When Bodypump converted my hatred for workouts into a habit

It was almost a year ago when my wife convinced me to join her group exercise class over the lunch hour. I clearly remember the Monday, walking in and setting up the bench, the weights, the mat and all, surrounded by women of various ages. I had two reactions (probably typical of any guy’s reaction to Bodypump on day one)  –

i got this… light weights on the bar, no big deal

and

do I really want to be in this “step-aerobic” class?

The instructor comes in, introduces herself as Sarah, and finding out that I’m new, recommends the ‘light bar, lots of reps’ mantra that I now understand as standard operating procedure. I look around and see most women, including my wife, with 10-15lb barbells, and setup my bar with 20lbs. Sarah, the instructor, gives me the look – reminds us all (in true YMCA style, didn’t really call me out, but I knew) to go light. I ignore.  A snippet of the types of workouts that followed are in this video below.

800 repetitions (reps) later, I knew what light meant and why. I had started with a 20lb bar and needed to start with 10lbs. Ignoring the original and subsequent advice, I had added weight as if I’d been a regular ‘pumper’. My arms, legs, chest, shoulders and back hurt. I realized that it was one of the hardest (probably THE hardest) fitness routine I’d ever participated in, and that I’d be back. I hate to acknowledge that my ego was pretty bruised, especially knowing that my male friends were advertising their WODs from Crossfit etc. with far, far greater weights.  Walking down the steps of the Y required holding onto the railing and I was glad for my ‘designated driver’ beside me.

As a T2 diabetic, I’ve fought weight since original diagnosis in 1999. Then 239 lbs and on the day of the class 195ish, I have always hated any form of exercise. I’ve tried running, walking, biking, swimming, etc and hated it. I’ve tried it solo and with a partner and hated it. I’ve tried it over lunch, early mornings, and late evenings and hated it. So blood sugars (specifically A1c) swung between 6.5-8 throughout those years. Meds were on the rise – in dosage and quantity – and a clear medication path was ahead of me. I’d planned my will etc. to the point of accepting natural end of life by 75.

Just six months before the Bodypump class above, a chance email from a YMCA encouraged me to attend a class designed for diabetics — “Move Well Today“. More about that class in another post, but I went through Move Well for about 6 months and had gotten accustomed to the sense of community in those classes. As the second youngest person in the class, I had more strength and stamina than others, and had converted about 15lbs of fat to muscle with a mix of cardio and strength conditioning twice a week. I was feeling much healthier.

Ego and body bruised after first pump, I returned that Friday to a tech-class where another instructor, DeAnn, would spend 15-20 minutes prior to her class and teach proper technique for the various exercises. I flunked squats, lunges, and deadlifts. I received corrections for the moves and went through the class again. I enjoyed it a bit more, now with a proper selection of weights.  A routine developed over the next 60 days – three days a week, one hour each. Bodypump 87 had me hooked.

And the song that did it – Bom Bom by Sam and the Womp. One of the silliest, craziest songs to ever hit the bicep track. It was the song I’d come back to 10 months later for a totally different reason.

Oh, and the diabetes – a year of 3 to 4 classes/week has brought my meds down by 80% and the A1c is now hovering below 6.0. I might even reconsider that dying by age 75.

The class became addictive – to the point that I was there at the gym, driving through a snowstorm at 9am on January 1, 2014 for the launch of tracklist 88. Exercise was no longer a hated activity – it had become an addiction and a necessity.

Learning to move well through diabetes

Growing up in India, I was acutely aware of the disease of ‘sugar‘, one that had afflicted various female members of my maternal family. Since my mother and grandmother both had it, and died from it, I was told repeatedly that I was at risk and should be aware of what I eat and watch my weight. I was also reminded that by age 30, if I didn’t watch myself, I was likely going to be diagnosed with the disease.

My first ten years in the United States introduced me to the western diet. I grew accustomed to the diet but didn’t learn the workout ethic so prevalent in my communities… lunch often included fried tacos, burgers and fries (king size), regular colas and more. 182 lbs quickly went toward 230+ lbs. In those ten years, despite perfect health insurance, I visited a Dr a total of twice and ignored most warning signs form my body – tingling toes and fingertips, the slight blurring of the vision when consuming desserts, and the expanding waistline. Diagnosis came through an insurance physical in Jan 1999 and I had joined the growing statistic of T2 diabetics.

As a T2 diabetic, I fought weight since the original diagnosis in 1999. Though I added exercise to my regimen, tried the south beach diet, and more, consistency was my problem with any regimen.  Having hated any form of exercise. I tried running, walking, biking, swimming, etc and hated it. I tried it solo and with a partner and hated it. I tried it over lunch, early mornings, and late evenings and hated it. So blood sugars (specifically A1c) swung between 6.5-8 throughout those years. Meds were on the rise – in dosage and quantity – and a clear medication path was ahead of me. I planned my will etc. to the point of accepting natural end of life by 75.

At the doctors and diabetes books’ insistence, I tried my hand at exercise but nothing seemed to stick – from treadmills to elliptical machines, from running and walking to even a home ‘gym’ – one of those “as seen on TV’ contraptions. #epicfails  A few attempts at carb control would bring the weight down but habits and work, stress and travel, and ultimately lack of self-control would erase away any weight loss quickly.

I was pretty frustrated with this until a chance email from a YMCA encouraged me to a program designed for diabetics — “Move Well Today“. Advertised as a program to help gain control over diabetes, something clicked and I went in for an initial meeting. Wes, the instructor and coordinator for the program at our Y, interviewed me, asked about my numbers, and ran me through a series of simple exercises – finding range of motion, ability, strength factors, and finally a physical profile of weight/height/BMI/muscle mass etc.

The class began weekly with a 10 min cardio warmup – do whatever you can do to move and warm up the muscles. My poison of choice became the elliptical and the 100 cals or so that burned in the warm up became easier. Some participants walked, others rode stationary bikes, and others ran. Following warm up was another series of leg/arm movements – hip circles, walking lunges, lunge/twist and others.  Upper body exercises followed with bicep curls, t-raises, standing push-ups and others. Another 10 minutes of cardio followed by lower body work of calf-raises, back strengthening movements, and more and finally some core work and cool down. Interesting hour’s worth of full-body for those unaccustomed to exercise.

I was probably one of the younger members of the class yet connected with the program. Students consisted of 20-something to upper 70s, and many came to the class with very limited ROM. I was not limited in my ROM, but looking out the gym’s windows made me acutely aware of what lay ahead of me if I didn’t act now : the sight of “Iowa Heart center”, “Mercy Hospital”, “Iowa Methodist Hospital”, various cancer and orthopedic centers visible from the giant windows of the Y – reminding me that it was either here or across the street ‘there’. Serious motivators indeed.

I became both a regular to the class and started to move up/higher in my weight selections, reps, and ROM during class. According to body mass indicators, in a mere six months more than 20lbs of fat had been converted to muscle. I felt great, and a metabolic profile at the doctor confirmed internals agreeing with the impact of regular workouts. In addition to the weekly class, our instructors encouraged (and I mostly followed) 2-3 more days of cardio in form of walking, elliptical or treadmill machines, or even stationary bikes.

A key change began to occur during the final two months of attending class. As always we’d begin and end class by measuring our blood-glucose. This was primarily to ensure that we weren’t too low on blood glucose before class and to begin measuring the affect of exercise. I’d normally start with 120s and end with 70-90s by end of class. Toward the last two months, I routinely observed these numbers to begin in the low 100s but end in 140+. Alarmed, I started to research and found that once exercise increased in intensity, these numbers would indeed rise temporarily before falling to normal levels within the next hour or so. This was normal and positive as long as I wasn’t entering hypoglycemia. I wasn’t; the class had provided me with key benefits I hadn’t experienced before –

  • community – fellow classmates became friends despite our age differences
  • accountability – being part of the community forced me to show up weekly
  • disease understanding – the education portions, though sometimes repetitive for me, remained helpful
  • regular moving and increasing intensity – the body was telling me that this class had worked in getting me to enjoy the workout

It was time to up the game and join my wife’s strength training class – Bodypump.

Is it fear or failure when you fold ‘em

The startup world is full of advice surrounding how and what to do for startup success. Though failure is often embraced and supported, the fear of failure or the outcome of failure actions is not often reported. As a regular subscriber to The Moth Podcast, I came across a story by Annie Duke that may be especially poignant in this area.

Moth is a podcast of a live storytelling event. The events feature real life stories by real people, told candidly in a 10-minute stand-up format. Stories are as varied as the people who tell them. I would suggest subscribing for some free, though-provoking, and amazing stories. Warning – some will make you laugh hysterically, think deeply, and even cry.

Though neither a startup, nor a founder of a tech company, Annie is simply an accomplished Poker player. Playing her hands and listening to her gut, in the spirit of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, she plays a game of her lifetime.  I won’t give the story away, except remind you of Kenny Rogers and The GamblerThe lessons of failure, fear, victory, and discipline are clearly peppered throughout this story.  Of course, in the testosterone filled world of gambling, a bit of sexist commentary rears itself as well.

Here is a link to the story and the podcast on iTunes.

Goodbye, Pikuzone

Today was the day I took the final steps to shutdown pikuzone. Created to provide a safe place for kids to be able to send emails to parent-approved contacts, it served several thousand messages for several hundred kids over the site’s three year life. It is being retired because of a cultural and a commercial shift.

pz

Culturally, the children gravitated toward the tablets and smart-mp3 players. They utilize games and secure text messaging applications and, just like Facebook, email is the old people’s platform.

Commercially, the size of the market served is limited to parents who care about privacy and security of electronic communication. Many of these parents are hard to find and, therefore, expensive to market to as they themselves like to not be found :). Out of various marketing approaches we attempted, the one that worked best was Google Adwords – adwords that targeted highly-educated moms from blue states with two or more kids. Unfortunately, the size of the market didn’t leave the project to be commercially viable and we have run its course.

At the end of the day, the project paid for its daily operation costs but the commercial realities would never recoup the effort expended in creating the site. We end the company in black, notwithstanding development costs. Thanks to all the parents and friends who supported Erin, Joe and me in this wild adventure.

A Congress Paralyzed From Fear over Immigration

This post appeared in the Des Moines Register’s Business Technology and Innovation Section on July 20, 2014.

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The battle over so-called H1B visas threatens to hamper the growth of Iowa’s startups, growing technology sector, biotech research centers and agricultural sciences.

Our public and private colleges teach students from sub-Saharan Africa, India, Malaysia and beyond. Our corn and soybeans are consumed by humans and animals around the world. John Deere and Vermeer equipment drills, mows, seeds, and crushes in parts of the world many Iowans would have trouble finding on a map.

The GOP, with thought leaders like U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, understand the economic impact of immigration, especially in Midwestern states that depend on immigrants for net population growth. Iowa, which barely represents 1 percent of the US population and far less of the global population, sells its goods to a disproportionately larger world.

Eric Cantor lost the Virginia primary earlier this summer and his party quickly moved to shelve immigration reform. The epidemic of paralysis that gripped the GOP and, therefore the House of Representatives, has done more to damage to the country’s economic prospects than the President’s hope for comprehensive reform.

Unlike Congress, we cannot allow a state of paralysis to affect our state’s next century of growth. The young minds at Iowa, Iowa State and all other Iowa colleges see a state that provides a wonderful place to live, grow and prosper. Many will go back to their home countries because of arbitrary quotas for H1B visas or decades-long line for green cards.

H1B visas are issued to people in a wide variety of profesisions. Medical, engineering and physics careers, to name a few. Those who hold them are our neighbors in rural and urban Iowa, generating economic multipliers through taxes, spending and investing.

Do we really want a paralyzed Congress to euthanize this growth in one of the most prosperous states in the Union?

Marveling at how innovation continues to surprise

A colleague and I sat across from each other yesterday at a coffee shop as we worked out mutual task lists for one new, one future, and two ongoing projects.  There were names to add, tasks to do, people to assign, call and drop from the lists.  It was a few minutes into this seemingly simple management task that a thought struck –

  • we both work for disparate employers
  • I was using a Microsoft Surface tablet and he an Apple iPad
  • we were connected to a free public wireless network
  • we were managing tasks for four separate projects that represent four separate legal entities (companies, people, etc.)
  • we were using the free version of a publicly available application, Trello, to manage our work
  • the free application, on disparate computers, on a public wireless network was concurrently handling and synchronizing data as we worked
  • we paid a nominal rent for the office being used – essentially a portion of our $1.96 coffee
  • we had no idea where the data we entered into our tablets is actually stored
  • we didn’t care

This is so remarkably different from where I started in this industry that the various inflection points that led to here seem insignificant and forgotten. But the magic remains. I am glad to have retained the ability to still marvel at this stuff – the sense that attracted me to computers and computing in the first place.

highwayrobbery

How killing net neutrality will affect you

This off today’s news stories - FCC poised to changes in net neutrality policy

The lobbies, supporters and the FCC continue to make the debate around net neutrality more complex than it really is.  Through the various gyrations, the lobby for media and internet companies has figured out that by removing the immediate costs to us end users, they can take us out of the debate. They’re right – most people you speak with don’t really give a damn about this issue because it won’t cost them a dime…. yet.

I have a simple analogy that I’m sure I’ve heard someplace but can’t recall to properly credit – how would you like the public highways to provide priority to those who can afford to pay for high speed driving privilege down the left lane. If the left lane gets filled up, the middle lane becomes available to the payor, continually squeezing the ‘public’ to the right lane, shoulder, and ultimately off the road. It really is that simple in networking terms also.

If you’d like to read my reasoning why – read further.  If not, think about your commute this morning and imagine the above scenario.

The news out of FCC this morning hints at rules allowing a Netflix or Apple to pay for better, faster connections to the Internet for better delivery of video. The way it actually happens in Internet hardware is that, in addition to a fatter pipe to the Internet, Netflix is provided a higher Quality of Service that gives a priority to its traffic, through networking gear, over others’ on the pipe.  Our corporate networks implement such a priority where telephone traffic is generally given higher priority than someone browsing social networks.  Extend this analogy for a moment –

highwayrobbery

You are entering a freeway and the on-ramp checks your license plate. The freeway computer recognizes that you are a standard driver, checks current traffic, and gives you access and you start driving merrily.  A convoy of trucks enters the highway and they happen to pay 10 bucks a truck. Their priority is, therefore, set higher and the highway computer moves your car off any lanes needed by the trucks until they have passed. On the Internet today, it is reality that lanes are so busy that the entity using it as a public infrastructure will be moved off-road (network term: squelched).

We enjoy Netflix, Amazon VOD, Hulu, Youtube, Vimeo, and many other services because the Internet was setup as a public utility without being called one. No one entity had more rights over the other. It isn’t a libertarian concept to seek to keep it that way. Just like our public highways, our common airspace, our electric supply, phone lines, and access to fire department or police, our Internet needs to remain a public utility, devoid of favoritism.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Youtube, Vimeo were all startups once. And there will be startups again. Will they get squelched because NBC and Comcast chose to pay for higher QoS and eliminate the potential for competition. Bet your bottom $ they will.

Your senators and representatives need to hear. Your newspaper needs to hear. And ultimately, people fighting this fight need support. Head on over to Freepress and the EFF. Join their work, support their work, and more importantly, spread the word about their work. They’ve made it as simple as a button click.

copyright 2009, Tej Dhawan

Go see Lincoln and listen

copyright 2009, Tej DhawanA common refrain heard during our social media outbursts is what the founding fathers wrote, intended, contemplated and spoke. For some resorting to the refrain, it must be an easy way out – to deflect to those whose words we hold dear but are afraid to read. For others, resorting to the refrain might be tough, knowing that everything we hold as our own guiding principles is countered by the very words written by the founders.

I love traveling to Washington DC. During the many years working as a government contractor, and recently, heading to DC as a part of a lobby effort for one thing or another I hold dear. Throw in the two family vacations to the nation’s capital, I probably have 30-40 trips down. On most, I’ve tried to follow a routine – dinner around Dupont or Adams Morgan, brisk walk toward the White House, then Lincoln Memorial via the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean memorial, Roosevelt then Jefferson, and finally the World War II memorial before heading back to the hotel. It takes about four hours and, when performed alone, stands for a meditative time. Having done it dozens of times, I can comfortably say that I love the time.

copyright 2008, Tej DhawanThe title to this post is the last line from episode 100 of the West Wing. The President, faced with an uprising in the middle east is grappling with the severity of the American response. The words are the last five words from a recently dead President, who gives his ‘successor’ counsel from the grave. The two Presidents, past and present, are of differing politics and beliefs, of acrimony and hatred, but somehow find guidance in the words of another President from a few years ago.he two family vacations to the nation’s capital, I probably have 30-40 trips down. On most, I’ve tried to follow a routine - dinner around Dupont or Adams Morgan, brisk walk toward the White House, then Lincoln Memorial via the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean memorial, Roosevelt then Jefferson, and finally the World War II memorial before heading back to the hotel. It takes about four hours and, when performed alone, stands for a meditative time. Having done it dozens of times, I can comfortably say that I love the time.

If you have access to the West Wing episodes, go watch episode 100. You won’t need the pre or the post stories to jump in. And if you’re in DC, walk up the steps of Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, around the Roosevelt and Korean war memorials, down and up the Vietnam war and connect with the words written in granite. Forget for a moment your affinity to Fox, CNN or NPR. And before jumping to ‘the founding fathers’ excuse, reflect on the words.
copyright 1999, Tej Dhawan
Reality may surprise you.

Clubbing the Patent Trolls

Untitled

Image courtesy CEA (Consumer Electronics Association – ce.org)

I just wrapped up a very full day meeting in Washington with several Senators and their staff on the issues surrounding patent reform.  This day was coordinated by the Application Developers Alliance, an advocacy group I connected with in December around the time of the House vote on the Innovation Act (House Bill 3309). 

Before I go further, political correctness stalwarts as well as trolls themselves are calling for the name trolls be dropped and Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) be used instead. I will use the term troll instead… it is not only the industry standard name, it also labels these entities accurately.

Imagine receiving a letter like –

Dear CEO – you owe us $1000 per employee at your company for each networked scanner that emails scanned documents and one or more of your employees potentially uses that feature.

or

Dear Kevin – we noticed that when you picked up groceries for your mom and sister during your recent shopping trip, and delivered them on your way home, you violated our patent on efficient routing for purposes of grocery delivery between retailer and one or more consumers. You owe us $1200 per delivery point for this violation.

Does either sound ridiculous? Yet, one is real and the other… well… the other could become real.  In the case of the former ‘letter’, a trolling entity has divided the US into territories where patent attorneys are actively sending demand letters to businesses using scanner to email function. Each letter demands the $1000 compensation. It has ticked off enough complaints and confusion in the business world that state attorneys generals have been called into action.

In a remarkable move, 42 Attorneys General have urged Congress to take action and to provide the Attorneys General to utilize the powers granted to them in assisting the citizens in their states and territories. This letter generated significant buzz during our visit and was largely being seen as a positive action toward patent reform.

Fast forward back to today – and what brought me here to DC. Meetings today covered members of the press, a dozen senators, a number of legislative staffers from senators’ offices, and two representatives from national VC firms – Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures and Jason Mendelson of the Foundry Group.

Trolls aren’t a headache JUST for large technology firms. They are beginning to affect everyday businesses through measures that can best be described as extortion. Send vague letters to businesses large and small claiming that the business is infringing on a patent. Given them a short window to respond with payment or the penalty will go up. If the business chooses to litigate, the ‘fines’ will go higher and potentially private and personal information extracted through discovery of the company’s systems, mobile devices, phones, etc. This is a national problem that affects all of us and household names in my own state – Kum & Go, Bettrlife, Kinze Manufacturing,Iowa Bankers Association, HyVee and more have gone on record documenting their problems with trolls.

It was good to have two very large VC firms and a relatively small angel group represented in DC by our group of three. As Iowans we have an unusually significant sway – whether it is in the first in nation status in the caucuses to having two very senior senators who are respected universally. Senator Grassley’s position as a ranking member of the Judiciary committee makes him particularly powerful in this realm. Those who have read this know that I’ve spoken with him and his staff in the past about immigration issues and found him receptive – even though party politics (and the 2012) election rocked that boat past his control.

Patent reform has taken the form of a 325-91 support in approving the House bill (H.R. 3309) in December 2013.  The bill, also called the Innovation Act, immediately received support from the White House . The companion Senate bill (S.1720) was introduced in December and is currently being studied by the Judiciary committee while other bills make their way around the Senate. Our direct request today was for the Senate to move forward toward passage of patent reform in the senate that can pave the way to conference that will resolve the difference between the House and Senate bills before the President can sign it into law.

The key provisions we asked for are –

  1. Clear identification of who is suing (who has the financial interest in the claim)
  2. Clear identification of why the claim is being brought – specifically which portion of the company’s patent is being infringed
  3. Clear identification of how the infringement happened – specifically what did the infringer do wrong
  4. A fee-shifting provision (about who pays what)
  5. Potential for pre-litigation review of a business-process patent through an expansion of the covered business method statute

I reached out to several attorneys in Des Moines who are know for their work in intellectual property, including patents.  Several who represent small, innovation focused companies, warn of a chill that could befall such small companies due to the need for paying winner’s attorney’s fees, as they fear that large companies could simply bury the small company under legal costs. Similarly, members of the software community who have business process patents are naturally against provisions that could expand a review of a previously issued patent. I feel that the innovation community is at a greater risk of being attacked by trolls who are using old patents from now defunct companies. These patents, issued in huge quantities after their 1996 allowance, and bought up during the dot-com crash, now are utilized by entities that exist solely to litigate.

Though we haven’t seen this in the Iowa investment community, Jason and Brad both talked at length about how the companies they see closely tend to come into the trolls sights right about the time they receive serious funding or exhibit commercial viability and success. Companies are actively being formed to go acquire patents from companies in bankruptcy for the sole purpose of litigating with that portfolio.

The meetings at Senators’ offices proved very detailed. There was hardly any fluff in the 20-30 minutes we had with each senator, and the Senators and staff did an equal amount of talking and asking. Since we didn’t need to push an agenda with senators  who are already on board with patent reform, we offered help and the meetings entered meaningful discussion about ideas, alternatives, and potential solutions. Today, there are the Leahy-Lee (S 1720) and Cornyn-Grassley (S 1013) bills that represent the Senate position and the underlying conversations.  Sen Schumer adds teeth to the Leahy-Lee bill via Schumer (Senate 866).

I am a huge fan of the Cornyn-Grassley bill as it clearly covers most of my desired outcomes. Passed independently, either the Leahy or the Cornyn-Grassley bill would resolve a lot.  If Leahy-Lee-Cornyn-Grassley-Schumer got married into a single bill, our work today would be very productive.

I left DC with that hope, and plan to remain engaged with the Iowa Senators. The fitting end to the day was flying along side with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and being able to thank him on his action on this issue.

 

My article in the DSM Register on the Net Neutrality ruling

This article appeared in January 19, 2014 issue of the Des Moines Register’s Business section. It is encapsulated here and the original article is here to discuss my opinion on the recent Net Neutrality ruling by the DC Court of Appeals.

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Like many homes, Internet services enter mine via cable connected to a Mediacom box. It’s the same cable that provides me with telephone and video service.

But these services’ similarities, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals, ends there. Even though many of us use the Internet to communicate through text messages, email, Facebook, etc., the court says it is an information service and telephone and video services are communications services.

The distinction is important because Tuesday the court struck down FCC regulation of the Internet on the grounds that the regulatory body cannot control information services.

The D.C. court’s action now opens the way for an Internet provider to selectively block content from whomever they choose. If Mediacom doesn’t like the broadcast network ABC providing access to free streaming shows from the network’s website, they can simply not provide consent (try streaming the recent “Modern Family” episode from ABC, if you’d like to try today). The great firewall of China has come to the U.S., and here it will be controlled by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom.

Our government, using the intelligence of lobbyists while checking its own at the door, chose to narrow the definition of communication service in the early 2000s, and despite promises, didn’t fully define the Internet as a communication service during the past five years. The largely impotent Congress, despite constant communication from the masses, remained mired in its own battles. It neither gave the FCC direction to define the Internet as a communication service, nor did it require its chairpersons to act.

You, the readers of this newspaper, still have a little power to act. Our six representatives to Congress need to be reminded by all of you to keep the Internet free of corporate interests. The president needs to be reminded that his promise to reverse the previous administration’s mistake is still not fulfilled. And organizations fighting for your open and free access need your support — monetary and through the power of signatures on the petitions.

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The organizations needing your support are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and FreePress.net