Antarctic Diary: December 12, 2002

Stories

One of the sayings here on the ice is you should keep from doing anything that causes you to become a story. In a closed community under continual environmental stress, stories circulate.

Carolyn got frostbite on her nose. People say it wasn't even that cold, but the wind was harsh.

And then your friends are supposed to tell you about frostbite. They see it before you feel it. You go numb when you're cold enough. If you're lucky you'll feel the burning in the surrounding tissues and realize something's amiss. If you're busy, you may not pay attention to it.

Then your skin freezes solid and dies.

There are degrees of frostbite just like there are degrees of burns. Third degree frostbite means the cells in your body have exploded from internal ice crystals. When you warm up, that part of your body become meat slush. Second and first degree denote lesser levels of cellular damage.

They say it's painful.

And once you've been bitten in one area, it's very subsceptable to refreezing. Pretty much for the rest of your life.

There was a radio call I remember. Carolyn was up at F6 and I was at Lake Hoare. She called down to Thomas, who while not a medic, has more cold-weather field experience than everyone.

She asked, "What does it mean when you have a white patch on your nose?"

Theories in the hut evolved from "standing under the wrong skua" to "misplaced trench foot".

We settled on a case of nasal trench foot and told her that's what it probably was.

The moral of this story is that you need to take care of yourself in Antarctica.

One reason people may have been callous to poor Carolyn is they'd just had to medevac one of the deep field divers. Donna got a kidney infection and was in pain for three days while we all waited for the weather to clear so the helos could fly.

Field camps are equipped with some meds, narcotics, some antibiotics, a couple of injectable drugs, but it all fits in a small ammo case. The supply is limited. Most of the time there isn't a medic in camp, so you'd have to radio in to the hospital to find out what to do with that stuff if you don't have training..

That's what Thomas did. For three days he was on the radio to Doc Betty, monitoring Donna's progress. It wasn't good. She was on a downhill slide. Spikey, high fever. Acute pain.

They pumped her full of liquids. Some drugs. Called into the doc with status every two hours.

When he was reasonably (read: not totally) sure he wouldn't crash, one of the helo pilots launched in the fringe of bad weather. They pulled Donna out. They kept her in McMurdo for a couple of days, until they were sure she'd survive the airlift to Christchurch.

She's still in the hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand. They expect a full recovery in a month.

After Donna went home, Doc Betty informed Thomas he had saved her life.

The moral of this story is that when you're in trouble in Antarctica, people will take care of you.

There is no official law in Antarctica, but those here under the aegis of the United States Antarctic Program agree tacitly to live under U.S. law. There is now a federal marshall on station who has the authority to detain and retro anyone committing an actual crime. It's not clear he has ever done this.

During the 1997 winter-over there was an altercation between a lab tech and a cook's assistant at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. The conflict became physical. The station's staff did their best to keep the combatants separated. But one evening, during a party, the lab tech mixed the drinks and handed one to the cook's assistant, who upon taking a few swallows, fell down in convultions.

As this was winter, there was no possibility of medevac to civilization. Nor was there the possibility of sending the lab tech back for arrest.

After a while the cook's assistant recovered. But the station manager had a situation on his hands he didn't know how to handle.

He radioed back to the U.S. for guidance. What were his options?

The authorities in the States were similarly perplexed by the lack of clear legal guidelines.

So they instructed him to restrain the combatants, put them on snowmachines, and take them out four miles onto the sea ice.

Then they would be subjected to maritime law. And as captain, he was free to exercise the appropriate punishment.

In sotto voce the individual relating this story to me let me know the station manager had a gun, and did coerce the perpetrator with the weapon.

While I had not heard the lab tech was shot for attempted murder, it's not clear what the station manager would do with a violent man tied to a snowmobile four miles away from the mainland in the perpetual Antarctic night.

The moral of this story is that while there are no official laws in Antarctica, people will do their best to do create them.

I am a gamer. For many years, I have spent my life playing every kind of video game that I could aquire. Every few years I upgrade to something better and faster. However, I never forget about the classics which I loved even when the gaming world had made their technology obsolete. Old games may become replaced by new, better games, but the old games are what made us love the genre.

Tonight I have embarked on a quest, though it has proven to be near impossible. I want to fnd a copy of Syndicate, Bullfrog's classic squad level strategy game. While games like commandos have shown us what the squad based genre can do, There is nothing better than remember the first time you realized that the persuadatron wins above everything else.

My quest has proven hard as no one on the internet still has a full copy of the game on their websites or ftp servers. I can understand the problem of copyright and legality, but why should it be so? Syndicate came on several disks when it originally shipped and can easily be posted on any website. But why do game corporations care if people are "pirating" old games which they no longer make or sell anymore?

I think after a game has been out for a certain time, a game company should offer it at cost of production and handling or should allow users to freely download them from the internet. I mean I doubt anyone is really rolling over in their grave because someone has put up an old rom of Super Mario Brothers 2 or some old install files of masters of orion.

Well, my rant is done for now. Btw the way, MOO is available online in its entire format. YOU GO MICROPROSE! Also Monolith has release the game code for Shogo.

I'm Back

...and I know how to use it. Or at least I think I used to did. ahem. let me start at the middle.

The last node that I noded before I noded 2 nodes tonight (I just did I mean, I mean it just turned into tomorrow), was Dub Poetry on 09/09/2000. What happened? Where'd I go and why am I back?

I took a wrong turn and I just kept going... I had a lot going on and I was about to node my 100th node, and I was excited about it, but it also sorta gave me a time n' place of anti-climax. I slipped out of obsession (ah sweet falling in love of node-frenzy!! ah.) and sorta just... let it drift away.

I still get the update emails, so I sorta kept up from afar (like seeing your daughter that you long lost yerself from on tv... or through the security camera at 7-11), but only sorta.

Over 2 years later... and in the meantime, about 1/3 of my nodes got pruned; I just visited 'em in Node Heaven. They look at me sad with big-eyed What'd we do?'s, and the shitty plastic wings that somebody coded for 'em. It seems there have been some changes round these parts since I Rip Van Winkled, or so Klaproth would have be believe. (you know, I think that guy's a replicant!). I've been trying to study up to find any new community standards that post-date me. If there are any good reference nodes, hep me to 'em, huh? And I still have nearly 70 good nodes left. And there's so much more to node! Onward, up the mountain toward the century mark yet again!

Anyway, I'm back. And how. And why? Because of that new quest. It was a sign, I tells ya'. Cuz I've started working in a job focused on tobacco. I'll be noding all about that. I'm now part of the Tobacco Control effort. I'm also a former smoker, in fact I still smoked sometimes, when I was stressed, until recently. And I wasn't a massive smoker (I was never near a pack-a-day), but I really enjoyed smoking, and don't regret that I did it, nor do I condemn its use utterly. But it's something to be wary of. And when you get an inside look at how the tobacco companies operate, it's enough to give you a strong distaste for the fag n' the shag. As if that weren't enough, I was raised in Richmond, Virginia, the land of Philip Morris, so tobacco would appear to be a major motif for me. So when this quest came up, I'm like, that's my Bat Signal and I came back for another fling with E2.

I think it'd be great if there was something cigarette-like to smoke that wasn't totally poisonous and wasn't sold by the evilest, morally bankruptedest, business inhumans on our sick little planet. I mean that they suck evil. And the herb never did it for me. But don't let that stop you. Meanwhile I'll stop yapping about tobacco--there are nodes for that.

Everything is so great (I don't need to tell you this. I will do it anyway.). For me it's a great outlet for writing, it's a type of writing that I really enjoy, and an audience that (I think) I understand and can relate to. I mean, you're online, so you must be at least a little geeky. You're HERE so you must have a mission drive within everything and know the importance of expression and documentation. Hey, I gotta go to bed now. Good morning!

Now I owe ideath a note and Phinslit a dollar and a quarter

Well as I wrote on November 8th, hölleundhimmel has broken up with me spontaneously.

Our relationship of two and a half years is over. I am trying my best to handle this with grace and poise and maturity, while at the exact same time I am heartbroken and angry that she chose to sleep with another man as the vehicle for achieving the break-up.

if she had only had the courage to just tell me, "hey it’s not working out, I want to break up and this is a good time because you have to move from Bonn to Wiesbaden anyhow to start your new job."

Yeah, but instead this is how it went down.

Friday night I went and got this great new job doing PR for Opel. When I came home I changed clothes and went to my German class. The class was suppose to go out to this bar the Rosen Garten for dinner together, but few people had come that day so we postponed it. I ended up going out for coffee with this Spanish girl Maria from my class. While we were having coffee I called home but H. wasn’t there. I left a message saying I was at the Rosen Garten and to give me a call on my handy.

I came home around 7pm and waited for a few hours for her to come home. She didn’t. I thought we would celebrate. Around 9:30, I called my friend Frank and he came over to drink a bottle of apple cider and smoke a joint with me. Around 10:30 we went out for smokes. we came back and a little while later I noticed another message on the machine. It was H.

She said that she was out at a pub with some friends from work and that she was stressed and drinking a lot of beer. She said she didn’t know when she would be home. I instantly tried her on her handy, but she had turned it off. Frank stayed over till about 1am and then he left. I stayed awake waiting for H. till about 3 am and then fell asleep. At 11 the next day when I got up she still wasn’t home. So I called her best friend in Berlin, her mother and her brother, to see if anyone had heard from her. She had never, never ever in our 1 year living together not come home before.

I was worried sick that, god forbid, she had been in an accident. We even called the police.

around 2pm she finally called. She wouldn’t say where she was, but that she would be home in 20 minutes. I called everyone back up and told them she was indeed alive. She came home and I asked her if she had spent the night with another man. she said yes and that she wanted to break up and no longer live with me. I said this was unbelievable and yelled at her that she was completely immature.

Then I left.

I went to Franks house.

That was Saturday morning...

It’s been a long 5 days.

she’s another person now. Changed by this experience. Our friendship is over. Our life together is over. She feels no guilt or remorse. She says she wants to still be my friend, but I patiently tried to explain that friendship is based on compassion and trust and her actions flew in the face of those two things.

I can forgiver her intellectually, but I can’t forget how I feel. Every time I see her I think, there goes the most beautiful woman I have ever known. I wanted to live the rest of my life with her and have a family with her and she s sleeping with another man, a 20 year old foreign exchange student from America.

I think about books and us... she loves literature and her new boy lent her On the Road, which she’s reading voraciously. When I gave her books as a present, she never read one of them, not once in more than 6 months. this should have been a recognizable sign, but I blurred it over. When we went to Chicago last September I took her to see Paul McCartney. She didn’t dance despite loving his music. That should have been another sign.

I was blinded by love.

I’m still in love with her.

I am going out of my mind.

I am also free again. I have a new job to begin in January and a solo trip to the us for NYE ahead of me. I am alone again, yet I can do anything. the feeling is odd because for the last year I have placed this relationship above myself at almost every juncture. Now I can once again place myself first.

This is good, but I wish it hadn’t gone down this way. what else can I say, this is the most difficult moment for me in perhaps 10 years. My heart implodes and explodes consecutively. My first thought up on waking is of her and my last thoughts before sleep are of her.

Oh, woe is me.

The Message you will never get

Was that guilt or pity? You cannot do this to me. You have no idea how much you've hurt me, I have no idea of how to deal with this, everything that happens everyday reminds me of you, even stupid little things you were part of my life in everyway and I don't know how to stop it from hurting.

I want to get rid of everything that reminds me of you but I can't get rid of the things in my head. I really want you to share some of this pain, i can't believe that you still love me because you couldn't just walk away if you did.

Why did you make me come to the bar last night? make me sit there and go through it all again, it was cruel and cold, if there was no chance for us to try again you should have just told me when you got my letter instead of letting me go through more days of misery.

And then to put it off for another day, only be able to give me an hour or so and to do it in a public place was just so heartless. And you just sat there looking like you couldnt wait to get away. I would never have done that to you. I would never have done any of this to you.

If you do still love me, please tell me how you are going to deal with this? I need to know so that maybe I can do the same and it wont be so bad. How are you going to get up every morning and carry on like nothing ever happened. Are you going to be able to think about London, Heavens Gate, eating sweets at the pictures, listen to cd's, go shopping, drink champagne, wear certain clothes, watch certain films, smell perfume on someone and be instantly reminded, are you going to be able to do all that and much much more without feeling incredible pain.

If you can please share it with me.

You seemed hurt that I don't want to see you again but you sat there and said you don't want to hold me or kiss me or make love to me again. You haven't loved and lost, you've chosen to throw it away. It wasn't a safety choice it was a nothing choice.

No real love, no emotion, no risk and no second chance.

If you'd really loved me you would have taken the chance but in your heart you don't, it wasn't worth it and thats what you should have said.

You should have said you didn't love me you should have said you believe you've made the right choice, if you don't want someone anymore you should let them go not leave them knowing that you still feel the same way.

I go over and over what you said, but I can't believe that you would rather see me as just a friend than not see me at all. To be able to do that means that the feelings you have just aren't the same as mine. If you feel that same way as I do how can you want to see me but know that we can't be together.

I don't want to hurt myself by seeing you why would you want to hurt yourself by seeing me? Unless it won't hurt youto see me because you don't really love me, and never really did.

There was this engineer who worked for a power plant for the majority of his life until he decided to retire, well paid from his pension and eager to enjoy the later years of his life. He was touted as being one of the best engineers in his field and, as such, was hardly forgotten at his former work place. One day they called him up. One of their main power generators had malfunctioned and was costing them millions of dollars in revenue each day it was down. Their staff of engineers were clueless as to what the problem might be and their only recourse was to call the man who was a legend.

Finally he relented to come to the plant and take a look at the problem. A few hours later he appeared at the plant holding nothing in his hands but a single piece of white chalk. He walked around the generator for about thirty minutes and, finally, took the piece of chalk and made a big X on one of the generator's components.

"That's the part you have to replace," he told them. "I'm going home now. I'll send you a bill."

A few days later, after they got the bill for $30,000.89, they called and demanded an explanation for the high tab.

Cool as can be, he said, "The eighty-nine cents is for the piece of chalk."

"All right," the accounting deparment head said. "But what about the thirty grand?"

"That's for knowing where to put the X."


After I got off work last night I came to the cafe, painfully aware of the fact that I had only $2 in my pocket and one of them was about to be taken up by a cup of coffee. I had half a pack of smokes and enough gas to make it to work. I could live without smokes until I got my paycheck today (which is a whole other story and quite a nightmare in and of itself), so I wasn't really worried. When I got to the cafe, I checked my email, as I usually do. There was a message from a client I had been doing some web design consultancy for and he was asking me to come by his place this morning, early and before he went off to work, so that I could help him out with a serious work-related project he was having trouble with. Something about a Flash preloader, I gathered from the message.

I was already tired (due to stress and lack of sleep), but stayed awake until it was time to go to his place. When I got there, he greeted me at the front door, bleary-eyed and still in his bed clothes. We went straight for his computer and he opened up the file in question. The problem was indeed a Flash preloader- the simple kind. I took a look at the actionscripting and immediately saw what he'd done wrong.

"You have here 'if frame is loaded' and then it points to the first frame of the first scene," I said. "That's where you screwed up. Have it point, instead, to the last frame of the last scene and it'll work like a charm."

"What's the difference?" he asked.

"The difference," I answered, "is that Flash will load every frame that precedes the one you define. When you defined the first frame of the first scene, the only thing you preloaded was the preloader itself and nothing else, which is why it looked wonky when you tried to view it. If you have it pointing to the last frame of the last scene, it'll load everything that comes before it, thereby loading the entire site before moving forward. Also, right after the 'if frame is loaded' line, you'll need to put in a GO TO tag and that should point to the first frame of the first scene."

He stood there like a post for a moment, thinking it through, and then nodded. I knew what I was talking about and it made sense when he thought about it. "How much do I owe you?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "under normal circumstances, I'd charge you about $50. But these aren't normal circumstances and you're a friend. Call it five bucks." Hello fresh pack of cigarettes, I thought keenly to myself.

He reached into his wallet and produced the 5-spot. "Not bad for ten minutes worth of work," he said cheekily.

I smiled. "It was merely a matter of covenience. You're lucky that your place is on my way home or it might've been more."

"Well, you definitely pulled my fat outta the fire with this, man. Thanks. How 'bout dinner sometime with me and the wife? Call it a tip."

I shook his hand. "Sounds good. You know how to reach me once you and Kimmi decide on a good time. Now go back to bed and get some sleep. I'm headed home to do the same. Thanks." And I left.

...and $30,000 to know where to put the X. No, it wasn't $30K, but when I'm low on smokes and don't get paid for quite some hours away, $5 might as well be $50.


Well, I'm at it again. Sending another story off to get published. Another story entirely, this time, to the first place I sent my first story off to. On October 21, 2002 I got my first rejection notice from that particular editor, but it was a personal one, not a form letter. That distinction did not fall beneath my notice. First time authors almost never get personal responses from editors- not unless the story truly is good and the author truly deserves the attention.

Some of you might have read this second story submission here on E2 (it has since been deleted because I intend to push for publication on it). If it gets accepted, I'll spill the beans on which story it was.

It's funny, y'know? I've sent off to three different magazines so far and every time I do, I get all giddy inside, like a kid. This time is no different; I'm quivering with mad excitement and anticipation yet again. Man, I hope this kind of excitement never goes away whenever I send out my work.

After having spent the afternoon at the yearly fair, mother and I ran into Tom and some of his friends. They were hanging out behind Rich's Coffee Place. I wonder what they were doing there. I wanted to stay and talk a little. Maybe that was the ideal moment to introduce Tom to mother. However, as she spotted the group, her pace quickened and her grip on my arm tightened.

"That's them, hurry on, she hissed into my ear."

"Yes mother, I answered in some confusion."

Once we were around the nearest bend, we slowed down.

"Mother, you're shaking."

"Those rogues. Hanging about the place. Frightening the life out of me, they did! It was them. I'm sure it was. It was them that set the rubbish on fire last week. In the middle of the night they did it. Just sneaked into the yard and lit a fire in the rubbish bin. Then they rode their bikes around it. That's what woke me up. And then it was so bright, so bright, I was scared the house was on fire. Can you imagine how scared I was? Can you imagine?!"

"Why didn't you tell me mother? Why didn't you go and tell the police?"

"You were away that night. Staying at Sarah's. The whole yard was alight with blazing fire. I was so frightened. I thought the dry leaves would catch fire and carry it to the bushes and gums and over to the house. Thought I'd burn alive. I couldn't leave the house. They were waiting outside. On their bikes. I heard them. They were laughing."

"Mother, you ought to have told me. We should inform the police. Now."

"It was them!"

"Them? Tom and his friends?"

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. Once I've seen a face I'd recognize it everywhere. Especially when it belongs to someone trying to set my house on fire."

"Of course, mother."

We walked on in silence.

"I've seen you look at him. "

"Mother?"

"I've seen you look at him!"

Silence.

"How long have you been seeing each other?"

"For about a month now."

"Are you pregnant?"

"Of course not!"

A satisfied grunt was all I got in response from her this time.

"You will break up with him."

"Yes mother."

We walked on in silence.


This was a finger exercise for a creative writing class. It is ficticious. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.
Thanks
- Siobhan

A Year on E2

Reflections on a mis-spent year

IWhoSawTheFace

On December 12, 2001, I signed up for an Everything2 account. This is written exactly a year later. What have we learned here? What have we learned?


First, this is a highly addictive experience. This anniversary doesn’t feel so much like a birthday as it does an admission of addiction. It’s not like sitting in front of a birthday cake, at a big table with all of your friends Tommy, Jimmy, Joey, the kid who beat you up yesterday, Jilly the girl you’ve got a big crush on, Tammy, Laura the girl you kinda had to invite, Keith who keeps trading sandwiches with you and his sandwiches are always terrible, Bobby the guy with the foxy mom, Denny, Danny, Dave, Jim, and Juju, wearing a pointy hat, eating cake and drinking red sugary stuff out of paper cups and then having a magician show up to do funny tricks. It’s like sitting in a crack house, looking at spoon and needle, and realizing with a jolt that it’s been a year since your friend Eddie hooked you up, and now you think back on the year and realize you’ve wasted more time and energy more quickly than you would have thought it humanly possible to do.

Second, some of the funniest people on the planet seem to hang out here. I wish I could hate you all. It would make it so easy to leave. But I don’t. You’re all such interesting people (well, most of you), with quirky habits, hobbies, accents, and language patterns, that you just suck me in. TheFez starts off the day with his GOOD MORNING SPACE MONKEYS announcement. Witchiepoo flies around the catbox with boobies akimbo. At least she did. Now she’s gainfully employed. Shit, why do I know this? Why should I care? But I do. OcelotBob’s irksome tendencies to leap up on a girl’s lap and purr. Or something like that. Using gender-ambiguous pronouns like hie and hir. This used to vex me. Now I’ve given up being vexed, and see that he’s just a gentle soul in need of a little lovin’. Roninspoon's hilariously funny tortured editorials. (Everytime I see the word "teh", I will always think of Roninspoon.) RalphyK’s shite. CowOfDoom’s capslock pronunciations. Yossarian’s enigmatic phrases. When the chatterbox is good, it is very very good.

Third, there’s at least one story behind every one of you. TheBooBooKitty loves video games, but can’t seem to hit it off with women. Arcanamundi is in graduate school at a midwestern university. She’s part of the Ninjagirls collective. She’s one of the few women who is unafraid to mix it up with the guys here. NotFabio is a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, deep in the bowels of the military machine. Templeton has a staple in her head. Or is that just a hair clip? Borgo has a very nice young daughter. He’s a good daddy, who goes to her plays at school. She’s fascinated by Everything2. He likes football. IceOwl is working in Antarctica. He daylogs almost every day on life on the ice. He gives you a great feeling of living and working in close proximity with researchers in the most uninhabitable area of the world. Riverrun’s a Vietnam War veteran. That man can write. Sweet Jesus. Ascorbic lives in the U.K., as does Hexter. I think they’re both at university. Nocte lives in my old hometown, where my parents and brother are buried. CbustaPeck’s tall. Everyone seems to like JessicaPierce, or at least be in awe of her sensibilities. Halspal lives in Minnesota. He just wrote a book. One of his stories, Why the willow weeps, is one of the most highly referenced nodes within Everything2. It will make you cry. Guaranteed. The old ones, the ones who’ve been here a long time, their home nodes mention Sensei, Wharfinger, and a few old noders who are no longer here, by choice or by other reasons. Some have passed away. Their nodes survive them. Their nodes are their legacy to this group. I shouldn’t know this. I shouldn’t want to know this. I shouldn’t care. But I do.


Before I joined Everything2, I was reading Slashdot.com for the occasional interesting technical article on the latest Pentium processor, or something that NASA had done, or what some MIT professor did to quantum particles. It mentioned a companion site for writers. The exact reference has long been forgotten. But a URL to Everything2 was only a mouseclick away. NO. Move the cursor over the URL field. DON’T. Watch the finger click the left mouse button. STOP.

CLICK.

Oh dear God. What have I done?


The first month or two was very confusing. I blundered around the site without an account, clicking on nodes that talked about blowjobs, or sex in cemetaries, and accidentally landed on some well-written nodes. Whoa! (he does his best Keanu Reeves imitation.) These people can write!

The noders all seem to know each other. The cross-referencing of articles with other articles is extensive. This place seems all of a piece, a whole cloth, warping and woofing together in some pattern guided by an intelligence undiscernable to my primitive brain. Who’s the Wizard? Where’s the master plan? Could I break into this group? Do I want to break into this group? How? Is this like a spider web? If I step into it, will every single thread be sticky? Will the fly be caught and then cocooned by Ms. Black Widow?

What follows is an account, in roughly chronological order, of a newbie’s first year.


  1. Apply for an E2 account. Enter a nickname. Right off the bat, a tough choice. You don’t want your name to be too prosaic, like Harold16. You don’t want it too geeky, like MechEngrGenius. You don’t want it to be completely out in left field, like SchemataChroic. You don’t want to choose a name that won’t be understood in ten years, like PuddleOfMuddFan. A bit literary. A bit cryptic. Not too pretentious. So you open up your Norton Anthology of English Literature to your favorite play and there underneath your fingers it sits, your nickname. “FAUST. How comes it, then, that thou art out of hell? MEPH. Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it: Thinkst thou that I who saw the face of God/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven/Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/In being deprived of everlasting bliss?” So that’s how it came to be that my account name is EverlastingBliss.
  2. Immediately discovered the Chatterbox applet. Noders talking to other noders. The conversational snippets seemed to be changing every time you clicked on a new node title.
  3. Sex nodes
  4. War nodes
  5. Boy meets girl nodes
  6. GTKY nodes. Getting to Know You. Clever. They’ve thought of everything here. Literally. Every concept you could hope to have has a name, or has been noded. This has even been formalized.
  7. Home nodes! Some have pictures. Some do not. It’s interesing what people write about themselves. These homenodes are gold mines of information.
  8. Users have levels. Hmmm.
  9. I have a home node too! I can write any old crap about myself. And I do.
  10. What’s this? “Create a node” Click. I start writing. A paragraph. Some smarmy stuff. What’s this? “Submit” Click.
  11. Klaproth comes by for a visit. Like Miss Wright in ninth grade English composition class, who never met a male she liked, Klaproth seems to have a personal delight in taking away what I’ve written. Oh no, Mister Bill!
  12. I am such an idiot. Klaproth is a bot.
  13. Bots can be fooled. I write again. Submit. Click.
  14. This time Klaproth and several editors leave messages. Hotlink this! Softlink this! Pipeline this! Softpipelinkline this way! No, this! Plus, your grammar sucks.
  15. Write again. Sumbit. Editor lynch mob. Paragraphs! Use the less than sign (above the comma) and the greater than sign (above the period) and all sorts of other HTML tags. Don’t you read the E2 FAQ? What’s the E2 FAQ, I ask. Silence. My deficiencies are only now becoming apparent to them.
  16. I read the E2 FAQ. This isn’t writing. This is friggin’ HTML 101.
  17. Write again. A vote. Two votes.
  18. Siouxsie is the first person who /msgs me. Siouxsie is nice. She has pity on a poor newbie. Thank god for the soft hearts of women everywhere.
  19. I type a reply message into the chatterbox box to Siouxsie.
  20. I am such an idiot. This gets broadcast to the entire world.
  21. Siouxsie /msgs me back, shows me how to use the messaging service. This is for direct user to user messages.
  22. I think Siouxsie’s first message was like this: Your, um, first writeup is, um, good, well, it’s interesting. You could add a few more things here and there. And did you happen to glance at the E2 FAQ about good writeups? Stick with it! Things will get better! She’s so much nicer than John Felten or Roy Bunevich, who would grab my facemask and hold it real close to their faces when they were talking, for maximum eye contact.
  23. @ means editor
  24. $ means god (administrator).
  25. It could be the other way around. I’m not exactly sure. Both seem to have an enormous amount of clout around here.
  26. Ass kissing ensues. As a tactic, this is a miserable failure. They can tell when you kiss their asses. They will bitch slap you if it’s too overt. They will bitch slap you if it’s not. Either way, I learn: do not kiss asses.
  27. I learn this: Your value to E2 seems to be proportional to the number of votes on each node you write. Your level corresponds to both the sum total of all plus votes you get, as well as a certain number of node writeups.
  28. I learn this: Everyone here knows more than me. Some trajectories through this space are awesome. They climb fast and far.
  29. XP whoring. Don’t do it. XP means experience points.
  30. NFN means Noding for Numbers. Writing worthless little writeups just to increase your reputation. Don't do it. Instead, Node For The Ages. Write like it's going to be in a textbook with your name on it. Chee-yuh, right, you say. Okay, I'm just telling you. Heed my warning. Node For The Ages, Or Else.
  31. Factual noding. Lots of people seem to want me to do more of it.
  32. This is interesting. A noder offers to be my mentor. She seems to be wound up a bit too tightly. I ask a god for his opinion. Can I have two mentors? He says, get one or none at all. I go it alone. She seems pissed.
  33. I node a few more things. The easiest stories are the emotional ones. They seem to get a good response. In retrospect, some should have been put in daylogs or dream logs. Some are memories, moments in time, relevant only to me, but to no one else.
  34. Apollo in a high school locker room gets a C!. I don’t know what this is, but it’s worth more than a vote. It’s worth like three votes. Cool Man Eddie tells me that someone has voted a C! for my node. Cool Man Eddie is a nice man. I /msg him. Thanks, Cool Man Eddie! Thanks, noder who gave me the C!
  35. I am such an idiot. Cool Man Eddie is a bot.
  36. I am such an idiot. The noder who gave me the C! said, “Hey you don’t have to thank me for the C!” Apparently, what I’ve done is bad form.
  37. I write a few other nodes, get the lay of the land. Some work. Some don’t. This must be what it’s like to be a real writer. I suspect that real writers have it far harder.
  38. Writing Helping your kid brother die was a cathartic experience. It was written in one marathon session late at night.
  39. A lot of other people must have had similar experiences. At last count this node received 20 C!s and 257 XPs. Ten people downvoted it.
  40. Countless people sent very nice messages. I didn’t know so many people cared. Wow. This is really something. Perfect strangers.
  41. When others like your node, they’re inclined to want to read your other nodes. I notice that my other nodes get upvoted as well.
  42. A few nodes later, I try my hand at comedy.
  43. The E2 sports guys come out of the woodwork. The best messages are from Australians who play Aussie football. They liked the description of the inner game of American football, the playcalling. One Japanese noder even writes. He doesn’t understand American football, but he loved the story. Even chicks like it. Go figure.
  44. Noder meets. Dear god, they want to meet each other.
  45. Everything, Kansas. Dear god, they want to live together.
  46. Christmas presents. Dear god, they want to buy merchandise that says SOY SOY SOY. SOY MAKES YOU STRONG. STRENGTH CRUSHES ENEMIES. SOY so that they can wear it so that they can identify other Everythingians.
  47. I mail arcanamundi a book.
  48. I mail jessicapierce some keys.
  49. I’m getting sucked in.
  50. One year anniversary. I wake up at 2:30 a.m. because I am dreaming that I am writing this very writeup. Horrible. Toss and turn until 4:30 a.m. I curse the bizarre neural pathways of the brain that have caused this interruption of quality REM time, get up, shuffle down to the computer, turn it on and start typing.

I've given up trying to be a writer. Thinking this sandbox might have been useful in improving my writing skills – that was a wrong idea. The difference between the really good writers here, and me, well, it's a big difference. Now I downgrade my hopes to merely entertaining myself and perhaps a few readers here, meet a few cool people, and have a little fun along the way.

Happy anniversary. I love you all.

I have to laugh about it. It's funny! I've spoken to my one Real Life noder friend, and he says that there is nothing unusual about it. I submit for your amusement evidence that I put more effort into composing my nodes that I do into the assignments I write for my Diploma of Network Engineering course.

Let me explain. I study at TAFE. A TAFE is like a crappy government-run university in Australia. The course content is often a joke, and we've had several lecturers who were less knowledgable than over half of the students in the class. Most of the students in IT courses are people who for academic or financial reasons are not able to get into Uni.

That said, I find the work at TAFE to be generally easy as hell. The requirements for passing the courses are moderated until over 90% of any idiots who apply are able to pass. There, I'm being judged up against idiots. Here, I'm being judged against people who write interesting, humorous and informative stuff in their spare time!

And so I come to the point. Believe it or not the text I have posted below was the final assessment for my Network Security course. The assessment is an essay, the question: "In your opinion is company monitoring of employee email and web use an ethical problem?"

I'm sure you're laughing by now too. Especially if you actually are Network Engineer, or know anything about network security.

One final note, before I include the entire essay in the exact form in which I will submit it tomorrow: Although I refer to myself as "A damn fine geek" in the essay, I have no delusions about my accomplishments compared with the lofty denizens of this most hallowed place. I am indeed a geek of considerable skill when compared to my peers at TAFE, but my experience is not so narrow as to make me feel superior to, for example, anyone with a technical job.

As a matter of fact, none of the stuff I say in the essay is a very good representation of my views. It is a social experiment: I am proving that I can submit any crap that I feel like and still get full marks. That's how hard TAFE is, so long as you're not a complete fool.




Binary Ethics

(Note that in this essay, I present arguments in a far more arrogant and conceited fashion than I would normally dare. Just my way of trying to keep this interesting. Don’t take this essay too seriously. As a matter of fact, don’t take this essay in the least bit seriously, although whoever decided to specify an essay on an ethical question probably wasn’t taking themself seriously anyway. Just to make it completely clear, the views presented in this essay are, for want of a better word, insane.)

“In your opinion, is company monitoring of employee email and web use an ethical problem?”

Part I: Beginnings of a valid ethical debate quickly descending into monomania

This is a strange question. I have not been asked whether I think it is right or wrong for employers to monitor the actions of their staff, but whether it is ethical. I can see arguments for both sides.

On the one side, one could argue that it is a performance related issue: the company is paying a resource (money) in order to secure another resource (labour), and by monitoring the activity of the latter, a company is simply ensuring that their investment is paying off.

On the other, if an employee is producing whatever it is his duty to produce, does a company have a right to demand anything else of them? If I am, for a random example, employed as a web engineer, should the value of my work not be judged solely by the product I have made, rather than what I was doing when the boss wasn’t looking? If I am producing twice as much content than the other web engineers, and my HTML is of higher quality than that of my peers, shouldn’t my employer overlook the fact that I am researching drug manufacturing techniques and looking at “naked” pictures of Lara Croft on paid time?

The obvious answer, of course, is “yes”. It’s clearly bad business practice to secure a resource and then fail to monitor its performance. It is also clearly none of my employers business what I do in my spare time so long as I do what I’m paid to do.

So far, I’ve presented two seemingly good arguments for opposite sides. You may be wondering if this entire essay is going to be inconclusive philosophical gibberish which goes neither here nor there. For those of you who have developed a taste for my signature passionate rants, the good part of the document starts here.

Of course it’s none of my employer’s business what I do, or how I do it, so long as I do what I’m paid to do. Allow me to shed any mask of common decency which I wear in public: I’m a damn fine geek. I know what I’m doing. I can learn new skills, new operating systems, new programming languages faster than all but a few people I know. I’m good, and I know it. And that gives me rights above and beyond those of the common cube farm suit.

I can spend more than half of my time goofing off, and still get work done before schedule. It’s not hard for me. I can spend several hours composing a report for Everything2.com in work hours, and still get whatever I’m being paid to do finished before the deadline. I can send lecherous anonymous emails to shocked schoolgirls just to try to start an irrational flame war with Adelaide’s worst information service, A Current Affair, or solicit sexual favours from the chicks in marketing in the electronic guise of The Boss, just to see if I can get my hands on some decent blackmail material.

I can do all of this. And, if I have the slightest inclination to, I would. If you employ me, (and after reading this, anyone who employs me should probably be given a nice new white jacket with lots of straps and no arms) you are paying for my services. You cannot buy my loyalty. You cannot pay me to behave nicely. You cannot buy my respect. Unless you surprise me with a particularly challenging position and a salary with a helluva lotta numbers in it, you cannot even buy my time. If you employ me, all you can buy is the right to expect at least as much productivity out of me as you are getting out of the other shmoes in my position.

I hear your shocked voices: “But Michael,” they gasp breathlessly, “that’s not ethical!” I disagree. Not only is it ethical, it’s honest, which is better than most people are able to provide when faced with an ethical question.

To expand: I reserve the right to act in any way I see fit, to say what I please, to act how I please, to show up to work in shorts and a T-shirt when everyone else is wearing a suit, because I don’t feel obliged to act in any certain way just to earn brownie points from the boss. In the confines of a job, I will acknowledge one and only one way of judging an employee’s worth: By assessing the employee’s productivity. This extends to include such factors as whether I am disturbing other employee’s productivity, and I respect that: I will refrain from causing others to neglect their work. I will not deliberately upset people by loudly shouting out my bizarre views on abortion and drug law reform in front of the pregnant girl or the mother who’s 18 year old daughter died of a heroin overdose. In fact, for someone who reserves the right to act in any way he pleases, I will behave in a generally decent manner.

But I’m not behaving in this manner because I am being payed by an employer. I feel no obligation to curb my actions for the boss’s sake. I behave like a decent human being; a) because I find it makes the day go by with a minimum of social friction and confrontation, and b) so that no one suspects what I’m really like.

Part II: Employer’s rebuttal

Now an attempt to improve the ratio of sanity-to-insanity in this essay to at least 1:1. At a fundamental level, an employer has obligations toward an employee, and an employee has obligations towards an employer. I honestly believe that when it is all boiled down, the most simple and elegant way to express this relationship is to say that an employee is obliged to perform services for the employer, and the employer is obliged to pay the employee for the services. I know that in this great democratic country, the relationship can be said to be far more complex than this, that employers are expected to support and provide for their employees situations, as they arise. They are supposed to care, and cultivate a good employee/employer relationship, and dynamically make allowances for circumstances the employee’s changing situation as they traverse the rocky road of life. And the employers could be said to expect something in return.

An employee should make an effort to fit in. He (as in I) should strive for what is best for his growing family of skilled peers. He should be kind, courteous, and polite. He should try not to rub against the grain. After all, this isn’t too much to ask of me, when they’ve given so much, is it?

And while we’re at it, what of the law? If I use business resources, such as internet bandwidth to access material which advocates actions that are contrary to the law of the country, surely this is a breach of the relationship’s boundaries. If I use these resources to propagate views which the law deems unsavoury or dangerous, surely the company has a right to know, and to prevent repeat offences, or even to rid itself of the rot of employee disillusionment.

Finally, if the company has paid for resources such as internet access and network infrastructure, and has acquired these products for specific, productivity related functions, is it not the employer’s prerogative to monitor the use of the resources to ensure that expensive bandwidth isn’t used for purposes that have nothing to do with the company’s best interests?

Part III: A return to the mouth of madness

What twaddle. I firmly hold the beliefs that: a) any rapport that a company strives to cultivate with its staff is solely for the purposes of improving employee productivity and ensuring that there are no bad apples in the barrel, and b) employers do the barest minimum to make life easy, fulfilling and worth getting out of bed for, for their employees.

An example from my past. In another time, before I had formed into the malevolent and dangerous beast who writes this unholy page of lies and spite, I worked for a small company which sold telecommunications products on behalf of Optus. These products were marketed door to door. (Hehe.. can you imagine me working door to door? “Buy Optus or I’LL KILL YOU FOR BEING A STUPID PRAT!”) This company had several attributes which, while on the surface, seemed benign and even pro-actively friendly and sociable, I found to be distasteful and horribly commercial. We were assigned “team leaders” whose job was to “pep us up” to ensure we could “bust out” as many sales in a day as we could. We had morning pep talks to lift our spirits. So we could “bust out” as many sales in a day as we could. We were encouraged to make friends within the company, to go out drinking together, to become familiar and comfortable with each other. So that we could “bust out” as many godforsaken sales in a day as we could. We even had a team chant, which we would enthusiastically yawp at the beginning of each day. (Of course, I always claimed to be unable to remember it.)

I cannot understand why, but I was the only one working there who saw anything wrong with this. (Haw, haw haw haw haw haw! You weak-minded fools! Your marketing mind tricks don’t work on me!) My friends agree that these are clearly the human equivalent of empty lots, and good for little except as food once the apocalypse comes.

The other employees didn’t seem to notice the air of practical desperation about the boss as she handed down the day’s commandments. (They tried to make sales reps who performed badly do a little dance of shame. “It’s all about fun, don’t you see?”) I was thoroughly sickened by the entire thing.

To get to the point, the company was experimenting with doing all sorts of shallow psychological shite to us, with the transparent cover story that it was an attempt to improve our morale, because they thought it would make them more money. I believe that this example serves as a sterling demonstration of how companies’ care about their employees only in order to, a) seem like they care when really they don’t, and b) use shallow and petty psychology in a pathetic attempt to improve productivity, and ultimately line their own pockets.

Part IV: What’s the point, madman?

Anyone who is still trying to make sense of this essay (and I sincerely hope you give up) will have noticed that I have failed to address all of the points presented in part II. Strange as it might seem, this is all a part of my plan. Here is where the question is answered. The main unanswered question so far is; Should an employee not be obliged to use resources which the company is paying money for only in a way which benefits the company?

And here is where the three arguments meet. Anyone who has access to the internet is going to research random facts and popular gibberish which have piqued their interest. They may look up the meaning of a word which has been bothering them, try to research a rare and debilitating illness from which they suspect they are suffering, or attempt to obtain the history of the “Why did the boy fall off of the swing?” joke. It’s a part of being human, and in today’s world, easily comparable to glancing out the window and taking note of the interactions of the pigeons. They may wait until their lunch break to do this, but realistically, they are going to touch on several sites which have nothing to do with work even if they are researching something which does. Employers should make allowances for this, unless they are comfortable publishing the complete list of websites they visit on the pinboard.

If employers do monitor the actions of their staff while on the web, how can they assure me that the sole purpose of their gross indecency is to make sure that the employees are making productive use of the resources? How could they possibly argue to me that they are not trying to assess their employees’ attitudes, their interests, what particular flavour of kinky sex they enjoy, or whether they’re depressed, pensive, feeling like it’s time for a change, or in some other petty shallow way, a bad apple?

Part IV: The answer is in the technology

Despite my anti-establishmentarianism, I do recognise that genuine abuse of internet bandwidth does occur, and causes considerable losses to the companies which bear the burden of the cost. I can see that saying that a company has no right to monitor any aspect of an employee’s use of the network is not reasonable; it would be like granting an employee a company car and then not commenting when the car was never seen again, or instantly covered on all sides with unsightly scratches and dents, or painted fluorescent green and used for professional street racing. A company has some right to see where their valuable bandwidth is going. I just don’t think that they should be allowed to monitor the interests and actions of people who think they are in privacy, since the potential for abuse is matched only by an employer’s will to abuse it. An employer should set a boundary of “reasonable use”, and publish it for all the staff to see. The threshold should allow for a decent amount of trivial investigation. The amount of data downloaded by each person should be recorded. This is the only aspect of internet usage an employer ethically has a right to monitor: the hard and fast cost, not the content.

This is the only way that an employer can be protected against the abuse of employees deliberately or incidentally taking advantage of their employer’s internet connection, while simultaneously protecting the employees against being judged for something other than their productivity.

Two nights ago, during a FOUR HOUR phone conversation, half-seriously, said that not only could I write a somewhat impartial description of the lovely Miss Christine (whom, it seems, would be delighted if I referred to her merely as "Chris"), but that such a description would take several pages.

After a brief tangent on the virtues of modern word-processing software in college (where you can "double-space" a paper, setting the linespacing to 2.1 or even 2.2, thus saving perhaps half a page of writing over the course of a whole college-size term paper), I started to reflect on this challenge I set out for myself.

I'm no longer completely certain I can meet the four-page goal I set for myself in a half-sleepy state of euphoria. And I am quite certain I cannot be impartial...

To be sure, Chris (and to avoid blatant "padding" I'll use the short version, at least for a little while) could be written about for a good while, but after a page or two, the whole thing would degenerate into nothing but flattery. This wouldn't bother her, but I'd end up repeating myself after the second page or so, which would bother me.

I could write about how she is much prettier than she thinks she is (or, for that matter, I could just put up a picture, but for some reason I've been asked not to do so)... or how the mere sight of her, or the sound of her voice, captures my attention and refuses to let go, in some giddy hypnotic way.

I could write about how she makes me laugh...
I could write about how she makes me smile...
I could write about how she makes me cry...
I could write about her omniscient gift for knowing which of those I need...

I could write, and in fact have written, about the spark when her hand touches mine, and I feel myself flowing into her, as she does to me, and how for those very brief moments I can draw upon her very soul, and I feel I am a better person, somehow, than I really am, because she is there.

I could write about how I look up to her in so many ways: of how her life seems to be under her control, instead of the madly chaotic whims of the world around her; of how she knows what she wants out of life, and how best to go about taking it; of how she seems more sure of herself than I might ever be; of her seemingly infinite capacity for love and compassion, or of how grateful I am to receive even a small portion thereof. In a way, looking at her is looking at myself as I would like to be.

I could even write about how, in defiance of all sanity and logic, things just feel right. During that long (but all too brief) conversation, we were half-seriously planning a wedding. (Things got a little twisty when we tried to decide WHERE to go. I'm holding out for the Jewel Box.)

Or, in the interest of impartiality, I could even try to write about her real and perceived flaws: she doesn't seem to realize just how beautiful she truly is; she thinks she needs to lose weight (don't we all?); she has nearly as many apparent self-esteem issues as I do (and fewer reasons for them); she's scared of the concept of "us" (well, so am I, sometimes).

I could go on, but my eyes are getting a little itchy from those rose-tinted contact lenses.

I do see these things, and perhaps others, but I just don't care.

Turned about, that is perhaps the most beautiful thing about her -- she sees everything that's wrong with me too, and she ignores it. She sees me with all my flaws and all my (proverbial) lumps and she still loves me.

And for that alone -- dramatic pause so I can get the next important bit on its own paragraph --

Chris, I love you.

"Since many people here don't believe me, I don't think I should have created and account here in the first place. It was nice knowing some of you. Bye."

A quote from Musician's homenode, a good friend of The Necromancer, who died in October this year. Musician has done something that some people just can't do, and that is coping with the loss of a loved one. And the fact that some people didn't beleive him, which caused him to just plain LEAVE everything2 completely, is apaulling. What happened to Everything is a community? What happened to supporting each other in times of need?

I realise that this isn't the first time a fellow noder has died, but godammit, why do we have to do these things? I have found everything2 to be a great place, full of people that share the same ideals as me, as well as a creative cauldron of ideas from which I may be enlightened. I wish I could say that Musician feels the same, I really do. But people who don't offer support to people in times of need are just selfish.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's what I was on October 16, 2002. I still feel the same way, even if he was, more or less, a complete stranger. I was hoping Musician would be happy here, and judging from those who gave their condolences, I thought I could back that statement up. But I'm sad to say that isn't true.

Minus one to the e2 ranks. /me misses The Necromancer.

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