. Do you?

If you don’t September 15th is the last day to make comments to the Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality at http://www.fcc.gov/comments. 

 

 

 

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I went, I saw, I cried!

I did go to the Sunnybank Gathering last weekend.

It was wonderful. And inspiring.

I’ll post a much longer entry, probably tomorrow, once I finish editing my pictures. What I will say right now is this:

I went to Sunnybank largely because it was someplace I’d wanted to go since I read Albert Payson Terhune’s books as a child. And while I was there, I found myself more relaxed than I’d been in a long time, happy, a bit sad (for a good reason) and above all, inspired.

The setting:

While the house is no longer there, having fallen into disrepair and then been torn down, there is enough left of ‘The Place’ to connect you to the books. You still drive down the narrow, winding driveway, where Wolf herded the harum-scarum puppies out of the path of early automobiles. There is now a parking lot where the house once stood, but if you can ignore that fact, exercise your imagination, you can look around and picture how it must have been to sit on the veranda of Sunnybank or walk its grounds.

The root cellar remains, you can see foundation stones from the barn peeking through the grass, and a replica of a puppy house has been installed where the original once stood. The pond has been filled in, but its foundations have been retained and now a stone frog leaps from a cluster of lovely grasses. The line of larch trees still marches down to the landing on the lake, and while I was there, no speedboats were cruising by — you could close your eyes, listen to the silence, and imagine yourself back at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Or rather, you could listen to the barking of collies and think yourself back to Terhune’s time. So many collies (and shelties), in so many colors — sable and mahogany, tricolor, white, different permutations of merle, black and white — and all of them friendly and welcoming, even to total strangers like me. As if they were saying, welcome back to the place that made our breed famous! Along with collies, I saw borzoi, a chihuahua, a couple of other toy breeds, a staffordshire terrier (I think) and a corgi, who sported a bow for a tail.

I went to Sunnybank, uncertain what to expect. I got out of the car, said hello to the lovely ladies from Ohio getting out of the next car, and promptly was made to feel welcome. They gave great advice to this newbie on what to do first, outlined the whole day for me — and any hesitation I felt just melted away.

I did feel a bit sad (alright, I teared up!), when we went to the gravesites of the Sunnybank dogs. Yes, their graves have been preserved, at least those that could be identified a hundred years later. The kennel dogs are buried in one spot, along with two of the Township’s K-9 officers. The champions — known through many of the stories — are buried by Champion Rock, including one of my personal favorites, blind Fair Ellen. Bruce and Jean are buried elsewhere, and then, there is the patriarch, the dog who started it all, Sunnybank Lad. I’ll admit, when I saw that stone, “Lad, Thoroughbred in Body and Soul”, I wanted to cry.

But more than anything, I was inspired by my visit. Why? Because, this park, this preservation, was not undertaken by government. It was driven by people who love these books, love the dogs in them, love collies — and therefore entered into years of organizing, fund-raising, lobbying and politicking, all to save this little slice of American history. Not the usual ‘grand’ history of war or politics, but a personal, beloved history for so many people who grew up with these stories as part of their childhood. Ordinary people who took on a task of saving something personally important to them, and who continue to fight to save it, against the encroachment of time and ongoing vandalism.

A lesson to be remembered by us all. When it’s important to you, you can, and should, stand up and fight for it.

Leaves

The leaves are changing colors.

Not just on one tree, or on a group of trees in one location. They’re changing color everywhere.

I’ve been running a lot of errands this last couple of days, and everywhere I’ve gone, I’m seeing signs of autumn. In August.

The tall maples outside Villanova’s law school building are orange and red along their tops. In Devon, the crabapples have random patches of yellow-orange, and out in Valley Forge, one of the back paths had a small pile of red-brown leaves under a tree already.

Not to mention that, outside my own door, several of the oaks have small lines of yellow running along their crowns.

Not to mention, there’s two maples along the wildlife sanctuary that have actually dropped all the leaves from the top third of each tree.

This does not bode well for the winter.

Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon and Skyborn

Sith power games are so very intriguing.. And in Lost Tribe of the Sith, we get a lot of them.

The Lost Tribe, you’ll recall, is stranded on Kesh following the crash of their ship, Omen, onto the planet. The first two stories in the series set up the Sith’s arrival on Kesh. The rest of the series draws you into the expected, but nevertheless frightening, power struggles between different species, families and individuals in the Tribe, from shortly after their arrival on the planet until 3500 years before the Battle of Yavin.

Also Expected:

Spoiler Warnings.

Here Be Too Many Details!

Books 3 and 4, Paragon and Savior, were definitely worth reading.

Paragon

Paragon takes place 15 years after Omen’s landing, and is told from the point of view of Seelah. She is the very, very angry human Sith woman who was married to Devore Korsin. And Devore, of course, was killed by his half-brother, Captain Yaru, when the Captain discovered Devore had set up his betrayal to the Sith Lord Naga Sadow. The first, but not the last, betrayal and death match involving Kesh’s new residents.

Now, Seelah is married to Yaru and has borne him a daughter; despite his near-daily meetings with Adari Vaal, the Kesh woman who ‘saved’ the Sith after the crash, Seelah and Yaru have settled into a partnership of sorts to run this mini Sith empire. The Sith have been accepted as the ‘gods’ of the Kesh returned to their people, and Keshiri society has been restructured to worship and serve the whims of the Sith. In turn, the Sith have done everything they can to solidify their position as the dominant rulers of the planet, even to the point of taking over the riding of the uvaks, thereby grounding, literally, the former leaders of Keshiri society.

As foreshadowed at the end of the second story, the Sith have discovered that Kesh has no metal whatsoever, but only after squandering much of their surviving equipment in useless mining and exploration. To add to their problems, the planet emits some type of interference that knocks out communications and affects machinery. It seems that their only chance of escape from Kesh will be to attract the attention of some passing ship – a forlorn hope, at best.

Meanwhile, the Sith, we learn, are firmly split between the contingent of human Sith settling into permanent exile on Kesh – and the alien, Red Sith who are determined that they must return to the Empire. (While there is a distinction between Red and human Sith, it’s not a complete one. The two groups, it appears, have long been interbreeding, and that is how the Sith powers ‘entered’ into humanity.)

Seelah, a medic, has been placed in charge of the, well, let’s call it a breeding program. Kesh’s animosity toward the alien Sith is continuing — humans bear healthy children, while not a single alien baby has survived beyond a day. Seelah and her staff are pulling apart the geneology of the Sith, ostensibly to solve this problem, but in reality, to breed ‘purer’ humans, although only the staff appears to be in on that secret.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the alien Sith – it does. When Ravilan, their informal ‘leader’, goes on a tour of distant communities, the first one he visits – dies. Completely. Every resident, 18,000 of them, succumbs to some sort of disease. And then another village dies. And another.

In the end, it’s not a disease, it was a plot by Ravilan and his people to poison the communities, turn the Kesh against the Sith and force them to give up their ‘luxuries’ and find a way off the planet. (In my opinion he’s not a very bright Sith. You’ve exhausted the power supplies for your equipment, there’s no way to get a signal out and there’s no metal to rebuild Omen. Just how, exactly, did he think turning the Sith’s only refuge against them was going to get the Tribe off the planet?!?)

But Ravilan makes a mistake, and Seelah takes advantage of it – and manages to arrange for the deaths of all the alien Sith. As she tells Ravilan, what’s happening with the Tribe is merely a preview of what will happen to the Sith overall. The Red Sith are failing; the human Sith will replace them.

The story was a good way to learn about the inner workings of the Sith power structures overall, and also about Seelah, who had been neglected in the first two stories beyond her cameo appearances as lead medic and ‘mother’of a child. She was originally the slave, along with her family, of Sadow’s rival, Kressh; she suffered under him and he ultimately killed the rest of her family; and, good Sith that she is, she used Devore to escape from his service.

And at the very end of the book, we learn that there is more than one plot, one betrayal, at work here.

Some of the Keshiri know the truth about the Sith – they are not gods, not the Skyborn returned, and they are destroying the Keshiri. They’ve planted spies in the heart of the Sith to work toward their ultimate destruction.

And they are led by none other than Yaru’s friend, Adari Vaal.

Savior

Savior picks up from this ending, and completes the four-story cycle of the arrival of the Sith on Kesh. Taking place ten years after Paragon, the story opens with the remaining Sith now somewhat accepting of the fact that they will be on Kesh for a long time, if not forever. They have moved from the mountain and Omen’s crash site down into the main town. While they still believe the transmitter is working (Yaru having allowed that lie to stand) and that someday, someone will hear it and come to rescue them, the Sith are now dedicated to the task of reshaping Kesh into a proper Sith world.

One where the Sith rule, and the aliens – the Keshiri – are slaves, even if they don’t know it. Which is ironic, considering that, in the actual Sith Empire, the human Sith were the slaves, and the aliens – the Red Sith – the rulers.

What no one seems to have picked up on is that not all Keshiri are happy to worship and serve the Sith. Adari Vaal, the Daughter of the Skyborn, the very person responsible for the Sith being rescued from Omen’s crash site and complicit in the takeover of her society, is mounting a clandestine rebellion. Yaru still seems to be fond, and even a bit admiring of her – at one point, he says she has the will of a Sith. He’s spot on in that statement. And perhaps that has blinded him to her bitter hatred, sparked by the death of her son and Yaru’s failure to save him, driven by the realization that her entire society is being destroyed by the Sith.

We also meet the two children of Seelah – her son, Jariad, by her first husband Devore, and her daughter, Nida, by Yaru. Jariad, the leader of the Sabers, the Sith’s honor guard, is the successful son and logical choice to succeed Yaru Korsin, while Nida is merely the leader of the Skyborn Rangers, the uvak riders.

So much of this story deals with surface impressions, and how they hide the true nature, the underlying motives, beneath seemingly innocent (if one can use that word with Sith) words and actions.

On the surface:

Seelah supports Yaru and his endeavors to build a Sith society on Kesh – and to a certain extent, she does. Only she intends that her son Jariad will lead it, while Yaru dies as revenge for his killing of Devore.

Adari Vaal basks in her position as Daughter of the Skyborn, while preparing a death blow to the Sith’s ability to control the Keshiri — stealing the uvaks back and forcing a confrontation between Sith and Keshiri.

Jariad is a ‘golden boy’ of the Sith, the expected future leader, while Nida his sister is nothing more than a plodding, simple girl who likes to ride uvaks.

And Yaru is complacently designing the future lives of the Sith on Kesh, blind to the plots against him.

Without spoiling two much, I can tell you that Yaru does manage to outmaneuver Seelah, not without losing his life. Adari succeeds in her plot, but it does not have the outcome she expected and she is betrayed by her own son, a servant to Nida Korsin. And Nida herself proves to be the biggest surprise of all, her hidden skills and cooperation in her father’s counterplots making her more than a match for her brother. Ultimately, she assumes leadership of the Sith.

Overall, a satisfying end to the arrival stories of the Sith. The final two chapters, and in particular the ending page, of Savior capture the vicious nature of the Sith quite well. Although I’m wondering, just who is the ‘savior’ of the title? Yaru Korsin, who created a structure by which the Sith could channel their aggressive nature while establishing a society on Kesh? Adari Vaal, who, in the end, escapes with her followers and uvaks to a distant continent where she prepares for a war with the Sith? Or Nida Korsin, who, by outwitting her brother and mother, manages to preserve the society Yaru established and, perhaps, save both Sith and Keshiri from a bloody, violent conflict?

I’ll find out in the next stories.

Sentences of Doom

Two sentences I hope never to hear again.

Your stylist has left the salon” and “Your stylist no longer works evenings or weekends.”

I called today to get an appointment for my monthly color and cut. My company’s Annual Meeting is in ten days, and I’ll be attending for the first time as Corporate Counsel. I have a primary, and a backup, salon, and at each, a trusted stylist who always cuts my hair perfectly. With two people on call, I usually never have to worry about getting an appointment, even on short notice. One of them has always been available.

Not this time. After being on hold an unusually long time at the first salon, the receiptionist finally came back to my line and explained that, unfortunately, my stylist has left the salon. Say what? I just saw her four weeks ago and she didn’t say anything about leaving! The receptionist was very understanding, but the best she could offer me was an appointment with Person A or Person B, three weeks from tomorrow.

Well, that won’t work. I need my hair cut and colored now, before the meeting, not after it. Besides, I’ve seen Person A’s styles and I don’t think pseudo-punk rocker works for a corporate attorney (also, I tried a similar style in my college days and know for a fact it’s not a flattering cut for my face). And Person B, while probably very nice, has only been cutting hair for a year. So I thanked the receptionist and called salon number two.

Only to be told my stylist at that salon now just works weekdays and one weeknight. They were sure they could squeeze me into the revised schedules, if I was willing to come in mid-afternoon.

No. Not going to happen. First off, I can’t just take an afternoon off every month to get my hair done. Second, I work more than an hour from the salon, and taking an afternoon appointment means I’ll be leaving Manyunk during the peak of rush hour. Which, in Philadelphia traffic terms, translates into sitting on the Surekill (otherwise known as the Schulkyll) Expressway and then Route 422 for at least two hours, all to travel a measly 20 miles to my home.

After spending a few minutes hyperventilating and contemplating losing my sanity, I realized, reluctantly, that I will have to find a new salon, and I will have to do it tomorrow so I can get an appointment before the meeting.

Finding a stylist you can trust, one who won’t butcher your hair, isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s a world of difference between a decent stylist and one who can make your hair look fantastic. The same person can do an awesome job on me, and a hack job on his or her next client. It all depends upon that stylist’s ability to understand your hair, recognize your personality, and work with those factors to create something magical. If the cut goes bad, you may have to wait weeks, if not months, to grow it out and try again. A bad color will not only look horrible, but it can dry out your hair, making it brittle and unable to hold the cut.

In other words, your stylist is, without a doubt, one of the most important people in your life. And I just lost mine.

Being my stylist means working with baby fine hair that absolutely hates to do anything other than lie flat on my head, and the most stubborn, color-resistant grey hairs my (now-previous) stylists had ever seen. Yes, I have, sadly, grey hairs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about it — my mother was almost entirely grey before her 21st birthday; I at least waited to go to law school before I spied the first silver hairs on my head. But it means that the stylist has to really amp up the color mix, and that the cut has to take into account my hair’s tendency to fall over at the slightest hint of humidity, rain, snow, wind or a bird passing overhead.

I’ve just spent three hours touring websites and reading reviews. As expected, for every salon, and stylist, there were raves, and flames. I’ve managed to narrow it down to three salons, and five stylists, in the Main Line area, but if anyone wants to make a suggestion, feel free to drop a comment.

I’d have liked to try a salon in Philadelphia — Vanity looked good — but I balk at spending an extra thirty-forty dollars to park my car just to spend two hours getting my hair done. I do still have some sanity left.

Unfollowing

I ‘unfollowed’ a blog today on another site.

I fully support the right of free speech. I started life as a journalism major. I am a lawyer who has spoken out against steps taken to infringe our civil liberties in the United States — something that has cost me a dear friend.

But it has been long-established that there are certain things you do not have the right to say; such as words that incite panic or violence in others. The classic is shouting ‘fire’ in a theater, an act that causes people to panic, stampede and be injured.

No matter how you feel about the results in a trial, there is no excuse, none, for posting that you want someone to kill the defendant when they walk out of the courtroom. Or for reposting that statement on another blog. That makes you no better than the person against whom you are speaking.

And that’s why I’m no longer following that blog. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there is a difference between disagreeing with a verdict and advocating another crime to correct the original crime.

Or, as my mother used to say, two wrongs do not make a right.

Happy Independence Day – and Thank You to our Military!

A Happy Independence Day to everyone — and a huge ‘thank you’ to our military for their service.

The United States is celebrating its birthday today. Despite our differences in opinions and beliefs, and there are many, we should all join together to do one thing — thank the members of our armed forces for their service.

Without the sacrifices of our soldiers and sailors, pilots and marines, our country could have fallen any time in the last 237 years. The United States might never have made it past the Declaration of Independence, or could have reverted back to the dominion of the British Empire during the War of 1812. We might have split into two nations as a result of the Civil War, or fallen to a horrible enemy during World War 2. Men, and now women, of our country have stood between us, and harm, in so many, many other conflicts.

We ask so much of these men and women who voluntarily serve in the military — not just that they defend us, but sometimes that they also defend other nations, other people, even the whole world. We have made mistakes over the years and centuries. Sometimes we backed the wrong side in a conflict, or made errors in strategy or planning our involvement in an action. We will undoubtedly make more, because we are only human.

But despite these mistakes, the disagreements in our society, the nasty infighting of our political leaders, even the sheer ingratitude and indifference we often display toward our military, in spite of the ever-increasing dangers of the world and the sometimes nebulous nature of the enemy threatening us, our men and women continue to enlist, selflessly offering up their health and sadly, sometimes their lives and sanity, to defend our country and to try and offer that freedom to others.

And in return, they don’t always get the thanks, or even the reward, they deserve for their time in the military. I keep seeing reports on the struggles of military families simply to survive when a father or mother is stationed in a combat zone, over and over and over again. Then that family member may come home permanently injured or mentally scarred to a country that isn’t prepared, or for that matter doesn’t even seem to want to try, to support the soldier in his or her recovery.

It’s easy, when we’re caught up in our daily routines, in the hurry to get to work and then come home to attend to our family, to forget about those people standing between us and harm. After all, few of us live near military bases, or have family serving in the military. We don’t see these soldiers or their families every day, and so it’s easy to forget them. Out of sight, out of mind.

But we should never forget them. And if there’s one thing on which we all should agree, it’s that we need to not only say thank you, but to ensure that these brave people have adequate support when they come home, that their families have a decent life, and that we never, ever, take their service for granted.

They are there, so that we don’t have to be.

Thank you.