A Great Big Node About Noding

Everyone, I guess, feels like they joined Everything at the perfect time. In no particular order, you may have joined just before September 11, 2001, or just after. You may have been around when you were either for DMan, or against him. Did you know sensei, or did you arrive after the wave of raising the bar? Were you here during the great Butterfinger McFlurry War? Or did you meet a lot of other noders in the flurry of nodermeets that seem to have gone on a few years back, and spend time earning your bullshit?

Feeling generous, one could cast one's eyes over the list in the previous paragraph and think "Even though kalen's left Everything out (pun intended), I guess it doesn't matter when you joined -- they've all been perfect times!"

Cue the live studio audience: Awwwwww! Scattered applause starts, and builds, until the actors gently break the fourth wall, take each other's hands, and bow.

Or not. Everything is not a sitcom.

I know you probably just want to vote this sucker down and move on, but hold with me just a moment longer, ok? When I joined, I read the FAQ, and was dazzled by the very idea of a website that required you to go to university to be a part of it. I thought carefully about the merits and possible pitfalls of joining a community that proposed to do some of the things I do for a living. I thought about addiction and how I had really only come here to try and wean myself away from a steady, unproductive diet of slashdot and kuro5hin. I put all those things together, and noded.

It wasn't great, my first node, and it seemed like almost the exact same moment it hit the New Writeups list, a barrage of Inbox commentary injoined me to take all sorts of actions: "This needs more links!"; "Put more into this, or I will nuke it!"; "Not bad, but you misspelt colour!"

It was, of course, my response to all this which made that the perfect moment to join e2, for me. I thought "Awesome! So many people interested in my meaningless little contribution! I think I'll try and do better next time!" †

I have assumed ever since that everyone got this introduction to Everything. I have even more foolishly assumed that everyone liked this sort of introduction to Everything. Events over the last six months, however, have disabused me of that notion.

You see, taking the wonderful wertperch's homenode motto to heart: "To support and encourage as I have been supported and encouraged." I began around six months ago to contact new users and encourage where encouragement was warranted, and suggest a re-examination of the FAQ where it wasn't. I'm not an E2 editor, I have no "power" -- but that experience was so overwhelmingly positive for me that I sought to give it to others. The response, however, has been universally hostile and negative.

  • Enjoining a new user to add a few more links, the response was "F*** off -- this writeup has been cooled!"
  • Requesting a newbie do a little searching before hitting submit resulted in "You could be right, but I'm too lazy to add anything more." This about a 70-word writeup.
  • Suggesting that a mis-titled writeup (with something original to say) be moved in with something I'd written got "But which writeup is better?!" as a response.
  • Suggesting a reason a notionally factual writeup may have garnered 7 downvotes elicited the reply "But you're not an editor. Why should I listen to you? When an editor asks me I'll change it."

Of course, I've entertained the notion that it could be all be me. Maybe I rub people up the wrong way. Maybe what I see as a helpful suggestion comes across like fingernails scraping on a blackboard. But then, last week, the answer fell into my lap as I persisted with one initially very hostile new noder. I kept suggesting. I did an unasked for node audit, and praised where I could. And then the answer came back:

Thanks for the positive feedback! You've really been the only one saying "this really isn't up to scratch, you should do a better job". I was beginning to think you were a bit of an arsehole, but evidently, I was wrong! Thanks for the criticism.

I was stunned. How could this be!? How is it possible that the "website that talks back" that I joined has become a place where new users hit sumbit to the sounds of silence? Our advertising material says we're more focused on quality than ever! Is there really such a disjoint between what we say and what we do?

Is now, in short, the perfect time to join e2? Because with the experiences we've had, with the effort we've expended, it bloody well should be.

If I'm wrong, and if any time still is the perfect time, then I'll accept that it's just abrasive old me.

But if I'm right, and if it's not, then how do we change it back?


Not having any of my first 50 or so writeups nuked was probably slightly sub-optimal, though, as it caused me no end of grief when something emotional and political, my invert to this terribly confused apology for McCarthyism -- if not McCarthy -- was nuked with prejudice. I got over it.

South, Again.



Today I was riding in the car with my youngest daughter and she mentioned that when she looked at the person in the car next to us, that driver looked back at her.

It started a discussion of the -- "you always know when you're being watched" -- phenomenon, which most of us believe is true in one form or another. Stare at someone through your car window. They look back.

It's possible you have to be in a car to make it work. Maybe while you're in a car you have nothing much else to do but look out the windows, so when you happen to see someone staring with your peripheral vision, it's natural to turn and look. Or maybe there's kind of a sixth-sense connection between people.

The eyes are, after all, windows to the soul.

Surrey down, to stoned soul picnic.

"Why do you think that happens?" I asked her.

"I don't know, but it always works."

Kids don't always know when to be critical of seemingly supernatural phenomena, but fearing an invaluable lesson was not warranted, I agreed.




When I woke up this morning, I was not going to the South Pole.




Suppose I was a poem writer: I'd write you one. It would sound like this and you'd complain it wasn't poetry. It isn't any good. The judges would smile and push it aside. Next.

Every day it's different. Real poems don't change between readings. Zombified Shelly doesn't come back and modify Ozymandius every few days. And he wrote things everyone could understand. In the end mine doesn't seem to mean anything but everything to me. Not poetry.

Will you read me when I'm gone, anyway? Will I know?

This is me
Having committed to a scary thing
Being scared.





I'm missing things.

Roger that. 10-4, devotees.





I'm having a historical breakdown. Is there an archaeologist in the house?





These came to me. I still possess them. You might not have known it.










An orgasm is a prayer that the world come to an immediate termination, an acknowledgement that death is all roses once you've clawed your way upstream to spawn. That life means nothing without love and love wasn't anything you thought you expected. When that blast of supercooled polar air hits the lungs the body revolts as if drowning. Love is lost. The mind struggles for clarity against the need to scream. When you are dying you love nothing, but everyone, everywhen.

Panic kills. Being killed is not what I think you want so I will not be killed by my panic. If I am killed it's because something else happened. The plane crashed or I forgot my balaclava or hypoxia rotted my cortex. Or I fell. Or the plane home never arrived and I spent nine months in polar darkness, getting a wish I never really wanted, should have never said. Please don't come. Last plane home's gotta have me on it or I'm iceboy, forever.

Do I think about that?

I will not be slept-with by ice women. I will move into the bleak house on Mercy Street. At the end there is an inspiring wave of illogical despair, and I know the foam of its curl. Last time I was at the convergence of longitude I tried to read to fight it. I tried to fight to read it but it took me anyway. There was respite in hard climbs out of the Dome in the minus fifty-five, the physical exertion made me concentrate on the pain and not the minus eighty wind chill, at Pole minus is understood so you say temperature without it -- in Scott's day it was "degrees of frost"; I'm channelling Scott when he reached that irrelevant goal and realized it as such, his life now expended in the pursuit of a prize rendered trivial for which he will be forever lionized in failure, death so sealed: please take care of our people. For God's sake.

To this awful place I commend my spirit. It would have me. I am haunted. I am possessed by a demon for which a religion has not been invented to develop an exorcism ritual. Call me a Lama, I'm having a crisis of polar existentialism.

The Symmes hole is there, it can now be revealed. Under threat of death I was sworn not to tell of the vast gore to the earth's core. The fantastic winged creatures that traverse the glassy volcanic galleria that is the opening to the center of the earth.

You may never see me again. For God's sake, someone tip the caretaker.

Yet the thought has more than once passed my mind that were I to suffer the same finality as the fatal five it would be a better end than failing to outrun Boca alligators from the business end of an aluminum walker. Retire in Tampa, Grampa? No way, Fay Wray.

I don't know what I expected. Honestly. Was life supposed to last this long? Was love? Why do I threaten its end, so? Was I supposed to make it this long without a plane crash or blowing or a major arterial sinus? I've had these years to waste thinking I was in love and never understanding it. Maybe I wasn't, nor you. We worked it out. How did it end? What song did they play when the credits rolled?

If I die, at my funeral play the songs I loved. Supper's Ready. Then it will be over.

The South Pole is about as far away as you can get and be on earth, excluding the bottom of the Marianas Trench where there are angler fish and no breathable gasses.

After a lifetime of not going to the South Pole one day I was there.

This time, next week, I will be there again. Second time in three months.

How did this happen? Why does it want me? Must I die for my vanity?

Indeed.

Can you surrey? Can you picnic?

I will write to you. And I will write to you. In the Age of Aquarius I am farther away than God. My mind is full of tall pines and eagles. There is a raven's feather in my duffle bag, and an eagle's in my pocket. And you have to decide if you want the one that returns.

Despite the experts, I don't think it's an easy answer.

So far, my track record doesn't warrant comfort. It's risk.

I was never in this game to be an armchair quarterback. I've always wanted the ball. The actual pigskin. Take the actual hit. Always wanted to feel what it was like to be sacked by L.T., 1987, in a full-on run. Superbowl ring glitter in his eyes.

I am returning to the Pole. This warm life was all a dream. Now I awake and you're the light in Schroedinger's refrigerator that is neither on nor off.

A kiss goodbye, I love you. I really did.





At exactly 11:11AM on December 10th of 2002 I met a woman in the airport in New Zealand and spent a six-hour layover with her in Auckland. There we met the Prince and Princess of Japan.

After bowing to them a cadre of black-suited men politely stepped in front of us while others saw the royal couple to their limousine.

A woman from a newspaper came to us and asked us if we were honeymooning on the North Island. Were we newlyweds?

We said, "Yes," at the same time but we didn't know each other. We happened to have seen each other in one airport, and then another, and so said, "hi." Then the Prince was there and I couldn't remember her name. The newspaper photographer took our picture. The woman made up a name for me because she'd never asked mine, and the newspaper reporter wrote it down.

Before I left for my flight to the United States the woman told me that the world is full of miraculous things. I had just come from Antarctica, and I was the only Antarctican she'd ever met. I told her my getting there was a path lined in miracles. She said that miracles surround us but we fail to experience them. The way you experience miracles is to release all desire into the universe. Hold nothing. Want nothing. What you want, you ask for and release -- honestly not caring if it comes to you -- and it comes to you.

But you don't care when it does.

I wondered about meeting the Royal Japanese couple with her. How could that happen? Was that one of her miracles? Meeting a guy from Antarctica and bowing to the Princess of Japan at the same time? Who would believe it?

I've become your dream. I can feel it.

Your dream, too.

Where do you live?

Hawaii.

I've never been there.

I've never been to Antarctica.

But I don't live there.

You say that because you don't know.

Oh, I know where my home is.

She smiled the way people do when they know you haven't caught on. We hugged when we said goodbye. She took her flight and I took mine. I never saw her again. I will make up a name for her. I will forever call her, Faith.





In this life you could have had any of ten thousand loves. In every city there is someone for you, who would love you forever. You've passed hundreds of them in grocery stores, shopping malls, city parks. You've exchanged glances across restaurants. You've seen each other through automobile windscreens.

You will meet tens of possible loves.

You need but one.

Today I ate a bowl of Caribou Crunch and thought of Denali. I touched a bald eagle's feather and remembered when I fed the raptors off the Alaskan shoreline. I held the mummified wing of a talking owl in my hands, one that appeared at a windowsill and promised a wish. She made a wish and found the owl dead the next day. Talking owls are like bees - one wish and they're dead.

She kept the owl for her forever. It was hidden in a frozen locker in the woods and she took me to it. Unwrapped it, layers of old cloth napkins. Embalmed by love's desire when she was a girl, it lay for years waiting to pass into my hands.

You're meant to have this.

Are you sure?

I don't know. I'm just doing it.

Now I have the wing. It's real.

All of these things are real.

On Saturday I leave for the South Pole again. I am scheduled to be on the last flight out of the Pole station, the risk being that if the last flight out is cancelled, I am there for nine months.

I must have wished for this challenge. I must have the gold ring in my hand. I still can't see it.

I don't feel lucky.

I'm (not) ready for anything.

I pray for Faith.




Maybe I will find my leatherman.

So with each passing day I grow more concerned with the Iran/Israel situation. Really, with the whole powder keg in the Middle East (one little spark could set the whole thing off, and either Iran attacking Israel or Israel doing a preemptive strike cold be the spark). But this business with the head of Iran calling for Israel to be blown off the map, and Iran developing a nuclear missile, and Israel already having them (/msg and correct me if I'm wrong, please), it's pretty scary.

Yesterday I began thinking out in my head, if World War III truly were to begin, the countries of the world start grouping together much like they did in World War II. People are already talking about what countries would side with whom. It got me thinking about the world as if it were a big game board. Ever played Axis and Allies? Or Risk? Axis and Allies is more relevant to the situation, but my experience with both games suddenly had me thinking strategically about the world and how one would win the game, or the War.

Of course this train of thought may seem highly insensitive, we're talking about real countries, real people here, real destruction, and real death. But think about it. It really blows your mind about how much like a big game it is. Logically, if Iran vs. Israel starts this whole thing, the two major fronts in the war would be who is for Israel and who is for the Arabs/Muslims. In that vein, if you were to manufacture an Axis and Allies like-game to modern conditions, you'd have players either choose to be one or the other, and if they chose to be the Allies it'd be the United States and probably Canada and most likely Great Britain and the rest of Europe. Or the EU. The Axis would be, for the most part, the anti-Israel Middle East, which, let's be honest, is most of it.

But, if you choose to play Allies, you already have a big advantage. You get to put tanks and troops, what have you, in three countries in the Middle East: Israel, obviously, but also Iraq and Afghanistan! What a huge strategic advantage! Are you with me, are you following? Maybe Bush had this game of Axis and Allies in mind when he invaded Iraq, not WMDs. If Iran starts giving you trouble, you've got control of a country, already, right next to it! You don't have to move all the way from locations in Europe. You can attack in one turn! Roll the dice, George!

The real questions for the game manufacturer to solve would be, where does Russia and China fall into all this? Or North Korea? There's probably just be another mini-war along side the main one. The Nutterbutter in North Korea will probably just go ahead and attack China while everybody else is attacking everybody else. Why not? Hmm...

Again, the analogy to the game is insensitive, but it's also intriguing. Of course, when you're talking about nuclear warfare, it would shorten the game. It might not be an all day affair any longer. In one turn you could wipe out one country. You would win rather quickly.

In reality, though, if that were to happen, no matter what, everybody loses.

Today's my birthday.

Today's also the day that Nintendo announced the redesigned Nintendo DS Lite.

I turned eighteen years old today. Oddly, I don't feel any different. Should I feel different on my eighteenth birthday? Everyone always makes a big deal about one's eighteenth birthday. I can legally buy porn and smoke and vote and register for the draft. I was looking forward to today, but now that it's come, I don't feel any different. Is one's eighteenth birthday really that big of a day? On my sixteenth birthday, I was able to have sex. On my twenty-first birthday, I'll be able to drink. At the time, I wasn't really looking forward to banging any chicks. And I'm certaintly not looking forward to ingesting alcohol.

16 and 21 are just numbers, as is 18.

Ooh, I'm an adult. I forgot about that. But wait, I don't feel any different. I don't act any different. I'm the same kid I used to be. I will continue to be the same kid for quite some time. Sure, I've always been slightly more mature for my age, but you don't get a sudden dosage of maturity and responsibility and understanding at the age of eighteen. I feel like I did when I turned 16: disconnected with the world and not really in the mood to care.

So happy birthday to me.

I gotta import one of those new DS's.

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