I Am Not Legal

By Mike Swetnam

Everyone should walk in the shoes of the other side. What other side? I don’t know, but it sounds really profound so I guess we should look for the opportunity.

Today, I had the great privilege and opportunity to walk on the illegal side! I was found to be “not legal” for the purposes of receiving a driver’s license in the Commonwealth of Virginia!

I started the day with the idea I would get a Virginia driver’s license (DL) to replace the expiring Maryland one I have. I moved here 17 months ago, but neglected to get a Virginia DL because my Maryland DL was good until this year. Aren’t DLs from any state good and recognized in all states? I assumed the process for turning in the Maryland DL for a Virginia one would be trivial.

Not so.

I walked into the Virginia DMV with my Maryland DL, my Retired Military ID, and the Official Virginia registration of my car.

I waited, of course, for thirty-five minutes to see the information desk person who would direct me to the right station for further processing. She assessed my IDs and proof of residency only to pronounce that they were not appropriate.

I argued (I do that a lot) that the Maryland DL was still current and a valid ID in 50 states, the DoD ID was current and valid in all 50 states and most of the world, and the proof of residency was issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia. She responded that DLs from other states are not recognized as IDs for Virginia DL purposes and the military ID was not green (active duty) so not recognized by Virginia either.

My only conclusion from this conversation was that the Commonwealth of Virginia does not recognize Maryland DLs. That is a violation of federal law! Also, that the Great Commonwealth of Virginia does not recognize the validity of a USA/DoD issued Retired Military ID. That should cause about 10% of Virginia’s population, which are retired military, to move!

She also told me that my official Commonwealth of Virginia car registration, that listed my Virginia residence was not recognized as proof of residence. They would rather I provide a monthly utility bill!


When did proof of residency, citizenship, etc. become utility bills instead of Military IDs, or official state issued documents?

I was therefore deemed not legally entitled to a Virginia DL.


Color me, “considering a move back to Maryland”, and legality.

Help! I Feel Like I’m Trapped Inside A Computer

By Pablo Sanchez

5:00- My alarm clock on my iPhone goes off
5:01- I check my phone for emails
5:01 to 5:30 – I respond to emails and start opening up apps
5:30 to 6:30 – I explore the apps on my phone in the same ways I always do
6:30 to 7:00 – I put my favorite music on my iPod, shower and get ready for work
7:00 to 8:00 – I stream my favorite TV shows from my iPhone to my TV while I make and eat breakfast
8:00 to 8:30 – I listen to my audiobook on my train ride into the office
8:30 to 6:30 – I spend all day searching the Internet and writing on my computer
6:30 to 7:00 – I listen to my audiobook on my iPhone on my ride back.
7:00 to 8:00 – I stream my favorite TV show from my iPhone to my TV while I make and eat dinner
8:00 to 2:00 – I stream my favorite TV show from my iPhone to bedroom TV while I also play on my iPhone until I eventually fall asleep


This is my life. This is my existence. I spend all of my life it seems staring down and spend almost no time staring up. I can’t help but think about how odd that would seem to my ancestors only a couple generations ago. People, like myself, grow up and never really look at the stars anymore.

The stars have always been the greatest seed of wonder and imagination for the human mind. They likely prompted the first real “bizarre” thoughts, things like, “Where are we?”

Who could explain why every time the giant fireball in the sky went away the same smaller fires in the sky seemed to light exactly where they were the night before? Who could explain why throughout the night they moved across the sky? Who could explain that after many moons, certain fires no longer appeared in the same place each night? Nobody could and so it made us wonder.

Now I don’t wonder, I Google. Now I don’t imagine, I watch. Now I don’t question, I listen and read. I don’t have time to wonder, imagine or question. The computer has given me access 24 hours a day to the Internet and I don’t know how to escape its allure. It attracts me. It is like a sick game. It is like the creators of the Internet and all the computing devices which act like portals to bring us there knew that the mind couldn’t resist access to that kind of stimuli, to that kind of information. If we just stopped adding things to the Internet it’s suggested it would take me 57,000 years to read everything. If we didn’t add any more videos to YouTube it’s estimated it would take me 60,000 years to watch everything. This requires me to do nothing else but read and watch. The average human life span in the US is about 72 years. This means if I used these years to read and watch as much as I could starting from when I couldn’t even understand what I was reading and watching, I’d only be able to tackle about 0.06% of all the reading and watching I’d need to read and see it all.

I’m trapped in a computer. I’m trapped in a digital world. I look down instead of up. I type instead of speak. I watch instead of dream. When I die the tombstone people will visit will be on Facebook instead of a cemetery. I love this world and I hate it too.

Maybe the solution for myself is to simply take the next step, to figure out how to virtualize myself so that I can live inside my computer. Maybe if I could live there in a virtual state I wouldn’t feel trapped because I’d be free to explore the vastness of the digital world. I wouldn’t have to waste my time with all the other things that keep me from spending all 72 years of my existence looking down. Maybe this is the next phase, the pressure to drive human evolution to a new form, an immortal existence in a digital environment.

Maybe I’m not trapped in a computer today, but rather maybe I’m trapped in a mortal human body. Maybe the key to my existence is to finally escape to a virtual reality, a universe where everything exists and anything is possible. At least then I’d have time to read it all, see it all, and still look up.

Because ISIS Said So

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

I want my government and the people around me to make rational decisions based on science, not judgments based on belief, morality, or stereotypes. However, this is not the world I see when I turn on the news. The recent attacks on freedom through those pledged to ISIS – the Orlando nightclub massacre, the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shooting – people unwilling or unable to think rationally about their actions have perpetrated all these. They have committed atrocities in the name of a religion, a group, or cause without contemplating the simple question of “Why?”. The most recent attack on Western values was committed by someone that grew up as a part of the culture. Omar Mateen was born in the United States and worked as a prison guard and security officer, jobs that require some commitment to protecting people, yet he was able to put that aside for the hate he felt towards a group of people. There is no rationality to that decision, only blind ignorance. There is no place for such ignorance in a rationale society, yet it persists in our country and around the world.

In the United States of America, we stand on doctrine that government is for the people, by the people, but have we spent time ensuring that those people act rationally? We have all had a hand in creating an environment where people do what they are told without thought. The best example of values and principles of a culture can be easily seen in the interaction with children. Children are nearly blank canvasses with which those around them instill values, knowledge, and expectations. However, we do not drive our children towards a future where they are taught to question those lessons. We stamp the question of “Why?” out of our children through our callous, lazy, and stupid answer: “Because I said so.” How can we expect our children to grow to adulthood and be able to question the rhetoric around them, preventing them from being drawn into hate speech, if we do not teach them to think critically? Perhaps our children would be better off in the hands of Siri, Alexa, or OK Google – those willing to respond with the answer to their best of their knowledge regardless of how many times it has been asked before, how tired they are, or how irritated they may be. If we don’t begin to take our role as parents, mentors, and thought leaders responsibly, the future may be better off in robotic hands.

The Power of A Bad Idea

By Charles Mueller

50 people are dead.

50+ more injured.

One idea is responsible for it all.

The idea that it is OK to kill because someone else feels, thinks and loves differently than you.

It starts with a belief that those you judge with hate deserve the worst, to be banished to some place like hell, and it ends with an irrational decision to end the life of someone you never took the time to know or truly understand.  Sunday was another sad day in a long history of sad days where we were again reminded that the world we live in creates, promotes and even incentivizes this kind of thinking.  Monday was another reminder that no matter how many times this happens, we never seem to address the actual problem causing it all.

We expect our laws and morals to keep society in line, but terrorist organizations like ISIS remind us that is not the case.  As long as an irrational thought can be ingrained inside someone’s head, humanity remains vulnerable to horrific acts of violence.  The issue plaguing our nation and the world isn’t gun control, LBGT equality, or even ISIS, although all these issues matter. The issue is that we live in a world where it is OK for people to think and act irrationally.  As long as we allow our laws, our morals, and our cultures to accept irrational thinking, people will use technology to hurt people. Irrational actors will use their words to disenfranchise and deny those different from them certain rights, and they will organize to collectively recruit others into their own irrational ideologies, regardless of the future impacts.

These events of terror hurt us all because the actions of these individuals don’t make sense to anyone but those with the same misguided beliefs.  We all find ourselves asking, “WHY?”

Why did the Nazi’s systematically kill Jewish people?  Why did the followers of Charles Manson carry out those horrific acts? Why did Dylan Roof kill innocent people at church?  Why did Omar Mateen kill 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando?  There isn’t a rational answer for why these things occur and that is the point—these acts are justified using irrational thinking. When we create a world where irrational thinking is acceptable, we create a world where these kinds of things can and will happen because irrational people do irrational things.

My heart hurts for all those directly impacted by the events in Orlando this weekend, but my heart also hurts for those in the future, destined to be hurt in equally painful ways because we have failed to learn from our past.  Yes, there are immediate actions we need to take to remedy the symptoms of this irrational disease, but treating the symptoms only buys us time to deal with the cause.  You can’t cure a disease by treating the symptoms.  The discussions centered on the Orlando shooting are focusing on the symptoms of a much greater cause, one that starts in places like our Constitution, our family traditions, and even our religious text.

So how do we fix this?  Maybe one place to start is with our thought leaders, like parents, educators, celebrities, and world leaders.  If this group of influential people, of which we are all a part of, committed themselves to promoting science and rational thought in every one of our choices, no matter how annoying it might be to think things through, perhaps we could minimize the irrational acts.  We currently live in a world where you can act irrationally in one setting, but not another, creating confusion and hypocrisy in our everyday lives.  If you truly believe that those in hell exist forever, why should it be any less damning to wish someone to the worst place imaginable than to kill them?  Both are irrational and both are bad for society.

It is time for something bold, something that signals to the world we are committed to finding a cure for all the unnecessary, irrational violence and hate in this world.  Maybe it is finally time to listen to our founding fathers and revisit the very nature of our Constitution-the doctrine we’ve all agreed is something that should reflect the ideologies of the people, work for the people and be by the people.  Let’s challenge our lawmakers to hold a Constitutional Convention, a meeting where we rethink the American way of life.  Let’s write a doctrine where the rights of individuals are not guaranteed by beliefs, but on rational decisions good for everyone.  Let’s make it so no law or regulation can be written without thinking it through rationally.  Let’s help lead the world to a better state by showing it a place where ideas like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms can exist without the fear that people will use those rights to convince others to do irrational things or resort to deadly acts of violence when they have irrational motivations.

Let’s unlock the true potential of freedom and create a rational world, a world where terror literally has no fertile place to grow.