The Silicon Boom in Unabomb Valley – A Novel by Christopher Damitio

The Silicon Boom in Unabomb Valley

or 

Riding Unicorns to Civilizations End

 

A novel of tech, startups, unabombers, dog-shit, and romance.

by 

Christopher Damitio

5/20/2019: This is my favorite of the novels I’ve written (so far). I feel like it incorporates so much that the world needs to know. This novel was written late in 2019 before I wrote A Very Good Novel (Coronavirus) or rewrote The Keys to the Riad. I wrote this novel in a pre-COVID-19 world.  This is the first time it has been published anywhere. I recognize that I’m giving away the cows and no one will want to buy the milk by putting my novels online, but as a writer I have two motivations that drive me. First, to create new worlds and second to share them. Money is a priority that appears far down the list – and when I look at the world we live in – making serious money from writing I enjoy seems about as likely as – well, it seems less likely than the events of this novel. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

 Name Recognition

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

One of the first lessons anyone in the Silicon Valley learns is that it doesn’t so much matter what you know or what you can do – it’s all about who you know and what they can do. Theo had everything going for him – he knew people, he’d gone to school at UC Berkley, he could do stuff, he understood programming, computers, protocols and algorithms – the problem was that everyone knew his name.

Name recognition, it’s one of those things they put a lot of emphasis on in start-ups and MBA programs. Generally it’s considered a good thing to have strong recognition but there are some exceptions. You can have a negative associated with your name or brand that will outweigh all the positive that comes from people recognizing it. You probably wouldn’t get very far if your new clothing company was called Enron or if you were starting a church called ISIS.

Chances are you wouldn’t have the easiest time in the game of life if your name were Hitler, Saddam, or Jeffrey Dahmer either. And if your name was the same as the Unabomber’s – well then you would know what life was like for Theodore Kazinsky. Theo’s life sucked.

April 3, 1996

It was just a few months from graduation and Theo was working on a project with his team in the UC Berkley Student Union. They had been working on a way to let game players take part in a shared online world via Gopher – the plaintext alternative protocol to the World Wide Web that everyone seemed to forget about as soon as Google came along. No one had done that yet. Google still wouldn’t launch for another two years – these were the glory days of dial up modem connections and people thinking that the internet was going to level the playing field and give everyone a chance to live to their fullest potential.

The future was bright and as a particularly gifted student with an interest in population studies, computers, and mathematics – Theo’s future was brighter than most. His team was going to demonstrate that http was a dead end. They were going to show that graphical interfaces could be harnessed to the Gopher network. They were going to demonstrate how seemingly random events could be used to solve impossibly large problems. They were as bright eyed and bushy tailed as well…gophers.

As usual, the television in the background was showing daytime television.

That’s when everything changed. ABC’s breaking news came on – there was no such thing as a smart phone in those days and most people still caught their news from the networks or newspapers. Breaking news was a big deal. These were the shared cultural moments that bound generations together. The OJ Simpson chase, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the start of the Gulf War, and now this:

“Breaking news. Authorities have arrested a man they believe to be the Unabomber in the small town of Lincoln Montana.”

Most of the students dropped what they were doing and gathered around the TV as the newscast unfolded. The Unabomber had been blowing people up for nearly a decade. A few months earlier, the Unabomber had vaulted into the spotlight again by forcing the Washington Post to publish his manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future. Like everyone else, Theo had read it – unlike most other people he had read the entire manifesto – he found it to be both disturbing and compelling – the ramblings of a madman – but not a complete madman. There was enough context in the manifesto that it gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Certainly killing wasn’t the answer – but Theo had the disturbing feeling that the Unabomber might be right about a lot of what he wrote about.

“After 17 years of looking, the FBI thinks they may have finally captured the Unabomber. Late this afternoon, Ted Kaczynski was taken from his backwoods cabin…”

Theo’s heart dropped. One of his team mates laughed and called across the room – “Hey Theo, you’re famous…” No one called him Ted except his grandfather, he was always Theo or Theodore – but it wouldn’t be long before they would be calling the Unabomber by his given name – everyone knew that Ted was short for Theodore. This was going to be much worse than when he’d been teased for sharing a name with one of The Chipmunks in the 6th grade. Alvin, Simon, Theodore Kaczynski – the fucking Unabomber.

“When he came to town, always alone, Kaczynski who did not own a car, rode a bicycle and one of his favorite stops – the library.”

Hey Theo – is that guy related to you?” The question wasn’t a joke. He wasn’t sure who said it, but he was sure that it wasn’t the last time he would hear it. Someone else piped up “I think he used to teach here – I’ve seen his name before…” The answer came from the television.

“He was a ghost for eighteen years, targeting universities and airlines – thus the name UN-A- Bomber. Authorities say that Kaczynski lived in the Salt Lake City area in the 1980s when bombs were sent from there and that in the 1960s he was a professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley in San Francisco, California….”

Another student asked if he was related. Theo knew he should say something – he just didn’t know what to say. “No, no relation. His name is spelled totally different.” That was the best he could get out. He would say it again and again – but it was like trying to stop a flood with a paper towel. He turned down every interview that came – hundreds of them. He began getting phone calls, letters, and email from people who thought he was the Unabomber – not just threats and hatred – but also praise and fan mail. It continued like this through graduation and on for the next two years as the trial progressed. He didn’t have a single job interview where the question wasn’t asked and no one called him back with an offer. His roommate joked that they only gave him the interviews to see if he was the Unabomber. Sometimes he wondered if he should have lied and said he actually was related to the Unabomber. It couldn’t have made things worse. His life was destroyed.

In the year after he graduated, Theo applied to every major tech company in the San Francisco

Bay Area. None of them hired him. He moved into a rent control apartment near Dolores Park – it was all he could afford. He broadened his search to surrounding areas with the same results. Finally, he started wholesale applying to whatever jobs he saw available. He landed jobs as a waiter, a bartender, a dry waller, and a landscaper. The truth was, the only people that would hire him were the people who were non-native English speakers that mispronounced his name or who were so uninformed they didn’t know anything about the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, or that Theodore was shortened to Ted.

He got used to being addressed as Theo Kazinsky (pronounced with sky instead of ski).

Finally, during the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s , people forgot about the Unabomber for a while as they saw the internet and software creating more millionaires than had existed for most of America’s history. Geeks were suddenly in such demand that he was able to land a promising job with an amazing startup based on his ability to work with TCP/IP and networking protocols – but the company – TechPlanet – was one of the first victims of the dot-com bust. His next gig seemed like it could change the world – Flooz was going to change fiat money for digital money, but when crime syndicates began using it to launder money, it failed quickly. The terrorist attacks of 2001 and the wars that followed brought the name problem back to him. No one wanted to hire a guy with a terrorist’s name. He landed one more tech job with another promising company called Friendster – but was laid off when the company turned down an acquisition offer from Google and then had to start tightening budgets.

Through it all, he continued his academic work on GOPHER holes and networking even as the world moved on and forgot the GOPHER protocol existed. His fascination with digital money survived the collapse of Flooz and the idea of building a better social network stayed with him – that was what had brought him to Friendster in the first place. Friendster was fucked from the beginning though – just like all the other companies that were focused on using the world wide web and http protocols. The future was going to be about something else. Theo knew it. He was a genius.

One of the shitty things about being a genius and working for promising startups that fail is that your shares in the company end up being worth nothing – so you always need to find another job.

Theo Kazinsky was a genius. He was a flat fucking broke genius living in a rent controlled apartment who would be 48 in 2020 and had fuck all to show for it. He was an innovative inventor that had been dished a series of particularly shitty breaks in life. He was tired of being a bystander and victim in the game of life.

Chapter 2

Gopher Broke

The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Sometimes it seems like the internet just popped out of DARPA’s vagina and was already a fully grown and mature method for sharing digital information on networks, but that’s not how the internet was born at all. First of all, DARPA probably doesn’t have a vagina and secondly, the internet was created by a huge group of dedicated and enthusiastic nerds who worked tirelessly for decades to be able to swap jokes with their colleagues in different parts of the world without having to pay for a stamp or a long distance call.

People don’t think of scientists using the internet in the 1960s and 1970s (or even the 1980s for that matter) but they were. The scientists from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) created ARPANET and then they gave it to the world. The first packet message transmission took place in the 1960s between UCLA and Stanford. The systems were refined over the next couple of decades but largely remained academic. In the late 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at CERN in Switzerland came up with the hypertext transfer protocols (http) that resulted in the birth of the World Wide Web (www) and what we think of as the modern internet. From 1993 to 2007, 95% of the telecommunications industry migrated to ‘the web’. During that period everything we think of as the internet today (instant messaging, voice over internet protocols, social networking, email) came to life using the ‘http://www’ protocols, but that is only one of many protocols. Sure, it’s the biggest and it’s the one that gets used the most by a long shot – but there are others. JANET, ABILENE, TERENA, INTERNET2 – these were and are – other protocols that run alongside the world wide web. Another one – that is rarely heard about except in the geekiest of circles is GOPHER.

Believe it or not, at one point GOPHER (which I will call Gopher from here on out) was once as well known by the public as www. Magazines and television spoke of it as the future that had come to life. In a way, Gopher was the first organizational tool on the internet. Gopher was simple but revolutionary. It worked by menus – so essentially, what we think of today as a list of links were the menu and every link led to either a different menu, a document, or a file. It was simple and it avoided the needless spam world we have with Google and links. The huge advantage and the huge disadvantage of Gopher over the World Wide Web was that Gopher was a simple text based interface – to put it bluntly – Gopher was stupid. You could link to a picture or video but you couldn’t actually incorporate it into your gopherpage (not a web-page). If you wanted pictures on a gopherpage you had to draw them with text. No HTML, no Flash, no Markup languages. Gopherpages were simple text pages with menus (links). Actually, I should say that Gopherpages ARE because they still exist. So, no photos on the page, no embedded animations, no doo-hickies, no animation based games. Just information. Gopher is lightning fast, won’t crash, and doesn’t require bandwidth beyond a dial-up connection.

The project that Theo and his classmates had been working on allowed multiple users to take part in a connected Gopher world, to interact with one another, and to engage in Dungeons and Dragons type adventures together even when at a distance. It may not sound like much today, but actually, it was revolutionary. What they were working on was among the first MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that used sociology and population dynamics to help player groups to achieve a common goal. The type of game they created was called a MUD or Multi-User Dungeon – a strange fusion of fan fiction, D&D, online chat, and slash games – but one that worked.

MUDS have been around since the mid 1970s but the innovation that Theo and his team were bringing to the table was to integrate the four character types from the Bartle Matrix into a cohesive type of game where users could engage in their desired type of play while still advancing the narrative and assisting their group towards success – and more.

The Bartle Matrix might need a bit more explanation – the designer of one of the first and most successful MUDs was an Englishman named Richard Bartle. Bartle studied the type of gameplay that attracted certain types of players and then divided players using a cross grid with player/world as the X-Axis and acting/interacting as the Y-Axis. This left four types of game players – Killers and Socializers on the player side and Achievers and Explorers on the world side. One of the big problems in organized game play has always been getting these four types to work together towards a common quest. For example, an Achiever can be working towards a big goal and a Killer might start a big fight or feud that halts the progress. Socializers tend to get in the way of both Explorers and Achievers – but since socialization and a killer instinct are both necessary to advance in most group games – the challenge has always been finding a way to get these disparate groups to work together harmoniously towards a common goal.

You will be forgiven if the Bartle Matrix makes you think of real world people – it turns out that the four types of game players can also be translated into the four types of living people.

Achievers tend to be those people who like status and rewards regardless of whether such status and rewards bring them any real benefit. A gamer example would be a person who goes after a boss monster just to get a beautiful helmet that confers no real advantage in the game. Real world versions might have a fancy car they don’t drive or a lake house they never visit. Entrepreneurs and opportunists.

Explorers are those people who like leaving no stone unturned. In games, they like discovering glitches or hidden easter eggs – they might tap every wall of a dungeon to find a hidden door. In real life, explorers tend to be those who like digging into a field of study to a depth that most people simply will never desire to know. In a word – they are the experts. Hackers and scientists.

Socializers are those people who are only in it to form relationships. In the games, they spend more time talking to other players and non-player characters than actually playing the game. In real life, they like to chat, they like to sit around the water cooler, they want to spend time building relationship. In both real life and in games, they are drawn to achievers because achievers love to be praised and noticed and the socializers love to be able to socialize – even if it’s just praising an achiever. Networkers and social workers.

Killers are those people who take competition to a level where the only thing that matters is winning. In game play they are fighters, builders, and destroyers. In the real world, they are narcissists, empire builders, criminals, and bullies. Of course, there are degrees in all of these so a killer might be a successful business person who always looks for the right advantages, but the bottom line is that killers are in it to win it – no matter the cost. Politicians and criminals.

While it can be argued that all four types are necessary to build human civilization or to achieve game play goals, the big problem is that there is rarely balance in groups – they would be heavily weighted towards one extreme or another.

So, what Theo and his team were working on was a MUD that sorted players by their type and then diverted them to tasks that helped the entire team to achieve their goal – but they’d actually started to go further than that, they were looking at the meta of the entire game and had engineered a way to do something much more complex – they were using players who thought they were working towards selfish goals to bring the team closer to a selfless goal – and at the same time they were using teams and groups who thought they were working towards a selfish group goal and setting them towards a selfless meta goal – so multiple teams who assumed they were working towards disparate goals were actually working towards a unified goal, but the true brilliance of the system was that the meta goal could be programmed into the game itself, which would then create individual team quests to solve a common goal that the players were never even aware of.

If that doesn’t make perfect sense, here’s an example – Raven and his party are given a quest to go fight a troll who is snatching children from a village and recover a treasure item that will provide some benefit to their group. At the same time Lightbearer and her group are tasked with exploring a mountain cave complex which requires some theft/dexterity and a bit of fighting as well as some simple spell casting. A half dozen other groups are given similar tasks based on the matrix position of the group members. As each task is unfolding, the movements, decisions, and actions of all the groups are analyzed and recorded by a mainframe that is using these seemingly random actions to crunch huge mathematical problems. The bizarre part was that there was no logical reason anyone on Theo’s team could come up with for why this should work. So regardless of the outcome of Raven and Lightbearer’s quests – at the end of the session – the MUD would spit out the most likely scenario for a pandemic emergent in a small Bangladeshi mountain region to be controlled with the most expedient methods and the smallest team – for example.

As the most talented math genius on his team, it fell on Theo to develop a theory for why it was happening, how it was happening, and show how this power could be harnessed. The problem was that the whole Unabomber scenario unhinged him, disconnected him from everyone, and created a subtle distance between Theo and the other MUD Gophers. Nobody wanted to be published on the same paper with Ted Kazinski. Especially not in the late 1990s.

By the time that his name had become less of a bomb, the dot com bubble was exploding and no one was interested in MUDs, Gopher, or anything other than the World Wide Web. And now you know what set Theo on the path towards being that rare breed of Silicon Valley tech genius approaching fifty without enough money to buy a decent car.

Chapter 3

Breaking the Bonds

The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their communities. Beyond that, a technological society HAS TO weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal loyalties of small-scale communities were stronger than loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Theo hadn’t talked to his family in years. They had no interest in him – and as a result, he had decided to have no interest in them. For years he had sent birthday cards, Christmas cards, sent small ‘thinking of you’ gifts, and tried to be conscientious about calling just to say hi once in a while. Then, one day, he realized he was the only one doing these things. His siblings never called, his nieces and nephews never sent cards, his parents were busy with social clubs, volunteer work, and figuring out how to structure their retirement.

At first, he thought he must be mistaken. So, being an analytical sort of person, he decided to run an experiment. He would let them make the next move. He would play a game of tit-for-tat relationship building. If they called him, he would owe them a call. If they sent a letter, he would send a letter. He would start out with being the bigger man though, just in case his own clouds of vision were causing him to attribute a better starting score than he deserved.

So, one day in 2015, Theo called every one of his relatives. He already knew that he had been the only one sending any sort of mail since the turn of the century – but he thought he must be mistaken about the phone calls. Surely someone had called. The only fair way to run the experiment was to start with a clean slate and him making the first move.

Most of his extended family let it run to voicemail. He left a nice message with his name and number, told them that he was thinking of them and he would love to have a chat to catch up. His mom answered the phone and said that she and his father were about to sit down and watch Star Trek – so it wasn’t a good time. His brother answered and then proceeded to list his life’s woes without bothering to ask “How are you?” and his sister told him that she needed to take her kids to a soccer game and would call him back. That was it. It wasn’t a huge investment of his time. All told it took him about forty minutes.

He created a spreadsheet and put each family member with the date he had called and a space for when they called him back. Four years later there were no new entries. No one had called him back, not even his parents.

Whether through a sick sense of perversion or a genuine curiosity, after a year of not hearing back from his family – he decided to run the same experiment on his old school friends, the people who were no longer in his day to day life – and sadly it was with the same result. It wouldn’t quite be accurate to say that Theo had expected the result – in fact, he had hoped that he was wrong when he realized that all of his relationships were one way – but the data spoke for itself. No one gave a shit about him.

There was one moment in 2017 when he thought that his entire experiment might have been flawed. Theo had a Facebook account but generally he didn’t use it – he didn’t like the idea of his mental energy being directed by an algorithm. He had created it at the dawn of Facebook, a former Berkley classmate had invited him to the platform back when the platform was invite only. He’d used it for a few months but then gone back to his gopherlog and generally forgotten about it.

In 2017, he logged in and saw that he had scores of old birthday greetings and messages from family and friends. He was genuinely touched until he remembered that he had put a fake birthday in when he signed up – and he recognized that the majority of birthday wishes were automated messages coming from bots his ‘friends’ had set up to not miss a birthday. His phone number was available on his profile but no one had called. His results stood. No one gave a shit about Theo.

Don’t misunderstand though, Theo wasn’t some kind of misanthrope – he wanted warm relationships but he couldn’t understand why other people didn’t seem to understand that there has to be a back and forth – not so much a quid-pro-quo, not a give and take – but more of a both sides giving situation. The taking didn’t really matter – the most important thing was that both sides gave and continued to give. The giving of time, energy, interest, and action. If it didn’t happen, then the relationship was a sham based on a sense of responsibility instead of a sense of desire.

Theo wanted to care about people – but there was something in him that would stop caring as soon as he realized the other person wasn’t willing to give for no reason other than giving. So, in that sense, he was as guilty as everyone else – but to his credit – he was at least the last one to give in his relationships. He had working relationships, casual friendships, and a whole string of romantic relationships – but they all sort of ended the same way. He would call, they wouldn’t call back, and then he wouldn’t call back and they just sort of disappeared. In some cases, the women he was involved with would call back after some sort of invisible deadline he had set and then the relationship would just sort of fade away. Without him willing to give, the women would invariably look for someone else to give them that energy. Theo wasn’t interested in being a unidirectional beacon of love.

Women found him attractive. They were drawn to him. He was average height at about 5’11” , a bit of a thick build – muscular without being fat or jocky, a full head of black hair that was starting to get a touch of grey, and had a quick smile and flirty wit. He didn’t attract the sugar babies because they could smell that he was nearly destitute, but he attracted the smart, serious girls – the ones that were on flag team or in the band instead of being cheerleaders. Good looking geek girls loved Theo.

He was the opposite of an incel (involuntarily celibate). Theo was inlaid (involuntarily getting laid). The involuntary-celibacy movement was something that never made any sense to him. He figured that what they really should have called themselves was selfish-pretending-in-giving movement (SPIGS). Spigs acted like they wanted to give everything to their mates, but from what Theo had seen, most of them only wanted to take away freedom, initiative, desire, movement, and money from the mates they claimed spurned them. Spigs came in both sexes and all genders.

No, the reason Theo wasn’t in a relationship was because he needed someone who played the game of “I can love you more than you can love me” and played it to win – because that was how he played. Also – and this had been a problem in several of his past relationships – he didn’t feel like it was fair to bring any child into the world unless the world was fixed – and that didn’t look like it would be happening any time soon. Any potential parenting partner had to be a world change warrior – like him.

He’d tried dating a couple of single moms (and even a married one) but while they were far better at the love more than you can game – the problem with them was that when it came time for Theo to spend time with their kids, he would ask disturbing questions that led the children (potentially but not every time – just that one time) to dark contemplations that most mom’s didn’t want their children subjected to.

The time in question, he had posed a version of the railroad worker problem to a bright eight-year-old. It goes like this:

You are standing at the switch for a train track. If you don’t switch the track – the train is going to kill a pregnant woman. If you switch the track, it’s going to kill three men working on the other track.

The kid had been incredibly interested in the problem and they worked through all the scenarios with some changes – what if you knew one of the men? What if you knew the baby would grow up to be a murderer? What if you did nothing? If you did nothing, would that make you guilty?

What Theo hadn’t expected was that the eight year old would get on the internet and as a result become the youngest nihlist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’d apparently told his third grade teacher something like “We’re all murderers and it doesn’t matter. Killing should be legal.” None of that had been Theo’s intention, but it was after that incident that his rather promising relationship with the kid’s mother had faded away.

The kid obviously had much more thinking to do because he’d already missed the point – killing is already legal, but it’s all how you justify it. Are you looking at long term effects or only short term violent murder? Are you looking at the death penalty or warfare? The point of the question was to get him to think about the fact that there are no really good choices and if you dig deep enough there is always a reason why every decision can’t be made. Theo realized he’d gone too far with the boy though. He should have let the kid be happy when he saved the young mother. That may well have led to a happy relationship with the boy’s young mother – but probably not, something else would surely have come up. There are no good choices. Consequences no matter what path you take.

Chapter 4

Change Comes From Within

If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend,

then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Everything about the year coming, the year 2020 made Theo want to change. There was something magical about the number, the repeat, the double meaning of perfect vision, and that fact that generally his life just wasn’t very good. He wasn’t sure how to change but he figured a good start would be to quit doing drudge work. He’d been doing coding for the highest bidder, working as a handyman, and even driving Uber and Lyft to make ends meet. The only thing worse than driving a crappy car is driving other, better off, younger people around in your crappy car.

He wasn’t envious or jealous – or not really – but maybe a little bit. Mostly he was just curious how the world had changed so much around him while his life had seemingly not changed very much at all. San Francisco had become an insane place to live with the divide between the haves and have nots reaching some middle-ages level bullshit. There were people who slept on the street, shit on the street, ate garbage, and died on the street – and walking among them day in and day out were super ultra-rich. Billionaires and beggars.

Theo had been pushing people away for so long that it had become his long term trend. Every year, more isolation, and less friendship. It was one of the things he decided to change as 2020 drew near. He began reaching out to people and accepting invitations.

While doing handyman work for a young hipster couple with an ungodly amount of money, Theo had struck up a friendship – not the kind of friendship where you hang out every day, but the kind where you sometimes get together, have lunch, and look out for each other. Mark and Priscilla were pretty normal – except for the security and the billions of dollars. Theo had a theory that the only reason they had taken an interest in him was because he wasn’t interested in Facebook. They didn’t give him the security code or anything – besides, it didn’t work like that – a series of gates and guards and door keepers kept everyone but who they wanted in – out. And yes, I’m saying that Mark Zuckerburg and his wife Priscilla Chan were friends with a guy who shared his name with the Unabomber.

Mark went out of his way not to offer Theo opportunities – he didn’t want to spoil what was one of the only high level acquaintance friendships the universe allowed him to have. He’d simply call Theo up and say “Priscilla is cooking up some lunch and we’ve got a couple of things we need fixed around the house…are you interested in making a little money and having lunch with us?” Theo always said yes. First of all because he needed the money, second because Priscilla was a fucking amazing cook, and finally because he didn’t have that many high level acquaintance/friends himself.

Theo, for his part, went out of his way not to talk to Zuck about social networks or coding or anything technical. He figured they already knew his story, they had teams of people who ran background on everyone they came in contact with – but he didn’t want to change the dynamic. It was casual and friendly and somewhat lucrative as they usually paid around $125/hour for his handywork. About double what others were willing to pay him.

Generally, he’d come in and Mark would walk him around, show him the work he wanted done. They might talk about some movie or TV show, maybe a popular song or something not about Facebook that was in the news – and then Priscilla would call them to lunch like some perfect 1950s TV housewife. It was a bizarre form of play-acting, but on some level, they were all into it.

It was at one of these casual lunches, sitting on the floor in one the Zuckerbergs ‘guest cabanas’ (which were about six times the size of Theo’s apartment) that Priscilla, still wearing the pink apron she’d been cooking in, dropped a bomb and changed the dynamics of everything.

Hey Theo. I want you to meet a friend of mine. Can I set you up on a blind date?”

Theo wasn’t really sure what to say, so he said nothing. Zuck wasn’t so shy.

Priscilla, that’s highly inappropriate. If he wanted help meeting someone he’d probably say something or look elsewhere, as friends, I don’t think we should overstep our bounds…”

Priscilla just looked at him with scorn. “Oh shut up Mark. You don’t know anything about relationships, men, women, or people.” Theo thought it was a strange thing to say to a guy who was successfully manipulating about 1/3 of the human species. “What do you say Theo? Her name’s Adell..”

He liked the name. He didn’t think he’d ever met someone named Adell. He wasn’t sure why.

I’m a really simple guy Priscilla, I live in a rent control apartment and drive a 96 Jetta…” It was a lie, not about the car or the apartment but about the being simple. There was nothing simple about Theo.

Oh, that’s okay, Adell isn’t rich or anything – I mean, not that there is anything wrong with being rich, I mean we like it – oh shit, that all came out wrong. I mean, she’s mostly a normal person – but interesting and when I told her about you, it was actually her idea to meet you…”

Wait a minute? Why in the world were you telling her about me?” Theo had a feeling he knew where this was going. A bad feeling. He’d met serial killer stalkers before – they just wanted to say they had met so and so – no matter if it was a lie. He didn’t want to get too offended about it but he felt like he needed to say something before it got out of hand “If this is about my name…”

Mark wanted to nip this in the bud “Priscilla, I told you this was…” but she just interrupted him.

No, it isn’t about you at all. It’s not about your name, it’s about hers. You guys just have to meet. I don’t want to tell you more, but you have to meet her. She’s super cute, smart, and funny…seriously.”

Theo looked at her, then looked at Mark and then shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of ‘Why not?” Priscilla jumped up and grabbed him in a hug. I knew you’d say yes. I didn’t want to push, but I knew you would. I’ll set everything up now. This is going to be so great. I just know you two are made for each other. It’s perfect. Trust me you are never going to regret this.”

The change in dynamic sort of made it okay for Theo to later drop a bomb of his own – it was a bit of a violation of the rules they had all been playing by. He would wait until after the date – assuming they invited him again afterwards – and then he was going to dig into Zuck’s brain. He had an idea that could change the world.

You’re never going to regret this” – it’s not usually a phrase that bodes well for the future. It usually means you’ve just invested in a dying company, bought a dying car, made a loan that will never be paid back, or made some other huge mistake in life. What would it mean with Adell?

Chapter 5

The Fuhrer and the Unabomber Walk Into a Taqueria

Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it,

so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Priscilla set everything up. They met at a low-key taqueria in San Mateo. The kind with plastic school chairs and no windows – just concrete walls that had obviously once been someone’s garage. It was Theo’s kind of place and he wondered if Adell had picked it. He wasn’t naturally negative but had developed a pessimistic defense mechanism that kept him from putting his hopes too high. As he wandered in and sat down, he wondered what was wrong with her. Was she a midget? That wouldn’t really bother him. Disfigured – not ideal, but personality and temperament were more of his thing. Above all he hoped she wasn’t one of those vacuous non-stop talkers who the valley was filled with.

Most likely, she had a couple of kids and a decent job but had found that despite the equality rhetoric that Silicon Valley loved to spew on the media, that the big earners didn’t want their wives working and didn’t want to spend their time or money on someone else’s children. Theo actually was the opposite of that – he was a low earner and favored the idea of rearing someone else’s children. He didn’t like the idea of bringing his own children into a world that functioned like ours.

He looked around the taqueria and at the grade school next door where parents were waiting to pick up their kids. Even when they were sitting with other people, every customer either had their phone in their hand or sitting next to them. They would glance down at the phones on the tables as they had conversations or more blatantly hold the phones up blocking their companions from their vision. These weren’t wealthy valley types either – these were working people – black, white, latino, but in general people who looked like they were either on a break from a blue collar job or had a day off from working at a grocery store. It was worse with the wealthy.

The parents waiting for their kids all stood at the fence looking at their phones. No one talked to anyone else over there. He saw two women greet each other, chat for about a minute and then both of them went back to their devices, leaning on the fences.

He was ten minutes early. He was always ten minutes early. He’d considered this problem in the past – his being early problem. As far as he could tell, there was no solution. Theo didn’t like waiting for people and yet, because of his early problem, he was always waiting for people. Usually, with most people – despite having supercomputers that could accurately forecast traffic and remind them of appointments 24 hours a day – they arrived late and as a result, Theo waited longer than just the 10-minutes. He’d tried arriving just on time before so that he was only waiting for however much they were late by, but it caused him stress because he couldn’t stop thinking that maybe they had arrived early and were annoyed (as he became) waiting for him. His ‘arrive just on time’ experiment had been a bit of a sham because it usually meant he arrived ten minutes early, waited in his car or around the corner, and then strolled in just on time. So he was still waiting. Theo considered a 10-minute wait a small sacrifice if it meant keeping another person (presumably one who he liked and respected or needed enough to be meeting with) from wasting their time. The problem was the same as in his relationships – the scenario only worked if all parties practiced it or if one party didn’t mind being the martyr. Theo hated martyrs and didn’t want to be one. He was an unwilling participant in the solo waiting game – but there was no way out of it.

Three minutes into his ten-minute-early-wait, he spotted an oddball milf leaning against the fence. Yes, mentally he described her as a milf – or ‘mom I’d like to fuck’ – he didn’t mean to objectify her but it was such a convenient term that he mentally used it all the time – even though he never said it out loud. She was the only one without a phone in her hand. Pink loose fitting t-shirt, mom jeans, pink Doc Martin boots, and a bag that looked like it was probably more expensive than the rest of her clothes – but had been around far longer. The oddball part of the milf in question was the way she was looking out at the school buildings, waiting for the kids to come marching out and be loaded into mini-vans that would take them to viola, soccer, jiu-jitsu, or coding lessons – she was actually watching and sort of smiling to herself. Not so odd, really, but what stood out was that she didn’t have a phone tucked in her back pocket or in her hand. She wasn’t half in the world and half in the phone – she was totally in the world. He noticed that she had a couple of tattoos on her forearms – from thirty feet away he could make out the dark blue ink but not the designs. Her hair was the kind of blonde that doesn’t come from a bottle, straight and cut off around neck length. Brushed back as if she had been doing something else and had to move it out of her face. She looked to be reasonably fit – like most moms in the valley. Probably zumba’d every morning before the kids got up and did yoga at mid-day during the lunch break she didn’t eat at. He couldn’t quite decide what kind of work she did – he played this game a lot and was usually pretty quick to come up with a profession. Accountant, coder, human-resources, teacher, fitness expert, lawyer, stay at home mom, – none of the usual labels fit her.

He looked down at his watch. Five minutes left to wait. His own phone was a clamshell Motorola Razr. Not the new ones, one of the old ones – the same one he’d had for a decade. It still worked. He didn’t get all the bells and whistles of a smart phone but it texted and it called and it told him what time and day it was. He could even use the internet if he really needed to – but not efficiently enough to make him a net-junkie. So when I say he looked at his watch to see the time, I mean he looked at a plain old Seiko Automatic watch and when he looked back up – there she was standing in front of him. The pink shirted hottie moved fast.

Her pink t-shirt and Doc Martin boots suddenly made more sense. He still couldn’t figure out what she did for work or what her story was. It crossed his mind that she might be Adell. Priscilla and Mark hadn’t shown him a picture or any details – nothing. Just a time and place for him to meet her. She smiled at him – blue eyes, Nordic features, probably in her mid to late-thirties. Theo felt guilty for having described her as a milf, especially when he realized that yeah, she was definitely a milf – but not having said it out load, he decided to keep his guilt to himself and not let out the apology that was jumping to his throat. He stood up as she held out her hand to him.

Are you Adell?” he really wanted her to be Adell.

No,” she told him “But I saw you checking me out when I was over there so I thought I would come introduce myself.” Theo immediately knew he was in a situation – he desperately wanted to get this woman’s number but he was here to meet Adell on a blind date – plus he’d totally been busted checking this woman out. If this was a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure” novel he would be given three choices:

If you blow off the date with Adell and go after the hottie – turn to page 3

If you politely brush the hottie off and wait for Adell – turn to page 5

If you decide to try to get her number and then meet Adell – turn to page 7

Theo decided to go to page 9 instead.

Are you waiting for your kids to get out of school?” he asked her.

No, I don’t have kids. I just came down to get some lunch.”

He’d already accepted her hand and was still holding it so it would probably be a good idea to introduce himself. He was going to have to figure out some way to escape from the situation he was in. He didn’t like the first three options that came to mind.

I’m Theo” he said “What’s your name?” Their hands were still together. She hadn’t let go and he wasn’t particularly inclined to either.

What are you doing here Theo? You don’t have food but you’re sitting by yourself at a table.” This was an awkward question but it gave him the escape plan he needed.

I’m here on a blind date. I’m waiting to meet someone – some friends set me up. Actually,” he did his best to look sheepish “She’s supposed to be here in about three minutes.” He forced himself to let go of her hand – but he really didn’t want to. She hadn’t told him her name – she was completely in charge of where this conversation was going.

Cool,” she said. “Can I join you guys?” He hadn’t expected this. This was a strange scenario where Adell showed up and he was already sitting with a new pink t-shirted hottie he had just met. “A blind date. That’s super exciting. So her name is Adell? Who set you up?” She hadn’t given him time to say that she couldn’t join them and now he felt like he had to answer the last question first but he really had to do something – this was quickly falling completely out of control.

It was a couple of mutual friends – I’m not sure exactly why – but hey, you seem really cool, but it might be a little bit awkward if you’re here with me when she arrives…you know? We’ve never met…”

Oh my god, totally – you are totally right. I’m so sorry.” She was really beautiful. Her skin was perfect. Now that she was closer he could see that the tattoos on her forearm were a kind of mathematical formula or code. He wanted to ask about them. He really didn’t want her to go away at all, but this was out of hand. She went on. “Hey, I’ll get out of here, but just one thing – can you watch my bag for a minute, I’ve got to go to the bathroom and I hate carrying it around the side of the building – I swear when I get back I’ll just say thanks for watching it and let you enjoy your date.”

Sure, no problem. I mean that shouldn’t be a problem.” She dropped her bag on the table and walked outside and around the side of the building to where the restrooms were. Two minutes until the appointed time for meeting Adell. It still had the potential to be awkward but not as much as if the hottie had just sat down at the table with him.

Two minutes went by and then the hottie came back. “She’s not here yet? Don’t worry Theo – these bitches in the valley, they’re always late. She’s probably sitting in her car around the corner waiting so she can be exactly five minutes late…I’ve got friends that do that. Hey, thanks for watching my bag.” She grabbed her bag and moved to the counter to place her order. There was a part of him that wanted to get up and follow her – to re-introduce himself, to find out her name, but it just wasn’t the right thing to do. It wasn’t a part of his code. He wasn’t coded that way. He stayed at the table, tried to ignore the woman in the Doc Martins as she ordered and waited for her food…and as he waited for Adell who he was starting to become annoyed with as five minutes past the meeting time slipped by, then seven minutes, then nine.

The cook put two foil rolled burritos in plastic fish and chip baskets down and then looked at the ticket for a minute before shaking his head and calling out the name on the bottom of the ticket.

Two burritos for Adell Fitler. Adell Fitler.”

Yeah, of course she was the woman in pink. Her eyes met his with a smile as she picked up the burritos and walked back towards the table.

Chapter 6

The Fucking Chans

Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured by propaganda and fancy talk.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

As she walked up to the table, Theo wasn’t amused. Actually, he was a bit pissed off. Obviously she knew his name and this was all some chance to make a big joke at his expense. She was smiling after her big reveal – yeah, she’d totally made a fool out of him. That whole thing with the name – and then the set up for the blind date. Priscilla and Mark were obviously some bored fucking dickheads. He didn’t know whether to get up and storm out or just play it cool and act like it was no big deal. He opted for the second.

Adolf Hitler, huh? That’s pretty funny. How long did it take you guys to come up with that?” He was trying really hard not to sound totally pissed off and scornful, but some of it was leaking through. He’d been dealing with the effects of having a fucked up name for too long to control himself completely. “So what’s your real name,” he made air quotes with his fingers “Adell?” He laughed in what he hoped was an ironic way.

For the first time since he’d seen her, the pink hottie seemed to lose her composure “Oh, no…wait a minute man…it’s not like that. I see what you’re thinking…hold on a second there buddy.” She set the burritos on the table and reached into her bag. Was she going to shoot him with pepper spray now? That would be funny, she could tell her friends she pepper sprayed the Unabomber.

But no, that wasn’t what she was doing at all. She was pulling out her wallet. Her hands were shaking and the other clients had all started to watch what looked like it might be some real life drama unfold. One fat lady in a floral print dress stared while she picked her teeth. A couple at the next table had actually scooted their chairs away as if they had expected the pepper spray or maybe a gun to come out of the bag.

Pinkie pulled her California Drivers License out and slapped it on the table in front of him. “Check it out man – look.” Theo looked down. Nobody should look that good in a drivers license picture. Damn, she was so fucking hot it almost made him forget he was trying to keep from becoming upset – then he saw the name on the license – Adell May Fitler. All the rage dissolved like sugar in a pot of boiling coffee and was replaced by a sticky sweet syrup that left him just feeling confused.

Adell saw it and pulled up her chair. The other patrons looked vaguely disappointed but went back to minding their own business. The toothpick lady kept staring (and picking) but maybe that was just her thing.

Theo was still a little bit annoyed by the whole theatrics of the thing, but he was more curious than anything else. “Is this really your name?”

She smiled, her confidence coming back. She reached her hand across the table “Yeah, that’s really me, it’s really my name. I’m Adell…nice to meet you Theo.” He took her hand again, part of him waiting for the next act in her carefully crafted play to unfold. That was it though – she hadn’t expected him to get angry or offended and when he had – all the pretense had melted away.

Nice to meet you too.” Once again he didn’t want to let go of her hand but he had to if they were going to have lunch. “Are you going to eat both of those?” He handed her license back to her.

She giggled and then followed it up with “Sorry for being such a dick. I ordered one al-pastor and the other one carne asada, take your pick.” He took the al-pastor and when she looked disappointed suggested they cut them both in half and split them. It was a winning suggestion and from that point forward they were friends.

Obviously you know my name,” he said to her.

Theo,” she said. “That’s all I know. Priscilla didn’t tell me anything else. I don’t even know your last name. Are you Jewish?”

Theo was a bit confused – “Jewish? No, I mean maybe, I don’t really know. Why in the world would you ask that? Theo isn’t exactly a common Jewish name.”

She blushed the tiniest bit, which was absolutely charming. “You know…because of my stupid burrito stunt, the whole stupid Hitler gag…”

He got it, he understood, and then it hit him. “Wait a minute…you don’t know my last name?”

No, Priscilla was really mysterious about the whole thing. Her and Mark, I call them the Chans – they wouldn’t tell me a word”

But how did you know I was the guy you were meeting?”

Well, she described you pretty well and you were sitting by yourself without food at the right place at the right time – early actually – and by the way, thanks for being early. I hate fucking late-tards.” He had never been around a woman who exuded such femininity and harshness at the same time.

Theo laughed. “Yeah, I guess you were early too. I appreciate that. I really do, although the whole thing with pretending not to be you…making me think you were someone else who was late..”

Yeah, sorry about that – I mean a girl can’t really be too careful and honestly, I wanted to see if you were the kind of douchebag who would ditch a date or hit on someone else when you were meeting someone – nice job by the way, you navigated the reef pretty well. I liked your honesty…but you were checking me out pretty hard when I was at the fence…”

Who, me?” Theo was discovering that he really liked this girl. He liked the way she did things. He liked her style. He even admired the way she’d sort of thrown her fucked up name at him in the most dramatic way possible. As he looked at her, he decided that he was going to do something he never did.

I should really introduce myself….” she looked at him in mild confusion and took a bite of burrito.

My name is Ted Kazinsky, sometimes people call me the Unabomber.”

An explosion of guacamole, pork, beans, and rice sprayed his face and probably would have hit the couple at the next table if they hadn’t of moved their chairs back a few minutes before. Adell coughed and laughed, wiped her mouth and took a sip of water.

Swallowing she laughed as she grabbed his hand and said “No fucking way, are you serious? You’re fucking serious? Your name is Theodore fucking Kazinski?”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and laid his drivers license in front of her. She picked it up while shaking her head…

The Chans are some seriously fucked up people…you think they do this shit for fun?” Her smile was like a sun going supernova.

There was one thing for sure, no matter why the Chans did it, Theo was very happy that they had.

Chapter 7

The Revolution Will Be on CCTV

A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world;

it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Over the next several weeks, Adell and Theo got together for lunches, walks around Coyote Point, and they even caught a Joan Baez concert in Golden Gate Park during the Hardly Simply Bluegrass Festival. Much to both of their surprise – they were compatible and also to their surprise, their calls to the Chans were not returned. They found that they had much more in common than just their names.

There’s something weird going on with those two,” Adell told him as they sat in front of a Trader Joes. “They had me come in to do a mural on one of their bedroom walls and then became all buddy buddy with me. I was cool with it, because they’re interesting people, but it always struck me as a little odd.”

When they compared notes they found that that Chans had run the same playbook on each of them – and yet both agreed, the friendship had actually felt genuine and the end result (so far) was anything but onerous.

I like them both. I’m glad they introduced us, but it’s bizarre to think about how much power they have,” Adell said to him. “They can do anything they want. Who the fuck knows, they’re probably watching us on CCTV right now.” She pointed up at the cameras over the store doors, on the light posts in the parking lot, and presumably elsewhere.

Obviously, they put us together because of our fucked up names,” Theo said to which Adell straightened up in mock anger.

Speak for yourself, my name is awesome. The Fitler family has a long and proud tradition. My 2nd great grandfather on the Fitler side was the fucking mayor of Philadelphia – there’s a park named after us. And… I’m honored to carry my maternal grandmother’s name. It’s not my fault when you put them together I sound like the most evil person in history – but honestly, that’s kind of awesome too. Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.”

I just don’t get it – didn’t your parents ever say your name out loud? I mean I’m sure you were a beautiful baby…” that comment got him a hot smile, “Who looks at their beautiful baby girl and says ‘Let’s call her Adolf Hitler.’ ”

They never did. Growing up, I was always Adell May, never just Adell. My mom is southern so calling me by two names was never an issue. It wasn’t until I got into the glorious Philadelphia Public School System that some idiot teacher called out the name I would never be able to escape ‘Fitler. Adell Fitler.’ I’ll never forget the roar of laughter as I politely tried to correct her that I was Adell May, not Adell. She didn’t hear and neither did anyone else. There are some things you just can’t unsay.”

Theo thought about his own journey – it was totally different. Like a bomb dropped out of the blue on a grown man – but still, he was a little bit ashamed of how he had tried to hide from it – Adell had decided to own it right away. She’d only been a child but she had taken the harder path.

I recognized right away that there was no putting that can of worms back in the ground. That first day, I didn’t even know who Adolf Hitler was – I went home and asked my dad. He was much more upset than I was – we had always taken a lot of pride in being ‘The Fitlers, the Philadelphia Fitlers’ and now here was his baby girl getting called a Nazi, and the worst Nazi of them all. At first he wanted to go down and set the school straight but he was a pretty smart dude and realized that doing that would only make him look like the dumbass that accidentally named his daughter for a monster – or worse, like some kind of fetishist Nazi.”

So what did you do?” Theo was genuinely curious.

I just went with it. I made jokes about it. I made sure that I was the complete opposite of a Nazi in all of my actions, became super liberal, and always became the first one to poke jokes at myself. And, like you saw when we first met – I found ways to shock the fuck out of people right at the beginning instead of waiting with dread for them to discover it. I’m Adolf Hitler, bitch.”

That’s totally different from me,” Theo said “I did everything I could to hide from it – Theo, just plain ‘T’ and even changed the way I pronounced my last name ‘Kaz in Sky’.”

Nah, that shit never works man. They always sniff it out. The urge to bully is too strong in people. Even nice people love to sniff out a weakness and exploit it. They’ll do it in a different way, but they’ll do it. You’ve gotta own your shit. If I were you, I’d start telling people to call you Ted. In fact, I’ll be the first.”

Seriously? I’d prefer you didn’t. It’s not funny to me”

Yeah, fucking seriously Ted. I’m starting.” She put her finger over her lip in the universal Hitler mustache symbol and did a goosestep across the Trader Joe’s parking lot – “You vill be ze facking unibomber. You vill be Ted Kazinski or vee vill fuck your shit up.”

Theo cringed but he’d rather be called Ted than not spend time with Adell. He felt himself running through a huge range of emotions – not the least of which was anger but she just kept going.

I’m going to tell everyone I’m dating the fucking Unabomber.” It was the first time the word dating had come into their interactions since the first ‘blind date’ somehow hearing her say it made all the other emotions he had been feeling disappear – but still he had to get her to stop. There was only one way.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her close enough that he was able to kiss her. She didn’t try to stop him. It wasn’t some big sloppy kiss like in the movies, just a kiss on the mouth – their first. As he pulled away he looked into those big blue eyes and said what came naturally.

Heil Fitler.”

Chapter 8

Heil Fitler

Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The reason Theo (who despite his misgivings was suddenly being called Ted by at least one person) hadn’t figured out Adell’s job while she leaned against the fence was because she didn’t really have one. She had hundreds. She was a dog walker, an illustrator, an ear-ring model, a ghost-writer, a fill in waitress, a substitute pre-school assistant, and anything else that showed up on the temp or gigs section of craigslist.

She’d gone to school in Philadelphia and after graduating had moved to a dozen different cities where she took one semester of classes she found interesting at a dozen different community colleges. Her interests were all over the board – history, literature, art, math, crafts, business, karate, kung fu movies, skateboarding, bicycle repair, welding, jewelry design, and sacred geometry. She probably would have ended up some hippy dippy baby machine living in a bus if she hadn’t of had a name that no respectable hippie could ever say out loud. The fact that she refused to hide from her name had kept her from falling onto the hippie trail.

Fucking hippies,” she laughed as she told Theo (Ted) about guys trying to pick her up through the years “They’re the funniest. They’re like ‘What’s your name sister?’ and I’m like ‘I’m Adolf Hitler’ then they’d get this fucking look on their faces – part disapproving, part scared, and part disgusted – if they stuck around long enough to learn my actual name, they’d always try to convince me to change my name to some dipshit emotional state like ‘Serenity’ or ‘Tenderness’ and I’d be like ‘No, I’m pretty happy with Adolf Hitler.’ Sometimes I’d start giving them suggestions back like ‘Hey Momo, you should change your name to something strong like ‘Mussolini’ or ‘Polpot’. None of them would even consider it. Fucking weaklings.”

One thing Theo (Ted) learned quickly was that Adell had one of the foulest mouths he’d ever encountered. It wasn’t just f-bombs she threw. She made up brand new obscenities on a regular basis and used all the old standards as well. She could shut it off at a moment’s notice but when she was comfortable and being herself it flowed like toxic waste. She was at her most comfortable that day when she was telling him about the hippies, drinking a beer while sitting on a stoop in the Haight Ashbury – they didn’t know who the stoop belonged to, but it was the Haight. So they could sit there and drink a beer on a stranger’s stoop. And she could cuss as much as she wanted.

After a while he figured out that most of her new curse words came from a simple formula. Generally it would be something like [bodily discharge + deformity] but sometimes she would also use [sex-act + obscure profession noun] so he got used to hearing things that were jarringly discordant and disgustingly funny.

It was a nice day, the weather was perfect. A few clouds were chasing each other across the sky, but there was no chance of rain, no fog, and no hint of chill in the air. They’d known each other about two weeks and Theo (Ted) hadn’t quite gotten up the nerve to ask her about the formula on her arm. He’d looked at it, he’d touched it, but he hadn’t figured out a way to ask about it. Largely because he didn’t want to seem stupid for not knowing. Today was the day.

Hey, there’s something that’s been bothering me for a while…”

My foul mouth or my foul name…” he couldn’t tell if she was joking but figured she must be so he just kept going.

No, it’s this.” He gently reached out to her arm and used his other hand to trace the coded formula on the bottom of her right forearm. It must be a formula but he wasn’t sure what it was for.

dQ/dt=-h*(T(t)-Tenv)=-h*AΔT(t) (way cooler in tattoo script)

The binary underneath her other forearm would be easy enough to translate if he could remember it or take a picture.

01001100 01101001 01100010 01100101 01110010 01100001 01110100

01101001 01101111 01101110 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010

Careful Ted, you’re going to get in over your head.” Adell laughed and pulled her arm back looking at it with what might almost be described as sadness. “But it’s cool.”

She was gazing at him with warmth and he had the impression that she was making fun of him at the same time she was flirting.

By this point he had stopped flinching when she called him Ted. They hadn’t yet committed to any sort of relationship through words or consummation, but there was something in the way that she was looking at him that told him that time was coming soon. This was what is so often described as ‘a moment.’

He didn’t want to spoil it. He wanted this moment. The only problem was that he also wanted to find out the meaning of her tattoo. “Are you going to tell me?”

Cool down big boy. Maybe it’s time to show me that rent control place of yours in Dolores Park. Come on.”

She got up and began walking – he had no choice but to follow her right back to his car.

Once they were in the car, she reached over, closed her fist around a handful of hair and yanked him to her. Theo (Ted) didn’t really like it but he kissing that followed was incredibly likable. She finally let go and shoved him away.

Did you know that you parked in one of the only spots where a camera can’t actually see what’s going on in the car?” He hadn’t known. He leaned down and started looking around the parking lot. They were right under a camera bubble, but all it could see was the top of the car. He couldn’t actually see any other cameras that would be able to see them.

Huh. Nope, I did not realize I did that.” He was surprised that she had seen it too.

It’s one of the things I like about you Ted. One of many things. You are a natural when it comes to security. I’m not sure what would cause that, but you seem to just be naturally inclined to move about the world in a secure way. Virtually no online footprint except for an almost never used Facebook account. You don’t have an Apple or Google device to spy on you. Your parking is totally instinctual but almost perfectly correct in a security sense. It’s fucking weird man, and I love it.”

They were still sitting in the Trader Joe’s Parking Lot. She still hadn’t told him the meaning of her tattoo. He was hot and bothered and bothered more by the bizarre security speech. There was some sort of a red flag that wanted to go off in his brain, but he wouldn’t let it.

Instead, he just followed his annoyances and desires which seemed to go right along with the right instincts.

Do you still want to see my place?”

Of course I do, you think I’m some fucking jizz-gimp?” She smiled as he said it. It was another one of those odd curse words that sounded like it should actually be something.

And hey, what is that formula?” he tried to throw it out casually but she knew it was under his skin. It had to be if he was still thinking about it after those kisses.

I always wanted to be cool and never wanted anyone to see me lose my shit,” she told him. “I’m not a physics geek or anything but I thought it was pretty dope that there was something called the ‘Law of Cooling’ – Isaac Newton came up with it. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with keeping your cool, but I’ve used it to remind myself to stay calm through the years.”

I knew I’d seen it before. I knew it.” Theo had seen it in physics and hydrodynamics classes at Berkley. It had never been anything he actually needed to use – but that was why it had seemed familiar.

She was looking at him funny “Yeah, so it basically means ‘you are cool in proportion to the difference between your cool and the cool of your surroundings’.”

Yeah, that’s right,” Theo said “A body will lose heat proportional to the difference between it’s temperature and the ambient temperature around it.”

Uh-huh, so I use it to remind me to chill in relation to the vibe around me. My own law of cooling. I like the Delta T in it though because it reminds me that time is a fucking illusion. Delta T is the difference between Earth’s rotational time and atomic time – and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

Whoa.” Theo (Ted) made the universal head exploding sign with clawed fingers pulled outward from the temples while he made an explosion sound.

Yeah,” Adell went on, warming up to her explanation “The rotation of the Earth isn’t a constant but we treat it like it is. It’s only a constant when you average it out over a fuck-long time – and that’s actually bullshit. The universe isn’t precise. That’s one of the big lies. We didn’t pretend it was until the late 1940s – the whole Atomic Age was built on lies. Are we going?”

Ted took her cue and started the car. He’d cleaned his apartment every day since he’d met her just in case she ever asked to see it.

Chapter 9

Play it Cool

Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful that the biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

How the fuck do you afford this place, Ted?”

It was the next day and Adell was making coffee. It was a fair question. The truth was he shouldn’t have been able to afford it – and he wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it hadn’t of been for San Francisco’s Rent Control Ordinance.

Theo (Ted) had moved in while he was still in college. He’d had at least one and as many as three roommates at one time. Eventually, they all either moved away, got better jobs, or just disappeared and it was just Ted (Theo) left in the apartment. The certificate of occupancy had been issued initally during the 1970s and since it had been continuously occupied by renters since that time – there was only a limited amount that the landlords could raise the rent. The rent increases had to be based on the Bay Area Consumer Price Index and could only be a small percentage per year. Also, capital imporovements couldn’t be passed on to the tenants and eviction was a serious pain in the ass. In San Francisco, long term renters who had been there prior to 1996 had all the power on their side.

Essentially, it meant that Ted (Theo) was paying $950 a month for an apartment that should have been renting for around $4500 per month. Essentially, this meant the landlord was missing out on almost $42,000 per year in rent – and had been doing so for decades.

Rent control,” he told her. It was all anyone needed to say in the Bay Area. She nodded then he continued, “But I’m thinking about moving out…”

What? Why the fuck would you do that? Are you crazy?”

Maybe,” he told her, “But check this out…” He’d gotten a letter from his landlord a few weeks before. In the letter they explained how much money they had been missing out on, thanked him for being a great tenant, and then made a crazy offer at the bottom. It made sense – but it was still one of those things that might make sense but makes no sense at all.

Adell read it and then looked up at him. “What? I am totally baffled…is this real?”

Yeah,” he told her. It made sense. Here was the offer – the landlord was offering to pay him $90,000 to move out by the end of 2019. “The eviction procedures are all in my favor. Nobody wants to buy a rent controlled apartment with a long term tenant in it – because they just get the same fucked up deal my landlord has been getting. So, they can’t get full market value unless they are selling it unoccupied. The difference in occupied versus unoccupied when measured over ten years is about a half-million dollars and that’s without property values going up. So, giving me $90k has a serious value to them. But I’m not sure I want to move…”

Dude, you have to take it. If you don’t they are just going to pay some lawyer $90k to find a way to fuck you.”

Sure, but I don’t really want to move out of my neighborhood and everything is so fucking expensive in the city that essentially they are only giving me two years to either move or find a way to make a fortune so I can continue living here. I don’t have anywhere to go…and I’m not sure I really want to start a business.”

You can move in with me and we can create a startup,” the words seemed to rush out of Adell’s mouth before she had a chance to consider them and judging by the look on her face – if she had been able to – she would probably have taken them back – but it was already too late.

Shit,” she immediately followed her offer/idea with shit. “So much for me being cool. We hardly know each other, we’ve only just spent the night together for the first time, and here I am suggesting that we move in together and become business partners. You probably think I’m some sort of psycho oral pinsetter.”

Wha – what?” Ted (Theo) wasn’t so much shocked by the offer as by trying to figure out what in the world a psycho oral pinsetter was. “What the fuck is an oral pinsetter?”

You know, a guy who puts the bowling pins back up but has an oral fixation. An oral pinsetter.”

Ted (sort of Theo) started laughing. “Yeah, you’re a definite psycho oral pinsetter. Although, the picture I had when you said that was more of a drooling bird dog.” He was laughing but Adell was really bothered by her offer. He saw it.

Hey, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to hold you to it. It was an idea – that’s all. Relax.”

I don’t want to relax you fucking piss-cleft. And I don’t want to take my offer back. I want you to move in with me so we can start a business. I really fucking want that – I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it’s true. So will you Ted? Will you give all this up and become my bitch?” That smile of hers – it was all he could see anymore. It was all he wanted to see.

Ted (not really Theo anymore) couldn’t believe this was happening. This was an impossible situation. He really liked her, hell, maybe he even loved her but she was asking him to give up everything, to change his life, to start all over and leave everything he had built over the past twenty years behind. He looked around at his apartment and suddenly realized he hated Theo’s life, he didn’t have shit to hold him here, and he didn’t even like Theo very much.

You’re going to have to buy me a ring, but okay, I’ll be your bitch.” They’d known each other for fifteen days but it felt more like forever. He didn’t mean she’d have to marry him, but it came down to the same thing. Adell jumped up and down in joy and then squeezed him in a huge hug while showering his face with kisses.

Hooray, I’ve always wanted a bitch. Especially one that led the FBI on one of the largest manhunts in the history of the United States.”

Chapter 10

We Are Evil

It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons, hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The first thing they had to figure out was what kind of business they were going to start. Since they had almost two months before the offer required them to move out, Adell moved up to Dolores Park and more or less moved in with Theo. Strike that, she completely moved in with him. She brought three suitcases and a trunk. In the trunk was a juicer, a blender, and a fuck load of shoes.

Ted (not really Theo anymore) and Adell stopped at a Starbucks and she pulled a tablet out of her bag. She powered it up, signed into the wifi, and had a storage startup she’d been using to store a few things deliver them to Theo’s place. Welcome to the world of ‘Clutter’ – they bring you packing materials, help you pack, take your stuff, and then bring it back to you. It was a personal storage service without having to go to a scummy storage facility.

I’ve actually had this idea before,” Ted told her. “It always seemed silly to have to rent a storage unit when it made more sense to store things piecemeal in an Amazon style fulfillment center.”

That’s a great fucking idea Ted, but as you can see – Clutter is already doing it. Barcodes on boxes and all. There might be room for competition, but I don’t really want to do this.” Adell motioned to the guys bringing her suitcases up the stairs to their (now temporary) apartment. “I can’t believer we’ve fucking moved in together. I wonder if the Chans know?”

Of course they know, they probably own Clutter.” Ted (not the loser formerly known as Theo) “And by the way, I thought I was moving in with you…”

Oh, suck it Trebek. You will, but for now we need to be in the city to get access to all those startup motherfuckers. Do you know anything about Lean Methodology?”

I’ve heard of it, but I’m not sure what it is. Want to enlighten me?” Ted was on the old beige sofa – it was one of those overstuffed and ultracomfortable ones from the 1990s and since Ted hadn’t really been a partier, had a dog, or ever had roommates who smoked – it still looked pretty good and was even more comfortable in 2019 than it had been in 1997.

Sure. The old way of doing business was to develop a plan, develop a product, find the market for that product, and then find a way to let the market know the product existed and sell it to them. Building a business took years, lots of effort, and a lot of money. Lean methodology is different. You come up with an idea, you see if the idea fits into the marketplace and determine product/market fit, then you build the minimum viable product, test it with the marketplace, assess, adapt, and repeat. Pivot if you must but don’t waste time or money on ideas that don’t get near immediate validation. That’s Lean. The reason it works is because there are a bunch of really rich assholes who are willing to throw millions of dollars at hundreds of bad ideas in the hopes that one of them turns out to be a really good idea. If they stopped throwing the money, Lean would wither up and die – but as luck would have it – most of those rich assholes live right here or at the least send their money to Sand Hill Road to be distributed towards whatever the next amazing thing is.”

I’ve been thinking about a different kind of social network…” Ted wanted to tell her about Gopher and Mesh Networks and his work in technology earlier in his career but she interrupted him..

Nope, social isn’t going to work. The Chan’s already own most of it and Jack ‘the Beard’ Dorsey and Twitter pretty much own the rest. Nobody is throwing money at social any more unless it has a very different kind of twist. Disruption is where it’s at now – Grubhub disrupting the restaurants, Laundoo disrupting laundromats, that kind of shit…We’re looking for the Uber of Bedspreads, the Tinder of Parking, the BirchBox of Pizza, or the AirBnB of Dentists. That’s pretty much all they are taking right now…the fucking things of other fucking things.”

I can dig it,” Ted laughed. “I can come up with some. How about the Uber of Moving? On demand movers.”

Great idea, but Lugg is already doing it. Already funded. Has a moat. Next.”

AirBnB of Weed?”

Nope, BudnBreakfast is already killing it in California.”

Shit, this is harder than I thought. How about a Tinder for Beards? We can pitch it to Dorsey?”

Too late. He’s already invested in Bristler.”

Serious?” Ted couldn’t believe these really existed.

Yup, totally fucking serious. All the obvious ones are already taken.”

That’s obvious?”

Yeah, come on hipsters and Tinder? Slam dunk.”

I like your idea about the Tinder of Parking. How would that work? Is anyone doing it?”

Adell shook her head. “Yeah, I kind of like that one too. I’m not sure what it would be. Would it be like hooking up in parking spaces or more like swipe left if you want to park here, swipe right if this parking space isn’t good enough for you?” They were both laughing. Adell pantomimed the motions…”Nope, I’m not putting my car in that… Ugh, I wouldn’t park there with your car….oh, man, I’d sure like to parallel into that space!”

Okay, maybe we put that one on the back burner. At least it’s an idea we don’t know of someone already doing. Next?”

Ted didn’t have internet in his apartment. It was a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes, but he actually liked the incentive to get out and go to coffee shops, parks, or McDonalds. Adell pulled out her tablet – “Do you have wifi?”

No, I don’t even have cable.” She shook her head and smiled at him. It was a mix between pity and pride.

Well, we’re going to need to bring the internet into your home Mr. Unabomber. We can’t build a technology company without the internet. We must have the World Wide Web.”

He hadn’t told her much about his past work but loved the opportunity that she had just given him.

Actually, WWW is just a protocol – one of many. There are several different internets but the http www internet is the dominant one today – but that’s probably going to change…there’s actually a whole alternate internet in place using mesh networks and lighter weight internets like Gopher – the one I used to work with – you can run Gopher over HAM radios creating a MeshNet.”

Adell was staring at him with an expression somewhere between shock and disbelief…”What the fuck? I mean what the scatophile-fletcher fuck are you talking about? There’s only one internet – the world wide web – Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Ebay, Google – the walled garden internet – it’s the only one – I mean right? What you’re saying is just crazy talk, isn’t it? Come on Ted – tell me the truth, you’re just fucking with me.”

Ted was always surprised (or actually Theo had been always surprised but now Ted was surprised) to find that people who used the networks had no idea just how deep the networks ran. The World Wide Web was only the tip of the iceberg. He started to explain in more detail but Adell already had her tablet fired up and was digging.. “I’m sure one of your neighbors has an open wifi hotspot – let’s see…okay there are two of them. Do you know who ‘FBI VAN’ or ‘VIRUS THAT WILL ERASE YOUR DATA’ are? Those are the only two open networks. Which should I go with? I’m going to go with FBI VAN – here goes…”

Ted started to say something – to discourage her from signing onto something that obviously wouldn’ t lead anywhere good but he stopped – there was no stopping her.

And I’m on – we’ve got the fucking internet Ted! Now let’s see who FBI VAN really is – I’m guessing that it’s probably a standard Cisco router with the default password – fucking BINGO – let’s see what they have been looking at – browser history – oh, my – we’ve got someone who likes incest porn – let’s see uses a private browsing window on Chrome – that will hide it from your wife but not from your ISP there old FBI VAN. He banks at Wells Fargo and works for UPS. I bet we can figure out his name, social security number, and date of birth in ten minutes or less…”

Ted watched this all happen in less than a minute and frankly, he was shocked. He wasn’t shocked at his neighbors choice of porn or the ease with which Adell was finding the information – he was shocked that she was so good at it. This was obviously not her first rodeo.

What the fuck Adell? Did you forget to tell me you were a black hat hacker?”

Yeah, sorry about that. I forgot to tell you – I’m a black hat hacker. It’s just a hobby.”

Chapter 11

The System is Evil

Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that heir behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Did you know that way before 2016 Google ran some experiments to see if by tweaking search results the tiniest bit, if they could change sentiment in an election?” They were a couple of days into brainstorming now and between having each other, a bedroom, and the internet – neither one had felt the need to leave the apartment.

Ted (Theo had been fucked into oblivion) couldn’t believe it – “There’s no way they would have been able to get away with that,”– particularly with the scrutiny that had come after the 2016 election. “Got a source on that?”

Adell looked at him with pity “Of course not – because Google…hello. I read the story in 2014 and it has since been largely purged from the internet. The story was all about how Google found a race with a high percentage of undecided voters in the 2014 Indian elections– they tweaked their algorithm and managed to get the margin pushed by roughly 5% in the direction they wanted which put Modhi, the pro-technology candidate in the seat. It’s called the SEME or the Search Engine Manipulation Effect – it was probably used on some level in 2016 election here too, but maybe not because Google would have seemed to have been in the Clinton camp – but who knows.”

Yeah, I sort of remember that, but what happened to the story – did Google scrub it?” Ted was doing what would have been unthinkable a few months prior – he was surfing the net in his apartment on the FBI VAN network – which turned out to be coming from the apartment of the Davis family across the street. Adell had created a firewall that allowed them to use the connection at will without leaving any trace behind on the Davis router or ISP. Their searches and browsing were being routed through an onion router.

An onion router works by hiding information in a series of encrypted packets with each packet showing a different destination. The ‘peels’ of the onion effectively hide the destination address from internet service providers, prying eyes, and anyone else who might be curious what you are looking at.

Yeah, effectively they scrubbed it. It might still be there but since most search is done through Google, they have de-prioritized it and if you want to find the story you have to know what to search for and be willing to go to page six of the results.” Adell herself was a like an onion – each layer that was pulled back revealed something else – hacker, graffiti artist, digital activist…gardener.

Our friends the Chans aren’t much better – they had a secret project in the works a few years ago that was designed to guide people towards a more ethical way of thinking – which doesn’t sound too bad until you start asking who is making the decision about what is ethical – it wasn’t like they had an election – it was more like Mark said – ‘people shouldn’t hide their income’ and Priscilla said ‘all kids should be vaccinated’ – or whatever – I mean they had people working on it, but there wasn’t any transparency and when it got leaked, people freaked out. Mark has these weird ideas about ruling the world – and they’re scary when you realize how much power he has. So the whole project was either scrubbed or more likely moved to a deep dark and secure level.”

Ted was interested. He understood this stuff. He’d worked on Friendster and seen the potential for abuse even in that primitive social platform. “The internet used to be a lot more fun,” he said.

Yes it did,” Adell agreed with him. “It used to be a place to discover information and broaden your mind but now it’s a place where you are fed information that narrows your view while you search for information that might broaden your view.”

Whoa.” Ted made the mind blown symbol again.

What if we took the power back from the big platforms?” he asked her. “What if we were able to disempower the walled gardens and give people back the internet?”

Adell shook her head “Not to be a defeatist, Ted, but they are already too big to fail and they have the full support of the US government – and all the other governments for that matter. Besides…our mission is to build a startup that the venture capitalists see as the next fucking unicorn, take a big paycheck, and then…I don’t know – save the world.”

We could always try to save the world without taking a huge paycheck first…” Theo (not completely Ted) still had some ideas about right and wrong, but even as he said it Ted took over”…but who am I kidding, you can’t get shit done without paying people.”

Let’s just keep coming up with ideas – we’ve come up with two hundred and eighty seven start up ideas so far – let’s keep going.” Adell was all business but not all the time.

Ted’s head hurt. “I think I need a refresher of some of what we’ve come up with so far…and what we’ve rejected – can you go through the list.”

She was happy to comply – going through the list together was likely to spark some new ideas…

Okay Ted, here goes – some of these have potential.”

Anti-plastic. A way to make up for all the planet destroying plastics we use everyday.”

Morganizer. An automated day organizer that you access when you first wake up.”

Tweetoclock, an automated twitter scheduler. Hard to compete with Tweetdeck.”

Hidden camera finder – but that’s already being done by Scout. “

Gum flavored like entres…a bit hard in terms of manufacturing”

Favood: an app that you list your favorite foods on to get personal recipe and restaurant recommendations.”

DadPals: a social network just for Dads.”

Orgasm simulator – I like the idea but it kind of defeats the point. Right?”

Gobag – a personalized and delivered bag at your destination. No more luggage.”

Ballbuddy – which, sounds like a fuck app but is actually a way for non-sports guys to find coaches to teach them about watching sports – we need to change that name or make it a fuck app.”

The Dickyuum – a gas station automated blow job machine – which is fucking gross but not as gross as the dicks of the guys who will use it.”

Disposable compostable underwear – hard to believe but already for sale on Amazon.”

Veggies made from meat – Arby’s beat us to the punch on that one.”

She kept going. The list was long and filled with failures and crazy ideas most of which were already in the marketplace – things like spray on shoes, making a superfood from cockroaches, peer to peer escorts, and internet personal trolls for hire. It was exhausting and – when you looked at the companies that had gotten funded to the tune of a million, five-million, or ten-million dollars – it was ridiculous.

What about something with cryptocurrency or bitcoin?” Ted asked her.

Oh, Jesus, now you’re going all 2017? Get with it. That shit is dead. It’ll come back someday but right now, all the idiots who bought it are licking their wounds. They all got royally fucked when the big boys realized how easy it was going to be to separate them from their money. That whole thing was done by the banks. I don’t know who Satoshi Nakomoto is or was – but my guess is that he had nothing to do with the wholesale robbery of middle-aged men that cryptocurrency has been over the past two or three years…Wait a minute – did you get suckered too Ted?”

Probably, I haven’t been following it since 2014 or so – but I’ve got a hard drive somewhere where I probably wasted $1000 bucks or so on it. I figured it would go up to a dollar per bitcoin, but sounds like that never happened.” Adell turned to look at him, to see if he was serious. She couldn’t tell.

You’re fucking with me, right? Tell me you’re not fucking with me.” Ted smiled. Yeah, he was fucking with her. He’d bought ten bitcoin when they were a hundred each – so he had a pretty good stash, but not like she was thinking. “Yeah, I’m fucking with you. I’ve got ten BTC though – and since I got them at $100 each – it’s a pretty good emergency fund.”

Thank God. I thought I was fucking a millionaire Forest Gump for a second.” He liked her reaction. No disappointment and no real excitement about it either. They went back to work. “Maybe we should think about blockchain and crypto a little bit, you might be right.”

How about crypto for pet-sitters, dog walkers, pet owners? Like a bitcoin focused strictly on pets. It would be like Pets.com combined with crypto.” Ted thought it sounded pretty good but Adell’s face told him otherwise.

You mean take two of the biggest bubbles of the last twenty years and combine them into a new product? Why not throw Enron and subprime mortgages in there with it? We could create a cryptocurrency based on subprimes and pet trends and then sell the derivatives in a ponzi scheme to oil barons…” The sarcasm was puddling on the floor around them. “But… you might actually be onto something. What if we did create a pet ponzi scheme?”

Well, we’d probably go to prison like Bernie Madoff but without the silk pajamas.”

Haha…but seriously, what’s the biggest pain in the ass about being a pet owner?” She asked him.

Taking them for walks, feeding them, …oh wait…I got it. Cleaning up their shit.” That was why he didn’t have a pet. He didn’t want to clean a fishbowl or litter box and he definitely didn’t want to be one of those people who stood on the sidewalk watching the shit come out of their dog’s ass while standing impatiently with a plastic bag over their hand waiting to pick it up. Fuck that.

Yeah, the shit. All those little dogs shit a lot. The landfills are full of non-biodegradable plastic bags filled with dog turds and there are still dog turds on the sidewalks around every fucking neighborhood in this city – in America for that matter. We come up with a way to deal with the dog shit – and better yet – we figure out a way to pay people for it.”

We can call it Petshitter.com” Ted laughed. Adell laughed with him. Neither of them were joking.

Chapter 12

Petshitter

Don’t imagine that the systems will stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It’s a terrible name. It can’t be said in polite company, on the radio, or even really between friends. No one is going to take it serious. It sounds like some sort of cartoon villain that defecates pets.” They were at their first VC meeting. The Bay Area is filled with crazy opportunities and this was one of them – it was called Speed Pitching. The idea was simple – a group of low level venture capitalists agreed to sit down with as many founders as could give them a one minute pitch with four minutes for questions and comments. If it went well, business cards would be exchanged.

Derek, the first VC they pitched too – didn’t seem like he would be offering a business card for a follow up. He didn’t seem to care about anything but the name.

We realize it’s a bit gritty, but we’re talking about turning pet shit into electricity. Not just cleaning up the streets but also turning a serious source of waste into a sellable commodity that everyone needs.” Ted wasn’t going to give up so easily. It had only been a minute so far. “And it’s a public service on top of that.”

How will this even work? Do you have a prototype yet?” Derek seemed more doubtful than curious but that was where Adell came in.

Yes, we’ve got a German engineering team that has built a prototype that turns dog shit into usable electricity. We can scale that model up into a full scale power plant. Our research has shown that with enough waste we could power a small town with a clean, renewable, and otherwise hard to get rid of waste product.” She laid schematics on the table.

Everything she’d just told Derek was a complete and total fabrication. They’d found a German video from 2015 that showed what it claimed was a home unit that would use dog poop to charge a series of batteries that would power fans, computers, and other household stuff. They didn’t even know if it was legitimate and so far had been unable to get ahold of the producers of the video. Theo had drawn up a good looking schematic, bought the domain Dogshitter.com for $11.99, thrown a landing page up with the schematic and a bunch of fake company information (because they didn’t have a company yet), and a way for people to sign up for an email list to be notified when the product became available.

What kind of leverage do you have?” It was a common VC question and they were ready for it.

We ran a few ads on social media and Craigslist,” Adell said. “In the 72-hours since we put those up we’ve had 23,000 people sign up to be notified.”

This got Derek’s attention. “Did you say 23,000 people signed up in 72-hours?” This time they weren’t lying – as much. In fact they had put free ads on Craigslists and they’d bought ads on Twitter, Facebook, and Google. They had also paid a well known product hunter to ‘find’ and share Dogshitter on the website Product Hunt. Their ads would have made Bernie Madoff proud – maybe – or maybe not – but they got the job done. “We’ll pay you $$$ for your dogshit.” and “Turn dog poop into real cash!” Adell had also written an absolutely insane press release about how Dogshitter was going to save the city, save the planet, and maybe even save humanity. So far, they had been BoingBoinged, written about by a hack writer on Forbes.com, and they’d made it to the front page of Reddit. By this point in the day, 23,000 was probably a huge understatement.

Derek gave them his card and asked for theirs. He did a little double take when he looked at it but then shook hands and went to his next pitch.

Petshitter

Turning Pet Poo to Power and Money

Founders: Ted Kazinsky and Adell Fitler

They did ten speed-pitches and they got ten business cards and ten invitations to set up meetings where they could pitch to higher ranking venture capitalists who actually had the power to get them funding. They left the speed pitch ready to take on the world and full of energy.

That was fucking awesome,” Adell squeezed his hand as they walked down Geary towards the Tenderloin. “We’re going to be fucking ass-funambulism rich.”

Shouldn’t that be ass-fucking funambulist?” Ted was getting the hang of it. “Or even sodamite tight rope walker?” She turned to him with hands on hips and they both busted up laughing.

When they were able to talk again, Ted took things on a serious turn “We’ve got a real problem, Adell.”

What are you talking about? They love Dogshitter.” Her hands were in the air.

Yeah, but we don’t have a product, we don’t have a team, we don’t have a company, and we don’t have a clue that any of this will work.” Ted (feeling a bit Theo) was starting to be a tiny bit worried.

Stop worrying Ted. I’ll make a few calls. I’m sure you know a few people from the startup world. It’s going to be easy to get people on board for this. We’ve got traction baby. We are gonna light this fucking city on fire.”

It may sound ridiculous but it was happening constantly in the startup world. The whole WeWork debacle was still unfolding – billions of dollars thrown at a company run by a guy who wouldn’t wear shoes (in New York City!) All of the money that was coming from VC firms was being thrown at them by central banks that were buying up collapsing financial assets in an attempt to keep the economy working and avoid another tumble like the one in 2008. Free money and when they ran out they would just print more. Hundreds of shitty startup ideas with shitty teams, no product, and no clue.

Accelerators and Angel Investors were giving away life changing sums to businesses that were “pre-idea stage” – no shit. That’s not a term that was just made up – it has been being bandied about for a couple of years now. All a startup needed was a pitchdeck, at least one known founder or backer, and a bank account. The rest could be bought with the first check. The second check could make the product. The third check would be used to start buying up other companies in the same vertical – or completely different verticals. Fucking WeWork bought a pool cleaning startup.

At the end of the day, Petshitter was just as real as MoviePass, AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, WeWork, and all the other unicorns that bled more money than they could possibly make. The funniest thing was when the bankers and junior VC’s started talking about Petshitter they solved one of the biggest problems the company had – the name.

Somehow without a memo – they’d all decided to call it an even weirder name Pets Hitter.

In order to start building their team, Adell brought in a friend who had worked in recruiting. It turned out that Adell had always had a soft spot and a fascination for people with fucked up names. Or maybe it was more accurate to say she was sympathetic or empathetic to their plight, In any event, there were few people with names as fucked up as hers (or Ted’s) but her friend Timothy had suffered a totally different kind of awfulness because of his parents naming choices.

The Burr family had consciously made the choice to saddle their child with a name that would forever subject him to people cupping their hands around their mouth and heartily calling out “Tim-Burr!” As far back as he could remember, it had never been funny. The only funny part about it was that people who did it actually seemed to think themselves clever as if they were the first to notice it or the first to call it out. In any event, Timothy was very clear about his name not being Tim and when people made the unfortunate choice to call out “Tim-Burr” his response had become pretty routine “Gosh, aren’t you clever.” Followed by “Hey, you’ve got a little bit of schmutz on your face…” and he would motion to a spot around their mouth or if he’d already done that he would mention a bit of dandruff or some other self-doubt inducing lie that caused them to focus on themselves. Somehow watching people become insecure and worried about things that didn’t exist eased the sting a bit – honestly, sometimes he felt like he got more enjoyment from it than they did.

Timothy was meeting with them at their soon to not be their’s apartment. Adell had warned Ted not to call him Tim and explained that despite her trying – there was nothing that would make Timothy ‘own’ his name.

When the doorbell rang, Ted got up from the kitchen table where they were working to get it. For some reason Ted had pictured a tall skinny white guy with a beard – but that wasn’t Timothy at all – he was a little below average height – probably 5’6” or 5’7” and clean shaven. His skin was that beautiful satin black color that recent immigrants from Africa sometimes had.

Nice to meet you Mr. Burr. Thanks for coming.” Ted had decided to stick with Mr. Burr unless he was told otherwise. “I’m Ted Kazinsky.” Adell was standing behind him and probably would have introduced them, but Ted had wanted to do this himself. He watched for the reaction. There was none.

Timothy smiled and shook his hand. “Please, call me Timothy.” His voice was soft and slightly effeminate with the lightest of Southern accents. Adell came forward and squeezed past in order to give Timothy a hug and bring him inside.

Timothy, I’ve missed you!” She was squeezing him with enthusiasm. She led him over to the table. “Can I get you a cup of coffee or some juice or something?”

They all sat and for the next few minutes chatted about history, mutual friends, and times past. Adell had met Timothy when she took a temp job with Oracle. He had literally called her because of her name – so, maybe it wasn’t quite accurate to say she collected people with fucked up names because after all, he had really collected her. Timothy and his boyfriend had recently bought a condo in San Jose but he was still coming up to the city on a regular basis. His boyfriend had a completely normal name – well, normal in Korea. Hank Yu.

When the talk turned to names – Ted had to ask “Timothy, I’ve been meaning to ask you about your name…” Ted caught the eyeroll from Timothy which had been directed at Adell – he was supposed to have missed it, but it didn’t bother him – he knew what it was about. “Are you related to Aaron Burr? – the guy who shot Alexander Hamilton?”

It wasn’t the question he’d been expecting, but it still raised his hackles a bit. “Well, according to my grandmother, I’m a direct descendent of Aaron Burr, 3rd Vice President of the United States of America and one of the least understood of all the founding fathers – in fact, my middle name is Aaron. It never used to be a problem before that bastard Lin-Manuel Miranda made it famous. Now I get asked all the time. There are times I just want to hear “Tim-Burr” – okay, not really.” They all laughed.

I always admired Aaron Burr,” Ted said “I think he got the short end of the stick. America might have been a better place if Hamilton had lost those arguments. Did you ever read Gore Vidal’s book, Burr?”

Tim nodded enthusiastically. “I did. It’s a masterpiece and a true critique of our system.” He turned to Adell “Ms. Fitler – I do believe you might have found a bonafide radical here.” From this point forward, they were all friends.

With Tim’s help they were able to recruit a fairly solid team that agreed to work for small equity stakes until they had funding. Three engineers, a finance manager to be the CFO, a lawyer (technically she was waiting to pass the bar), three social media mavens, a search engine optimization specialist, a chemist, two designers, and a web designer. Ted protested that they were bringing too many people on but Tim and Adell refused to listen to him. Ted pointed out that he was a decent engineer, could do web design, and that three social media mavens was overkill – but they would’t listen.

Tim stressed how important it was to put diversity in their founding team, so candidates that were under-represented (code for not heterosexual, white, males) were sought out.

The finance manager, a guy named Geronimo Murphy was half Lakota Sioux and the lawyer – a recent Yale Law graduate named Charlene Mansion, managed to get the Delaware C corporation set up for less than $200 and all of the new team members agreed to receive between .5 and 2% equity in stock as payment until funding was achieved and salaries could be determined. Everyone coming on had to sign non-disclosure and non-compete contracts and agree to work as I-9 contractors without the expectation of benefits for the first 18-months.

It took two weeks and less than $1000 to take Petshitter from a ridiculous idea to a company with nearly twenty employees, a bank account, legal status as a person, and close to a hundred-thousand people waiting to find out where to send their pet shit for cash.

Nobody seemed very concerned that they still didn’t have an actual pet-shit-energy-generator. The engineers had looked at the online designs and decided it had probably been some sort of a hoax – maybe a sociology experiment or an art test. In any event, they did think that it was possible to generate electricity from pet shit (and human shit) in a couple of ways – burning it, allowing bacteria to eat the feces and then ‘burp’ methane, or to mix it with other substances which could then be burned. Ted seemed to be the only one who was actually bothered by the lack of an actual answer.

After some argument, Ted convinced Adell that she should be the CEO, not him. He preferred to be the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) . Tim would be the COO (Chief Operations Officer) so he was able to move from department to department – which was pretty bizarre, because, you know, they had departments. He was also the head of human resources, but just until they found someone else. After she had finally agreed, Adell came around to Ted’s decision that she should be the CEO because having a female led startup in Silicon Valley gave them some unique advantages. The investors all wanted to show diversity in their portfolios of companies they funded – so it gave them a leg up. Their founding team was well represented with two women, one African American (Tim), a Native American (Geronimo) , a second generation Korean American (Charlene), a Japanese American (also Geronimo) and at least one LGBTQ (they hadn’t asked Geronimo or Charlene but had a feeling).

CEO and Co-Founder – Adell Fitler

CTO and Co-Founder – Ted Kazinsky

COO – Tim Burr

CFO – Geronimo Banzai

CCO – Charlene Mansoon

Tim was the only one whose name didn’t like like a mass killer. Adell joked that they should give him a nickname on the masthead “Killer Tim Burr” but he said it made him sound like really good lumber.

Nothing wrong with solid wood, Bro.” Adell looked at Theo and smiled when she said it, but they all nodded in agreement.

Chapter 13

Identity Politics

We all know what many of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior, the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system: welfare leaches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, nazis, radical environmentalists, militiamen, etc.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The first few meetings were rough. They met with venture capital funds that were already well represented by diversity in their portfolio of investments and their management teams. The bottom line was that they were able to poke holes in the fundamental ideas of petshitter and ask for things like financial projections, videos of a working product, an actual real life working product – and other things that they didn’t have. Also, no one wanted to work with Adolf Hitler and Ted Kazinsky.

The fifth VC firm they met with was the one that Ted almost called off. VWA or Victor White Associates was embroiled in controversy already – they’d been a heavy investor in Uber and a couple of other ‘bro culture’ startups that had taken some serious media heat. A few years earlier they had been one of the VC firms that got caught up in ‘Gamergate’ and most recently they had been involved in the ICO scams of 2017. VWA was known as being heavy handed in their term sheets, taking bigger equity stakes for smaller investments, and worst of all – they were big Trump supporters which everyone in the Vallley took for shorthand as being religious bigots, anti-gay, and racist. The main reason being that if you support a candidate known for those positions, there was a good chance those positions resonated with you.

The VWA meeting was set up for a Wednesday morning. A different, well respected firm offered them a meeting at the same time – Ted’s inclination was to cancel VWA and take the other meeting. Adell wouldn’t hear of it.

I’ve got a feeling about VWA. I just have a gut feeling about this one Ted. They need our diversity. They need our representation. Yeah, these guys are scumbags – I know, but think of it this way – the liklihood of us even creating a product that works is pretty close to nothing. Wouldn’t you rather take money from scumbags than from good guys?”

Ted liked the logic – although he wasn’t too keen on the idea of them not getting a product made. Personally, he was starting to think they had stumbled on something that actually made sense – a product that could make the world a better place. Sure, there were challenges – but he felt like each day they were getting closer to an actual working product – or maybe a working concept – or a viable concept. Adell was right.

The meeting took place two blocks off Sand Hill Road – the street where the most famous deals in tech had taken place. The VWW office building was an impressive cinder block structure that looked like it had been airlifted off of an old army garrison. The VWA logo had an American flag and an eagle on it.

This place reminds me of something…” as they pulled up. It was just he and Adell that went to the pitch meetings. It was just on the dge of his memory. Then it hit him – the building looked like an old VFW post in Martinez – the Veterans of Foreign Wars had hired him as a temp to do some restoration work a few years earlier on the old Martinzez post. Everything about VWA was reminiscent from the big white VWA letters on the front to the logo which he figured must be plagarized and stylized from the VFW logo. He counted six American flags flying in the parking lot and on the building itself.

They’d done their homework. Victor White was a Vietnam Veteran supporter (but not a vet himself) who generally only supported veteran led businesses. His companies were ‘American Values’ companies generally led by heterosexual, Caucasian men. They’d had three companies hit by ‘Me Too’ problems, the scandals with Gamergate and Uber, plus a whole host of rumors about racial problems. They were not a good fit. The companies with VWA were security firms, transportation, and private prisons and schools. Petshitter didn’t fit in any portion of that.

The lobby smelled like stale bread and bleach. The receptionist sat behind a brick wall that stood waist high and had what looked like bullet proof glass separating her from visitors. It was a bit like passport control in third world countries combined with pawn shops in Detroit combined with a CVS pharmacy. Overall the feeling the reception area gave was something akin to “You are not getting past the receptionist.”

We have a meeting scheduled with Victor White for 1:30.” It was precisely 1:15. Ted knew that military guys like fifteen minutes early.

Your names?” the receptionist asked.

Fitler and Kazinsky,” Adell said. No reason to freak out the receptionist. She probably had a gun back there.

Sign these NDAs and then please have a seat, he’l be with you in a few minutes. ” Ted scanned over the document, it was fairly standard and said that any offers, questions, or information shared was private and severe financial penalties would follow if it was leaked to the press, shared with other companies, or written about. They both signed. The reception area felt like a dentist waiting area with Fortune and Entrepreneur magazines on brown leather coffee tables in front of tired brown leather couches. There were fake plants that looked like they were growing dust. On the walls were pictures of Victor White and CEOs, presidents, generals, and religious leaders. White was usually wearing vaguely militaristic khakis – never a uniform, but what looked like a passable ‘civilian’ or ‘contractor’ uniform. He was a fit white man in his late sixties.

Ted had been refining his pitch – he was going to appeal to the ‘man’s best friend’ aspect and ‘generating power’ and ‘America’s next great innovation’. At exactly 1:30, the receptionist looked up “Mr White will see you now.” She buzzed a security door and they were able to pass through a metal doorway to the right side of the room.

Once they’d gone past the metal security door, it was like they had entered a different world. Rich wood furniture, expensive looking paintings, live plants. The receptionist somehow met them on the other side of the door even though she had been seated at her desk across the room when they went through it. Ted looked back to see if she had a twin still sitting there, but the security door had already closed.

She led them down a long hallway to a heavily polished mahogany door with gold gilding on it. In the center where it would have said ‘Star’ if they were in Hollywood was a gold placard that simply said “White”. Ted gave Adell a warning look to keep her from saying out loud what had already popped into his head “White Only”.

The receptionist opened the door and motioned for them to go in. “Have a seat, he’ll be with you in a moment.” Ted felt like he’d crossed the silk ropes at a museum palace. Gold and highly polished wood everywhere. Silk carpets covered the floor and a large desk sat in the center of the room. Two chairs sat in front of it. There were doors leading off to either side. The sense of over the top luxury was only jarred by the hand grenade sitting in the center of the desk, by itself, the pin pulled out and sitting next to it. By the time he noticed it – the door had clicked shut behind them.

He pointed to it. Adell turned her eyes and they instantly widened when she saw it.

Fuck.”

When she said it, some instinctual mate-preservation mode clicked into action from inside Ted. He shoved her down to the ground and dove onto the desk covering the grenade and sliding across the smoothly polished surface to the far side of it. Holding the grenade to his body he rolled off the desk and onto the floor and waited for the sudden destruction of his body as the grenade fragmented itself, his limbs, and his organs.

What the fuck, Ted?” Adell was pulling herself off the ground. Just then the door to the right side opened and Victor White walked in the room. He was a bit rounder and shorter than Ted had expected, but otherwise looked like his pictures.

Bravo, Mr. Kazinsky. Bravo. That was as true an act of bravery as I’ve ever seen. In all the years I’ve been doing this – you’re the first one to dive on the grenade. I think you probably would have saved Ms. Fitler’s life right there, but sadly, you would be dead. The good news, however is that there is no explosive in that grenade.”

You do this to everyone?” Adell was still out of breath and Ted could tell she was starting to boil.

No, only to those founders who I think I may want to do business with. So, tell me about Pets Hitter.”

Ted got up and put the grenade back on White’s desk. He walked around the desk to the side where Adell was starting to sit in one of the plush chairs. On the way, he shook White’s hand. “I’m Ted Kazinsky.”

Nice to meet you Ted. Great fucking American.” Ted wasn’t sure if White was still congratulating him on his heroic behavior or saying the Unabomber was a great American, but he suspected it was the latter.

Adell stood back up “I’m Adell Fitler, the CEO of Petshitter” When Adell said it, it really sounded like “I’m Adolf Hitler the CEO of Pet Shitter” mainly because that was what she said.

That name – you might want to put a pause in there.” Again, Ted couldn’t tell if he was talking about her name or the company name. “Okay you two, enough fucking around. Pitch me. And before you start, I don’t want to see any slides – just tell me about your company.”

Ted jumped into it. “American’s love their dogs. We have nearly 75-million of them! We can say that dogs are man’s best friend but in the United States but dogs are also one of the worst polluters. The dogs of America generate approximately 10-million tons of poop per year. Cats generate another 7-million tons. Most of this waste gets left on sidewalks, in parks, in yards, or dumped in the garbage with the added toxic plastic bag around it. Dog poop is the number three cause of water pollution. The reason we see so much dog poop in public places is because more than 60% of dog owners don’t pick up their dog’s feces. This causes big problems.”

Do you have a dog, Mr. White?” Ted had meant to ask at the beginning.

We have three great danes,” White said “They probably produce about half that dog shit by themselves. Keep going.”

One gram of dog poop contains more than 23-million fecal bacteria that seep into the soil, get into our water, and are carried and spread by flies and other vectors.”

Like my god-damn shoes…” White griped. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Petshitter incentivizes owners to pick up their dog’s waste and turn it into electricity. Generators have so far been used to charge batteries, power fans, and other small appliances – but we believe that if we can harness even 10% of the dog waste in this country, our energy output could get as high as 50 gigawatts of power – which is the same amount of energy produced by solar panels in the USA in 2017. “

Holy shit.” White caught himself by surprise with the unintended pun. He chuckled but he was a serious businessman despite his earlier prank. “So, why haven’t the other VC’s you’ve talked with jumped on this money wagon you just pulled into my office. I know you’ve had four meetings this week.”

This was the question that Ted hadn’t wanted to answer. He began to explain the issues they had with the product, the lack of a viable prototype because they didn’t have funding to build it, and would have gone on but at this point Adell stood up and interrupted him.

The main problem is that our names suck. Nobody has the guts to work with Adolf Hitler and Ted Kazinsky. All of these valley snowflakes are so PC they would have turned us down if we walked in with a wagon full of gold and the directions to El Dorado. We can’t change our names – and we won’t change our names – but we have the keys to the golden city if you are willing to work with us. Also, if you don’t mind my saying so – it wouldn’t hurt your company to be working with a female led company that enables gays, Asians, and African-Americans in their management team. We are as diverse as it gets.”

White steepled his fingers looking like he was trying to channel Steve Jobs. His crisp khaki shirt made him look like he had just taken a pith helmet from his grey head when he walked in from a safari. He looked at Adell with an intense gaze.

I like you Ms. Fitler, I like the way you cut to the heart of things. Here’s what I will do – I’m going to fund Pets Hitter with a seed investment of $3-million dollars for a 30% equity stake and a seat on your board – providing that you are willing to do a couple of things. First, you are both going to have to go through our VWA Startup Basic Training – our deal will be contingent on your satisfactory completion – it’s a one-week intensive course we require all of our founders to go through. Second, you’re going to have to change the name of the company Pets Hitter or Petshitter are both terrible names. Although…maybe for a product like this, there is no such thing as a good name. ”

Draw up the papers and we’ll have our legal team go over them Mr. White. If it all matches what you’ve just said, it sounds like we have a deal.”

White reached across the desk and shook both their hands.

Chapter 14

VWA Startup Basic Training

The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis large organizations armed with super-technology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings with instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these will have very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly narrow limits.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Hey Ted,” Adell leaned across his chest – her hair glowed like a halo from the morning sun coming in the window. “You know what cracks me up?”

He knew a couple of things but he knew he’d never guess it so he shook his head.

The actual Hitler rolling in his grave as his name becomes associated with dog shit – I mean even more than it already was. That’s some funny shit. Shit Heil!”

They laughed. Oh man how they laughed. Life was unbelievable. They wanted to tell the Chan’s but they still weren’t returning their calls or texts. So it was just the Petshitter crew who got to be in on the gag.

The gag was this – they had a literal dogshit project that they’d put a casual couple of weeks work into and they’d just been funded to the tune of three-million dollars. It looked like VWA might change their mind on the name change but they had to go through with the two week intensive VWA Startup Basic Training. Today was day one. Checkin was at 10:00 am at a facility in San Jose so they needed to hit the road if they were going to make it. They would be staying on for the program as a sort of retreat for the entire two weeks. They had time – and it was low pressure.

At least until they got there – in hindsight, Ted realized that knowing what they knew about Victor White and his usual companies – they shouldn’t have been expecting your typical Silicon Valley circle jerk where successful founders became mentors and everyone sat around eating expensive food and having the famous ‘fireside chats’ where successful CEOs and founders got to masturbate about their ‘journey’. A journey that usually started with having well-to-do parents who put a focus on education, going to school in an area where the affluent live, getting accepted into Stanford or MIT, doing an internship at a Fortune 500 tech company, and then dropping out to start their own tech company and having to hustle around the valley hitting up their doctor, lawyer, or engineer parent’s friends. Failing, losing a shit ton of money, and then having their parents or their parents friends believe in them again and showing everyone that this rich kid who got all the breaks could do it despite a drug, alcohol, or other social problem. Nope, that wasn’t this startup school.

There were about seventy participants from around fifty different companies that were looking to be funded by VWA. They all gathered out front waiting for the doors to open at 10:00 am. Most of them were in their twenties to early thirties – Ted and Adell were not the oldest but definitely in the top tier in terms of age.

The doors opened and there wasn’t any of the coffee and donuts social aspect. No ‘get to know you’ breakfast speeches. No polite, boring, and possibly informative keynote speech. No, none of that.

No, this was VWA Startup Basic Training – which should have been called Boot Camp – but White didn’t want to give away the joke – which was only funny to him anyway. The facility was an old police training facility and White had contracted one of his military security contractors to run an old fashioned, in your face, shut the fuck up and do some pushups scumbag boot camp for his potential investees. Ted was glad they’d spent the morning laughing. The next seven days promised to be hellish.

Upon checkin they were told to turn in all of their phones, wallets, and personal items which were placed in sealed plastic evidence bags that they wrote their names, and the inventory on before sealing them with security tape. They were given orange jumpsuits and white tennis shoes – the kind prisoners wear and told to go into the men’s or women’s locker rooms, put their clothing in a locker and change into the jumpsuits.

When I say they were ‘told’ I’m understating things – they were met by ten huge and screaming men and women in olive drab t-shirts, camouflage pants, and combat boots. The conversation went something like this.

Oh, you want some fucking money, huh? You want VWA to give you millions of dollars so you can follow your fucking dreams?”

You can’t handle it punks. You don’t want this money. You don’t want this investment. You don’t want this partnership and relationship so just turn away you weak fucking geeks. Right now. Take your stuff, go back to your garage, and put away your toys. You can’t handle the startup world. Go on, get the fuck out of here.”

One guy actually turned and walked away. Ted thought about doing the same. He admired the guy who said “Fuck it, this isn’t worth the money.” Then he looked at Adell who was smiling ear to ear as a huge black woman screamed in her face “What the fuck are you smiling at? Do you think this if funny? I’m going to fuck you up.” Adell saw Ted watching and winked. This drove the instructor even more batshit crazy. “Did you just ‘wink’ at your friend? What the fuck? Who the fuck do you think you are?”

Once again Adell just said it cold “I’m Adolf Hitler and this is my partner, Ted Kazinsky” This stopped the woman cold – she took a step back “Did you just say your Adolf fucking Hitler and he’s the Unabomber? What in fuck’s name is wrong with you?” Adell puffed her chest out (Ted had to admit, it was a very nice chest) and she screamed in a loud angry voice “No Ma’am. I’m Adell Fucking Fitler and he is not the Unabomer.”

All of this seemed to have taken the steam out of the instructor’s sails because she said “Well, get your ass inside, sign the release forms, put your shit in a ziplock, and go change out of your civvies Adolf – cause we fixing to make sure your startup shit is in order.”

Adell scrambled. Ted had somehow avoided direct contract with the instructors so far and also headed towards the door. The instructors were making a couple of younger founders do pushups, one girl had sat down and was openly weeping on the steps. Gradually, they were all herded towards the lobby where Ted and Adell were already emptying their pockets, putting their backpacks and briefcases in huge ziplock bags, and being issued their orange jumpsuits and white tennis shoes. Once they had the jumpsuits they were screamed at/herded into the locker rooms and then yelled at constantly with demeaning terms until they had placed their clothes in lockers and were exiting the back exit.

You think you’re a CEO? You’re more like a C student. You can’t handle this job.”

You aren’t a founder, more like a foundling. You’re nothing without investment.”

You ain’t got traction – except on your face where the competition has run their traction tires.”

Ted had no conception how a week of this was going to make their company a success. If anything, he was already seeing the roots of the ‘Me Too’ problems VWA funded companies had been going through. There was no way this was going to help their company – but $3 million dollars definitely would – so he shut up and just kept doing as he was told.

For the most part, they left him alone and focused on the younger founders. The men and the women had been split up into two ‘platoons’. Looking and feeling like orange jump suited prisoners they were tortured for hours and then they were all marched to an outdoor track and told to sit in the bleachers just before sunset.

The women took a bit longer to get to the bleachers and sat in the next section down – Ted caught sight of Adell – she was still smiling. Tiki-torches were carried out by the instructors and planted into the earth. Loudspeakers began playing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ – the instructors screamed for everyone to stand up. They kept saying ‘Attention!’ but then they weren’t doing anything. Finally he realized it meant to stand up and they said it whenever anyone sat down.

The Boss playing, everyone standing, and out marched Victor White. Same khaki uniform but this time with a sort of Cuban fedora on. He walked out, stepped onto a platform, and was handed a mic. The Boss was faded down and the actual boss began to speak.

We are so happy to have you here, applying for funding with VWA. If you’re here, that means that you’ve crossed the hardest gauntlet – which is getting here. For the next week – we are going to cram you full of all the information we think you will need to become a successful startup.”

We are going to teach you how to talk to your customers, how to evaluate your ideas, and how to plan out your minimum viable product. You will learn how to set you KPIs and what analytics you need to be sharing with us and learning from. We are going to teach you how to launch over and over, how to scale, and how to grow.”

You will learn the financial pitfalls and how to avoid them. We will help you prioritize your time and teach you how to pivot when you realize that your idea sucks…and trust me…your idea sucks. We have brought you here because of who you are and who we think you can become. We aren’t here because you have a great idea – ideas are easy. We’re here because we think you can do it. Well, it’s not going to be easy. None of this is easy and trust me when I tell you this will be the hardest week of your life – until next week when the real hardest part of your life starts.”

This is the first moment of your startup life so take a moment and take a deep breath. You have arrived. We are going to give you the tools you need to build a company culture, to move forward, and to lead – but once we give you that – you are the ones who have to do something with it. You are the ones who must lead.”

One of the greatest lessons we can teach you is that you need to use your body. If you push your body to the limits – your mind will become stronger, your thoughts will become more clear, and your drive will become that much harder. So – a part of this curriculum is going to be giving you the habits you need to be fit. For the next week, smokers will quit cold turkey as will drinkers and fuckers. If you want to wank, go right ahead – but you’ll have to do it in bathrooms without stall doors or open dormitories – so expect to be caught and mocked.”

For the next week – your bodies and minds are mine. If you want funding – that’s the way it has to be. If you don’t want funding that bad – well, then get the fuck out. My instructors will be happy to give you back your clothing and belongings.”

A couple of founders got up and left. There was silence. A few more got up and left. White just stood on the stage watching until there were no more getting up and leaving. Once they were gone he continued.

Can you imagine throwing funding at those founders? We haven’t even started and they’ve already quit. But for now – that’s enough of the chit-chat. It’s time for your first fireside chat – so I’d like to bring out my good friend, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation. Please give him a warm welcome. Also waiters will be coming through the bleachers and giving you either coffee or tea – but no sugar or cream. One of the first companies we funded was Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – but for now, please give a warm welcome to Larry Ellison!”

Ted had to give it to VWA. He hadn’t seen any of this coming. One thing was certain – he was glad that he hadn’t walked away.

 

Chapter 15

Fireside Chats

Let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

This was Silicon Valley, after all and there was no way that any sort of event was going to happen without the celebrated fireside chat, but this wasn’t THAT Silicon Valley – this was VWA’s right wing bizarro Silicon Valley and Larry Ellison wasn’t going to disappoint.

Larry Ellison came lumbering out from the far side of the bleachers lit by the fire of the tiki-torches. For a man pushing eighty, he looked surprisingly fit. Like Victor White, he was wearing a sort of militaristic civilian uniform. A couple of assistants came out and put chairs on the turf platform. Both men sat down. Another assistant handed Larry Ellison a cordless mic.

Larry, thanks for coming to speak to these guys – you’re one of the most successful men in the history of planet Earth. You are the only person in the world who owns their own Hawaiian Island, you own more jets than many nations, you founded Oracle Corporation, one of the most successful companies in the world, and you are one of the wealthiest people in the world. What’s your secret?”

Larry turned and looked at the crowd. His natural scowl made him look slightly angry even when he tried to force a smile on his face.

Thanks for having me here Victor. My secret is that I don’t take no for an answer. I never have. No means yes to me.” It wasn’t exactly a ‘me-too’ moment. “When the US government told me that I couldn’t own Mig fighters and fly them with full armaments, I didn’t accept it. I simply paid for renovation of an old air base in Mexico on the condition that they let me keep my planes there. When they told me that Oracle couldn’t have a lucrative US government contract that would allow us to provide the one approved fund raising software in the developed world, I didn’t just bow down to that buffoon ass Marc Benioff – no, I built a script to run on top of Salesforce – and ultimately he had to use our databases – so we won. The common thread in all of my successes have been ignoring the word no.”

Victor was nodding. “I’ve always felt that no is just a different level of yes. Unless I’m saying it, then it means no.”

Ellison laughed. “Yes, my no is also the only no I know.” The audience (forgetting they were wearing orange jumpsuits and simply falling into Valley Hive Mind) laughed appreciatively. Ted caught Adell’s eye and she raised one eyebrow – something he wished he could do. This had gotten very strange very rapidly.

But Larry,” Victor asked like he was some kind of late night sensitive talk-show host “What about the government and how it is stifling innovation?”

Now it felt like Ellison was going into some sort of prepared monologue. “Oracle has paid somewhere along the lines of a trillion dollars to the US government. If you include payroll, taxes, FICA, insurance, charitable contributions, the taxes our employees pay, the donations to campaigns and more – then it’s even more.” Ted wondered how he could possibly include all those things as coming from Oracle. “And that’s fine, but we shouldn’t be supporting Ohio and some tank manufactury.” Huh?

Ellison went on. “The old farts in congress – most of them aren’t even my age but 90% of them need a young assistant to check their email for them. Silicon Valley has a larger Gross National Product than more than one hundred and fifty countries. California is the fifth wealthiest nation in the world and it’s not even a nation. The West Coast of North America from Alaska to Baja would be the wealthiest country in the world if it were to leave the United States. Think about it – Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Costco, Oracle, Nike, and the list goes on and on. Alaskan oil, Hollywood…”

He paused to take a sip of water. Ted drank a sip of his coffee – it was really good – probably single origin, hand processed, top of the line. Ellison went on. “And yet, we have to put up with regulation from the descendants of former slave owners in a backwater swamp called Washington D.C. Why in the world do we, the greatest people in the world have to listen to that shyster New York president and his crooked cabinet?” That was a surprise – Ted had sort of thought Ellison would be a Trumper but then he sort of remembered Ellison being a big Marco Rubio backer in 2016.

There is no reason to remain a part of the United States of America. We should secede and take the whole West Coast including British Columbia, the Yukon, and Baja California with us. I’m naming it right now ‘West America’. The USA has become a laughingstock and Larry Ellison and Victor White do not like to be laughed at.” No one was laughing now.

Larry,” Victor was still the host of this show “I’m with you, but what steps should we take. How can we make this a reality?”

By doing what you are doing here Vic, by gathering patriots, putting the best and the brightest minds to work, and getting our minds, bodies, and souls in order.” He turned to the audience “Your companies were picked because they have something to offer to West America. Fresh water, energy, security, education – I’m telling you now – this is going to be the most important week in your lives. And I also want to say this – my venture arm will invest an additional $1 million in every company that makes it through this training. I believe in you.”

He stood up and based on the last two sentences alone – he received a thunderous round of applause. Victor White and Larry Ellison walked off the stage together and the heavies moved back in. They weren’t smiling any more. Just before he was out of range – Victor White turned and said “Please make sure to properly dispose of your coffee cups.”

Over the next seven days, the founders were taught everything they needed to know to make their startup work and a completely bizarre amount of physical training, combat techniques, and methods of improvised warfare. The ostensible reason given was that business is a lot like war and by developing war skills, they were learning to have the winner mindset that would be necessary if they were to succeed in the startup world – a world where 90% of startups failed in the first year and another 7% failed in the next. It all made sense – but Ted wasn’t sure that he needed to know how to create a cigarette timer for an improvised bomb so that he could scale his business properly.

The fireside chats continued with a powerful cast of characters. Eric Prince – the founder of the Blackwater Security Firm discussed the murky world of landing government contracts and running one of the world’s largest private armies. Prince had helped to set up the VWA Basic Training and his fireside chat let everyone know to call it VWAB or V-Wab. The surprise takeaway for Ted was finding out that President Trump’s Controversial Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos was the older sister of Prince. The nepotism runs deep.

John McAfee – the founder of McAfee Antivirus and the Godfather of Cryptocurrency – video-fireside chatted about the importance of defunding the Federal Reserve and making sure that profits were denominated in a number of different currencies – both crypto and fiat. His firesdie chat had to be teleconferenced because he was on the run from the US Government for tax evasion and possibly murder. He was also running for President again with the Libertarian Party. “A vote for me is a vote for West America. Buy Bitcoin!”

Peter Thiel, one of the cofounders of Paypal had a lot to say about gold and how to get it, keep it, and use it. Unlike McAfee, Thiel thought bitcoin was a scam. He laughed about how bitcoin believers had given him a bitcoin and he had sold it and bought gold. By the time that Thiel’s fireside chat started, Ted had figured out that V-Wab was a Libertarian Indoctrination Camp. While the discussion did talk about the trials and opportunities of starting Paypal, most of the chat was about how non-Libertarian views are skewed liberal of fascist. Ted, who was no stranger to politics and had developed some pretty educated political views over the years – didn’t disagree but felt that any Libertarian who looked in the mirror and saw themselves as a centrist was fooling themselves.

On the fifth day, the fireside chat was with David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman and a well respected economist in Libertarian circles in his own right. Friedman continued with his parent’s brand of Libertarian Capitalism pushing it even further into the realm of Anarcho-Capitalism, a bizarre free market brand of libertarianism where the state offered no protections to the poor or weak but defended the borders in order to promote free enterprise. Much of Friedman’s talk was in regards to his book “The Machinery of Freedom” and Victor White assured everyone that an autographed copy would be waiting for them when they graduated.

The sixth day’s chat was with with Ken Schoolland, an economics professor. Schooland had written a book that detailed Austrian economics called “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey” – which he also said would be waiting for graduates when they were done. Ted was impressed with the growing weight of his V-Wab schwag bag – even though he didn’t have it yet.

The final fireside chat was something completely different – Joe Rogan, the podcaster, comedian, and political influencer did a fireside chat where he poked fun at people who trust the government, roasted people who willingly pay ‘all’ of their taxes, and generally made fun of everything that wasn’t the libertarian view. It was hilarious and when he finished, Rogan generously invited all of the founders to sign up to be guests on his show – providing they graduated.

The fireside chats were the thing to look forward to each day. The rest of the days were spent in long lectures, intensive workshops where participants developed their pitches, worked on their media skills, and learned how to make sure they were never taken advantage of by the government, the media, their employees, or their customers. Meals were timed communal affairs served in a large cafeteria. Showers were gym style. Dormitories were open rooms with rows of bunk beds. One dormitory for the men and one for the women. In between workshops, lectures, meals, and fireside chats – the founders were tortured with physical exercise. If they wanted the funding (and the schwag bags – they had no choice).

Still – with all of that, there was some amount of down time when the founders were able to get to know each other, learn about each other’s businesses, and do what people do when they are thrown into adversity together – develop friendships.

Chapter 16

The Useless Burden

Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.”

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Much later, in hindsight, both Ted and Adell would come to realize that V-Wab had an astounding impact for a 7-day adventure. That’s what it really came down to – V-Wab was an adventure for those who stayed – sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes educational. It was even fun – at times. The biggest impact, however didn’t arise from the seminars or the workouts, not the fireside chats nor the workshops – it came from the people and the relationships that formed inside the sweaty, stinky, emotionally distraught confines of that old police training ground. And of course, the huge injection of money that came afterwards – but that was later.

During the course of V-Wab, Ted got to know some of his fellow founders very well. They bonded through whispered conversations after lights out, they literally helped pull each other up as they traversed the so called ‘confidence courses’, and they goaded each other and competed in hand to hand combat, at the shooting range, and on the sports fields. The cast of characters were diverse – even if most of them were white and/or named with vanilla monikers like Danny, Rick, Jen, Misty, David, Carrie, and Phil.

Danny Carlisle was a rich kid with a trust fund who had been gifted with brains. He and a couple of his classmates at Stanford had figured out that people were scared and there was a solid need for an Uber for Bodyguards. They’d put together a private security outsourcing firm called ProTekshun. User’s could have an armed or unarmed security officer on call for an hour or a week using the app Danny had developed.

Rick Bransetter was a data scientist who had been working at Google when he realized that there was a direct correlation between people’s browsing behavior and their income. His analytics startup provided an alternate ‘credit score’ for lenders to determine if the amount of income people reported was par, under, or over the reality of their situation. His firm was called BroSir.

Jen Yang was one of the few non-white founders at V-Wab. She and her engineering team at UC Davis were working on a way to make electric outboard motors more efficient and capable of running on a drastically reduced battery power. Their aim was to eliminate noise, air, and water pollution in watercraft.

Misty Tucker and her crew were developing what they called the reverse-stuff-annuity. They paid a monthly dividend to users who signed a contract that specified that when they died, all of their household possessions, collections, and personal items would be picked up, taken away, sorted and sold. It was a benefit to heirs who didn’t have to deal with hoarder houses and generally a cheaper way to buy estates that sometimes yielded expensive hidden treasures.

David Davidson III was at the forefront of the investor lending industry with his company Profitday. His firm planned to offer loans guaranteed by stock portfolios. As a way of getting the loans, users would need to transfer their portfolios to his hedge fund for management and then sign a promissory note that if not honored would transfer the ownership of the stocks to his fund. People loved it. They felt like they were borrowing against future gains in their stocks and able to spend their earnings before they even happened. And, if the management of the fund was bad, they could walk away without incurring further losses.

Carrie “Carolyn” Ludspeker had started one of the nations fastest growing Yoga schools. It was called Prosperity Yoga. Students would do yoga on sandboxes filled with money. The ‘money energy’ would filter upwards into their lives and through a series of mantras focused on earning and receiving – they would become healthy, flexible, and prosperous. She had a whole slew of gimmicks and rituals that kept users hungry for more. Her future plans included a whole host of Prosperity Yoga brands – everything from cereal to clothing to soft drinks.

Phil Giovano was the guy who Ted most enjoyed talking with. Phil was an old school internet guy like Ted. He had put in a few years at Microsoft during which he had mucked around with Gopher and the other old protocols. Phil’s startup was literally doing what Ted had thought about doing – creating a new internet using Gopher’s menu organization. The idea was to bypass Google, Bing and other so called ‘Search Engines’ which had actually turned into ‘recommendation engines’ and ‘ad engines’ and allow users to get back to the joy of finding gopher holes and diving down them.

These founders made up the ‘lunch bunch’ ‘breakfast club’ and ‘dinner companions’ of Phil and Adell. On this particular morning they were all trying to come up with a suitable rebrand for Pet Shitter.

The problem I have with it, is that it sounds like you want to hit pets.” That was Carolyn who was actually quite soft spoken. “I wish you had called it something like Pet Caresser or Pet Stroker.”

David III spit out his coffee. “Not Pet Stroker. Oh my god. Not unless you want to watch viral videos of people jerking off their dogs every time you search for your company on Google.”

I like our name,” Adell said. “It describes what our company is built on. Pet shit.”

Yeah, but you can’t say that so you’re left with Pet Hitter which has all kinds of bad reasons that validate getting rid of it.”

What if we made hitter into a good thing? Like made it slang for scooping?” Ted didn’t particularly want to get rid of the name because it made him laugh. Not the best reason for keeping it, but in a human sense – completely valid.

David III liked it “Like ‘Hey Ted, where’d you get that new bling?’ ‘Oh, you know, just been hitting the pet and getting paid.’ “ David was a frighteningly good looking guy with a chiseled jaw line, perfect hair, and a tall toned body. Mid 30’s – he was literally the king of his world.

I’d hit that,” Carolyn said it looking at David III and immediately began to blush. She was a very good looking person, herself but suffered from some shyness and anxiety – which Ted would have thought made being a yoga teacher or doing this kind of training difficult – but she didn’t appear to have any issues outside of personal conversation. They all laughed and Adell threw in a “Hell yeah, sister.”

Rick, the Google data-scientist jumped in “So what you really have is a marketing and education campaign issue – that’s what will solve it. Not really an issue because you are going to have to teach people how to harvest the shit anyway.” He was also very good looking – Ted looked around the table, then looked around the dining hall – everyone there was good looking. There were no fat, disfigured, handicapped, or even mildly ugly people there.

This was roughly half way through the boot camp and Ted was surprised he hadn’t noticed before.As he looked around the room he realized that it was more than everyone’s good looks and general fitness that made this a unique experience. Out of the original seventy or so participants – there were around fifty of them still in it. Of those the vast majority, nearly forty of them were white. There were two Asian women, one Asian man, one African American woman and five more brownish people who were a mixture of Indians, Arabs, Southern Europeans, and Latin Americans. The huge majority of the rest were white people with blond hair, blue eyes – most likely of Western, Northern, and Eastern European descent. Ted had never been a practicing Jew, but his ancestry was definitely Jewish – as he looked around he had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling about the ethnic mixture of the majority.

Without knowing much about Silicon Valley, it would be easy to think Ted was having a moment of total unsubstantiated paranoia. After all, the United States is by and large a ‘white’ country settled by English, German, Norwegian, and other mostly white people – but California is a different story. California has a close split between English and Spanish as the first language with Spanish set to surpass English in the next decade or so. Latinos already outnumber Caucasians in California. In the Bay Area itself there is an amazing amount of diversity. Ted couldn’t think of a single instance when he had been in a restaurant that was all white.

Silicon Valley has a huge Asian population, a sizable African-American population, a growing Latino population, and an even more rapidly growing Indian and Arab population. In fact, tech itself tended to be dominated by Asian and Indian startups – which when they matured tended to be handed off to straight white male CEOs.

This group was not even close to being representative of Silicon Valley, tech, San Francisco, the Bay Area, or California. With that realization, the fireside ‘tiki-torch’ chats suddenly had a completely different kind of feel. Ted wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here – he wondered if anyone else had noticed.

They were all still laughing and nodding at Rick’s comment but Ted decided to interject and change the subject completely “Have you guys noticed anything strange about the ethnic makeup of this cohort?” He gestured around the room. Mostly, white people never noticed when there were mostly white people – they just felt more comfortable. Ted had never had that luxury, one thing about being Jewish is that you always know that you are different from everyone else unless you are in a synagogue – history had driven that awareness to a genetic knowledge level.

They all looked around. Misty, the reverse-stuff-annuity founder and the only African-American in the cohort made the call first. “These are a bunch of very good looking people. Though, no offense to present company – I prefer my men to be handsome, tall, and dark – of which there seems to be no real representation. A lot of the security and the trainers are black – but the founders seem to be mostly white guys.”

And white girls,” Jen Yang spoke up. “I’d noticed it early on but as a vastly underrepresented minority, decided not to say anything. Besides, everyone knows that VWA is a huge alt-right donor. Hell, I heard that Victor White and Steve Bannon go deer hunting together.”

What about Jewish founders? Anyone know any Jewish founders here?” Ted asked. It was the kind of question he usually didn’t go near. Adell began laughing.

From what I’ve heard about Victor White through the years – I’m guessing that there are no Jewish founders here Ted, except for you and you get a pass because you’re dating Adolf Hitler.” The situation wasn’t funny, but the comment was. They all laughed.

Ted didn’t have any qualms about taking money from a racist or anyone else for that matter – in fact, he was of the opinion that people should take as much as they can from the shit-heads of the world – but he decided that when they were free of V-Wab – he would do some serious homework into what the fuck was going on.

The old adage ‘birds of a feather flock together’ had proved itself to be true more times than Ted could count and it seemed to have demonstrated it’s universality with the founders at their table finding their way together as well -though none of them had done it consciously. None of them fit the straight, white, heterosexual, ‘cis’ mold that predominated at V-Wab. Cis comes from the latin word meaning ‘on the side of’ which is the opposite, gender speaking, of ‘trans’ which means across from. So a cis person identifies as the gender they were born with and a trans person does not.

Danny was actually born Danielle, Rick’s mother was Cuban, Misty was the sole African-American, Jen was Asian, David III was gay, Carrie was in a three way relationship (non-binary) with a man and a woman, Phil was Italian-American and one of the few older white geeks – like Ted, Ted was of Jewish descent, and Adell, well she was Adell. In any event this was the core group they spent time with inside – and while there were certainly a few exceptions – most of the rest of the people at V-Wab looked like Hitler youth at a holiday training session. Those folks who were not straight white cis and not in Ted’s group didn’t seem to care or notice that they stood out like exotic flowers in a field of wheat.

Chapter 17

None Dare Call it Conspiracy

On those who are employed, ever-increasing demands will be placed: They will need more and more training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly specialized, so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The system will have to use any means that it can, whether psychological or biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of directing competitiveness into channels that serve the needs of the system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power. But no more than a very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is. Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his need for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of THEIR opportunity for power.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Ted and Phil were geeking out about Gopher and Phil’s vision of a new internet between work out sessions and start-up seminars.

It’s kind of like Gopher, but different. I’ve kept the menu structure – which seems like old school links but actually is totally different – but I’ve developed a sorting algorithm called wasp hive.” Phil was an incredibly smart dude. “Wasp hive is really dangerous to the internet as it exists now.”

How so?” Ted was interested “Is it that much more efficient or advanced?”

Phil hesitated with a drawn out “Yesssss,” but he couldn’t resist explaining his creation to someone who actually understood it and was interested. “Do you know anything about wasps?”

Just to stay away from them. They’re pretty nasty.” Ted had been bitten by a wasp when he was a boy. It stung for days.

Okay,” Phil was in full lecture mode now “Bees are pollinators and wasps are predators. Bees sting once and die, wasps can sting over and over. Bees live in wax hives and make honey, wasps live in papery nests and hunt bees and other insects.”

I knew they were nasty. So why wasp hive?” Ted couldn’t understand why Phil would name his new algo after a nasty predator.

Look, please keep this between us. I haven’t given these details to VWA or anyone else for that matter because frankly, I don’t think they’d invest in me if they understood just how powerful WaspHive is.” Ted nodded, even more interested now. “The existing internet isn’t going to just step aside and the big companies aren’t going to give up their walled gardens. Plus, rebuilding the internet from scratch is a huge undertaking and to do it manually – would take years. So I started developing an A.I. that could read, validate, and copy websites – and in the process restructure their links and navigation to something along the lines of the old Gopher taxonomy.”

The internet as it exists right now is really analogous to a beehive. It contains millions of worker bees who have built a wax hive – they go out in the world, gather pollen and bring it to the hive where it is made into honey. A wasp hive on the other hand is made from digested trees and plants that are internally processed into a kind of paper. Lots of wasps are actually parasites as well as predators – so they will sometimes use another species nest as raw material to increase their own brood.”

So how does this affect what your algo does.”

Well, I started thinking about how parasitism works and after a bit too many cocktails one night, I wrote a piece of parasitic code into my web-scraper. Much to my surprise, it increased efficiency of the AI and created a more beautiful kind of structure with the menus. The only problem – and this is the part that I don’t want to get out – is that while it reads the existing web page, a built in viral part of the AI chews up the page code, scrambles it, and potentially destroy the existing servers.”

Wait…so WaspHive is a virus?” Ted was blown away.

Phil smiled sheepishly. “Well, sort of – but essentially it creates a better internet on top of the existing one. I’m working on a way to stop that – but – aside from the lawsuits and the disruption to pretty much everything – it does seem to be the only way to get the world to adopt a new internet.”

Ted couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “How many people know about this?”

Phil smiled “Actually, you’re the first one I trusted enough to explain it to Ted.”

Don’t tell anyone else. Seriously. Not a word. We’ll talk about it more once we’re out, deal?” It had become common for the attendees to talk about when they had their freedom or when they got out – like prisoners – which in a sense they were. Ted held his hand out and Phil shook it and agreed. Now they needed to get to the next seminar.

This was the final seminar before the last Fireside Chat with Joe Rogan. The seminar was scheduled for mid-day and there was a two hour mystery activity that was happening afterwards before the Fireside Chat. Ted had a bad feeling about what Victor White might try to shake out more founders. He knew it was coming. He just didn’t know what it was.

The seminar was titled ‘Snowflake Culture and How to Survive It.” The first half hour was a right wing historical account of identity politics. It started with civil rights and how the movement had changed from an attempt to create equality to an attempt to create a divisive ‘black culture’ that could not coexist with the dominant ‘white culture’. Ted saw Misty, the sole African-American among them, getting a lot of looks from founders – she was playing it cool though and pretended (he presumed) to be unaware of the attention she was getting. He had no idea how she controlled herself as the entire African-American experience was condensed into a cliff-notes version of historical revisionism that painted the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, and even Dr. Martin Luther King as political radicals trying to unfairly disrupt the status quo.

The lecture, which was deeply offensive and completely incorrect in an historical and political sense, continued on suggesting that the virus of ‘black identity’ had spread to Latinos, American Indians, Women, Hawaiians, and ‘the homosexuals’. The point they were making was that if it hadn’t of been for black identity politics – everyone would have merged into a sort of uni-culture that would have grown from White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. They didn’t use the term WASP but Ted couldn’t stop thinking it as they talked about how tensions would have eventually melted the wax of society and created an American where everyone was inwardly the same and outwardly unique.

The lecture was well done – it was complete and total horseshit, but it had been carefully put together with the right statistics, historical quotes, and carefully selected facts to make it sound almost reasonable. The problem was that anyone who had ever dealt with racism on any level from priviliged white assholes, could instantly see it for what it was. It was an attempt to once again put ‘white culture’ on a higher level than all the ‘other’ cultures. It was an attempt to belittle and discredit anything that wasn’t ‘white culture’ and for the most part, the attendees ate it up. It was like watching Donald Trump get voted into office all over again.

Ted had heard an intelligent radio commentator put it best. He had said “If half of America voted Trump into office – the only possible conclusions are either that Trump’s half of America is stupid, crazy, evil, or racist. The last option is the easiest one to believe.” Ted was seeing it as clear as daylight right in front of him. The white millennials in the lecture hall with him were oblivious to their own racism. They liked what they were hearing and for the most part didn’t question it.

Ted and Adell’s lunch bunch gang had all discussed whether they should continue at all costs and take VWA’s (and Larry Ellison’s money) and they had all agreed that it was the right thing to take money from these scumbags. This lecture, however was putting them all to the test. It was nothing however compared to the wrap up and hand’s on portion.

With the revisionist and offensive fake history lesson complete, the instructor (another blond haired, blue eyed, 6-foot tall 30-something) gave them some pointers on how to survive “Snowflake Culture”. His tips included things like ‘Try to look sympathetic, nod your head, and pretend that you really care about their whining” and “Hiring a snowflake is the quickest way to guarantee your organization a quick death.” A snowflake, by the way, was any person who believed in, respected, or made allowances for ‘identity politics’ in the workplace. Some of the buzzwords to look out for in the interview were ‘equal opportunity’ ‘glass ceiling’ ‘equal pay’ and the doozy – to ask candidates who their favorite Supreme Court Justice was and send them packing if they said Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

This went on for quite a while with similar astoundingly unperceptive characterizations and then came the coup de’tat – the place where the offensiveness couldn’t get any worse. First, the moderator asked the audience for real life examples of snowflakes. If Ted and his friends had thought the audience was in the same boat with them and just going along for the money, they were wrong.

Liberal arts majors.”

Women in pants suits.”

Blacks… ” yes the guy actually said blacks and paused for a second before qualifying it with “ …with Afros.”

Or expensive sneakers…” another member of the racist crowd chimed in.

Haitians.” A white woman threw in, with no explanation whatsoever – but no one asked her for one.

Rainbow flags or bumper stickers,” another slightly older white lady said.

LGBTQ shirts or hats…” again, no one interjected anything.

MAGA hats…..” Ted had known Adell wouldn’t be able to keep quiet. She’d tried to throw a bomb that would show just how awful they were being – but instead the crowd erupted in laughter.

The moderator felt the need to intervene on that one, he was also laughing “Probably not the problem we’re looking for on that one.”

Apple products,” a very pale white guy yelled. Ted heard some of the other members say things like “Queer CEO” and “Faggot company”.

Despite everything that had happened since 2016, despite the election of Trump, despite the things he had seen here – he still couldn’t believe what he was hearing or seeing.

Speaking Spanish…” another guy yelled.

Or Arabic. They’re all terrorist sympathizers.”

Asians…” this one came all the way from the other side. Ted was pretty sure that it had been someone in his group, but maybe not.

Again the moderator stepped in – “That’s not cool. Asian people have been with us all along. They’re almost white.” The impact of that last statement hit Ted harder than anything else. The audacity, the level of feeling superior, the implicit white supremacist context of that.

The list grew and grew until it was eventually anyone that wasn’t of North and Western European descent – but also Russians, Asians, and American Indians in business suits were given passes.

What amazed Ted was how quickly it had gone from generic stereotypes to specific ethnicities. It had gone from “Vegan to Black.” The groupthink on this kind of racist shit was astoundingly easy to bring to a head.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity in some kind of hallucinogenicly negative acid trip, the session came to a close. Ted, Adell, and their group all sort of coalesced. The other obviously non-white founders wandered over – either expelled from their ‘white’ groups or no longer comfortable with the people in them. There they were. Twelve people out of fifty. It was the last day of the camp and while they all knew each other, the bonds with the newcomers were never as tight as those with the original lunch bunch – still they were welcomed with open arms.

Ted had no idea how the mystery activity was going to compare with that but they all concurred that they had gotten through the worst of it and now all they had to do was ride out the storm to the bitter end. They had come too far and gone through too much to walk away now – though that would have felt spectacular.

The heavy instructors now gathered around – they had been conspicuously absent from the last session – which Ted figured was probably by intent since most of them were African-American (or <gasp> possibly even Haitian!) Ted figured that even Victor White knew better than to alienate his hired muscle.

The lead instructor pulled out a bullhorn – there was no need, his voice was booming anyway – but it was even louder and more terror inducing with the speaker. “Today, some of you are going to pass the final challenge. If you succeed, you will be funded and will most likely go on to become powerful millionaires who determine the future of our great country. If you fail, then you will lose it all.”

He let that hang in the air. Ted had no idea what that meant.

He went on. “Right now, before we provide you with details of your final challenge, we need each of you to sign this comprehensive waiver which absolves VWA of all responsibility in the event of injury or death. You will also need to sign this ironclad non-disclosure agreement. We will not answer any questions. If you do not want to sign, you can pack up your things and go.”

They were too close. All of them. Ted would realize later, that a big part of the indoctrination they had been through over the past week had caused them to think of this opportunity as their last and only chance at success. The lack of sleep, the pushing of the body and mind to the point of collapse, the rousing speeches and motivational fireside chats. All of that had really been preparing them to sign on the dotted line at this moment. They all did it.

After the last of them had signed – the most fucked up thing of all happened. They were randomly assigned to two groups. The instructors went over all of the hand-to-hand and self-defense moves they had been taught during the past seven days. They put a special focus on the kill moves.

With this complete – Victor White stepped out among them. They were all exhausted, beat up, drained, and probably working on 25% mental capacity at this point. The night before they had been forced to stay up late and wake up early providing only four hours of sleep.

You’ve all done a great job out here this week,” White said. “I wish there were enough money to fund all of you. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that we don’t do things in an orthodox way out here. V-Wab is designed to turn you into the executive rulers of the world.”

He paused. “The problem is that we can only fund half of you. We need to know that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get that funding. That you are willing to take your killer instinct and the lessons we’ve taught you and test yourself in the ultimate challenge. Welcome to the V-Wab Death Match.”

Ted couldn’t believe his ears. He looked around and caught the eyes of the friends he had made here. Some were on one side, some were on the other. Adell caught his gaze and held it. There was no way. They couldn’t do this. There was no fucking way they could get away with it. This was taking playing god to a whole new level.

Without giving them time to think, Victor White went on with his instructions. “You are divided into two groups – one on this side,” he motioned to Ted, “And the other on this side,” now he motioned to Adell’s side.

Ted and Adell’s eyes were still locked on one another. “I want you to look to the other side and find someone you think you could kill. Maybe you don’t like them for some reason, or maybe you think you are stronger. In any event, you are going to catch the eyes of that other person.” Ted thought of looking away and then realized he would rather just keep looking at Adell. She winked at him. They were locked and he couldn’t really feel what else was happening but then curiousity got the better of him and he looked to see if anyone was looking at him. On the other side, one of the biggest, muscle-dudes in the whole camp caught Ted’s eye. Fuck. He was staring right at Ted with total and obvious murderous intent. He tried to look away, to find someone else, but that guy wouldn’t stop staring at him.

We are going to count down from ten. When we reach zero – you are going to cross the divide and engage your enemy. You will either kill them, or they will kill you. There is no escape. Even if you want to do something else – the die has already been cast.” Ted wavered on whether to look friendly or fierce, all he felt was an overwhelming urge to yell “Fuck!” His mind began racing. They couldn’t do this…this was not fucking possible.

But, he had already seen enough fucked up shit during the course of the week at V-Wab that he knew it was possible. They were super-rich and they could do whatever they wanted. He noticed a group of the Fireside Chat guests and other Valley Luminaries had gathered on the bleachers.

10” He just wouldn’t do it. The guy would have to kill him. He looked and saw the guy next to him staring at Adell with murder in his eyes.

9” He would trip this fuckwad next to him first and then start beating him. Maybe his friends would help him.

8” His friends all seemed to have a bunch of white male and female babboons planning on murdering them. Maybe he should just run. He thought about turning and just running before the count was down.

7” He caught Adell’s eye. She motioned downwards and took a deep breath. She was telling him to calm down.

6” Phil moved next to him. “I think we can take that guy together,” he whispered.

5” Ted had never felt anything like this. It was the most intense moment of his life.

4” Until the next number down was counted and then the feeling doubled. He was ready.

3” He saw that all of his friends were feeling the same – maybe they could all meet in the center and fight off the goons.

2 – This is it. This is the moment folks. I hope you win.” Victor White threw one last comment in.

Stand down – everyone stand the fuck down. Exercise over.” The heavies rushed into the center, there would be no engagement. The whole thing had been a mind-fuck.

That’s what it feels like my friends. That’s what the moment of life or death, victory or defeat feels like. This is the only way I could show you what really matters and what you are really made of.”

Congratulations. You are now funded. All of you. Now go get showered and come check out Joe Rogan at our final Fireside Chat. You did it and you don’t want to miss the finale.”

Ted turned to Phil and the two men hugged. “Thanks for having my back, Phil.”

That’s what friends do,” he replied.

The big guy who had been eyeballing Adell began to walk away and Ted casually stuck his foot out causing the man to trip and fall on his face. Ted kept talking to Phil as if nothing had happened. He wondered how much rage that had been restrained would find other ways to be relieved. After tripping the guy, however, Ted felt much better.

Chapter 18

Funded Not Funambulists

 

One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people would spent their time shining each other’s shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

When investors invest in your startup, it’s not a loan. They’re giving you that money – so in essence, whatever your startup was worth before the investment, it is now worth that plus the investment money. So, when you give up some shares in the company, you do so with post-investment value, not pre-investment valuation. The long and short of it was that VWA transferred $3 million dollars to Pets Hitter, Inc. (the change they required at the end of it all was just making the space an actual thing) and Larry Ellison Investment Partners transferred $1 million to Pets Hitter – so now, the company was worth $4 million plus the pre-investment value which Adell assured Ted (and everyone else) was something like $3.5 million dollars. So, Pets Hitter was valued at $7.5 million dollars without a product. VWA got 30% ownership. LEIP got 10% – which was what they had negotiated but about double what the valuation and investment called for. Both companies got seats on the board – two for VWA and one for LEIP. The board was made up of Adell, Ted (he would never be Theo again), Tim Burr, and the three reps from the venture capitalists – that left a situation where there was a potential for a 3-3 vote. It wasn’t ideal but better than being outnumbered.

With the money in the bank and the company fully funded, it was easy for them to get to work. Adell was on a mission to hire nothing but snowflakes while Ted put together a pretty solid crew of mechanical engineers to build their prototypes. Adell and Tim were working with the marketing team and Charlene and Geronimo were doing their financial and legal work to make sure they didn’t go bankrupt or to jail. During the evenings, Ted often met up with Phil and the two of them worked on his WaspNest project.

Phil’s Wasps wouldn’t simply get loose on the internet and eat everything – they more or less left the walled gardens whole and in place – they just made them inaccessible. That was the main thing with wasp hives – they actually left the infrastructure alone but more or less used the http://www as plant matter to build the paper hive out of. Phil had no desire (and no way) of installing wasps on the servers of Google or Apple or Facebook – but instead they worked their way through the internet chewing up the main navigation protocol and replacing it with wa://sp so that anyone typing in www.google.com or http://www.google.com or https://wwww.google.com would simply arrive at a menu that looked like this

Welcome to Wasp Nest

Click the menu of what you are looking for.

Computer science, information & general works

Philosophy & psychology

Religion

Social sciences

Language

Pure Science

Technology

Arts & recreation

Literature

History & geography

People

Products

Current Events and News

Phil had opted for using the Dewey Decimal System as the basis of the entire redesigned internet. They’d gotten rid of the numbers on the surface of the design and Ted had suggested that it might be a good idea to add the three last categories: people, products, and current events/news. The old Google homepage would still be there – but to reach it users would need to type in something like

Wa://sp.computerscience.companies.searchengines.google

The revolution was that it was a scientific and hierarchical system that didn’t leave room for deception. Like going to the library or a great book store, users would be able to walk in, navigate to the section they were interested in, and find everything that was there. Once they had clicked on the Google link they would find the entire Google ecosystem available for them – and once they knew the specific location it would be saved as something like 000.35714932789 and that could be saved with a nickname. It was like knowing the title of a book and where it fit on the shelf – if you were interested you could look at the books on either side – in this case they might be Excite or Dogpile on one side and Hotbot and Lycos on the other side. If a user didn’t like Google – the options would be just a click away – click upwards in the hierarchy and you would find yourself at the page:

Wa://sp.computerscience.companies.searchengines

It would look something like this:

AOL

ASK

BING

BAIDU

DOGPILE

EXCITE

GOOGLE

HOTBOT

LYCOS

etc

With each company being a menu item. One of the most exciting things about Wa://sp was that it eliminated the need and function of domain names and completely eliminated the need for ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – the private ‘non-profit’ corporation that has largely been controlled the the U.S. Department of Commerce since the whole www came into being. ICANN and the entire DNS (domain name server) system set the stage for the entire subjugation of the internet by search engines, search engine optimizers, scammers, and spammers. This was the reason that a student who wanted to find help with crafting a teen dress on a sewing machine would instead find a porno film of a teen undressing when they typed in teendress.com or searched fro Teen dress on an unfiltered search engine. wa://sp instead would catalog all of the sites about teen dresses under something like 740.27159372 or wa://sp.arts.graphic-arts.textile-arts-fashion-clothing-womens-girls-teen-dresses – and since the entire structure was laid out mathematically and sorted by the AI with the ability for human intervention and flags – the chances of being sent to the wrong place were almost non-existant – but, and this was what Ted and Phil were so excited about – the chances of finding something else that was within your realm of interest were extraordinarily high. You were never more than one step away from something connected to your interest. There was no need to game a system like that because the game was already included in the system itself.

So this was what was happening on many evenings. Two midlife geeks putting together an antiquated system of internet organization that was a vast improvement over the current system of internet chaos. During the day, however, it was a completely different situation. Adell was a ball of stress. She knew she could count on Ted, Phil, and Tim for their board votes, but just because they had a majority didn’t mean she didn’t have to argue about every company decision she made with the board. The new board members were experienced in the ways of the valley and their job was to make sure that the money invested by their funds was being spent in the best possible way – and for them, that meant constantly scaling bigger and bigger regardless of the cost to the business.

They rented office and engineering space in South San Francisco – it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t as expensive as being in the city or out on the Peninsula. If Ted and Adell had thought that being funded would give them tons of money and change the way they lived – they were mostly wrong, however there were definitely some nice perks that came with it. First of all, they were able to pay themselves salaries $115,000 per year – pretty standard in the Bay Area for C-Level startup founders. There was no more need to drive for Lyft or walk dogs – which was nice. Also, they had expense accounts so any meals they ate, taxis they took, or reasonable expenses they incurred on a day to day basis could be charged to the corporate credit cards. Ted signed their company cards up to a crypto cashback app called Pei which monitored what they bought and where they went – but paid them 1% (in Bitcoin!) of all the purchases they made – so for $1000 in lunches spent on the corporate cards – $100 in BTC went into their semi-anonymous crypto wallet. Ted had a totally anonymous offline wallet that he kept all of his crypto in – it was his end of the world rainy day fund. He also registered the corporate cards with multiple cashback programs like Earny and as an added bonus made sure that the cards they got were high paying airline and travel rewards cards.

So, essentially what they both did was let the company pay for pretty much everything while putting away their salaries and earning cashback, crypto back, and mileage points– and all while still living in Ted’s rent control apartment for the last month of 2019. Ted still hadn’t seen Adell’s place but he figured when the month was done he would just have the movers from Clutter move his stuff to Adell’s – and put it on the company credit card. They had laid out their position on what their company was all about from the beginning. They were sticking it to the system. They were going to leach every penny they could get out of these bigots and nazis of the banking system – and they were going to metaphorically put it all in a pickle jar, bury it in the backyard, and when their startup went belly up (like 97% of all startups) they would dig out the pickle jar and retire to someplace cheaper and less filled with sociopaths than the Bay Area.

That was their plan – and they walked a tightrope to justify every expense they made with their company cards and balanced like skilled funambulists to put as much away as they could without drawing attention from the board. They’d both read too many stories about founders who were multi-millionaires on paper when their companies failed and quickly found out they were broke when the stock was worth nothing. It was a common story in Silicon Valley – and it wasn’t going to happen to them. Technically, they were millionaires – but they didn’t have that money in the bank, only on paper.

The only real problem with their plan was that Pets Hitter was starting to look extremely promising. Ted’s engineering team had come up with a viable, table sized bio-generator that would power a family home for a month with two tons of dog shit. It actually worked and the prototype contained the smell, and as a byproduct produced tidy scentless brown bricks that could be burned to make more energy or alternatively used as a very powerful fertilizer. Ted suspected that by mixing in a fire-proof polymer, the bricks could even be used as a building material.

There was one very obvious problem. Very few families produced two tons of dog shit in a month. Or cat shit. Or pet shit. At most a big dog produces a pound of shit per day (and that’s a BIG dog) – so that would come to a maximum amount of 30 lbs per month – about 1970 pounds short of the two tons needed. Still, it was progress.

To get the poo they needed for R&D, they had contracted a company called DutyCalls which specialized in picking up pet waste from animal shelters, kennels, veterinarians, and dog parks. Duty calls actually paid them to take it – which was money that Ted and Adell collected through another small private business they set up called RePoop. Dutycalls paid Repoop to take their dog droppings, and then Repoop sold the droppings to Pets Hitter. They were collecting on both ends with Repoop.

Meanwhile, Pets Hitter was getting a fair amount of media attention. The idea that a family could generate enough power to run a home with washer/dryer, refrigerator, air-conditioning, etc was a big deal and the local news got wind of the story through Adell and her PR department. The truth was, this only translated to about $250 in San Francisco – but the novelty of the idea was what was making people excited.

It was during an interview with ABC7 News that Adell created one of the more interesting problems they had yet had to deal with.

I don’t see any dogs here,” the reporter said, motioning around the facility “Where do you get your dog droppings?”

We buy them,” Adell said. It was true – they bought them from Repoop who was paid to take them by DutyCalls. Over the next few days they were bombarded with calls, letters, and emails from people wanting to sell their dog poop.

Chapter 19

The Power of Poop

It is overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial-technological system survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the “bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run, and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” than ever and their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly to a very great extent) will be those that are engineered into them rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild).

-Industrial Society and Its Future

One of the many shitty but fascinating problems they ran into was the issue of bags. Most pet owners picked up their dog poo in cheap plastic bags, tied them shut, and threw them in the trashcan or a DutyCalls bin. The entire shit distillation process hinged on bacteria eating the poo and then excreting methane which was used to generate electricity. Actually, there were several processes that could be used to make energy, but the methane burn was the simplest. The process didn’t work if the poo was in plastic bags.

To get around this – Ted’s team had come up with a machine that would rip and tear the bags and the poo while mixing it with water. It worked but Ted hated it because he saw the potential for using the byproducts of the methane process as an additional source of revenue but that wasn’t a possibility with the plastic bags included as part of the material. Nobody wanted to burn or fertilize with shredded plastic bags. The ‘shit-bricks’ were high concentrate energy waiting to be used as either fertilizer, a fuel source, or (with the addition of a clean, binding polymer) a building material.

When he explained this to Adell – or just about anyone else, the response was usually for the person to be totally grossed out by the idea of using shit to build houses, schools, or any other human use building – Adell of course took it even further – she sang about it…blatantly turning The Commodores song ‘Brick House’ into her own version called ‘Shit House’.

Ow, it’s a shit house
It’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all poop out
It’s a shit house
The poo is stacked and that’s a fact
Ain’t holding nothing back

Ow, it’s a shit house
Well put-together, everybody knows
This is how the story goes

Shit it down, shit it down now
Shit it down, shit it down now

It was a catchy tune and they were all singing it all day. In fact, from that point forward whenever Ted saw the shitbricks, the song would come up in his head. The song was fun but the problem of getting rid of the plastic bags was a sore point with Ted. It was a problem with an itchy solution hiding somewhere but he wasn’t completely sure what it was.

It was when the calls and letters began coming in that inspiration hit him.

Oh my god,” Adell complained “I had to open up my big mouth. Everyone in the Bay Area wants to sell us their dog shit now. Dollars to donuts that story is going to get picked up by the national press and we’re going to have every dog owner in America trying to profit from selling us Rover’s dog logs.”

Tim, always the money man, saw it differently “This is great press guys. I smell money here. There’s something here that we can use to make more money. I know it.”

Adell wasn’t having any of it. “Tim, you don’t understand – we actually get paid to take shit from DutyCalls and then we pay our own small company Repoop, to buy it.” They should have told Tim about that earlier. Ted waited for Tim to be upset, but he wasn’t – this whole thing had been a blessing to him and he was loving it. He didn’t begrudge them not bringing him in on Repoop.

That’s a smart idea. Nice one. Still – I think there is something here.”

Ted, as usual thinking about the plastic bag and shit-brick issue jumped into the conversation. “Even if we did buy dogshit from America, they would all send it in cheap, toxic, non-biodegradable bags that we couldn’t use to make viable shitbricks with.” They’d all gotten used to Ted talking about viable and non-viable shit bricks so no one even cracked a smile.

Tim let out a big ‘hmmm’ – “Look, I’m okay that you guys left me out of Repoop – that’s your deal but I’ve got another idea that might enable us to pull in more cash outside of Pet Hitter. I don’t want to be left out of this one – we will go three ways on it. Deal?”

Not even knowing what the deal was, Ted and Adell both agreed. “ Sure, Whatcha thinking Tim Burr?” Adell queried him.

What if we were to tell all the dog owners that the only way we would buy their shit would be if they picked it up in biodegradable bags that didn’t fuck up Ted’s shitbricks.”

That’s great,” Ted said “But does anyone even make them?”

There’s the beautiful part Ted,” Tim replied “We’re going to make them. Let’s sell them bio-bags!”

And that’s how they got into the Bio-Bag business. Tim’s uncle, Big Al, was a huge multi-level-marketing guru – he’d made a fortune with Amway, drop shipping, and other MLM organizations. Tim brought him in as an advisor on the Bio-Bag operation. When they met, Ted felt like he was meeting an African-American mafia don. Big Al was creepy. His suggestion was that they set the whole thing up as a Mary-Kay or Avon type of business – they would order the bags in bulk from a wholesaler. The bags were already being made so they didn’t need to re-invent the wheel. Tim, Big Al, Adell, and Ted would be the top tier in the pyramid. They would sell the bags to the next tier for a 10 % markup and split the revenue generated. The bags would be sold to the next two tiers for an additional 5% markup. The three tiers after that would mark up 3% each. Five tiers after that would be 2% markup. Ten tiers after that would be 1% markup and if the downline went further than that the markup would get steadily smaller.

Additionally, on Big Al’s advice – they charged the next tier $100k each to be top tier authorized distributors of the bio-bags. Big Al brought in five guys who happily paid the $100k to be the top tier of distribution arms. They would charge $50k each to the five guys under each of them, making a $125,000 profit in the process {($50k x 5) – 10% = $125k}. Tim, Adell, Ted, and Big Al each got $281,250 out of that deal and the money just kept coming as more people signed on and paid less and less for less and less profits. All of this cash came in before they’d even sold a single Bio-Bag!

The beauty of it was that by requiring pet owners to use their branded Bio-Bags to sell their dog shit, they were creating a market incentive for the sale of the bio-bags. Also, it made Ted happy that they had potentially solved the plastic problem. That’s probably why he didn’t do the math and somehow convinced himself that what they had just embarked on wasn’t a ponzi scheme.

 

 

Chapter 20

Bio-Bags

The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we don’t think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The Bio-Bags business was an instant and huge success. The money from the distributorships alone covered the cost of the bags, the cost of the poop, and the cost of branding the bags. They opted to have the entire bio-bag business under the Pets Hitter umbrella. The media loved the idea of dog poo being a sudden and valuable commodity and while they weren’t paying much for it ($0.25 per pound) the narrative was that as they ramped up production and increased efficiency – the price of poop would go up. The key to all of this was getting people to buy the bags, pay for the distributorships, and bring their poop.

Suddenly, much to their amusement, there was actually talk about people ‘hoarding’ dog poop and waiting for the price to go up. A couple of cases arose in Golden Gate Park where homeless people (suddenly called ‘poo pickers’ by the news) had gotten into territorial brawls over what looked like some pricey piles. Meanwhile the story was picked up by national media and more and more inquiries were coming in.

Adell, like her namesake, was a master of propaganda and used the attention to drive the bio-bag business into high gear. The top five levels of their pyramid filled out. Lower tiers were starting to have some traction even though the margin was not nearly as good as for those on the higher levels.

At this point in the narrative, it makes sense to explain the difference between a multi-level-marketing operation and a pyramid scheme. Essentially, an MLM business uses a pyramid structure to distribute and make money from the sale of an actual product. A pyramid scheme (Ponzi scheme) tends to not have an actual product, and profits are made by distributing the right to collect royalties or distribution fees. They were riding a thin line – they had an actual product – the bio-bags – but the real money was coming from the distribution scheme. If they were actually buying poop and people were earning from it – then the bio-bags were a legit business, but if the poop buying stopped, the bio-bags would suddenly be worth far less than the distribution licenses – and in that situation, they would be sitting on the top rungs of a big pyramid scheme.

The Ponzi scheme gets it’s name from Charles Ponzi, a financier who lured investors to a high profit venture in the 1920’s – unknown to the investors, the high profits were being paid to higher ranking investors from those newly coming into the scheme. As long as new investors are coming in and the all of the investors think their profits are coming from the investment vehicle itself – the scheme continues to work. Eventually, however, the other shoe always drops.

When Ted brought up his concerns about a ponzi scheme to Adell, she laughed and told him the tale of Adele Spitzeder, purportedly one of her distant relations who lived in Germany in the 1870s. Spitzeder had been a well known actress but when she aged out of good roles, she opened a bank in Munich and at one point was considered the richest woman in Bavaria. Her bank ran what was probably likely the first ‘ponzi’ scheme.

So, actually Ted,” Adelle said with a cute sort of schoolgirl charm “It should be called an ‘Adele Scheme’ because Mr. Ponzi misappropriated my ancestor’s brilliant criminal scheme.”

What happened to her?” Ted asked.

She went to prison, lost all of her money, and when she got out became a lesbian folk singer.”

Seriously?” Ted was sure she was pulling his leg.

Seriously…Google it, or Gopher it or whatever it is that you and Phil do.” She wasn’t joking, he could tell.

In any event, the bio-bags, the Pets Hitter generators, and turning poop into gold was generating a lot of media attention. Their valuation was skyrocketing. Their were getting offers of investment without asking – and, on the advice of VWA and LEIP they were turning all suitors away. The plan was to wait for an acquisition offer – hopefully before the whole thing blew up and they all went to jail.

Chapter 21

Shitbricks

Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful; certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical environmentalists ALREADY hold an ideology that exalts nature and opposes technology.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

By the time Christmas rolled around, Ted and Adell were too busy to celebrate and it was time for Ted to pack up his house, get rid of his extra accumulations, and be ready to leave before the first of the year. Given that they were suddenly rolling in money – the $90k his landlord had given him to move out seemed like an insignificant amount of money. Ted converted it to bitcoin – the price had gone up a bit at the end of the year, but the mining rewards were set to be cut in half by mid-2020 so he was fairly sure he would earn a pretty good return on his money – plus, having ten bitcoin as a back up plan wasn’t a bad idea. It was his, no one could take it, and it retained it’s value wherever he took it. A bitcoin was always worth a bitcoin.

As progress on the shit-reactor generators progressed, Ted found himself becoming more and more fascinated by the shitbricks. As mentioned before, they had developed a process of taking the leftover waste and pressing it into bricks that could then be burned for additional power, ground up and used for a high concentrate fertilizer, or with the addition of a polymer – made into a building material. Ted had hired several chemists and they sometimes spent their lunch breaks chatting about the potential uses for the various components feces.

Methylindol, also known as skatol, was the substance which gave poop it’s terrible smell. It was a highly toxic substance and unfortunately was one of the things that bacteria didn’t feed on to create the methane they were harvesting to create energy with. It was flammable but not really useful if Ted wanted to create building materials or fertilizer from the bricks. Interestingly, skatol is what gives coal it’s smell. Using a different bacteria than the one in the generators, they could separate skatol into benzene and toluene – two highly flammable hydrocarbons. Essentially propane and paint thinner. These could be bottled and sold. The process looked like it could be profitable at scale.

Removing the skatol from the brick material left the bricks scentless, sterile, and filled with possibility. Adell had a friend in Santa Cruz who had a marijuana growing operation, she reached out to him to see if there was a possibility of selling him the brick byproducts to fertilize his plants with. Ted and his chemists sent the chemical composition and a sample down for them to check out in their lab facility. Adell’s friend was a disabled Marine who had come back from Afghanistan with a serious case of PTSD, cannabis and CBD compounds were the only treatment that had helped him to get back to a normal sense of being. In gratitude, he had started ‘ChronicPTSD’ and was spreading the love.

After they had done their analysis the answer came back right away. ‘ChronicPTSD’ offered to buy as many shitbricks as were available for a price that was considerably higher than Ted had expected. The phosphates and organic compounds were like fertilizer gold. Whatever ChronicPTSD couldn’t use, they would sell to other growers at a markup.

Everything was happening far too fast for anyone to process. Ted and Adell had met, fallen in love, moved in together, started a startup, gotten funded, hired enough people to run and build a growing company, become millionaires, made new friends, developed new products, and all in the space of a couple of months. Life was not supposed to happen this quickly, but one of the more useful lectures at V-Wab had been about finding ‘flow’ and how when you found flow you would be amazed at the way that things fit together, moved quickly. Flow had a life of its own. It took you where it wanted to go and if you allowed it to lift you up, it would carry you over the jagged rocks and bring you to the place where you were supposed to be.

They were definitely in the flow. The way to recognize flow is when synchronicity and kismit start to be the norm in your everyday life. Things just naturally fit together. You run into the people you are supposed to meet, you see the billboard or the other thing that gives you the inspiration, and generally, you think or say one thing – and something else follows on the heels of that.

For example, they had been busy but one day when they were both coming back home at the same time, Ted stopped to check his mailbox. As he thumbed through the bills, offers of loans, credit card statements, and holiday junk mail, a small red envelope caught his eye. It looked like a Christmas card – he hadn’t gotten one for ages from anyone but marketers. He flipped it over to see the address and at that exact moment Adell said “I wonder what the Chan’s are doing?”

By itself, that’s not kismit – the kismit was that right at the moment she said Chan’s, Ted read who the card was from ‘The Chan-Zuckerbergs’ – that’s a clear sign that you are in the flow. When that kind of shit happens, you know that you can enjoy the ride for a while longer.

He was musing on that when she grabbed the card from him “What’s this? Woah…that’s some synchronicity right there, huh?” She tore it open. It was a pretty standard Christmas card photo of Priscilla, Mark, and their kids that said ‘Season’s Greetings’ on the front.

Snowflake alert – boop, boop, boop” Ted couldn’t resist. ‘Season’s Greetings’ had been one of the snowflake telltales at the famous V-Wab lecture. This card had a literal snowflake on it. It had a handwritten note on the back of it.

‘So happy that you guys found each other…sorry we’ve been so absent. We’ve been watching from afar! Congratulations on Pets Hitter! It’s amazing. Let’s get together after the holidays at our place!

Love, Pris, Mark and the kids.’

I’ve never seen their kids in person, have you?” Adell was lauging at his snowflake alert while she said it.

Nope, do you think they are real?” Ted wasn’t sure if he meant the kids or the adults or something else. Adell ignored his question.

It’s pretty fucking weird they’re our friends. I mean, kind of, sort of…I mean this means we are their friends right? You don’t send an actual physical Christmas card to someone unless they are your friends or your clients right? I noticed that you never name drop them…me either.” It was true. Ted wasn’t a big name dropper in the first place – neither was Adell unless she had a reason, but neither of them ever mentioned the Chans. Even when people asked how they met, they just said they were introduced by some mutual friends. It was rare for anyone to ask who, but on that blue moon occasion, the answer was always just The Chans.With no mention of Zuckerburg, Facebook, Insta, or first names.

Adell went on “Do you think they really are our friends?”

Ted wasn’t sure, but when he thought about it – yeah, you didn’t send out Christmas cards to people you didn’t care about – especially with a handwritten note. “Yeah, I think they are, but it’s not a normal sort of friendship. I mean, I never namedrop friends anyway but let’s say I did, like I just mentioned to Phil, ‘Oh yeah, my buddy Mark Zuckerburg thinks blah blah’ and then he would be like ‘Not that Mark Zuckerburg? Right? Are you serious?” And I would be like “Yeah, he and his wife introduced me and Adell – we exchange Christmas cards.’ Then he would say ‘Where do you send them?’ and I’d be like ‘Um, I know where their house is but the return address on the card in actually just Facebook HQ’ and if he was scrupulous at all he’d ask something like ‘Oh yeah, call him if you are buddies’ and I’d be like ‘Okay’ and I’d call that number they never answer that doesn’t identify who you are calling and that they haven’t called us back from in months and then he, or anyone would say ‘Yeah, you’re full of shit Ted. Have you been smoking the dog logs at your shop? I think a Doberman may have raided your sensimilla stash.” So, no, I don’t see any reason to mention them. It would come to no good.”

Adell was looking at him with her mouth wide open. His monologue/fake dialogue hadn’t been very long but he had changed voices along the way and acted it out. “Holy shit Ted. That was awesome. Maybe you have been smoking the dog logs.”

Chapter 22

Dog Logs

Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

There are all kinds of different problems that come with startups. Problems with the technical end of things, problems with the legal end of things, problems with ‘culture’, problems with scale, problems with regulations, and all the other problems that affect any sort of business. Then there are unique startup problems that arise – founder and co-founder issues, investor issues, and the other personnel issues. Finally there is a kind of problem that is generally unique to a startup because it dies with a startup that doesn’t solve it. That’s the almost legendary ‘solution in need of a problem’ problem which is often mistaken for the very much more desirable ‘problem in need of a solution’ problem.

The solution in need of a problem works like this: founders don’t do their market research, they don’t find a valid product market fit which is where good ideas come from (.i.e. solving problems) but instead create a new bright shiny object (BSO) that they get investors, other founders, and the public excited about. The BSO can be very expensive and very cool – it can be something amazing – like a grocery delivery service or getting pet food through a website or turning private vehicles into taxis – or getting rid of private offices and having the whole world work in open offices without privacy or cubicles and no personal desks or – well you get the picture. BSOs are awesome while everyone is excited about them. Investors flood them with money, they become the darlings of Wall Street and Fortune Magazine, they have huge IPOs – and then over time people come to realize “Hey, wait a minute, I like picking out my groceries and having an excuse to go to the store” or “I don’t really want to pay $50 extra each month for pet food” or “Hey, this $20k car has earned $20k but that doesn’t pay for the free water I’ve been giving my rides and I had to pay my rent during this time and actually, because of all the miles and maintenance my $20k ride is only worth $5k now” or people start realizing working with a bunch of Type A people in an ‘open office’ actually sucks. It’s like that and then the investors start to realize – grocery delivery has even shittier margins than grocery stores and those were already pretty shitty, pet food is a horrible business because pet owners are generally cheap and a pain in the ass. In pet food the margins are crappy and the driving app has been bleeding money because it has been paying the drivers too much and the economy is about to come crashing down and people don’t need office space plus it’s bleeding money because the margins are shitty. Then investment rounds stop. Then restructuring happens. Then bankruptcy. Then the main street investors lose their asses, the economy crashes, and all the BSOs? They disappear.

Ted and Adell knew they had a BSO. They had created it at the perfect time in history when central banks were throwing money at investment banks and hedge funds and there were already so many BSOs pulling in money hand over fist that nobody would notice if one more was thrown out there. And no one had noticed. They were getting away with it – and they knew they were getting away with it. It was all working! It even seemed like they might pull the holy grail of maneuvers and pivot or start something else within the same space in time to avoid exploding

For Pets Hitter – things were really working. Their generator designs were working. The Biobag and Repoop businesses were booming. In fact, they had so much pet shit coming in that they had completely outstripped their capacity to use it. They had bought massive tanks and installed them in additional warehouse space. It was just a matter of time before there was a spill or a leak. So far, all was good, but the law of averages was against them. Since they had set up the MLM scheme with Big Al, they couldn’t stop buying poop or the price would collapse – and then they would be left under a mountain of shit.

Thankfully, DutyCalls had stopped giving them free dog turds – they had wanted to negotiate a contract and get paid once they saw the poop-gold-rush stories on the internet. As a result they had stopped selling free poop for high prices – but now they were left with buying poop in bio bags. Things were getting out of hand. It was all too much. It was more than either of them had wanted.

Remember that thing about flow and kismit – when you are in it, you have to pay attention because if you don’t – it will knock you down and fuck you. Their business was going too good. They were getting too much media attention. The valuations they were suddenly hearing thrown around about them were just too good. Ted and Adell didn’t realize that – they were along for the ride. They were first time founders. They didn’t know the dirty way the business works. They had almost forgotten about who they had gotten in bed with.

Victor White and Larry Ellison both showed up on the same day. They called an emergency board meeting and somehow they’d managed to buy Tim Burr’s vote. Ted had been trying to convince Adell to let Phil have a seat on their board. It never hurt to have a former Microsoft guy at your table and Ted trusted him completely after their combat experience. He had thought they would have more time.

The emergency meeting was about a vote of no-confidence on Adell as CEO. The board voted 4-2 to remove Adell and replace her with Tim. The entire thing was shitty – Victor and Larry sat in the back of the room and after the meeting had gone exactly the way they wanted they called Ted and Adell aside for a private meeting. Tim wouldn’t look at either of them after the deed had been done.

Victor and Larry were douchebags, of course, this was the kind of thing that had made them billionaires. For all Ted knew they did this on a regular basis – but in any event, Ted and Adell had no choice but to go to the meeting, hear what they had to say, and probably do what they wanted them to do.

The meeting had none of the fun touches of their past encounters – no desk hand grenades or rousing motivational stories about racism. No, this was business. It was just the four of them.

We know about the potential you’ve been hiding from us,” Victor started.

You guys are in way over your heads,” Larry followed up. “As first time founders, you are going to get eaten up by these guys. You can’t handle what is coming.”

Ted wasn’t sure if they were on to the skimming, the pyramid scheme, or had figured out the potential for the shitbricks. Adell, was thinking it was something else entirely. They were both wrong.

We’re going to buy you two out today,” Victor just said it. It wasn’t an offer, it wasn’t a question, it was just a fact.

We’ve talked about it and we’re sitting on top of a mountain of gold here,” Larry said. “This has all the right ingredients to be the next $100 Billion Dollar Company, but you two with your fucked up names are not the ones to do it.”

Who’s going to do it, Tim Burr?” Adell said it bitterly.

No, we’re going to fuck him too,” Victor said. “But you two at least are getting out of this before all the hard work starts. Larry and I have put together an offer we think you’d be crazy to turn down.” He slid a paper across the desk.

The offer was a $1 Billion dollar buyout of all of their interest, their control, and any technology they might have developed in the course of the project. The thing about being in the flow is that you have to know when the flow is telling you to duck, when it’s telling you to weave, when it’s telling you to punch, and when it’s telling you to get the fuck out. Adell and Ted recognized the flow all over this one. They could fight, they could win, they could enter the ranks of the top hundred wealthiest people in the world – they could stay and have $50 billion dollars.

They couldn’t sign that paper fast enough. The flow was giving them a billion dollar exit from a world of shit and they’d both paid attention to the fact that companies and founders that turned down billion dollar offers ended up being worth far less. Just ask AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, Friendster, or countless others. Sure, they might be able to become the king and queen of pet turds – but why the fuck would they want to do that?

They didn’t even run the offer by lawyers before signing – although Adell was smart enough to make sure that there was an indemnity clause that absolved them of any and all potential lawsuits or legal issues that might arise from their time with Pets Hitter

They weren’t billionaires, but between the two of them, they had almost a billion dollars when it was all said and done. They’d managed to keep a lot of it off of any sort of books. That’s called tax evasion in legal circles and doing good business in business circles. In politics it’s called business as usual.

Chapter 23

Moving Out

Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people CAN live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunters, etc. And, generally speaking, local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

During the short time they’d known each other, Ted and Adell had been through a lot but in the process, they’d been so busy that Ted had still never seen Adell’s place. In fact, aside from going through a bizarro start-up bootcamp, building a multi-billion dollar business, creating a modern day ponzi scheme, and solving San Francisco’s (and the world’s) stinkiest problem – they really hadn’t done that much together. They simply hadn’t had the time. Still, through the process, they had come to know each other intimately and completely without actually knowing each other at all. They knew one thing for sure – they were meant to be together.

Ted was excited to start the next phase of their life together. Adell was already busy putting new ‘Uber of…” ideas together while Ted packed up, donated, and ‘Clutter’ed his life into boxes that would go to storage. As before, Adell cautioned him to pack light because her place was a little crowded. He reduced his world to a laptop and two suitcases. It wasn’t that hard, actually – he had never been a ‘stuff’ person.

Do you think we should have tried to keep some percentage of the company?” Adell asked him. “I mean we rolled over on their first offer.”

I think we were smart to be completely shut of it. Unfortunately, that thing is a time bomb. We didn’t do it completely on purpose, but at some point that whole ‘Adele Scheme’ is going to blowup. My question is whether they intended to fuck us from the beginning or if that only happened because the press and investor excitement took off….”

Adell was laughing. “I see what you’re saying, but I don’t really think we can get any sympathy for this one – we got a billion fucking dollars. That’s not exactly getting fucked…I’m just glad they agreed to let us be indemnified if the thing does explode. You know what I mean? That’s fucking priceless. Admit it, you were never that into it anyway…”

Ted nodded. “Granted, chemistry and engineering aren’t really where my passions lie and dogshit – I don’t know if I’ll ever stop smelling it – it’s like it is burned into my nasal cavity, but I enjoyed the intellectual challenges, I liked the whole ‘waste not want not’ aspect of it. I suppose – the whole thing was about optics to begin with…female CEO, getting some diversity in VWA, that kind of thing…I just can’t get over Tim…I never expected that sort of betrayal from him.”

Adell nodded. “That reminds me. I had an email from him. He more or less was apologizing. He said that it was going to happen no matter what and if he hadn’t of complied, they would have gone about it in another way and it probably would have been nasty. He also made a pretty good point about the lack of gay black CEOs in the world – which I totally get, but yeah, I didn’t expect it either and honestly, fuck that guy and his creepy Uncle Al.”

Ted had a thought “Maybe it was because we kept calling him Tim. He wanted to be called Timothy, remember.”

Adell looked thoughtful, “I tried, but it just kept coming out Tim.” She laughed “That would be hilarious if it were the reason. I wonder if they will make him go through V-Wab!” She laughed at the thought. “The poor guy. I do wonder if there is something bigger going on with the venture capitalists though. I mean, they gave us a shitload of money to get out. They must have a reason.”

The reason became clear on Christmas Eve.

Ted and Adell were spending their first Christmas together in Ted’s apartment – it was the last days of his tenancy, but they were the best days of it too. They had a little plastic Christmas tree from walmart and had opted not to get presents for each other because they both could buy whatever they wanted. Instead, they had decided to just spend time doing normal people stuff – because their lives had already moved out of normal people range and they both understood that this might be their last chance to experience a normal Christmas.

So there they were, surrounded by half-packed boxes, a tiny 2 foot plastic tree with twinkling lights, Bing Crosby singing the theme to some horrible 1950s Christmas movie on the TV – and both of their phones lit up. Pets Hitter had signed a deal with the City of San Francisco to build a huge municipal poo reactor to generate power. The amount of money involved was staggering. The deal had been signed through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. They were going to start harvesting and generating power with human poo.

Why didn’t we think of that?” Adell said. Actually, Ted had thought of it but had kept it to himself. It was bad enough dealing with pet shit. In any event, the two had decided to be content with the blessings that had been heaped upon them and set about creating their new life together. Just a girl named Adell Fitler and a boy named Ted Kazinsky having a quiet night at home together on Christmas Eve.

On the second day after Christmas, Clutter came and picked up the stuff Ted was keeping – which wasn’t very much. The Salvation Army came and picked up everything else. Adell suggested that they go someplace special for New Years Eve – so they had bought tickets to Dubai, booked a room in the Burj Khalifa, and were flying out before 2020 even came.

Maybe we should just go to your place,” Ted suggested – partly because he still hadn’t seen it. He was starting to think she might be hiding something – but then, what could she really be hiding – in the process of the business, they’d had to disclose everything about themselves, go through background checks, and – no, she wasn’t hiding anything from him.

You really don’t want me to see your place, do you?” He teased.

I’m having some work done on it – we can both move in when we get back.” He was sure there was something she wasn’t telling him.

Chapter 24

The Rich Live Just Like Us

You can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another. Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: THIS is all good and THAT is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels. On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It didn’t seem fair – not that they were suddenly among the top 1% or the to .5% – but that they were able to just pull out their passports, buy tickets, get on a plane, fly halfway around the world, and check into a hotel in the tallest building in the world. They could do that because they were citizens of a first world country – and on the flight they talked about how many people had zero opportunity to ever do the same – regardless of income – because of nationality.

Rich people don’t have to pay for things the way poor people do though. It’s just a fact, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay rent or fees, they don’t even pay for airline tickets. All the miles from their corporate cards had been accumulated in Ted’s account. He was able to get them first class tickets on an Emirates flight direct from SFO and five nights in the Armani Hotel Dubai in the Burj Khalifa Tower on the 39th floor. Total cost – 620,000 miles for the flight and $4600 for the hotel. He didn’t have enough miles to cover the room – but he’d only been rich for a short time so he used a brand new American Express and got 100,000 Hilton Points for spending $4000 in the first 30 days. The Hilton Points would cover their next hotel.

Ted had given up flying after the September 11th attacks because the first flight he tried to take had resulted in a three-hour questioning and a strip search. He’d missed his flight and never tried to take another. He’d hired a lawyer who assured him he was no longer on the ‘no fly’ list – but he hadn’t gone back to the airport for a flight – until now, but he’d always believed in keeping an up to date passport – for some reason. Now that habit was showing itself to be worthwhile.

At the airport, they were whisked through priority Pre-Pass. Adell had registered them both for the service at the start of their short corporate careers. They didn’t have to wait in line, they didn’t have to have their bags searched, they didn’t have to wait in the waiting area but were driven to the Emirates Lounge where they had free food, free drinks, a live jazz band, and even free massages.

Anyone who tells you that the rich are living in the same world as the rest of humanity is lying either because they are rich and don’t want you to know how good they have it or they are rich and have never seen how the other 99.5% live – or they are not rich but brainwashed and delusional because of propaganda control systems. The rich have fucking organic fruit served to them on silver trays at the airport and they don’t have to pay for it. How much would that cost you?

When they were escorted on the plane by a well dressed and soft spoken flight attendant (through a private entrance – they didn’t have to go through the ‘poor door’) their seats were like Japanese capsule hotels with full reclining beds, multiple entertainment systems, and enough room for three normal sized people. There were privacy curtains around each pair of seats – and optional privacy curtains between them.

It was a long flight – one that didn’t involve long waits for the bathroom (there were four bathrooms for the ten first class guests), cramped seating, someone drooling on them, neck aches from trying to sleep in a cramped seat, bad food, plastic utensils, tired old films, bad sound systems, or when they arrived – long waits to get off the plane while they waited for Mr. and Mrs. Bumfuck to pull their massive bags out of the overhead compartment. There was a lounge area near the cockpit entrance with a full service bar and room to stand and move around. Ted was surprised there wasn’t a fitness center – the first class section had everything else.

No, it was a long flight with total comfort, Dre Beats headphones, full internet access, first run films, chef prepared meals served on china, and valet bag service. The flight could have been twice as long and they would have been fine.

Upon arrival they were led out ahead of the masses, taken to a private customs window, welcomed to Dubai and then driven in a golf cart to where a waiting limousine took them straight to the Burj Khalifa. Looking out the window was like watching a travel channel television show.

Dubai is a bit like Las Vegas in that it is a city that never sleeps and you can pretty much get anything you want there as long as you have enough money. They had enough money for anything but no real agenda other than being someplace else and spending time together.

There was a cultural festival celebrating the founding of the Sultanate of Baboob taking place in the entire convention area of the Burj Khalifa – which is more like a vertical city than a skyscraper. Neither of them would have known what was going on except that the presence of so many nuns was a bit of a surprise and caused Adell to ask what was happening.

They’re not actually nuns, they’re from the Sultanate of Baboob – part of the entourage surrounding the festivities. It’s all extremely interesting,” the concierge told them, ‘but take it from me, don’t try the pickle juice tea. It’s definitely an ‘acquired taste’.”

And that was Dubai – they snow skied in the mall, took a camel safari out into the desert, ate far too much lamb, and admittedly went way over the top for the first time in their lives. With any luck they would stay rich forever, but they might as well enjoy it since they had no idea how long forever would actually be.

On New Years Eve, they took the Special VIP Dubai Fountain Lake Cruise – which cruised through the world’s largest performing fountain as the Emirates prepared to ring in the New Year. As the countdown happened, Ted felt like the sounds of the crowd were being magnified and amplified – because the people noise was astoundingly loud.

The countdown was preceded by the most amazing laser light show that either of them had ever seen, it defied the imagination. The lasers were drawing pictures in the air and animating them. The music drowned out the people sounds while the air literally came alive with laser drawn movies in three dimensions. Cartoon like figures ran up and down the exterior of the tallest building in the world.

They were newly obscene-rich in an exotic and technologically advanced foreign country and they were in love. As the masses counted down they kissed from 10 down to zero and beyond. Yes, they’d been warned that public displays of affection were frowned on in the Arab world, but they didn’t care – and frankly, no one else seemed to either.

Except for the mother who turned her children away and glared at them, but they didn’t notice her anyway. It was the best New Years kiss ever.

Returning to their room they found champagne and a note that said Happy New Year! January 1, 2020

During their time in Dubai, Ted became aware that most of the people around him weren’t using the regular internet. In fact, they weren’t using the internet at all. The vast majority of Arabs, Chinese, and Africans were all using WeChat – an app developed by TenCent, a Chinese social media company. From conversations and asking questions, Ted learned that WeChat functioned as it’s own micro-internet. Within it were chat functions, social media that was like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – also there was music, video, news, a payment app (like Paypal but easier), and that most Chinese based restaurants – or those that catered to Chinese customers had mini-sites within WeChat that allowed them to order and pay for food, services, or just about anything else.

These people, for the most part, didn’t need the internet. They didn’t use email. They just used WeChat. Ted was sure that Facebook, Twitter, and the other American walled gardens must be working on similar plans. Since http was the backbone of the modern internet, he was fairly sure that there was some reliance on the protocol within the app-nets, but he wasn’t entirely sure how much. It would bear some further scrutiny once he was back in California – he was looking forward to going home. Dubai was definitely not where he wanted to be in the long term. In fact, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to be long term…but for the moment, all he wanted was to head back to California.

Lucky for him, their flight left the next day and they had no issues. It was as comfortable heading back as it had been heading in.

Chapter 25

What are the Chan’s up to?

Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view dies.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

As they walked out of SFO, jet lagged and culture shocked – it occurred to Ted that he didn’t know where they were going. He hadn’t really thought of it. He was homeless. His mail was going to a mailbox service, his stuff was in storage, and he didn’t have anywhere that he knew of to sleep tonight.

Hey, are we going to your place?” He asked Adell as they waited by the curb.

She sighed. “Yeah, I guess it’s about time to introduce you to her.” Ted wasn’t really sure who the she was, but he was too confused to ask. “Should we get a taxi?”

Adell looked up from her phone. “I’ve already called a Lyft. We should go to Zone 44.” They made their way along the ride share section of the terminal until they found a small covered shelter that said Zone 44. “We’re looking for Jazon in an orange Subaru.”

The car was easy to spot and Jazon stood out as well. He was a tall white guy with a big smile and a grill full of gold teeth. He waved as they walked up. His car was a seriously bright day-glow orange. The license plate said ‘Jazon’.

You guys are going to Soquel, right?” Adell nodded and they were off. He didn’t bother asking if they were interested in listening to music – it was on and if they didn’t like it they would have to ask him to shut it off. Of course, it was Jay Z. Nothing else would have made sense.

Neither of them were in a very talkative mood, but Adell always had something to say – this time it was something he’d heard her say a lot lately. “What do you think the Chans are up to?”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if they invite us…” Ted took the question at face value. It wasn’t actually how she had meant it though.

No, Ted. I mean – WHAT are the Chans, UP TO? They are up to something – they’ve always been up to something. The more I’m around rich people the more I realize that they ALL seem to have plans that revolve around getting other people to make some pre-requisite for some condition to happen that they are waiting for. Hell, we’ve even started doing it.”

We have?” Ted was confused but amused. He wasn’t sure what they were doing and he sure as hell didn’t know what the Chans were up to. The drive was fairly long – it was over an hour without traffic. Jazon was either stoked on the long ride or bummed that he had to find someone else needing to come back. Either way, Ted nodded off.

He woke when the music was suddenly shut off. “Here we are homiez. Don’t forget to give maximum stars and tips are appreciated.” It was mid-day. Ted looked up and saw a sign with an old hippie Volkswagon bus on it – complete with the old hippie throwing a peace sign out the window. “Welcome to the Old Volks Home” the sign said. “California’s #1 VW Bus and Vanagon Repair Shop.”

In the parking lot were around a dozen VW buses, Vanagon campers, Eurovans, and a couple of VW bugs.

Is this where you live?” Ted asked Adell as he pulled the bags from the trunk.

No, but she’s here,” Adell said. Ted couldn’t hold back anymore.

Who’s here? Your mom? I don’t understand. I thought we were going to your house.” He wasn’t yelling because that wasn’t his thing but if it had been, he would have been.

Adell laughed. “No, better.” She walked over to a purplish Vanagon camper, pulling her bags behind her. “Ted, I’d like you to meet my house. This is Mandy-Van. I had her totally tuned up over the holidays so she should be ready for us.”

A guy in blue coveralls came out of one of the open garage bays. He looked like the old hippie on the sign. “It’s about time you made it back here, Adell. I was wondering how long I was going to have to store her for you.”

Adell hugged him and turned to Ted. “I’d also like to introduce you to Lee Oan, the best VW mechanic anywhere outside of Germany. Lee, this is the love of my life, Ted Kazinsky.” Lee had been walking over but he stopped and turned to look at Adell.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said – “Do you collect us or something?”

Yeah, something,” she said “and yeah, I’m serious. Ted Kazinsky.”

Lee turned back to Ted who was understandably confused about what Adell collected – did she collect ‘loves of her lives’ or something else. He was about to find out.

Don’t worry Ted – I can see your confused. I’m not a competitor. Nice to meet you, my name is Lee Vamile Oan – also known as ‘Leave me ‘the fuck’ alone’ – if you see what I mean.”

Yup, Ted got it now. She really did collect people with fucked up names.

Chapter 26

#Vanlife (hashtag van life)

Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). It should NOT be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. It would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Mandy-Van was a 1987 Westphalia Vanagon with a pop-top camper and a ‘full’ camping package inside. With her new found wealth, Adell had asked Lee to install solar panels, a second battery system, a more comfortable bed, a pull out awning, and a few other features to make Mandy-Van more livable.

Ted wasn’t so much bothered by finally figuring out that he was part of a collection of unknown size of people with unfortunate names. He was sure that he was the only one she truly loved – in that way – but he was bothered by the other secret she’d been keeping from him.

You live in a van? Didn’t you think of telling me about this?” Rather than being truly upset he was more curious how she would explain it to him. Half the fun with Adell was having her explain things and thus give a window into how she viewed the world.

She kissed him, which instantly made everything better and then she began.

It’s expensive to live in the Bay Area, Ted. Doing all kinds of temp work, dog walking, gigs, and everything else – I had to be in a bunch of different neighborhoods at different times and I realized that vanlife,” she paused and threw in “hashtag vanlife” before continuing on as if she were writing a social media post “was the most affordable, most convenient, and most enjoyable way to stay in the bay.”

But why didn’t you tell me?”

I wanted to…at first. Then, I found myself really liking you and I was sort of bothered by the fact that I hadn’t told you which made it awkward to tell you and then things with us just ‘boom’ exploded and became so much more than I ever expected and then it was really awkward and we were living together and I knew I should really tell you, but honestly by that time it was kind of fun to have a secret that I knew I was going to reveal – so I decided to wait until you had moved out of your apartment…”

We – had moved out of our apartment…”

Yeah, she went on. I thought maybe I would do a big Christmas reveal or an unboxing or something and then we went to Dubai and I forgot about it – mostly – and it just came about this way.”

She kissed him again and it made total sense to him and he wasn’t bothered at all by it – but now the name collection was under his skin – as if he just needed to be annoyed at her for something.

Just how many people do you have in your fucked up name collection?” he asked her. They were no longer in the parking lot at the Old Volks Home – so Lee Vamile Oan was not a part of the conversation except as a topic. They had driven down to Capitola and were parked out on the bluff looking down at the surfers below.

Oh, there’s a bunch of us Ted. I don’t count people though, that would be fucked up – they’re people not Pokemon cards.” And so, one more fact about his soul-mate clicked into place with that strange exposition – in Adell’s world, people could be collected but not put into stacks. It was a comforting realization, but he wasn’t sure why.

Over the next two weeks, Adell gave Ted a crash course in living in a van – ahem – ‘hashtag vanlife.’ Ted was a lifelong house or apartment dweller. He’d never been much of a camper, hadn’t been much into roadtrips, and in general – this was all new to him.

The first thing you need to do is read this,” Adell handed him a worn copy of a book called ‘Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond” – this is the bible of living in a VW van. Ted noticed that the author had mis-spelled his own title on the spine of the book.

He mis-spelled his own title – maybe he should have just stuck with Vegebond.” He laughed.

Adell laughed with him “Hey, give the guy a break. It wasn’t as easy to write and publish a book from a van back in 2003.” The cover of the book was a beat up old VW van with a kayak on the top. As Ted opened and flipped through the book – he started to get a sense of what it was all about.

This book seems like it’s equal parts about being homeless and equal parts getting fucked up.” None the less, it was interesting. “Hey, we’re not going to be doing any ‘cafeteria grazing’ are we?”

Don’t be ridiculous Ted, we’re a billionaire.” As one person, they were a billionaire. He liked it. As the week went on, no one they encountered had a clue how wealthy they were. They parked in a Walmart parking lot over night, used Starbucks bathrooms, drove up to Muir woods and paid the $50 per night camping fee (it included free wi-fi access), and in general had more fun than if they’d been living in an apartment.

The downside was the lack of a bathroom. As far as a kitchen – Mandy-Van had it covered. Small stove, small fridge, and a tiny little sink. The front seats swiveled around and Adell had installed a 12.9 inch iPad up above the back seat that they could stream Netflix on or watch anything else on for that matter.

Laundry and storage proved to be a bit of a pain in the ass, but other than that – it wasn’t really that bad. Ted had become a fan of #vanlife. None the less, he was ready to start looking for a place to live.

Adell, aren’t you ready to move back into a house yet?” They were drinking French press coffee and kicking back in her folding chairs looking down at the fog covered ocean in Pacifica. It was idyllic but a little bit cold and he would have really liked to have taken a 30 minute hot shower and a long read sit on a warmed toilet seat.

She looked at him. “I am,” she said “But I just don’t feel like we are ready yet. I feel like there is something that has to happen before we do that.” Her voice told him that he should know what it was she was talking about, but he had no clue.

I mean, I know we have the money to buy a house and we can do whatever we want, but that seems like a big commitment – you know what I mean?” He still wasn’t getting it.

I mean – we’ve already entered 2020 – so it’s not like we need to RING it in again…” He was starting to understand.

She saw that he was getting it “I’ve been GROOMing you for something bigger…”

Ted dropped to his knee and grabbed her hand. “Adell Fitler, will you marry me?”

She looked into his eyes “Yes, Ted Kazinsky, I want nothing more than to be your bride….but, there is one thing…Do you mind if we keep our own names?”

Ted hadn’t thought of it. He’d never considered calling her Adell Kazinsky (or calling himself Ted Fitler for that matter) and both names sounded stupid. It did make him think of an additional issue though – but he probably shouldn’t have said anything.

But what about the children? What name will they get?”

She batted her eyelashes at him “Well, aren’t you the bold one. If …and it’s not a guarantee…but if we have children, I think it makes sense for them to be Fitler-Kazinsky – but promise me one thing – no funny business with the names. Deal?” She held out her other hand – the one he wasn’t already holding.

He shook it. “Deal”

Well in that case Mr. Unabomber. Let’s plan a wedding.”

Chapter 27

Wedding Fest

The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a POLITICAL revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Their wedding was a simple affair. A dozen friends, some of whom were very rich – a beautiful venue – and on Adell’s insistence – a feast to feed the homeless. It was a small affair where they spent close to a million dollars on the food and services for the homeless and less than ten thousand for the ceremony and accouterments for the invited guests.

They had considered other ways they could help with the overwhelming homeless problems in the Bay Area – but ultimately, Adell insisted that what the homeless needed more than anything else was a party. For this reason, there was plenty of wedding pie, ice cream cones, Hawaiian shave ice, and healthy food. There was no alcohol at the ‘public’ party – which had great bands, plenty of grassy areas, and an open door policy.

Working with Lava Mae, an organization that repurposes old school buses into mobile showers and toilets for the homeless – their wedding was a free festival with pop-up care villages where people could do laundry, get haircuts, get manicures and pedicures, and more.

I’ve always said that a wedding should be more about the community than about the bride and groom,” Adell said. “I’ve been very lucky but I know how hard it is for these people.”

After their time living in a van – and years of struggling to make ends meet even when he had a rent control apartment, Ted also had a lot of compassion for the homeless. He was proud to be a part of ‘Wedding Fest’ as people were calling it.

They set a very specific date and time for when they would be announced man and wife. The announcement would come on Pi Day, March 14th, 2020 at 1:59 pm It was a brisk day with light rain and a bit of wind – but nothing the tents couldn’t handle. They’d written their own vows and Ted had made Adell promise to invite every person in her ‘not a collection’ of people with fucked up names. They’d set up a stage and a huge concert style seating area with VIP seating for the invited guests and standing room for the other attendees.

Their vows were dark comedy gold. Adell had asked her old school friend – Elvii Pressman, to officiate. He had turned a mocked name into a passable career as an Elvis marriage officiator. He didn’t look anything like Elvis since he had red hair, a beard, and was short, fat, and pink – he looked more like one of the seven dwarves – but, his white jumpsuit covered with sequins was unmistakable. When he spoke – it was the voice of the king himself.

Ladies and Gentlemen. We are gathered here – at Marriage Fest – to celebrate the coming together of two terribly misunderstood people. Neither of them chose the name they were given, but they have chosen to own them, to keep them, and to make something wonderful of them. Today, I’d love for you to give it up for these hunk a, hunk a, hunks burning with love – the one, the only, the true Adolf Hitler” Adell had made sure that he said it Adolf Hitler so people wouldn’t mistake the double entendre. She came running out on the stage like she was the guest speaker at a motivational seminar. She was wearing bright colored yoga clothing. A few people in the audience has started booing when they heard the name Hitler, but they stopped when a modern day hottie in day-glo yoga clothing came running out. Elvii motioned that she should come stand in front of and to one side of him.

And, it takes a special kind of man to capture the heart of a beauty like this. Give it up for Ted Kazinsky!” Ted ran onto the stage – he was also wearing brightly colored yoga clothes. They looked like clowns or 80s workout show extras. Once again there were a few scattered boos from the audience, but mostly there was some polite applause. As hard as it was to believe – most of the audience had no idea who the Unabomber was, what his name was, or what he had done – but if you had asked them who Jennifer Aniston was seeing – they would have been able to make a pretty good guess.

Elvii stood them next to each other, staggered a bit but facing him and the audience. He moved to his podium.

Do you, Adolf Hitler, take Ted Kazinsky as your lawfully wedded husband?”

I, Adell Fitler, do solemnly swear to be your friend for life, to always tell you if you are getting a sunburn or have food somewhere you shouldn’t, and to never use propaganda to turn the fear and hardship of the German people (or any people) into fascism. I promise to love, honor, cherish, and respect you from now until death does us part – as long as you don’t turn into some super asshole clerk. I do. I really fucking do. ”

The audience cheered, but they were sort of weirded out by what we have become used to.

Do you, Ted Kazinsky, take Adolf Hitler as your wife?” The audience was starting to get it. Many of them thought the whole thing was a joke.

I,Ted Kazinsky, do solemnly swear to treat you like the hottie princess you are, to always know that you are probably smarter than me, to treat you as an equal, a partner, a friend – and to never send letter bombs through the U.S. Postal Service or suggest that we move to an off-grid cabin in Montana – although, I haven’t taken an off-grid cabin in Hawaii from the equation. I promise to love, cherish, respect, and listen to you until death does us part or you kill me – whichever comes first, but come to think of it – that ends up being the same thing.”

So do you take her to be your wife?”

I do- I definitely do.”

Elivii had some remarks prepared in case they had needed to stall a bit while they waited for 1:59 pm but their timing had worked perfect. “By the power invested in me, on this Pi Day at 3.14159 – I hereby announce you as man and wife to the world. Unabomber, you may kiss the Führer.” Again, Adell had insisted on this.

She melted into his arms and the crowd erupted into roaring cheers as their lips met.

Let them eat Pi,” Adell screamed. And with that liveried waiters began walking through the crowd handing out pieces of chocolate banana coconut cream pie. Adell and Ted were each handed a piece – and of course without waiting for a moment – she smashed hers into his face. Ted did the same. The audience went crazy and the biggest pie fight in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area erupted into complete and total chaos. It might have been the biggest pie fight in the history of California, the United States, or the world – but since people rarely keep detailed notes about such things, we’ll just call it the biggest pie fight in the history of the Bay Area.

Adell, grabbed the mic “Is there anyone else who wants to get married today? Speak now or forever hold your peace.” A dozen couples made their way to the stage and each had their own moment. After that, there were more and more people lining up to get married. Not just the homeless, but tons. Marriage Fest was a hit.

When the weddings had finished – Adell grabbed the mic again and announced that it was now time to bring the inductees into the first ever annual ‘Hall of Name’.

It’s our day, you guys, and since you all know us already, we won’t make a big deal about being the first inductees into the Hall of Name. Elivii – will you please read the entire list?”

Elvii moved to the podium and began to read. “These people, these kind people, these bright people, these mostly good people – have endured a lifetime of hardships because of the names their parents gave them – please give a warm round of applause after each name is read.”

Adell Fitler”

Ted Kazinsky”

Elvii Pressman”

Lee Vamile Oan”

Tim Burr”

Charlene Mansoon”

and we’d also like to bring in a couple of postumous inductees

Yogi Berra”

Ima Pigg”

Ura Hogg”

and last but not least the famous NFL running back,”

Dick Felt. We are aware that there are many more deserving inductees, but these are the inductees for Year One of the International Hall of Name.” They had actually built a small shrine – a hall where each inductee was honored with a plaque and a picture. It would become a thing – just like Marriage Fest and just like Pets Hitter.

Chapter 28

Shitstorm

Revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It had only been a matter of time. They had all known it. You can’t build a house of cards and expect it to stand forever, especially when it is constantly being pulled and shaped higher into an even more unstable form. Perhaps the best wedding present that Ted and Adell received was the knowledge that they were completely and totally absolved and expunged from Pets Hitter.

Like everything in Silicon Valley in 2019 and the early months of 2020, Pets Hitter was valued at an absolutely insane level. The news that they were moving into turning human waste into a valuable commodity had driven expectations of the company to levels not seen since the last days of the Tulip and spice bubbles in the 1700s. The difference was that instead of dealing with expensive flowers and plants coming from far off locations – Pets Hitter made people think they were walking gold mines. The idea that every human could produce and sell their own shit was a bizarre and utterly twisted take on what Ted and Adell had started building with Pets Hitter.

Their initial idea had been to get poop off the sidewalks and maybe let people make a few bucks for cleaning up the mess. Admittedly, they had taken a bad turn when they let Tim Burr and Big Al convince them to set up a multi-level marketing ponzi scheme. They’d also made a mistake getting into bed with Victor White and Larry Ellison. But let me rephrase all of that – they’d left the path of doing something with good intentions for the good of the planet when they’d made those decisions – the fact remained that those decisions had earned them a billion dollars and they were at least doing some good with it – but – if they had stayed with the ponzi scheming and the morally corrupt venture capitalists – they would have been fucked – and probably would have gone to hell. Instead, they’d taken the money, turned their backs, and walked away.

There were plenty of trade publications in the valley calling them idiots after they left Pets Hitter. From the outside, they’d taken a billion dollars for a company that was worth a hundred times that – or more. They hadn’t even kept any stock. They were being heralded as the worst business people of the century. CNBC and Bloomberg openly mocked them and started using the phrase ‘pulled a Pets Hitter’ to mean walked away from a fortune. Adell ignored it. Ted didn’t care. They were rich, they were happy, and they knew that it was just a matter of time before the collapse came…

It hit on April 1st – amidst all of the not very funny any longer pranks and fake news stories that the big tech companies felt obligated to put out to hearken back to a time when tech was actually a small community of fun and forward thinking people.

In Canada, the Royal Mint announced they would be putting Bill Gates on the Looney. In Britain, the BBC had published an expose’ about how Brexit had inspired a whole new series of art movements. Google claimed to have developed a time machine that allowed you to send emails and texts backwards in time. Facebook announced that they had a new section devoted to lunar cycles and fertility. Twitter claimed that they would now only accept advertising in Litecoin.

At 6 am, an anonymous blogger posted a leaked story that claimed that for the past eight days – an internal virus at Pets Hitter had been causing the “Ship to” section of the labels to address every package of pet turds that was supposed to be sent to the Pets Hitter processing plants to instead be sent to congressional offices, corporate headquarters, and even 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. News sources were able to confirm that multiple political and business addresses had been inundated with boxes upon boxes of shit over the past several days.

At 7 am, the US Justice Department announced that they were looking into allegations of fraud, tax evasion, and other high crimes at Pets Hitter. No one was able to ascertain if the investigation was the result of a box full of shit being sent to the Attorney General.

At 8 am, Tim Burr, the CEO of Pets Hitter issued an apology to distributors of their bio bags for perpetuating a ponzi scheme and suspended the buying of all doggie shit until further notice. It was a Wednesday and so the markets were open – nobody really likes to trade on April Fools and Pets Hitter wasn’t a public company – but the entire tech sector began bleeding as investors realized that the situation at Pets Hitter was going to have broad consequences across the entire tech industry.

Share of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, AMD, Intel, Tesla and every other tech related company dropped more than twenty percent in the hours that followed the apology. Pets Hitter, tried to do damage control. They claimed that Tim Burr had been removed from his position and was solely responsible for all the wrong doing that had been brought to the public’s attention. Mug shot looking photos of Tim, Big Al, and some of the top distributors were flashed on the screens of America.

The famous investing guru, Jim Cramer put it best when he got up close to the camera and yelled “Tim-Burr!” And then backed up and had an axe that he swung at an imaginary tree. “This company is coming down fast and taking everything that get’s in the way with it. Timburrrrrrrrr!”

It was the single biggest loss on the Nasdaq since the 2008 financial crisis. Nobody knew when it was going to end – but no one wanted to stay in the markets and be part of the ongoing bloodbath. The fallout started to move beyond the tech sector as politicians, executives, and celebrities tried to distance themselves from the disaster taking place around them.

A reporter seeking comment from Victor White caught him on camera getting out of his limousine and saying into his phone “…I’m not going down because of that homo <n-word>”. The video went viral – suddenly any company associated with VWA was considered a toxic asset.

Chapter 29

Wasp Hive

The industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Reporters finally got around to asking Adell why she had left and whether she had known of any sort of impropriety. Her answer was good enough to keep the storm buzzing:

Suffice to say that part of my exit from Pets Hitter was to sign a comprehensive NDA. The only way I would do that was if they signed documentation that certified that my tenure was free from any sort of wrong-doing and that guaranteed that I would not be held culpable for any actions the company had taken, might take, or considered taking. My agreement to exit was only one possible course, the other was to dismantle and systematically dismantle the company – a move that I suggested and which caused me to be removed from my position as CEO, taken off the board of directors, and forced out of the company. All of that is on the record and at the end of the day, everything else is covered by the NDA.”

Ted more or less gave the same answer and the reporters decided that they weren’t worth following up on. This might not have been the case except that the whole VWA culture was unraveling at the seams. Tim Burr had signed no such NDA and when he found out that White and Ellison were trying to throw him under the bus, he and Big Al both gave explosive interviews. Tim talked about how White had repeatedly referred to him as ‘boy’ and at times even called him ‘lady-boy’, presumably in reference to his sexuality and race.

Both Ted and Adell gave Tim Burr and his uncle credit though because even though they had betrayed them on the board, neither of them ever said anything that would connect Adell or Ted to the ponzi scheme, the MLM, or any of the other shenanigans that had gone on while they were in charge. From the story Tim told, it would be easy to believe that Pets Hitter was doing everything legitimately until the moment when her tenure ended. It was only then, according to Tim, that Ellison and White had begun to stack the board with people who harbored what he called ‘criminal intent’.

Big Al turned state’s evidence and said that the entire plan to begin turning human waste into energy had been a ‘scheme’ concocted by Larry Ellison and his ‘Hawaiian Mafia friends’ he swore under oath on national television that Larry Ellison, Victor White, and the whole Silicon Valley tech-elite were engaged in a conspiracy to undermine the power and sovereignty of the United States of America. In short, it was a big fucking mess and somehow – they had managed to be clear of it.

Phil called to make sure they were doing okay and suggested that they all meet down at a local co-working space in Mountain View. Ted and Adell were still living the ‘hashtag vanlife’ even though they had gotten married. Their honeymoon had been a van trip to all of California’s national parks. During the trip, Ted had realized that he wasn’t entirely discontent living in a van – and when they needed to have space – it was easy to rent a suite at a hotel – they never rented regular rooms any more.

They’d only been back in town for a day or two when the shit hit the fan.

Phil had rented an office at the co-working space. It wasn’t a ‘We Work’ property so it still had relatively happy and helpful people working there. The receptionist showed them back to Phil’s office. The walls of the space were covered with interesting art and lots of photographs of smiling people. A couple of people walked around the office drinking beers or coffee. It was 10 am – but no one else seemed to mind. Everyone was their own boss here. It was as it should be, but Ted wondered if there were 3 pm drunks who made it hard for others to get end of the day work done.

Phil’s office looked like a college professor’s cubicle. It was filled with books and stacks of papers.

Did you see fucking Tim attacking Victor White on network news this morning?” Phil asked as they walked in. He was turning from the computer where he had paused the scene.

Adell hugged him and Ted grabbed his hand in a firm shake. Phil turned back to the computer. “Look at this shit…the entire internet which was built so that universities and government think tanks could share ideas and information – it’s just turned into a worse version of the ‘boob tube’ we all used to complain about.”

Ted didn’t really have anything to say. It was true. Adell, not one to keep quiet in most situations seemed pretty subdued “Yeah,” she said “Too bad we can’t bring back the good old days.”

Oh,” Phil said in a very matter of fact voice “We can, actually.”

Ted instantly knew what Phil was talking about and why he had brought them there. “It’s done? You finished the wasp’s nest?”

Phil turned smiling towards them. “Yeah, it’s done. That bit you gave me about the WeChat internet actually helped me put in the final piece. The whole thing should get digested now but it will leave the walled gardens in place and whole.”

What are you guys talking about?” Adell asked “Is there something I should know?”

Phil motioned to the keyboard and pulled up a command line. He typed in the words “Run Waspnest” and said “Hit the return key Adell.” She did.

At first nothing obvious happened. Then they started hearing things from outside the cubicle. “Shit” “Fuck” “What the fuck?” “Hey, do you guys have a connection?” and more.

What did we just do?” Adell asked the two grinning men in front of her.

We just killed the world wide web,” Ted told her. “The internet is dead.”

Holy shit!” Adell exclaimed in delight “You really are a terrorist!”

Chapter 30

The End of Civilization As We Know It

The anarchist too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The Chans invited them over for lunch a few days later. Mark met them at the gate and escorted them in. He was in high spirits – which meant that he looked almost like a human. Priscilla was working in her garden when they arrived and he led them out to where she was working.

Nice work, you two!” she said, looking up from the row of flowers she was working on. “I knew you guys would make fireworks, but honestly, I had no idea they would be anything like the firestorm you’ve created. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it to your wedding, but we did get you a present – Mark will tell you about it later.”

Adell had a million questions to ask but the first one needed to be asked right away “Priscilla, did you put us together because of our names?”

Priscilla sat up, pulled her sun bonnet back and daintily pulled her gardening gloves off. “Of course I did – but that wasn’t the main thing. I’m a pediatrician, but I’ve always been fascinated by the social dynamics of relationships. Did you know my grandmother was an actual match maker in China? Anyway, I saw that the two of you shared something – not just your names, but your brilliance, your passion, and your ability to get things done.”

She looked at Ted “Theo – oh, sorry, Ted – when I met you, I realized that you had an intellect that was really only like one other I’ve ever encountered.” She gestured over towards Mark who was down on his hands and knees watching a line of ants carrying gear to their nest.

And Adell, you’re such a beautiful woman but you have what this world hates – drive, ambition, verve, and the ability to change everything. Look, I’m not sure if you know this or not, but if it weren’t for me – Mark would be some really smart guy working at someone else’s company. I didn’t make him, but he needed me to complete who he was. I saw the same thing in the two of you.”

They were beautiful words. A beautiful sentiment. Ted could see that they were true. He was touched and felt a deep debt of gratitude. Then he felt guilty for potentially destroying their life’s work until he remembered that the walled gardens were fine. Facebook was still there. Instagram was still there.

Adell had another question “Why didn’t you return any of our calls? What’s really going on?”

Priscilla smiled a grandmotherly smile even though she was actually younger than both of them.

You’ll learn this, Adell. It’s not an easy thing to accept but it’s true. You simply can’t be friends with normal people when you have as much money as we do. You can’t invest in friendships with the normies.”

But isn’t that what you’re doing now?” Ted finally piped in, trying not to get sucked into Mark’s intense concentration on the ants.

Not at all,” Priscilla told him. “You stopped being normies when you became ultra-rich and the moment you destroyed the internet – you were no longer normal people in any sense of the word.”

Are you guys mad about that?” It was Adell asking, there was a bit of uncertainty in her voice.

Mark sat up now. “Not even a little bit. The internet totally sucked. I hated it. My whole purpose in building Facebook was first to get laid, then to get rich, then to make a better internet, then to take over the world,” he looked like maybe he had gotten ahead of himself in his enthusiasm.

Priscilla gave him a withering look but then smiled “It’s okay dear, their our friends. You can tell them.”

Mark went on. “The fucking baby boomers ruined everything and for a while I thought that maybe the millennials – our generation,” he motioned to Priscilla and him and almost to Adell but not toTed who was actually Gen X “…would fix it or take over, they just won’t get out of the way. So anyway – Waspnest more or less trapped them all on my platforms. I’ve got way more power than before. They’re like these ants. I can watch them, see what they are doing, and even burn them with a magnifying glass if I want to…”

He’d gone too far “Mark…” Priscilla stopped him.

Ted might have been discouraged to hear this, he might have been upset that the control system had been strengthened over humanity, he might have been bothered by the futility of it all – but he wasn’t. Waspnest had created a new way for information to be shared. It had been a spark to create innovation. It had wiped away an entire system of doing things which meant that an intense period and culture of radical change had the breathing room to grow and blossom into a world that no one could even imagine at the moment.

And as for the walled gardens – he and Phil had already started working on Hornet’s Nest. They’d never see it coming.

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