Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Internet and I are fighting

So I haven't posted since last Friday, but I'll be extending my break for at least another few days. Basically, it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the internet is full of jerks, and it's stressing me out. I haven't actually been fighting with anybody (flamewars lost their novelty in the 90s), but in order to keep up with what's going on in the blogosphere, I have to deal with things like Ann Coulter's book and the Stop the ACLU dipshits -- and even though I mostly read our side's responses (like those two links), it's enough to make you want to sever relations with humanity. Then there's this spiteful old man on the eHam forums, who tried to pick a fight with Dan (and everyone else in the vicinity who suggested that an "article" should probably include some useful information). He couldn't argue on a technical level, so he got personal, which is a nasty move even though all the insinuations were untrue. Oh, and then he went on to say that anyone with a tech-class (entry-level) license was automatically unqualified to discuss any aspect of ham radio (keep in mind that I am not a ham at all and even I could tell that his article was nonsense). Not even the new Carnival of the Liberals -- which links Bee Policy and Truth Tables and is hilarious and is borne up on fluttering left-wings -- made me feel substantially better about the overall composition of cyberspace.

I've been mulling over some ideas for blog posts, including (ironically) one about emergent behavior and how it relates to internet content. But the communications morass we call the Web is so peppered with unpleasant people and vile ideas that any time I sit down at the computer, I lose my will to compose. Right now, the internet doesn't feel like a conversation in which I want to participate. I know it's a skewed and incomplete view, but in order to regain perspective, I just need to avoid everything but email and webcomics for a while.

Luckily, we're going camping this weekend, because Saturday is Field Day. This should be just the break I need -- woods, campfire (probably in one of those little campsite containers), maybe reading some New Yorker by the propane lamp... and most importantly, a very old and regimentally polite communications medium. Some hams may be jerks on the internet, but nobody's a jerk on the radio, especially not on Field Day when everyone is just trying to make as many contacts as possible. It's a very relaxing sort of communication -- you exchange callsigns, locations, and information about what kind of power source and how many transmitters you're using, and then you move on to the next person. Just "CQ Field Day, this is November Three Oscar X-ray, you're one alpha in Mike Delta Charlie, QRZ" (or even better: -.-. --.- ..-. -.. -. ...-- --- -..- .---- .- -- -.. -.-. --.- .-. --..), pretty much over and over again, allowing of course for a lot of repetition of the call sign. I can cope with that.

I might even operate a little, which you're allowed to do without a license on Field Day. I haven't had much reason to get a ham radio license, though Dan's been pushing for me to get one before they totally nix the Morse code requirement. I don't copy Morse very well, and I've never been a particular tinkerer (though I have now learned how to solder), so I didn't seriously consider it. But I can't say that I'm not craving a return to an older, more civil sort of communication.

So I'll be out of commission for at least the rest of the week. Meanwhile, if you are a tinkerer (or just interested), you should swing by a Field Day operation site. Dan and I are going to be hiding in the woods, but not all hams are so antisocial; while Field Day is technically intended as emergency communications practice, a lot of people see it as a chance to introduce amateur radio to the public. Plus, you get 100 extra points for media coverage, so a lot of local papers have been receiving press releases about area operations, and they may have blurbs. Amateur radio appears to be endless fun for people who enjoy activities like building circuits, bolting things together, and getting postcards from overseas. Even just living with a ham, I've learned all sorts of stuff about coaxial cables and how the ionosphere works. A lot of the hams on the online forums are big jerks, but a lot of people on any online forum are big jerks too. I recommend it for anyone geeky enough not to care that it's a geeky hobby. Or anyone who wants an alternative to the internet.


Lynne said...

isn't soldering fun? (as i ignore the rest of your post)

6/21/2006 3:45 PM  
Julie said...

I'm sorry that you feel the way that you do about people on the Internet. I guess I haven't even gotten my feet wet- nobody has ever left a comment on my blog. Right now, I'd take even a negative comment.

6/21/2006 10:25 PM  
jess said...

Oh, I haven't gotten any mean comments, or even been involved in any disagreements. It's mostly just links from other people's sites to what are admittedly the most upsetting examples of right-wing bloggery. The internet can bring out the worst in people, and it definitely offers a forum for the worst of humanity (or at least what I think is the worst of humanity) to get their soapboxin' on. It's also a fantastic place that offers a lot of opportunities for bottom-up knowledge production and gives voice to the masses. But I'm sensitive! After a while, reading blockheaded comments on Pharyngula or even stupid arguments on eHam gets to me, and that makes it tough to keep perspective on all the good things about the internet.

Actually, that's not even quite right... it's not that I'm particularly sensitive, it's that keeping up with the science blogosphere requires spending serious facetime with some of the least pleasant aspects of people's psyches, such as fanatical religion. I read a lot of things that I find upsetting, because that's what it takes to stay informed. And I'm up for that, most of the time, but right now: break time.

So a couple of days where I mainly look for cheap jewelry on Etsy and read webcomics are in order. And then camping. And then I can plunge back into... well, not really the fray. Into the sidelines.

6/22/2006 11:40 AM  
darthWilliam said...

Hey I just found your blog, I mostly read the evolution related ones. I totally empathize with feeling that the internet is populated with fanatics, mostly religious right-wingnuts.

I'll keep checking yours out - keep it up! Don't let the internet go to the nutjobs!


6/23/2006 5:47 PM  

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