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A Beginning


James Sinks and Brad Knetl, December 17, 2001 copyright James Sinks

This is where Signaland began, as words thrown back and forth on a midnight drive through Arlington fourteen years ago. Half of those words were mine. The other half were Brad Knetl's.

We've been friends for about twenty-five years. We made our first website together twenty years ago, and for the last fourteen or fifteen years, this website—under many names—has been an ongoing project. A big project. A perpetual project. The project. Our blog. A collaboration and experiment: intellectual, technological, artistic, financial. Brad would write fiction, poetry, and tech. I would write science and art, as well fiction, poetry, and non-fiction essays and interviews. We'd both post photos.

It's always been something that will happen "soon."

Well, soon has become now.

For the last few weeks I've been futzing around with a design, outlining posts, and trying to figure out what I was going to call it and where I was going to put it. Names are always a problem, especially when you want decent searchability and a proper tld to go with it. The best Brad came up with was 3rd Floor View, but...well...I really didn't like it. There's no mystery there. No character. Still, if he'd pushed, I would've gone along with it. I favored Arlington Von Unten, but while that's got character and mystery, it's also a terrible name. I even toyed with putting this up at, but that struck me as being too egotistical.

Anyway, on May 27, I got an email.

Okay, on May 27, I got a lot of emails. Email is a big thing for me—I get a lot of it, I send a lot of it, and it is the channel through which I have made my living since I was a teenager. It's the channel through which I've come to know people all over the world. It is my world much of the time. I'm very particular about how I receive and read email. I view it as plain unformatted text: no images, no movies, no hyperlinks, no bold, no italic, no cursive. Just black, ten point courier new against a white backdrop.

One of the side effects of how I read email is that soft returns get stripped out, and when they go, the words on either side of the linebreak run together. On May 27, one of my emails had a word in it that I had never seen before:


It stopped me in my tracks.

It is, of course, just "signal" and "and" with a soft return between them. There's no mystery about its etymology—it is nothing more than an artifact of the rules applied by a text-processing engine.

But still...signaland. sig · nuhl · and. I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I pondered it frequently. Is "Signaland" a place? Is "signal and" an unfinished list or a sentence fragment? Or is it "signal&", with a lovely ligature at the end? Signal et. Signal&. Signal&c. Whatever it is, it's a good word. I considered putting it to a photo, or a story, or a portfolio.

On June 1, I realized it was the title of a website. This website.

With a title and domain names in hand, I knew I had to launch on June 18, 2015.

On June 18, 2001, Brad and I launched our first major website, Dementlieu. Dementlieu immediately became a huge part of my life. It was the first time Brad and I worked together on a large project. We'd always been involved in each other's web projects, but Dementlieu was the first time we really collaborated. We'd talked about it for years and spent months worrying and fussing before we decided to go ahead and do it. In the weeks leading up to its launch, we ate, drank, slept, and breathed web design. Every website I've launched since then, Brad's been there, if not as a partner then as a proofreader, editor, sounding board, and tech support.

Brad's here too, even though he's been gone for almost five months. He knew I was going make a push to get our blog up this year, but he didn't live to see even the first outline of the site you see today. Despite that, he lies at the heart of Signaland and has touched everything it is and will become.

This is day 5,110 of Dementlieu. This is day 140 of a world without Brad. This is day 1 of Signaland.

James Sinks

Brad Knetl, June 11, 2005 copyright James Sinks

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