US Robotics Acoustic Coupler

Ahhh… the memories… Back in the day (around 1978), I had one of these beauties. All you had to do was place the telephone handset into those cups (really! [1]), dial up your favorite server, and Presto! You were on-line at 300 bits per second. And for only $139 – it was heaven!

While rummaging through my files, I came upon its (dot-matrix) printed manual, so I scanned it for posterity. Enjoy!

Photo credit:

[1]: Wait… What? You had to insert the handset into those cups? Why? AT&T insisted on this  to “prevent damage to the telephone system” from third-party (unlicensed, untested, unreliable) equipment. Only after the Carterphone decision in 1968 would AT&T allow you to make any sort of electrical connection to the phone network. Before that, you could not connect your own telephone (you had to rent one from AT&T), or a fax machine, or a modem, etc.

USR-310 Acoustic Coupler Manual

Senior Housing at the Planning Board — Two Years Later

Two years ago, the Lyme Planning Board hosted a Senior Housing Forum where community members spoke about their thoughts and hopes for senior housing. The quote below comes from the Planning Board minutes of 28 September 2017:

Item 1: Senior Housing Forum

… The Board discussed with the attendees the various forms that senior housing could take. The overall sense was that different people wanted different types of housing. The various forms below were discussed:

  • Smaller single resident homes allowed on a single lot.
  • Cooperative housing in larger buildings.
  • A mixture of small houses and apartment or town house style buildings.
  • Large assisted living facilities.

Almost exactly two year later, there has been no concrete action toward permitting any of these kinds of housing. The current draft of a Senior Housing amendment still does not provide a realistic way that these (or any other kind of moderate price/workforce) housing could be built.

Please attend the next Planning Board meeting on Thursday, 12 September 2019 at 7pm to give your views.

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

10 Goals for Senior Housing

At a recent meeting (22 Aug 2019) the Lyme Planning Board discussed a Senior Housing amendment to the Ordinance. I expressed concerns about the draft proposal that had been circulated, and asked questions about the goals. Rather than spend time on that draft, other board members encouraged me to draw up my own goals for further discussion. You can view the entire Planning Board meeting on Youtube (below).

I created the following goals for discussion at the Planning Board’s next meeting on Thursday, 12 September 2019, at 7:00pm in the Lyme Town Offices.

My question: Should Lyme’s ordinance permit some kind of housing like this? Would the option for housing like this be valuable to Lyme? What concerns might you have? You can contact me at

10 Goals for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at

View on Youtube

Here is the entire Planning Board meeting. [Click here] to jump to the discussion of Senior Housing.

[Note: There is an error in the date of the video above – it was made on 22 Aug 2019.]

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

What’s this thing called “Current Use”?

The Current Use law in New Hampshire provides a tax break for certain property owners who choose not to change the “current use” of their property to a higher level of development. However it shifts the tax burden to property owners who do not have property in “current use”. Here are some details.

  • In 1973, the NH Legislature created the Current Use law to “encourage the preservation of open space” by giving property owners a break on their taxes. (NH RSA 79-A:1)
  • The NH Current Use Board sets the level of “encouragement”. Today, current use landowners receive as much as a 98% discount on their property taxes.
  • This means that the other residents in town have to pay higher property tax to make up for the taxes not collected from properties in “current use”. (It’s a zero-sum game. If the legislature mandates a discount on taxes for some properties, the taxes have to go up for other residents.)
  • Many property owners have already permanently conserved land. Consequently they do not need additional encouragement (through a tax break) to preserve open space since development is already precluded.
  • In my town of Lyme, NH, it appears that 94% of all land in Lyme is either conserved or in current use. Discounts for current-use properties total over $1.5 million and add about $5 to our $27.19 per thousand tax rate.
  • Forty-five years later, we now understand the true effect of the Current Use law: in rural towns with lots of open space, it drives up the tax rate for all residents. The law has relatively little effect in more densely-developed, urban towns, since there are few current use properties.

The NH Current Use Board has opened a public comment period (for this year) about the proposed Current Use Assessment Ranges. Comments may be submitted in writing to Tracey Russo, Paralegal Department, NH Department of Revenue Administration by mail at PO Box 457, Concord, NH 03302; by fax at (603) 230-5932; or by e-mail at The deadline for the submission of written comments is Thursday, June 20, 2019.

I just sent an email to along the lines below:

To the NH Current Use Board:

I am a resident of Lyme NH. I wish to submit a public comment to the Board regarding their regulations regarding Current Use.


/s/ Your name

The NH Legislature could rewrite the Current Use law to make it more equitable. This is a long term project. However, I request the Current Use Board to consider the following changes to their regulations:

1) Add the requirement that land may not qualify for current use treatment if it is already has a permanent restriction from development.

2) Decrease the base discount on Current Use property, to create meaningful incentives for creating a stewardship plan or making the land available for the public to access.

3) Set different discount rates for current use land and permanently-conserved land. Permanently conserved land can be assessed at its market rate, while current use land can receive a temporary discount for the time that the land is in its current use.

I would encourage you to send your own message, using any (or all) of the points above. I would also like to know what you wrote: you can cc me at Thanks!

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at – now live!

I have reworked my blog so that the primary domain name is “Random Neurons Firing” (instead of the pedestrian Same content, but a better name.

I’m also adding a new topic to those I’ve previously covered (“Software, Networking, Life”). Over the last two years, I have gone to many planning and zoning conferences to learn more about how to provide attractive housing within communities. I’ll post my notes from those conferences and workshops here. I need to note that these will be my own opinions, and not those of any public boards to which I might belong.

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

Internet Identity, Nationwide Bank, and the Post Office

Dave Winer wrote about “internet identity” and that several companies were probably thinking about solving the problem. Specifically, he said:

But because money is so central to identity, it’s surprising that there isn’t a Google or Amazon of identity. Seems there’s money to be made here. An organization with physical branches everywhere, with people in them who can help with indentity (sic) problems.

This reminded me of the proposal to have US Post Offices become banks (for example, here and a zillion other places.)

The advantages:

  • There are post offices everywhere. The postal system is constitutionally mandated to be present, so it’s useful for them to have a valuable mission even as the volume of paper mail declines.
  • The “Bank of the US Post Office” could provide an ATM at each branch. You could withdraw cash without fees anywhere in the US.
  • They could provide a low cost (no cost?) saving/checking accounts for the traditionally “unbanked”, instead making people use check cashing services, payday lenders, etc. who siphon off a percentage of the transaction.
  • Postal employees have a strong ethos of caring for the transactions, and already have procedures for handling cash.
  • Post Offices are accustomed to handling critical, private matters in a timely way.

Identity management seems another valuable service that the USPS might provide.

Taxpayer-Funded Networks – all that bad?

I saw an article fretting about taxpayer-funded broadband projects in Texas Monitor. It cites a “study” by the Taxpayer Protection Alliance Foundation that purports to show a wide swath of “failed taxpayer-funded networks”.

A little research on the site led me to realize that it’s not first-rate work – outdated, incorrect information – so I left the following comment on the Texas Monitor site:

I decided to check the “Broadband Boondoggles” site to see what information they provide. First off, the copyright date on the site’s footer says 2017 – are they even updating it?

More specifically, I found that they disparage the local project (in VT) of which I have personal knowledge. They state that as of January 2015 ECFiber has spent $9M to connect 1,200 subscribers (“an astounding $7,500 per customer.”)

Well, that may be true – as of that date. If they had bothered to follow up with ECFiber’s progress ( they would have learned:

  • As of January 2018 they have connected over 2000 customers (cost per subscriber is now roughly half that reported number)
  • They’re hampered by the pole “make ready” process by the incumbent monopoly carriers who are slow to respond. They could connect subscribers faster if the carriers would follow their legal make-ready obligations.
  • ECFiber is a private community effort, entirely funded with grants and private equity/loans, so I’m curious how they could even have filed a FOIA request.
  • They’ve now raised $23M capital (from the private markets), to reach 20,000 subscribers.
  • This gives a system-wide average cost of $1,150/subscriber – a very attractive cost.

I’m sure there are false starts and overruns for many municipal projects, but if this outdated information is typical of the remainder of the TPAF site, then I would be reluctant to accept any of its conclusions without doing my own research.

Fake News News

I went to a terrific talk at the Lyme Library earlier this week.

Randall Mikkelsen from Reuters spoke on the topic, “Fake News: What’s the Real Story?”. In it, he presented The Chart which is an analysis of popular web sites showing their bias (left, center, right) with a measure of their reliability/believability. It’s useful to check your reading habits to see if they match your expectations.

That site also has Six Flags to Identify a Conspiracy Theory Article. This is an easy way to check your reading matter to see if it’s “actual news” or just somebody writing to get you fired up. (I also included a comment – what do you think?)

How to Write Wiki Pages So People Will Read Them

So you’ve just learned something cool on a new subject, and you want to let the world know about your discovery. You go to the project’s wiki, and jot it all down. But how can you help people read what you’ve written?

When I look at pages on a wiki, I use three criteria to determine whether I want to spend the time to read a page. If I’m convinced that the page has the info I’m seeking, I’ll work hard to understand it. But if I can’t tell whether it’s any good, it’s just faster to post a query to the forum. Here are the questions I ask:

  1. Is this page for me? Does it apply to my situation?

    There are a lot of cues to whether a page “is for me”. Obviously the title/heading of the page is important. But when I’m seeking information, I’m not usually an expert in the subject. I need help to understand the topic, and I look for a description that tells what the page is about. I also look for cues to see if it’s up to date. Finally, I love a page that has an introductory section that talks about the kinds of info that I’ll find on the page.

  2. Does the author know more than I do?

    A number of factors influence this judgement. As you’re aware, there’s a huge range of knowledge level of wiki page authors – from expert to the newcomer who’s excited to document his first discovery. As I scan through a page, I’m looking for facts that confirm what I already know (proving the author has some skill), and then things that I don’t (showing they know more.) Finally, it helps to know that the author is aware of the conventions of the wiki – does it look like other wiki pages? If so, I get some comfort that the author is aware of the way other wiki pages work/look.

  3. Can I figure out what to do?

    My final question about whether a page is useful is whether I can use the information. If it’s a tutorial/howto, I want the steps clearly stated – “step 1, step 2, step 3, then you’re done” If it’s a reference page, is the information organized in a comprehensible fashion? Is it really long? Can I pick out what’s important from incidental info?

The challenge I put to every author is to organize the information in a way that presents the most frequently-sought info first, then figure out what to do with the rest. You might move sections around, or move some information onto its own separate page, coalesce it into an existing/similar wiki pages, or even create forum articles (instead of a wiki page) if the subject is rapidly evolving.

Net Neutrality – Contacting the Congress (update)

The Battle for the Net site no longer seems to have the telephone form(!)

But… Boing Boing does. Go to You’ll see a popup window with a place to enter your phone number. Click OK, and they pop up a script on-screen.

They call you, you answer, then you supply your zip code.

Then they place calls to each of your legislators (in the House and Senate), then if you have time, they call the offices of Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and other leaders, so you can deliver the message.

I say my name, home town, and then ask that the FCC preserve the current Title II Net Neutrality rules. The staffer who answers is gonna be busy – you might chat them up though to see if they’re getting slammed. (Mitch McConnell’s office wasn’t even answering(!))