Adventures on the Information Red Clay Road: Getting Wired Cheap

Back in September of 1994 I spoke at a conference called Access in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Access is a yearly conference of people at the intersection of librarianship and nerdity.

My talk was called Adventures on the Information Red Clay Road: Getting Wired Cheap and, thanks to Art Rhyno, I’ve got a copy of it here.

Reading that talk for the first time in 8 years was quite interesting. So much has changed since then — paying for things online is trivial now, and we use graphical web browsers to surf what we hadn’t yet then come to call “the web” — and yet so much is the same — issues of information control, who owns the wires, and what we use this great web for. My favourite quote from the talk is:

The sad thing is that now CFCY Radio plays the greatest hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s and might as well be in Red Deer, Alberta as in Charlottetown, and IslandTel is just another boring Stentor lump owned by BCE. The telephone operators are gone and the hits just keep on coming and what we thought, 50 years ago, were going to be the tools that were going change the very fabric of our society have, I think, come up short.

Plans are shaping up for Access 2002,being held in Windsor, Ontario. I’m giving the closing talk, tentatively titled The Information Red Clay Road Revisited, part of a series called Are We There Yet? Reflections on the Trip So Far. Access brings together an interesting group of people and if your passions lie in the world of information and knowledge and how we apply technology to sift through it, you would not do wrong to attend.

Look Ma, No Wires

I wrote here last week about the wonders of surfing the Internet without wires from the streets and cafes of Boston.

This week I’m back on my home turf, and have done some more experimenting in this regard.

As I type this I am sitting on my back porch (Catherine prefers to call it “back steps,” but as there is room enough for a chair I insist). My iBook is beaming up to the wireless access point in the front room of the house for Internet. It’s a beautiful day. Birds are singing, children are laughing, the trees — which normally serve only to prevent grass from growing in our backyard — are providing just enough shade so that I can see the screen on the laptop.

Now, granted, I am not swimming, or rolling down a hill with Oliver or gardening or bicycling or paddling our canoe — all those things that normal people are supposed to do outside in the summer — but it’s a damn site better sitting out here in the back yard doing this then it is doing it inside the darkened data cavern out front.

My other WiFi experiment this week has been visiting GrabbaJabba every day for an hour or so, jacking in to Dave’s secret WiFi network across the street. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of work there for that hour a day. This is partly due to aforementioned out-of-cave environment, and I’m sure partly due to the iced moccacinos coursing through my brain as a work there.

More later from the WiFi frontier.

Thunder Bay to Cuba

When I was five years old, in 1971, my paternal grandmother and I visited Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is where both she and her son (my father) were born.

In my foggy memory of that trip, we were scheduled to fly home one day, but had the option of staying over for another, and it was my decision which. Whatever my decision was, I have ever since been under the impression that the flight that we didn’t take was the one detailed here that was hijacked to Cuba, making it “Canada’s only successful airline hijacking.”

But the dates don’t add up — the hijacking in question took place on boxing day of that year, and I’m fairly certain we visited in the summer or the fall, as there was no snow. And, besides, five year olds don’t generally leave their parents alone for Christmas.

It’s amazing how something I’ve so long believed to be true turns out to be a fanciful merging of true facts into delightful fiction. I think, in retrospect, what probably happened was that we visited in 1972, after the hijacking, and took the same ill-fated Air Canada Flight 932, albeit several months later. My grandmother or one of my Thunder Bay relatives probably mentioned this and somehow my 5 (or 7) year old mind mushed this altogether into the story I believed for the next 30ish years.

Air Canada no longer has a flight numbered 932. All the flights from Thunder Bay to Toronto start with the number 5.

Imagine: hijacked to Cuba from Thunder Bay!

More on Midriffs

From the section titled “Student Safety Rules” of the 2001-2002 Parent Handbook for Wells Memorial School in Harrisville, New Hampshire (emphasis mine):

  1. Students are not to leave the school grounds without permission.
  2. Students are to use school property with respect and concern for others.
  3. Students are expected to respect others’ rights while using the halls. This includes no running in the halls.
  4. Students are to follow the direction of staff members at all times.
  5. Children and adults will treat each other with respect and appropriate concern for health, safety, welfare, and the rights of others.
  6. Students shall not have gum, candy, or soda at school (except on special occasions).
  7. Students will dress appropriately while at school. Midriffs should be covered and there are to be no t-shirts with inappropriate pictures or words.
  8. Playground safety rules:
    1. Children are to remain on the playground away from the doors until the bell rings. They are not to enter without permission from the adult supervising.
    2. Students are responsible for respecting the rights and welfare of others on the playground.
    3. Students will follow the direction of the person supervising in all instances.
    4. The throwing of snowballs and making tunnels on school property is not permitted.
    5. Sliding on the ice on the playground is not permitted.
    6. Games with rough physical contact and tackle football are not permitted.
    7. Students are not allowed to take their shirts off.
    8. In order to play in the snow, snow pants, boots, and mittens or gloves must be worn.
    9. During lunch time appropriate eating behavior and manners are expected.
I find myself in complete agreement of all of the above with the exception of 7 and 8g. It’s one thing to make rules about snow tunnels — kids get killed in snow tunnels. It’s another thing entirely to dictate dress and midriff-covering standards.

I’m trying very hard to conjure and image the meeting of the school safety committee where the “Students are not allowed to take their shirts off.” rule was established. What safety issue brought on this rule? A rash of severe sunburns? Children irrationally taking off their shirts in mid-winter? Imagine.

At the Movies: Steamy Mexican Sex, Natalie Portman and Real Life

On the surface, the movie Y Tu Mama Tambien is about sex and the movie Star Wars: Attack of the Clones isn’t.

After all, there are, by my count, 2,143 words in the Sex/Nudity section of the ScreenIt.com review of the former, and 91 words on Sex/Nudity for the later.

In Star Wars sex and nudity gets about as wild as:

Later, they playfully roll around on the ground (over and over) until she’s eventually straddling him (but nothing else happens).
while in Y Tu Mama Tambien it’s more along the lines of:
From a distance, we see Julio and Tenoch lying on separate diving boards above a pool masturbating (we see their hands rhymically moving at their crotches as they mention various things and women to fantasize about). We then see them react to climaxing (we don’t see the actual orgasms, but do see some seminal fluid land in the pool).

Star Wars is rated PG. Y Tu Mama Tambien isn’t rated at all.

And so conventional wisdom would say that Star Wars is a good family movie and Y Tu Mama Tambien, well, isn’t.

But let’s scratch below this surface.

There are two plot lines in this most recent episode of the Star Wars trilogy. First, a military - political drama that involves a lot of robots and two groups called The Republic and The Federation. Second involves getting Darth Vader and Natalie Portman to sleep together so that they can produce Luke Skywalker for the fourth movie in the trilogy.

As near as I can tell, the “love” between these two exists on some mystical plane that we’re never really filled in on the details of. They knew each other as children. He’s been thinking of her every day for 10 years. She bares her midriff a lot. He stares into her eyes a lot. They steal a kiss they then regret. They “playfully roll around on the ground (over and over)”.

In other words they have a fantasy relationship that bears little or no similarity to how actual relationships start and develop. They are two icons that bump and merge in the stars. And then they get married beside a lake.

In Y Tu Mama Tambien there is no love to speak of. There are two lifelong friends and a woman, the cousin of one, who take a road trip to the seashore and have assorted varieties of spontaneous and consensual sex along the way. The friends argue. The sex is clumsy and difficult. There’s beer. And pot. And more beer. And a beautiful secluded beach. And a family of escaped pigs. And then it’s over.

In other words, in spirit if not in detail, it’s a lot like the everyday relationships going on all around us. It’s about how people meet and how sex actually happens and why people freak out about it and how people can be friends and then not be friends.

So which is the family movie? The one that perpetuates dreamy impossible science fiction romance, or the one that doesn’t? I’m not sure I know the answer because, at 19 months, wee Oliver doesn’t go to the movies yet. But I’ve a hunch that in the end its the steamy Mexican teen sex that might provide a better education in the ways of the world.