The Internet and I are fighting
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.