Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 30 — Planning the Website
I shook my head. “I still think it’s sort of weird. I mean, I just came up with an idea while we ate lunch at your birthday party, Laura. I said it might help gay guys like Mark, Parker, and Ray, and maybe even Kyle if we can get guys in Illinois to sign up. Now everyone is taking my little idea and talking about creating a company and actually implementing it. Like I said, weird. So now what are we supposed to do? Wait until the trial is over, I guess.”
“Right,” Laura responded.” “My dad wants to meet with you two and Sara’s brother Gary as soon as the trial is over. Is that okay with you, Curt?”
Tom interrupted, “Does that ‘you two’ include me too?”
“Yes, Tom, and you too, Laura”, I replied. “Of course, no one knows when the trial will actually start and when it will be over.”
“I thought the D.A. scheduled it to start tomorrow?” Tom asked.
“It’s the process that starts tomorrow. Judge Young, he’s the presiding or trial judge, will say a bunch of yada-yada-yada tomorrow morning. After that the selection of the judicial panel will start, and I have no idea how long that will take. The panel will have three judges, and Judge Young isn’t on the panel. I’ll be there to listen. If your dad doesn’t like a particular judge he might suggest that Beth Wolman issue a challenge to keep them off the panel. He said the the main reasons for challenging a judge are a conflict of interest or prejudice, but just like a jury trial the D.A. and defense can decline to have a particular judge on the panel. Once the judicial panel is selected there’ll be more yada-yada-yada by the judge. The defense attorney and the D.A. can make motions and the judge will rule on them or put off his ruling until the next day or next week or whatever time he needs for making a decision.
“Finally the actual trial starts. Because the judges on the panel aren’t present during their selection, the trial itself won’t start until the Wednesday or maybe a few days later when they are all available. Just like a trial with a jury, there’s the the testimony of prosecution and defense witnesses. The prosecution witnesses include me, Officer Brady and maybe the other policeman who came to my house because of the 911 call, the doctors who treated me at the hospital, Tom, Mark, Mrs. Hutchins, and Kyle. On the defense side it’s Don, maybe my mom, and maybe Mr. Vanvelick though I don’t think they’d ever pick him as a witness again. It could take a few days or maybe a week or more. Then it’s turned over to the judicial panel to decide if Don is guilty or innocent. That might take a day or a few days. What it means is that Don’s trial could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. A jury trial would probably take a lot longer, maybe a couple months.”
“What’s a judicial panel?” Laura asked.
“It’s a small number of judges who act as a jury. It’s an option instead of having a full jury, or the judge acting alone as the jury. A judicial panel is used when they want a fast decision and the kind of case requires a jury but they don’t want to wait to swear in a regular jury. For Don’s trial the judicial panel will have three members. They’re the ones who’ll decide if Don is guilty or innocent.”
I took a deep breath, looked at Laura, and shrugged my shoulders.
Laura shook her head. “Wow. I didn’t know how many separate parts trials have, and they could drag on that long. I’m impressed that you know all this stuff, Curt.”
“Mr. Williams and Beth Wolman went over a lot of it with me, and I’ve done some reading online about trials and what’s involved. There’s a lot more detailed stuff that I left out that’s not that important but could also slow down the trial, like what happens if one of the judges on the judicial panel gets sick.”
“So getting back to the company idea, what do we do now?”
Laura had an idea about what to do now. “Let’s see if we can remember exactly how this website is going to work.”
“It starts off with the registration process,” Tom said. “Kids register on the site and have to give their real name, home address, home phone number, cell number, email address, their age and birth date, their gender — that’s only male or female, their sexuality, the school they attend and grade, and what kind of relationship they’re looking for and if they’re already in a relationship. Also we need proof of they are who they say they are with a picture ID like we have for school.”
“How do we get that implimented?” I asked, “And how do you know all this stuff?”
“I know about this stuff because I took the Web Design class last semester. It’s the best class I’ve ever taken in my life. That’s what I want to do when I finish college, web design.”
“Wow, I didn’t know you’re so into it. Cool,” I told Tom.
“Okay, here’s what we need to do to get going on this website. First, we need a domain name. That’s like facebook.com or google.com or espn.com.”
“How do we do that?” I asked.
“We do a search. There are websites where you can search for your domain names and, if you want, pay for them for one or more years. Some sites will give you a domain name for free if you sign up to have them be the hosting service for your website.”
“And what,” Laura asked, “does that mean? The hosting service part.”
“A hosting service is a company that has web servers, hundreds or even thousands of them, and they handle all of the technical stuff for keeping thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of websites on those servers. It’s the perfect way to get started and it keeps us from needing to hire a couple server experts to have on our staff and server hardware. The hosting service is responsible for keeping our website up and online, they back up everything every night, they provide detailed statistics about who’s coming to the website, they have high-level security, in other words, they manage the whole thing and all we have to do is design the website and keep it updated, and manage the users.”
Laura had another question. “So that’s better than having our own servers? How do we know that someone won’t hack into our servers? I mean it’s there with other people’s websites, people we don’t know, who could have access to our information. There are stories about hackers and data being stolen in the news all the time.”
“We take care of that by encrypting our data files,” I said. “That’s something that I read about when that chain store’s credit card files were hacked. That happened because the files weren’t encrypted. It’s really stupid to have unencrypted data when it’s so easy to implement.” Laura looked like she wanted to ask me what ‘encrypted’ meant, so I decided to explain.
“Encrypted means changing the text in a document around, like making every ‘a’ into ‘z’ and every ‘b’ into ‘y’ and so on. Real encryption doesn’t use anything that simple. The techniques that are used are very complex so hackers wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“Alright, explain the something that’s not so simple, Curt.”
“Okay. This is complicated but still a lot simpler than a real encryption technique.”
Our tablecloth had a big sheet of white paper over it. I pulled out my pen and began writing.
“This is what the simple example would look like.”
A B C D E F G H I…X Y Z
Z Y X W V U T S R…C B A
“Using this approach the letter ‘a’ would always be an ‘z’, ‘e’ would always be a ‘v’, ‘i’ would always be an ‘r’, and so on. Anyone wanting to decrypt our files would have it easy since vowels are the most common letters and once they figure out that a ‘v’ is an ‘e’ they are off and running. What we want is a way to constantly change what a letter in our text is translated into. It’s like sliding the lower scale so where the ‘z’ is positioned changes for each letter that’s being encrypted. That’s what using a keyword will do for us.
“Let’s say we use the same kind of letter changing like in the simple example. Except we make it tougher by using a keyword that’s used to select where in the alphabet you start when you’re encrypting the text. For the each letter in our text each letter in the keyword is used to slide the lower scale.
“I’ll pick a keyword, um.. how about ‘duplicate’. The first letter in the keyword is used to translate the first letter in a document, the second letter in the keyword is used to translate the second letter in the document, and so on. When you get to the end of the keyword you wrap back to the first letter of the keyword and keep going.
“With the keyword ‘duplicate’, to tranlate the first letter in the document a ‘d’ becomes ‘z’, ‘e’ becomes ‘y’, and so on. Then the second letter in the keyword is used to encode the second letter in the document and ‘u’ becomes ‘z’ and ‘v’ becomes ‘y’, and so on.”
“Let’s assume the first word in our text that we want to encrypt is the word ‘enter’. We set the translation of the first letter based on our keyword. That would look like this, with ‘d’ becoming ‘z’ and ‘e’ becoming ‘y’ and so on. I’m shortening these diagrams so it only shows that part of the alphabet that includes the letter that we want to translate. I’m doing this to save time.”
I wrote these two lines:
A B C D E F G H I…
C B A Z Y X W V U…
“Notice that ‘d’, the first letter in our keyword, becomes ‘z’ and ‘e’ becomes ‘y’ and ‘f’ becomes ‘x’ and so on. That means the the first letter of the word ‘enter’ becomes a ‘y’.
“Now we go to the second letter in our word, which is ‘n’. We use the second letter of the keyword which is ‘u’ which becomes ‘z’, ‘v’ becomes ‘y’, and so on, so the diagram comes out like this:”
…M N O P Q R S T U V…
…H G F E D C B A Z Y…
“For the second letter of ‘entry’, an ‘n’, becomes a ‘g’, and our word so far is enrypted to be ‘yg’ instead of ‘en’.
“The third letter of our text is ‘t’ and the third letter in our keyword is p, so it is diagramed:”
…P Q R S T…
…Z Y X W V…
“And the ‘t’ becomes ‘v’.
“The fourth letter is ‘e’ again. You wouldn’t translate it to a ‘y’ like the first ‘e’. Instead we’ll match it against the fourth letter in the keyword. We’re at ‘l’ in the keyword:”
…E F G H I J K L…
…G F E D C B A Z…
“So the second ‘e’ becomes a ‘g’.
“And finally the fifth letter, the last letter of the word ‘enter’, is an ‘r’ and the fifth letter of the keyword is an ‘i’:”
…I J K L M N O P Q R S…
…Z Y X W V U T S R Q P…
“The ‘r’ becomes a ‘q’ and we’ve encrypted the first word in our document. ‘enter’ becomes ‘ygvgq’. An advantage of using a keyword is that a specific letter in the document will be encoded differently, so the first ‘e’ in ‘enter’ is a ‘y’ and the second is a ‘g’. Everything depends on the keyword. Also, in our encrypted word the second letter is a 'g' and the fourth letter is also a ‘g’. That will make them try to decode the message by converting every ‘g’ to a vowel since vowels are common. But it's not going to work because the first ‘g’ in our encrypted version of ‘enter’ is actually an ‘n’ and the second ‘g’ is actually an ‘e’. That make it almost impossible for them to decrypt our file.
“The encrypted word can be decrypted by going backwards using these same conversion charts. But if you didn’t know the keyword you’d have a tough time breaking this encryption by hand. It could be broken using a computer. You can see why this would be almost impossible to do without a computer. This example is real simplistic compared to the encryption schemes the government and big businesses use. There’s even free encryption software that you can get to encrypt stuff you don’t want your folks to read if they get on your computer.”
Tom shook his head and stared at me. “Damn, Curt, where’d you learn all that stuff?”
“While you were taking Web Design last year I took two semesters of Computer Technology. We learned about encryption in the second semester Advanced Computer Technology class. For our semester project we had to write a program to encrypt and decrypt a document. I figured out an algorithm that used any keyword to convert the alphabet and punctuation and digits too. I made it more complicated by scrambling the letters in the bottom row instead of making them a mirror image like my examples here.”
I saw Laura looked confused again.
“When I say a mirror image, I mean in our translation table an ‘a’ is a ‘z’ and a ‘z’ is an ‘a’. You can see that in the first example:”
A B C D E F G H I…X Y Z
Z Y X W V U T S R…C B A
“Anyway, I had a lot of fun figuring out how to do all this with a computer program.”
“How long can the keyword be?” Tom asked.
“As long as you want it to be. So we could take your full name, Thomas Robert Williams, run the words together, and use that. Or we could use a line from one of Shakespeare’s plays, like the soliloquy from Hamlet: ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ and so on. You could even use the entire soliloquy.”
“You said it can be broken using a computer?” Laura asked.
“Sure it can, because this is an easy encryption method. To have a stronger encryption you can use two keywords, where one keyword is used to encrypt the second keyword which is then used to encrypt the document, or where the first keyword is used for odd letters and the second keyword is used for even letters. But one thing in our favor, even with this easy encryption method, is the hackers don’t know how we encrypted the document so it will take them a lot longer to break it. It’s also too complicated to demonstrate on a paper tablecloth.”
Laura held up her hands. “Stop, stop! That encryption stuff is totally cool, Curt. I didn’t know you were so into this stuff. But this isn’t getting us very close to how we come up with a name for the website. How are we going to find a domain name that’s not already used?”
“We can do it online,” Tom told us. He pulled out his cell. “I can look up domain names on my smartphone and we can figure out some that would work for us and I can see if they are available.”
“How can you type and see on that tiny screen?” Laura asked.
“It’s easy,” Tom said. “First, let me bring up the hosting service I used for the website I built for my web design class. Okay, it’s up. Now I’m going to make this part of the page bigger so it’s easier to see.”
He logged in and clicked on the ‘add a domain’ link.
“Okay, we’re ready to roll. I’m on the hosting service site where we can look up domain names. I’ll set the option for .com, .net, and .us extensions.”
“Okay, how about gay.com? That would be perfect,” Laura suggested.
“You gotta be kidding. That would be a hot domain name and would have been taken years ago. Lemme check anyway. Yup, everything is taken. Besides, it sounds like a porn website to me.”
“True that. How about gaydar.com?” I asked.
“No, everything is taken, .com, .net, .org, .us, .info….”
“Alright already, Tom! Just say ‘everything is taken’ and Laura and I can figure out that it means .com, .net, and .us from there.”
“Hey, don’t yell at me, Curt!”
I stuck my tongue out at him, and we all laughed.
“How about just gaysare, then we can make it gaysare.us?” Laurel suggested.
Tom laughed. “Everything is taken including .us. Someone else figured that would be a good website name.”
Laurel asked, “Okay, then how about gaysareus.com? If we picked that we wouldn’t need the .us because it’s built-in.”
“The .com is taken. But .net and .us are available.”
“Wait,” I said, “let’s agree that if .com is taken we skip that domain name.”
“Sounds like a good idea. I know that if I hear of a website I usually assume that it’s a .com,” Tom replied.
I thought about that for a moment. “We sort of liked the .us because it’s the word ‘us’. You know, if you think about .net that would be cool. Say we can get gayfriend.net, then the .net means you’re going to net a gay friend at our site. Of course, we’d want .com too.”
Tom entered that name. “Sorry, gayfriend and gayfriends are both taken. Hey, someone’s trying to sell gayfriends.org for $2,788.00. But the .com and .net are both taken.
“I still like .net,” I said, “because it’s sort of like a fishing net.”
“Okay,” Tom replied, “we’ll search for names that have both .com and .net available.”
“Say, I read a story about rugby in England, and it had one player who was gay. They called it ‘bent’ instead of gay. How about bent.com?” I asked.
Tom tried that then shook his head. “Nope, everything’s taken except a couple I’ve never seen, .pro and .asia. How about bentlikeus? Everything’s available for that one.”
Laura sort of scowled. “I don’t know, using ‘bent’ is good for England and maybe Australia and New Zealand, but it’s not known here in the U.S.A.” She sat back and grinned. “Try onlylikeus. I just thought about kids who don’t want their folks to know they are gay. A site named onlylikeus isn’t as likely to cause any suspicion compared to a site that screams ‘gay’ like bentlikeus or gaylikeus. Never underestimate what parents might know. And all we’d need is .com and .net.”
“Everything’s available. We can order the onlylikeus.com and onlylikeus.net domain names. Shall I do it?” Tom asked.
“I like it,” I said, “we can play off onlylikeus.net on the site, saying things like ‘net a friend who’s the same as you. That…”
Laura interrupted. “How about sameasyou.net?”
“Nope, .com and .net are taken already. Hmm… I just checked sameasme and onlylikeme and the.com is taken on both of those. I say we go with onlylikeus.com and onlylikeus.net and skip the .us because onlylikeus.us is redundant. By signing up for a year’s hosting service we get one domain name free and the other is on special for $9.99 for a year. Is everyone agreed?”
Tom got thumbs up from me and Laura, so he ordered onlylikeus.com and onlylikeus.net. He filled in the information from Laura’s credit card and got a reply back that an email confirming the order would be sent, and to check that it’s all correct, and if we wanted to cancel the order we had 48 hours to do that.
“I think we also have the company name, Only Like Us. That’s a cool name.”
Tom shook his head. “First we’ll have to find out if that name is available, like for a trademark and business license and stuff like that.”
“Can your dad do that?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It might be better to go to an attorney who handles things like that. He, or she, could take care of searching and registering the name, and incorporating the company as well,” Tom suggested. “My dad should be able to recommend someone who won’t charge too much for doing all that.”
Tom turned to Laura. “What about the others who are in on this. They didn’t help us pick the name. Do you think they’ll be pissed?”
“Nope. Remember I told you that my dad and Gary said we should investigate domain names. Gary also said if we found a good one to go ahead and order it. So we’re good to go, guys. We have the start on our website! I think this calls for a celebration.” She looked around and saw our waiter and waved him over.
“A pitcher of sangria, please, the non-alcohol kind, and three glasses.”
We got back to the house around three-thirty.
“Hi, guys,” Mrs. W called out from the kitchen. “How was your lunch with Laura?”
“It was great,” I replied, “the food is great, I made up with Laura, and we got a start on our new company too.”
“New company? What’s that?”
Tom poked me in the ribs. “Uh, Mom, along with with Laura and her cousins Sara and Gary we’re going to start a website for kids.”
“Laura’s dad and Sara’s dad are going to help out,” I added.
“Help out how?”
“They’ll front some money for it to get started. Right, Curt?”
“Uh huh. We’re going to talk with Mr. Williams about it to make sure everything is legal and aboveboard.”
“What about this money part? Are you going to get stuck having to pay for it out of your allowances?”
“No, Mom, it’s going to pay for itself. We’ll sell advertising. Most websites do that. And if it doesn’t work out we’re only stuck for the domain name and the first year of hosting. That’s like three hundred bucks, tops.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. You say that Laura’s father is going to pay the bills for the first year?”
“Uh huh. He already paid for the domain name and the first year’s hosting. So we’re good to go.”
“Be sure to talk it over with your father. He’ll tell you if there are any legal complications.”
“Will do, Mom. We’ll talk to him now if he’s home.”
“He’s in his office. Just knock.”
“Thanks, Mrs. W.”
“Yeah, thanks, Mom.”
We walked down the hall to Mr. Williams’ office.
“Sorry, I almost got us in trouble. I forgot that your mom didn’t know about us starting a company.”
“Curt, even we didn't know about starting a company until lunch today.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It just seems like so much has been happening so fast.”
I knocked on Mr. Williams’ office door.
“Come on in.”
Tom and I walked in and sat down.
“We have a business proposal to talk about with you, Dad.”
“I’m sure it’s a very interesting proposal, but first I have a couple quick things to tell Curt about the trial. Tom, why don’t you can have a snack while I chat with Curt?”
“You want anything to eat or drink, Curt?”
“Nope, I’m good.”
“Okay, let me know when you guys are finished with your trial talk.”
Tom left and Mr. Williams opened a file folder on his desk.
“First, Beth Wolman wants to meet with you tomorrow morning at nine thirty to go over the procedures and what will happen in court tomorrow. Second, I’m going to have a nine o’clock meeting with a judge who wants to discuss another case with me and the attorney for the defendant. That means that we’ll have to leave at eight forty-five to be at the Courthouse by nine. I should be back before your meeting with Beth is over. I suggest you get something to eat between nine and nine thirty. Is that alright? You don’t have a problem meeting with Beth on your own?”
“Sure. I don’t see a problem.”
“Now, what’s this proposal that Tom’s all excited about and how much is it going to cost me?”
“It’s not going to cost you a dime. Tom and I will tell you all about it.”
So that’s what we did.
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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2011-2013 by Colin Kelly (colinian). They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.
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