Category Archives: The Virtual World

Book Review: From Pigeons to Tweets

By Johna Till Johnson

From Pigeons to TweetsFrom Pigeons to Tweets: A General Who Led Dramatic Changes in Military Communications, by Clarence E. McKnight and Hank H. Cox. History Publishing Company, Palisades, New York, 2013.

Okay, I know I have weird tastes in reading material. But when I picked up “From Pigeons to Tweets”, I didn’t expect what I actually got.

The subtitle is “A General Who Led Dramatic Changes in Military Communications”, and the author is Lt. Gen. Clarence E. McKnight Jr. (along with journalist Hank H. Cox).

Given that, plus the relatively staid promotional blurbs from a range of military luminaries, I was expecting a dry treatise on the history of military communications technology.

That would have been interesting enough. I’m fascinated by military technology in general, and military communications technology in particular. (I told you I have weird tastes!)

What I got was (in part) a rollicking and thoroughly absorbing memoir by a man who rose to the highest ranks of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps (the branch that focuses on communications technology) and who had a reputation for hands-on effectiveness in setting up communications systems. (“McKnight could communicate from Hell,” says one of his colleagues—as a compliment.)

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One Year of Wind Against Current

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since we published  our first post on May 9, 2011.

We have to credit Tugster with the idea. He’d asked us for a guest post about a kayaker’s-eye view on maritime traffic and life on the water. We still haven’t written that one (one day soon, Will, we promise!).

But we pondered the idea…  And meanwhile, Vlad kept taking photos, and Johna kept writing essays, until the idea of a blog was born.

Blogs are harder than they look, as anyone who writes on a regular basis knows well.

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Beauty and Censorship

By Johna Till Johnson (with Vladimir Brezina)

Shortly after I landed in Cleveland this morning, I drove by a sight that made me gasp with excitement: The Detroit Superior Bridge. Despite the name, it’s actually in Cleveland, and was built in 1914-1918.

Why am I so excited? Regular readers of this blog might recall that I love the shape of the Hell Gate Bridge, and its sister the Bayonne Bridge. And the Detroit Superior Bridge has the identical double arches, although it’s more than a decade older than the other two.

It’s like discovering an older half-sibling you never knew existed—and learning she’s not only beautiful, but graceful and accomplished, and living in a city you’d never have expected.

You might also notice that the above link is to About.com, rather than Wikipedia. Why? Today (Wednesday, January 18), Wikipedia has joined other sites around the Web in a blackout protesting the proposed SOPA /PIPA antipiracy bills currently in front of the U.S. Congress.

If you’ve somehow missed the controversy, here it is in a nutshell: SOPA/PIPA (the acronyms stand for Stop Online Piracy Act, the House version, and Protect IP Act, the Senate version) is intended to protect against online piracy by granting broad new powers to the U.S. Government when it comes to blocking access to sites that deliver pirated content.

That all sounds good, and you’d expect that I, as a founder of a business based on intellectual property, not to mention a regular recreational blogger, would be strongly in favor of strengthening protections against  piracy—as, in fact, I am.

But SOPA/PIPA goes too far—way, way too far. There is plenty to hate about these two proposals, but the main issue is that, should they pass, the government could shut down sites that have not been proven to deliver pirated content.

Instead, all that’s required is an allegation.

That’s wrong for all sorts of reasons, starting with the fact that in a free country, I shouldn’t be able to stop you from exercising your rights by alleging that mine have been violated. A court of law has to agree with me that my assessment of the situation is, in fact, accurate.

Moreover, consider the potential for abuse: How long before, say, Americans United for Life and the National Abortion Rights League begin accusing each other of posting pirated content? About a New York nanosecond.

Sure, the bills’ drafters say that the laws aren’t intended to be used that way, that they’re primarily focused on offshore sites, yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.

The reality is that, regardless of intention, the  proposed legislation can easily be abused. And even if used properly, it’s far too broad and needs to be re-thought from the ground up.

By all means, let’s protect intellectual property. But doing it with vague laws that introduce worrying new powers is the wrong way to go about it.

If you agree with us, please write your Congresscritters and advise them to do the right thing when it comes to SOPA/PIPA: Vote ‘em down.

Versatile Blogger Award

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

We’ve received a Versatile Blogger Award! This award, which is passed on from blogger to blogger, honors “the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page…(and)  the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them.”

Composer in the Garden has passed the award to us, and we’re thrilled and honored by this recognition by a fellow blogger, particularly one whose own blog we follow and admire. And now we need to pass the award on in our turn…

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Spam Poetry

By Vladimir Brezina

As surely as a flame attracts moths, a comment box attracts spam—with pretty much the same results. WordPress has an excellent spam filter that kills most spam outright. But occasionally it presents a particularly delectable piece of spam, under quarantine, for our enjoyment.

These spam comments, which the filter has quarantined but not killed outright presumably because it’s not quite sure whether they are spam or not, have a distinctive tone. They are, indeed, like real comments—but from some kind of mad dream.

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