So. It seems the world didn't end, huh? That's... fortunate.

I write this node mostly from yesterday, because yesterday was locked. I always have a quiet chuckle whenever I see a node locked... It makes me wonder about what could have happened behind the scenes, to have the situation come to that. Some of the reasons seem obvious: yesterday was the public date that was prognosticated to be the end of the world (again). But what actually happened? Was there a flood of poor nodes, now nuked from orbit, that served only to continue inflating the pre-apocalyptic hype, which The Management decided were no longer fit to serve on active E2 duty? Was there some secret conference wherein The Elder Ones convened and decided that a preemptive blockade was the best defense against the coming tidal wave of QUALITY noding action?

Today will be my first day off from school for the Holiday Break. It has well deserved its capitalization: this past week has been hell and a half when it comes to concentration of assessment activities: History, English, and Math each had a full period devoted to some test or assignment that was begun when we sat down and handed in when we stood back up at the end of class. I won't pretend that it was particularly difficult: the English and History papers were both structured in such a way as to favour the ability to think on one's feet as opposed to the compulsive rote memorization that many of my classmates tend to see it as; and likewise, Math is quite honestly the easiest thing on the world to me.

A short anecdote, regarding math. In my Grade 10 year, I was taking a Grade 11 Functions course, and found sufficient cause for boredom to cease paying attention to the lessons and teaching myself calculus from a small tattered Coles Notes. That is to say, I managed a 98 in the course while learning completely different material, by myself. Not that I mean to brag or anything, but I just feel this sort of characterization does me more justice than "the guy that gets high scores on math contests nobody's ever heard of". Suffice to say, this pre-Break math test was nothing special. But still, the atmosphere is taxing. And besides, the privilege of not having to rise each morning at 6:00 is beautiful.

I have only just yesterday (quoth yesterday, "today") learned about the unfortunate story of Hermetic. I have no personal connection to him, nor can I particularly remember any of his writeups. But it seems to have been a huge, sad thing, his suicide, when it happened. And I can appreciate that, in the same way that I can appreciate the tragedies of the passing of Einstein, Walt Disney and Severus Snape. My condolences to those who knew him.

Of course, in a fit of selfishness, I then thought about what might end up happening should I die or otherwise disappear off the internet.

See, I have a strong opinion on the debate about whether or not privacy is a right, especially on the internet. I have used many websites, some of which are perfectly content with nothing but a handle not yet chosen by the existing userbase and an email with which to validate your account and so on. Of course, I'm also familiar with websites that encourage the use of your real-life name as your handle, such as Facebook and the C2.com wiki, though for two different reasons. Facebook is busy conglomerating all of everyone's personal information and giving it to everybody else, but C2, being a Wiki editable by anyone, simply wants to enforce a sense of commitment in its contributors, so that they won't be tempted to post something insipid or detrimental. As much as this sort of lack of faith in the userbase might be a time-tested scheme that is known to work, with respect to reducing the amount of vandalism or spam, I am somewhat partial to taking hearty offense to that sort of thing.

By whose authoritative decree are you obligated to use your real life identity on the internet? The ability to be someone else and not yourself is very important on the internet, I think, because of the kind of stuff that is done on the internet, and the fact that if you or someone else does something to compromise your identity on the internet, that can have real life repercussions. Whether it's someone discovering and then posting about the kind of gentleman's literature you prefer to read, or leaving cryptic and easily misinterpretable in-jokes in public view, the ability to hide behind an alias would alleviate all of it. One may try to counter this with the idea that you shouldn't have a problem with it if you have nothing to hide, but then the inability to hide anything would make the internet a terrible, terrible place.

Anyway, how does this whole dying thing affect people who use aliases and leave absolutely no physical ties to their meatspace avatars? What if I, during my periods of net caution, was to die? The persona you know as tubular would just cease to visit E2, never mind node the things I did, and there would only be the potential for wild guessing as to my actual fate. And telling people to simply assume that, past a certain stretch of time, I'm to be considered dead or MIA, is right out of the question: because of erratic visitation schedules and my tendency to just repeatedly go on nearly-indefinite hiatus for no good reason. The only leftover setup would seem to be to not care, and live each moment to its fullest extent, will all the people currently around. Read and write what you can and when you can, and just let it go when someone's stopped coming back.

As much as my real life personality wouldn't like that whole uncertainty in legacy thing, I think that I, as a netizen, would prefer to go out in this fashion. Just disappear silently one night, with the fruits of my E2 labour up until then proudly displayed on the various nodes of E2, eager to empower passersby with as much knowledge as they dare to ask for. The community would reshape wordlessly to expand the group of united proletariat noders and slowly replace my role and influence. And each of my writeups and anecdotes may tell you a little about me, in retrospect; but most of all, they will hopefully tell you about the subjects of the nodes they're found on, which is the point of noding in the first place, isn't it?

Basically what I'm saying is, ideally, if I die, none of you will ever even suspect a thing. Even assuming I somehow got E2-famous one day, or something. This isn't just wanton stoicism: this is me honestly wishing.

A man can dream. To sleep, perchance...?

Some gun-collecting friends of mine took me shooting a few times. I got to fire an AK-47 -- it was a lot of fun to hose down all that scrap plywood with lead. It was a real blast, and very easy.

I don't want an AK-47 in my home. I am not a gun owner, and don't intend to ever be one unless there's a clear need. A gun in the house would not make me feel safer; statistically speaking it's a lot more likely to be used on me or my loved ones, accidentally or otherwise, than it would be to aid me against an attacker. Having a lot of guns in the house would also make my house a more attractive target for burglary, and the criminal in question would be of a much more dangerous type than usual. I do have other weapons, ones that are generally only lethal if used with skill (the kids in the recent China attack are alive because it's a lot harder to kill a bunch of people with a knife than with a semi-automatic weapon).

Like most weapon owners, I tell myself that I keep my ridiculously large knives around for practical purposes like self-defense, or as a part of a wholesome collecting hobby, and not as a sad form of ego-boost or because of primitive aggression or a magpie attraction to shiny objects. I do have some martial arts training in blade and baton techniques, so I feel somewhat confident in my ability to use what I keep around the house for effective self-defense if the need arises (and I take steps to ensure that the need doesn't arise). My confidence could be completely misplaced, of course, and my blades could turn out to be useless. In the meantime, I don't have to worry about an accidentally-flung knife going through my wall into my neighbor's living room after a moment of clumsiness. 

I find the argument that we the American people ought to have lots of guns to keep the government in line to be antiquated.  We're not living in 1776. The government has tanks and rocket launchers and nuclear weapons now -- am I supposed to keep a Black Hawk gunship in the garage, just in case? We have all those guns, and yet the TSA still has managed to turn our airports into cancer factories in the name of safety and I still have to pee in a cup to get a job. Freedom of information and freedom of speech and the exercise of those are a lot more important in fighting tyranny in this country, in my humble opinion. 

You know what machine gives me the greatest sense of safety and freedom in my life? My car. An automobile can certainly be deadly, but its use as a weapon is secondary at most. I have to navigate a lot more regulations to drive a car than I do to own a gun. And yet with all those laws telling me how to drive and when, I don't feel that Big Brother is somehow conspiring to keep me from being a car owner. 

Some have suggested that school staff be issued tasers to prevent future massacres. Tasers are far less lethal than guns, I'll grant you that. But I'm not in favor of school teachers carrying tasers or any other weapons on school grounds. I don't feel it contributes to a positive learning environment.

Others have suggested that cops or armed guards be stationed at schools and campuses. Which, if you discount the potential cost and the possibility of police abuse of teachers and students, sounds great ... except that Columbine had an armed sheriff's deputy on duty the day of the massacre there. And at the time of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the university had its own police force with an on-duty staff of 50 armed officers. And the massacre at Fort Hood happened in the middle of one of the biggest military bases in the world. 

I'm pretty sure Joe Average NRA Member wouldn't feel safer if his neighbor was building dirty bombs in his basement "for protection".  So there's clearly a spectrum here weapons-wise. It bothers me that semiautomatic weapons like the "Consider Your Man Card Reissued" Bushmaster AR-15 are so readily available, and that the reaction of a lot of people to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was to run out and buy one. There is no "alternate use" of a semiautomatic weapon other than to kill, or to threaten to kill.

Exercise your Second Amendment rights if you like. Keep your dad's favorite shotgun and your deer rifle and your fancy antique revolvers, and I'll keep my ridiculously inefficient but oh-so-shiny bread-slicers. But let's please try to get the lead hoses off the streets. Yes, it will be difficult. But it will be impossible if we as a society don't even try.

And finally, I do not feel than an armed society is a polite society. The recent shootings in Florida courtesy of white guys with guns who have felt empowered by the "stand your ground" law have seemed impolite at best.

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