Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Friday, December 02, 2016

How I Escaped Going To Prison

Last Spring, I was filling in for a colleague who had been tutoring some high school students in mathematics. My colleague and his wife were spending a month in California when their daughter was giving birth to a new baby. And so I was filling in for him two afternoons a week in Cary Memorial Library in Lexington MA, working with a pair of high school students who were struggling with Algebra and Calculus.

As is my custom, I typically selected one of my math-motif sweatshirts for the occasion.  Like this one:

I Ate Some Pie

As I was coming out of Cary Library late one afternoon, I was accosted by a stranger who asked me to explain the curious mathematical symbols on my sweatshirt. That pedestrian turned out to be a rather gregarious chap named Rob Kanzer who then befriended me and also invited me to come as his guest to a meeting of Lexington Toastmasters.

And so begins my saga of how I avoided going to prison.

Toastmasters is a club where the members learn and practice the art of public speaking. The club has a highly structured meeting format, where the participants take turns in a variety of roles, all of which involve some aspect of speaking in front of a group.

I do a lot of writing (mostly on the Internet), but I rarely do public speaking. It's not exactly a skill that I need or use as a retired science educator. But it occurred to me that I could use some practice learning to become a better listener, and so I agreed to join Lexington Toastmasters for that purpose.

And this is where I took the road less traveled in the annals of Toastmasters. I only joined the local chapter, declining to join Toastmasters International, as their course in public speaking frankly did not interest me.

All was well for the first six months until there was a change in leadership. The person who had previously been the site's WebMaster became the new Sergeant at Arms, and so I was asked to take on the vacated role of WebMaster.  So far so good.

Since I had only paid up my local dues (and not the portion of the semi-annual dues that normally goes to Toastmasters International), the new Vice President of Membership soon raised a red flag. One seemingly minor detail was that, as WebMaster, I was logging into the web site without being an authorized member in the eyes of Toastmasters International (which provided the servers for the web site).

Joining Toastmasters International (TMI) included a lot more than just paying the portion of dues that goes to TMI. Originally, Toastmasters began a century ago at a midwestern YMCA, to help inarticulate male adolescents learn to become better speakers. I had remarked that the course in public speaking was uncommonly regimented, but this off-putting feature turned out to be a holdover from the educational model the founder, Ralph C. Smedley, had developed a century ago for his demographic of inarticulate adolescents at the local YMCA in Bloomington Illinois.

Indeed, the whole structure of Toastmasters International was similarly regimented, with features that reminded me of Middle School and Boy Scouts. For the life of me, I didn't apprehend why these anachronistic features belonged in Lexington Toastmasters, which is largely comprised of urbane well-educated adult professionals and retirees. To me, these features felt inappropriate, unconstructive, and downright infantilizing.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is CFAA, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a Federal Felony to log into a web site without express authorization from the web site owner. Aaron Swartz, a gifted scholar at Harvard, was indicted under CFAA and threatened with 35 years in prison for accessing an archive of academic articles at MIT. He committed suicide rather than face trial at the hands of the US Attorney.

Now I frankly don't expect to be indicted by the US Attorney if I cavalierly log on to the Toastmasters web site in violation of the CFAA. But I'd still be in technical violation of CFAA, and that really is a Federal Felony. While I would not compare my story to the life and tragic death of Aaron Swartz, yet it was his technical violation with CFAA that disrupted the collegiality and congeniality of MIT and ultimately cost him his life.

And so, thanks to the long and violent arm of the Rule of Law, I found that I was obliged to part company with Lexington Toastmasters.

And that's how I escaped the terrifying spectre of going to prison.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Snot Hurled 'Round the World

The American Revolutionary War began with "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" which took place in historic Lexington Massachusetts.

During the last two weeks of August, the Lexington Police issued 41 traffic citations to motorists confused by a new one-way traffic pattern on Harrington Road along the north side of the Lexington Battle Green.

On Monday, October 24th, I appeared before Clerk-Magistrate, Ann Colicchio in Concord District Court to contest the citation issued to me back on August 18th by Sgt. Timothy J. Barry of the Lexington Police.

I barely got about 2 minutes into my story before the Clerk-Magistrate, Ann Colicchio, when she abruptly dismissed the citation without explanation.

I'm guessing I was not the first person to contest it, as the Clerk-Magistrate seemed to have a very quick grasp of the scene, and she was impressed that I came well-prepared with photos and diagrams.

Find the details of my story here:

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

You've Got a Friend

Title: You've Got a Friend
Artist: Yutiel
Composer: Carole King and Yutiel Yoshi Associates
YouTube: You've Got A Friend ~ Carole King

When you're confused and troubled
and you need someone who'll care,
and no one, no one seems to be right,
come on here and think of me,
and soon I will be there
to let you smile even in darkest night.

So just write down my name
And you know wherever I am
I will answer as soon as I can
in middle of the night or on day
I listen till you'll be okay
And I'll be there
You've got a friend.

And the world around us
grows darker every day
and you still can't tell me all what you feel
keep your head together, I will not go away
I struggle to grasp your emotion-wheel.

Now, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them,
Oh, but don't you let them.

So just write down my name
And you know wherever I am
I will answer as soon as I can
in middle of the night or on day
I listen till you'll be okay
And I'll be there
You've got a friend.

You've got a friend
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?

Oh yeah, now
Oh, you've got a friend
Yeah, baby
You've got a friend
Oh yeah...
You've got a friend .

CopyClef 2016 Carole King and Yutiel Yoshi Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All songs reused.

You've Got A Friend ~ Carole King

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Let It Seethe

Title: Let It Seethe
Artist: Mokita Syzygy
Composer: Paul McCartney and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Let It Be ~ Paul McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble
Toxic Testy comes at me
Spewing words of venom, let it seethe.
And in my hour of darkness
She is slandering effrontery
Spewing words of venom, let it seethe.
Let it seethe, let it seethe.
Hollow words of wounding, let it seethe.

And when the broken-hearted people
Hiding in dark caves agree,
There will be disaster, can't you see?
For though they may be griefers, there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Uru buddies comfort me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

CopyClef 2016 Paul McCartney and Barsoom Tork Associates
Resurrection Hackware.  All songs reused.

"At Resurrection Hackware, our atrocious song parodies are your existential nightmare."

Let It Be ~ Paul McCartney

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cyan D'ni Cave

Title: Cyan D'ni Cave
Artist: Uru Cavern Dwellers
Composer: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Yellow Submarine ~ The Beatles

In the deserts of the West
Sat a van that looked bereft
Zandi told us of a quest
In the caves beneath a Cleft

So we bounded toward the edge
Past a whark's dried bony grave
Til we jumped a narrow ledge
Toward our Cyan D'ni Cave

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave
We all explore in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

And our friends are all aGoG
Plus a few of them
Fell through the floor
As UruTunes begins to play ...

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave
We all explore in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

(Full run ahead Mr. Sharper
Full run ahead
Great quest ahead it is, Explorer.
Up the stairs, Up the stairs
Shorah Friend, Shorah
Explore, explore)

As we seek the Grower's Tree
Obsessed with Relto Donut crave
Bahro Stones amid debris
In our Cyan D'n Cave

We all chat in a Cyan Aegura
Cyan Aegura, Cyan Aegura
We all chat in a Cyan Aegura
Cyan Aegura, Cyan Aegura

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

CopyClef 2016 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Restoration Hackware, all songs reused.

"At Restoration Hackware, our silly song parodies are your everlasting earworm."

Yellow Submarine ~ The Beatles

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Abominable Constable

Drama Review: The Abominable Constable

The Abominable Constable is a farcical mystery about a ham-fisted enforcer of pointless regulations.

As mysteries go, there is no way to spoil this one, as it is laughably rotten from the gitgo.

The title role is played by the inestimable Testy of Toyaanisqatsi, who sternly (if not gleefully) bullies wayward miscreants who run afoul of her rancid regulations.

The drama takes a bizarre turn when Testy encounters her inevitable antagonist, a curious character named Barsoom who styles himself as an Anthropologist from Mars.  Barsoom, it appears, is in the habit of studying Earth Culture, with special emphasis on its legendary dysfunctionality.

Barsoom, being an intrepid scientist, impishly inquires into Testy's inscrutable method of hypothesis testing, knowing full well that she lacks one.  Predictably, Testy goes postal and kiboshes Barsoom, skipping such normative niceties as Due Process.

Barsoom, as is his custom, documents the episode in his burgeoning lab notebook, The Hamartian Chronicles.

The mystery, of course, is to figure out Barsoom's diagnosis of Testy's humorless Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Game ReviewToyaanisqatsi

Toyaanisqatsi is a strange puzzle game that is a startling cross between an intriguing Myst-style puzzle game and a violent first-person shooter.

Toyaanisqatsi lures the player in with an enticing invitation to join with like-minded buddies to jointly solve traditional mind-bending puzzles with teamwork and collaboration, sharing discoveries and insights via built-in social network tools like chat and diagrams.

But unbeknownst to the hapless players, there lurks within Toyaanisqatsi a resident non-player antagonist called Testy of Toyaanisqatsi who suddenly rides in with her Tonka Tank and blasts anyone who has the temerity to engage in cooperative and collaborative play with their newfound buddies.

Toyaanisqatsi is an allegory for the Rivenesque divide between two disparate cultures.  On the one hand, there is Cyan World's beloved vision of the Stranger who labors arduously to save the distressed non-player characters whom the active player invariably finds in dire straits.  By contrast, there is the considerably more popular First Person Shooter, where the player is obliged to shoot down the evil monstrous non-player characters or die trying.

In Toyaanisqatsi, the non-player character, Testy, is the resident overlord of her private personal fiefdom who puts the players in a classic double bind, first inviting the players to work together, then abruptly reversing the cordial ambiance of collegiality and congeniality by declaring their mutual cooperation to be verboten. Testy then summarily shoots down any player with the temerity to openly collaborate with other players.

Toyaanisqatsi is a kind of allegorical meta-game about the UnCyantific Police Culture, revealing how that hostile and unbecoming culture systematically spoils the pleasure of collaborative learning and collaborative problem-solving.

 In short, if you are a Cyantist, I don't recommend playing Toyaanisqatsi.  Enter Testy's toxic world at your own risk.