This photo on the steps of a rural town hall somewhere near St. Louis was taken in the spring of 2007. A few months later I stumbled into the parking lot at the Sandia Tram, dangerously dehydrated after having turned back rather than making the summit. The Lyme disease which had been lurking in my body took control and did its best to kill me over the next eighteen months. Through a truly extraordinary run of luck I overcame the disease, but the complications from having it mean I will never work a 9×5 schedule again.
Since becoming ill I have set aside my telecom engineering practice and fallen into the practice of picking a new research direction ever two years. This has included:
2007/2008 :: Renewable Ammonia
I grew up in the Iowa Great Lakes region, the southern limit for the winds that drive development on Buffalo Ridge. I went looking for ways to use our wind energy surplus for local projects and producing ammonia without using a carbon based feedstock to produce hydrogen was the only thing that made sense. I appeared at the 2008 Ammonia Fuel Network conference and presented a design for a renewable production facility in the Niagara Falls area. The capital requirements for a plant are such that they need the continuous input of a large hydroelectric facility rather than intermittent wind.
2009/2010 :: Elections & Social Networks
The big lesson of the prior cycle was that without some massive changes on Capitol Hill we aren’t going to get sensible policy. I took an interest in Twitter and right after the 2010 midterm Progressive Congress News went public, eventually taking over policy news reporting for about a quarter of U.S. Congressional staff.
2011/2012 :: Arab Spring & Occupy Wall Street
Based on the knowledge of grain markets I acquired in 2007/2008 I predicted that something was going to happen in North Africa following the Russian wheat embargo in 2010. Arab Spring was a bit more than I had in mind. When Occupy Wall Street took off I split my time between Zucotti and McPherson Square in D.C., hoping we were about to get a vigorous housecleaning done on Capitol Hill. Instead we got some trifling adjustment to the status quo, but today I see that the crop of activists that came up through the camps are playing a big role in the national protests against
2013/2014 :: International Affairs & Social Networks
I was weary of U.S. domestic politics and I made a focused effort to find anything else to do but that. I read and wrote about food and water security with a focus on the geographic area defined by the maximum extent of the Ottoman Empire. I had taken the Social Network Analysis class on Coursera and out of this came the Twitter Recorder Machine, a social media situational awareness tool meant for ad hoc groups.
2015/2016 :: Cipherspace, Cryptocurrency & Contagions
Cipherspace, Cryptocurrency & Contagions was posted as the polls for the 2014 midterm were closing in Hawaii, two months early than I would normally publish. What is happening with Bitcoin feels very much like the late 1990s internet boom, a wave that must be surfed, because the only other alternative is to be swept away. Looking back, I wish I had done this at the end of 2012 rather than 2014, but there were risks more than equal to rewards.