Modem Nerd: A Confession.

I used to be a hardcore modemer. I acquired the habit sometime in the middle of grade 10, when my boyfriend at the time frequented a couple of the local BBSses. His modem friends were so much more interesting than his real life friends, and I itched to know why. So I went online. it ended up being one of the best features of my teenage years.

I didn’t tell him I had, but he sussed me out within a week. Apparently I had a recognizable ‘voice’. Also, any new female modemer was the object of pretty intense scrutiny. There weren’t many of us.

My dad was delighted with my new hobby. Here was his artsy daughter playing with the technology in the basement. My mother was worried, but that was her default setting for, oh, say, my entire life. Here was something new for her to worry about: Faceless predators beguiling her easily-led daughter into Sordidness and Bad Choices. Meh. There were no predators, although there were a couple of creeps. However, there were a lot of teenage boys. That was most fun.

Big events were ‘Meets’. We’d usually meet at Robson Square and mill around for an hour, posturing in our requisite trenchcoats. Or the guys did, anyhow. I was heavily into Indian cotton hippie skirts, and another of the girls was studying Druidic tradition. She wore a lot of cloaks. Yet another was determined to dress exactly like Madonna did in 1987. Anyhow, we’d mill around for an hour, a strange parody of the parties the cool kids from school went to. Then we’d decide to go to Denny’s, or Pizza ‘N’ Sudz, and sit around for a while, drinking coffee or eating pizza and talking. Many of our curfews were pretty early, so the meet would peter out and we’d all go back to where we came from, feeling a little less isolated and unpopular than before.

My school friends just sighed and rolled their eyes when I said I was going to a meet. The indefatigable Jenny once decided to come see what the fuss was about, but I had to set fire to someone’s pants leg as he was being inappropriate to her. He was on dog tranquilizers, but I would like to point out that he was absolutely not the norm.

Most of the modemers were clean, quiet, nice, middle-class boys who had not yet grown into the confidence of adulthood, or into their own bodies. Two of my favourite exceptions were my first modem boyfriend, who was the satellite child of an Indonesian diplomat, and another guy, who was just too burly, even at 16, to fit the mold. He continues to have the soul of a poet and a well of angst in which you could drown the world’s supply of unwanted puppies and kittens. A part of me will always adore these two boys.

Modeming grew up. The eight-line specials of yore have been replaced by t’Internet. I’d venture that the ratio of the sexes chatting online has shifted dramatically. Now there are boards for everything under the sun, and there are faceless predators stalking this uncharted territory. Nevertheless, when I hear someone talking about how the Internet has created spaces between us, how people can’t have ‘real’ relationships anymore, I think of those meets at Robson Square. I think of the support I got from modem friends, by typing, and how it made me a more confident person. I think of the word, Internet: The net between us all.

De-Funk.

I’ve been in a funk all week. Nothing, but nothing got me out of it. Today did.

My day off is Saturday. Sure, I work strange hours the other six days a week, with time off in the middle of the day to putter around, eat sandwiches, see my grandmother, go to the bank, do whatever. But Saturdays are mine. And I’ve learned, and should have heeded, last Saturday, that I should get out and do something fun, see some friends, go shopping, do whatever. But I didn’t. I slobbed around home, watching the rain outside and eating. Result: Week of funk.

Today I went over to Em’s to help her pack up. She’s moving to Ontario in a couple of weeks for six months, and is subletting her place. So we needed to put almost all her stuff into the second bedroom, which is about eight feet by twelve. Daunting. Gen’s allergies kicked in and she went to clean the kitchen, but Em and I managed. Throwing out other peoples’ stuff is easy.

We worked hard! Half the room is ceiling-height with her stuff, all in boxes, all organized. Other result: I feel productive, energized, and like I have friends. It’s easier to think of yourself as someone with friends when you can see them. I like having friends. It gets me out of the funk.

Life Will Find A Way.

Thank you, Jeff Goldblum (I think it was). This post is not, in fact, about how I have bio-engineered dinosaurs on my own private island. If I had my own private island, I would dedicate it to lemurs and fruit bats. If I could. Of course, I’d have to check the science aspect of having them both in the same place. Plus, it would have to be the right climate. I don’t want my lemurs to get cold, you know.

Anyhow, this post is about my damned garden. It’s waking up. Already. Daffodils are poking their leaves out of the ground. The sedums are forming little proto-brains. The snowdrops’ leaves are already six inches long!

I had all kinds of plans. I need to move the roses. I need to dig out several tedious clumps of cornflowers, which are very pretty but I don’t need them all over the damned garden. I have to prune the viburnum, the holly, and the azaleas, as well as the pieris in front of our window. Then I have to move the Russian sage into the quasi-Mediterranean area I have planned.

And I can’t do any of that if it doesn’t stop raining sometime soon!

Careers I Can’t Have.

I have had a number of ambitions in my life, many of which have not come to fruition.

When I was 18, I wanted to be the Pope. Even though my brother has even bought me underwear with a picture of the Virgin Mary on them, I was hindered in my ambition by the fact that I am a) not Catholic, and b) female. I know, I know, there have been possible female popes, but global communication has come to the point where I could not succeed in my ruse. I hear they now have that chair where a papal candidate has to sit and be felt up by some cardinals, to ensure that he has the requisite dangly bits. I could fake that by making a prosthetic with some latex. Maybe some kind of tubing? Anyway, I could do that bit, but I think, between the internet and such, it would quickly come to light that I was actually a female of indeterminate faith. No dice.

When I was about 21, I discovered PG Wodehouse. I was trudging through the house, some essay or other weighing heavily on my mind, when I happened to hear my mother belly-laughing in the TV room. Wandering in, I was entranced by the perfect, gentle, subtle portrayals by Stephen Frey (Jeeves) and Hugh Laurie (Wooster). I was hooked.

As a General Arts student, (I think I was taking History of Christianity and Scenery Painting, as well as some other stuff), I was naturally worried about my prospects for employment. Stephen Frey’s calming, faintly supercilious air called to me. I could be a Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman! Never mind that I was not a gentleman and didn’t know any, I knew I would excel at a career such as that.

Alas, it is no longer the 1930’s, and I am, again, no gentleman. Another ambition never realised the light of day.

However, should you need me to, I can raise my eyebrows and say “Indeed, Sir.” I can do it with several different inflections, as well.

De-Lurking Week?

Sarah said so over at La Petite Banane. I’ve believed her for fifteen years, I can’t stop now!

Man, if I knew it was coming, I’d have baked a cake. Or maybe written something with some substance. Maybe even gotten it together with some kind of overall theme. (Who am I kidding?)

I think this child will eventually become a movie star!
OOps, I forgot. credit goes to Sheryl at papernapkin

Warm Memory for a Cold Night.

We’re under the Community Tarp, which is in a clearing of the pines facing the beach on Kootenay Lake. Snuggled in, five kids in sleeping bags, sharing two pillows. When everyone has their own pillow, our heads are too far away to talk. The late July sunset has been and gone, and we watched the colours fade from the sky at the head of the lake.

Mumbled conversations are slowing, drifting, and trailing off as we slide into sleep one by one. We get a lot of exercise at Wilderness Camp, we explore, build things out of driftwood and rope, dream and hang out on and off the island, so we sleep well.
A few hours before dawn, the rising wind flapping the tarp half-wakes us, but we’re still warm. We snuggle down like caterpillars, breath mingling and bodies passing heat to one another.
“I can’t see any stars,” Sarah mumbles.
Then the rain begins. It hits in big, splattering drops, blown in under the tarp. We stir.
“Gonna have to move,” I say.
I can’t see in the fathomless darkness of no lights, no stars, no cities nearby, but can feel Colin nodding beside me. “It’s hitting me.”
Just then a bobbing light shows itself, winding throught the pines toward the beach. All of us have seen our share of horror movies, but here, we are safe. Despite the dark, despite the storm, we watch, curiously. Blue flip-flops flash in and out of the beam as it approaches.
“Don,” my little brother whispers. He sits up. “Hi Don!”
The flashlight plays briefly over his weathered face, his blue GoreTex jacket. “I’m gonna take the front pegs down for you. It’ll blow past in a bit, but you’ll be dry for now.” Don’s not related to any of us. He’s just a fellow Wilderness Camper who heard the rain and remembered there were kids sleeping under the tarp.
“You stay warm.” Deftly, he unhooks the bungee cords holding up the front corners of the tarp. Secures them with a few of the hunks of granite that litter the beach. The rain can’t get us now.
“Thanks, Don,” we call, and snuggle back down. Before I drift off, I can feel Sarah’s head shifting, nestling into my shoulder, and the little whuffle she makes as her breathing deepens toward sleep.

Octopi!

How much do you know about octopi? Well, that’s not enough!

I woke up this morning, and wondered about how intelligent octopi are. You know, the way you do. So I found out, and wow!

They have large brains, but because they are molluscs, so are related to clams, oysters and snails, researchers doubted for a long time that their brains were anything but an accident of nature.

Ha! Proponents of Intelligent Design, cry into your wheaties! It was no accident!

Octopus brains are larger, compared to body size, than the brains of reptiles and amphibians. There are large brain areas devoted to storing learned information. Since an octopus’s lifespan is only 2-5 years, depending on species, their ability to learn seems hampered only by their own mortality. The brain is encased in a cartilege cranium.

Strange for animals that are considered to be solitary creatures, octopi are capable of observational learning. They can watch what another octopus does (pick up a red ball and get food, as opposed to getting no food when they grab a white ball), and learn from it!

Captive octopi have been observed to be able to screw the lids off jars, either to eat what’s inside, or just because they can. Some research has shown that they play (engage in repetitive behaviour using a foreign object, for reasons other than feeding or protection). In the Seattle aquarium was one octopus that volunteers avoided feeding, as she would reach up and try to pull the volunteer down into the tank! (Other octopi did not engage in this behaviour)

Also, they use several strategies to eat their prey. They will pry open bivalves with weaker muscles holding their shells, simply smash ones with weaker shells, and drill into and inject a neuromuscular toxin called cephalotoxin, into bivalves with strong muscles, then simply pry them apart once they’re paralyzed.

In addition to their large brains, more than two thirds of their neurons are in the nerve cords which stretch down their arms. Researchers believe that this is because they need to move very quickly in attaining prey, and because they can change colour to match their surroundings or indicate distress.

Octopi are famed escape artists and even ‘escape proof’ tanks prove no problem for them. They think and worry at a problem like “How do I get out of here?” Eventually, aquarium workers will come in in the morning to find the octopus has somehow gotten out of its tank and gone into the next one, where it has eaten its fill of crabs, clams, or small fish.

I want to meet an octopus. They are my new favourite things!

Mmmm-hmmm!

I love a man with an overgrown walrus moustache. And by love, I mean I want to slap him until he is disoriented and then hack away at his ‘tache with safety scissors so that he has to shave it off because he looks like moths attacked his face.

Seriously, why do some men think these look good? The one on the guy’s face I saw today was the size of the rats that were in our apartment last spring. Really.

Lovely.

So I can’t sleep, so I’m poking around the internet, and I’m reminded of how one word can sometimes become a signal for a whole ‘nother meaning.

Here’s me in memory: I’m 16, and I’m wearing a Value Village-bought full-circle miniskirt in powder blue. If I twirl, people can see my underwear. On top is a T-shirt from church camp. I am at that stage in life where I have decided I decree what is fashionable.

I’m trapped in my boyfriend’s front hall, because his mother is showing me photos of his eldest brother’s wedding. It was hasty, and it was ‘eighties. The bride is wearing a wide-brimmed, lacy hat and is holding a peach silk bouquet. I think there are no full-body photos because there was a child in the belly under that polyester lace. The whole esemble was hideous to me at sixteen, and, in my mind’s eyes, is ghastly even now.

16-year-old me knows that there’s subtext to being so pointedly shown these photos (Look, Look! A lovely wedding, wouldn’t you like to get married and have a man and have a Special Day, nar nar nar…), but I don’t know what to say about it (Hey, I’m 16, stop pimping your son at me, you desperate woman!), so I can think of nothing to say but ‘lovely, lovely, how lovely’, murmuring in my best submissive, yet enthusiastic tones. Okay, I probably sounded demented, but whatever.

Now, sometimes I’ll hear the word ‘lovely’, or say it, and what I actually hear, or feel, is, “How utterly desperate and strange. I am almost frightened.”

This is one way language shapes thought.

Whirlwind Adventure!

I saw Professor Jun’s holiday pictures today. Damn, that man can take a lot of photos.

I asked how his vacation had been, and the answer was, not fantastic. His wife had booked a tour for 5 days, 6 nights that included LA, Disneyland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Pebble Beach, and Monterrey. Obviously not in that order. But think of it: All that in 6 days? I asked him how. His answer? “No sleep.” Seriously.

The tour started with a 3:30am wakeup call. Breakfast was at five. How is this relaxing? As Professor Jun put it, “It is not right to eat then.” They got on the bus and stayed on the bus, as they were committed to ‘seeing’ as many things as possible. The itinerary was brutal. An hour at the Grand Canyon. Two at Yosemite. Las Vegas from 8pm to 7am. They took a night tour and saw that volcano hotel, the Bellagio fountain display, and Caesar’s Palace. Jun snapped a blurry shot of a gondolier as they drove past The Venetian. Disneyland: One day. Pebble Beach, two hours. San Francisco: Five hours. Monterrey: An hour. Sheesh!

He looks exhausted. I know he paid a tremendous amount of money for this tour, and what has he got from this experience? A lot of photos, sleep debt, and being able to say, “I was there.”

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