Fireworks All Over LA

We went out to a hill to view last night’s Independence Day fireworks after an afternoon at a family barbecue. Some years we go down to the beach for a closer view. This year the process of getting there, finding a parking space (usually very far away), walking all the way down (and all the way back up) with a small child, finding a viewing spot, and afterward spending over an hour to get out through clogged streets just wasn’t appealing.

So we went to a hill a mile or so away, joining a standing throng of people waiting for the local show to start. To the east and southeast we could see distant fireworks lighting up the horizon from San Pedro to Norwalk. Around the corner we could see a similar view of fireworks to the northeast, including Los Angeles proper.

It’s one thing to see one fireworks show at a time. It’s another to look out and see them all along the horizon. It’s unifying, appropriately enough.

We’d only been there a few minutes when the seaside display started. The next ridge of hills blocked the lower fireworks, but we could see most of them above the hill — without the deafening booms and smoke. The wind was blowing inland off the ocean, a smoke plume trailing sideways. As the finale hit, someone nearby set off their own unsanctioned display, to considerable applause.

After it was all over, we stayed for a few minutes, looking out at the more distant displays still going, then walked down the hill to the car and drove home.

The faint boom-boom-boom continued for hours, punctuated every 15-20 minutes by some closer pop! or shriek as someone set something off nearby. Sometime around midnight, it finally tapered off enough that I drifted off to sleep.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

The FCC wants to abolish “net neutrality”, which states that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to.

In short: Your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

ISPs are people’s and businesses’ gateway to the internet. They shouldn’t also be gatekeepers. Net Neutrality protects free speech, communication, and economic activity that could otherwise be limited or adjusted to push a carrier’s own agenda at the expense of alternate views, create barriers to competition and innovation, and further entrench existing monopolies. The internet works best when it’s allowed to innovate at the edges, rather than locking us all into a near-monopoly’s choices.

This isn’t a hypothetical problem: ISPs have violated net neutrality in the past. ISPs have intercepted search queries and redirected them to their own portals. AT&T once forced Apple to block Skype on the iPhone. Verizon used to block tethering apps. Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

We fought this battle years ago. And now we have to fight it again. The FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality doesn’t help subscribers, doesn’t help businesses, doesn’t help startups, doesn’t help publishers, doesn’t help you — doesn’t help anyone except the existing carriers and those they might decide to prop up.

I sent the third paragraph (minus the link) as a comment to the FCC through this Free Press Action Fund petition. Mozilla also has a petition, and is collecting voicemails to forward to the FCC before the May 18 meeting. So far they’re up to 50 hours’ worth of audio!

UPDATE! On July 12, 2017, the internet will come together again. Like the SOPA blackout in 2012, and the Internet Slowdown in 2014, everyone from tech companies to small websites to individuals will sound the alarm. Learn more and join the protest at the Battle for the Net.

Predictive Frameshift

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night the last few months. It links human cruelty, psychopathy, and mob behavior to the nature of consciousness, mostly focusing on the main characters but playing out against a global crisis brought on by a rising tide of xenophobia.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about Frameshift. His 1997 novel deals with (among other things) eugenics, Neanderthals, Nazis, and health insurance companies doing everything they can to avoid covering people with pre-existing conditions.

I can’t imagine why that keeps coming to mind….