That Could Have Been Me

Ahmed Mohamed
Ahmed Mohamed

Earlier this week, a 14-year-old high school student was arrested for bringing to school…

Ahmed's clock
Ahmed’s clock

…a homemade digital clock.

Like Ahmed Mohamed, I was into electronics when I was in high school.  I even built a digital clock from a kit when I was a little older than him.  It looked very similar to his clock, except that the display was smaller (it was the 1970s, after all) and I didn’t mount mine in a case.  I also didn’t think to bring it to school, not so much because I feared my teachers might consider it dangerous, but because I didn’t think it was that interesting.  It was, after all, just a clock, and it wouldn’t do anything unless plugged in.

But I did build my own baby computer, and I did bring that to school.  Computers weren’t quite ordinary consumer products in the late 1970s, and I couldn’t imagine asking my parents to buy me one.  So I set about building one for myself.

My little machine had a Z80 processor and 256 bytes of memory.  It had a panel with lights that flashed; I could hook up a speaker and make buzzing noises.  It fit comfortably in a shoe box, but it looked way creepier than Ahmed’s clock.  My physics teacher was interested, but didn’t say much.  None of the other teachers noticed.  Certainly, nobody thought it was anything nefarious.  (And my real reason for bringing to school was so that I could tinker with it at lunchtime and show my friends.)

Later, on graduation day, I won a $200 prize for experimental physics. It was a total surprise: my only clue was the day before, during the graduation rehearsal, when I was told to sit in the corner of the auditorium reserved for the prize winners.  I spent the money on more computer parts.

Ahmed, alas, wasn’t so lucky.  He was arrested on the suspicion that the clock was a ‘hoax bomb.’  OK, perhaps it is: if you were making a movie and looking for a bomb prop, Ahmed’s clock would be a plausible candidate.  And yes, it could probably configured to function as a timer for a real bomb.

But if it’s a timer you want, there are far cheaper and simpler alternatives out there.  And if the thought was that the clock was meant to perpetrate a disturbance, the simplest way to deal with that is to deny the disturbance: confiscate the clock until the end of the day, and return it with a stern warning.

And yes, Ahmed is a Moslem.  While I’m fully aware of the dangers of Islamic extremists, some judgement is still needed: sometimes a clock is just a clock.  I’ll take the school and police authorities at their word: if Ahmed had been some other color, the events would probably have unfolded the same way.  There are, after all, evil Tea Party types out there who believe in the (gasp!) Constitution.

Have we gotten so thoroughly stupid that we can’t recognize a smart kid who likes to build stuff?

Done and out….

And it was a  brutal  brutal experience.

I was still throwing garbage and other items out (and taking them to storage) up until the time I was supposed to be out.

It was a shame — there was furniture that I could not sell or give away — it wound up being carted away by theDPW (and did I get a dirty look from them when they showed up). I did manage to give away the sofa and loveseat; some guy and his wife came and took it away in a truck.

For now I am in a hotel because I could not find an apartment that will accept a dog!  This is 2015 and this kind of entality still exists.  There is the next dog friendly town about 3 miles from here but the rents are much too high for me.

I have to chase Bro in court for the damages; I am awaiting his address (the law firm that did the closing has his address) so I can get the proceedings underway.

The final tally for back property taxes was ab out $9200.

if I had to do it all over again: Sell this house outright — and hired another realtor. The one I had wasn’t all thqat great — she was the one who told me to “Sell everything you have and b e ready to move out after Labor Day” and suggested I give away my dog, to get rooms faster.

This was a suck azz and rotten experience and I felt like I got treated like a common criminal.  (Yeah, this from the person who sent me the wrong info in the email and did not proofread it before she hit send. Lots to b e desired.  Not quality help)

Bro was 90 minutes late for the closing — he called and told them he was delayed somewhere. 3pm is 3pm and you are to BE THERE.

My goal right now is to find a permanent place to live. What I have seen so far are dumps and the landlord wants a fortune for these crappy rooms. I may have to look into the shore area or something further out.

That damage money was supposed to be held in escrow. that did not happen in the end and I am still pretty pissed.  Then again , I am wondering if the escrow withhold would have worked in my  favor abnd accomplished what I wanted “faster.”

(and I think this atty is po’d that I did not hire him for my next endeavor. Another long story and I did not get what I paid for this go round)

Syrian Flim-Flam

The world has been transfixed by the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees streaming through Greece and Turkey, into Hungary, seeking refuge in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia.  For a time, thousands of them were effectively detained at the Budapest railway station, but the Hungarian authorities relented and let them continue on.  Germany has indicated that they are prepared to take one million refugees; Austria has already taken tens of thousands.

Many of the refugees are from Syria.  Some may be from other places, and some may even be Islamic terrorists: we can’t really tell, and the refugees themselves know that they can simply ditch whatever identification they may be carrying and tell the authorities whatever they want.  But let’s go back to Syria for a moment.

About two years ago, we almost went to war over the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.  But two years before that, we were pretty much OK with Syria.  And then something happened—well before the chemical weapon attack—that turned him into an adversary.  And we felt the need to arm the ‘Syrian rebels’ to fight the government, in the process building what we now know as ISIS, a de facto fundamentalist Islamic government in control of big pieces of Iraq and Syria.

Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, is a dictatorial strongman, but he was running a secular, moderate government.  When fundamentalist Islamic fighters appeared, proclaiming themselves to be fighting for freedom and democracy, Assad counterattacked.  He knew, as we should, that an election with fundamentalist Islamists is like an election with Communists: if they win, it will be the last meaningful election for quite some time.

But we bought the Islamists’ line and supported the ‘Syrian rebels.’  Our leadership was flim-flammed.  (Either that, or they actually want the world to be taken over by a new Islamic caliphate.  But that’s an issue for another day.)

In writing this post, I dug up a quote from the then-National Security Adviser, Susan Rice in the abortive 2013 runup to war:

…in the first instance, Assad and his backers in Iran and Hezbollah, do not have any interest in seeing this escalate…

And the next day, we came to understand that Assad’s main backer was not Iran or Hezbollah, but Vladimir Putin.  Oops.

In the meantime, we have hundreds of thousands of refugees piling into Europe.  Many are Christians, and many are Moslems.  Remember that fundamentalist Christianity admits that not everyone is a fundamentalist, and indeed that not everyone is Christian.  Fundamentalist Islam makes no such concession: anyone who isn’t a true believer is to be forcibly converted, taxed, or killed.

The Germans seem to believe that many of these million refugees can be integrated into the labor force to address chronic labor shortages resulting from, among other things, Germany’s low birth rate.  I hope, for their sake, that they’re right.