Saturday, August 30, 2008

The "Griefer" Experience

The always lovely Orchid, in her blog entry titled Griefers, related experiences about how many people seem to get a charge out of causing pain, anguish and difficulty to others. This was in the context of an online game that her husband was playing.

This type of behavior seems to happen a lot in the online world. Unfortunately, some circumstances can cause it to get out of hand quickly, especially if those involved are in a relatively short distance of one another in the real world...and they have an easy way to find out where you are.

I have been a licensed amateur radio operator for quite some time now, relatively speaking. I was first licensed in 2000. A friend of mine, "GL", also got licensed at the time I did. One day I got a bug up my bum that I was going to finally test and get licensed. I thought that ham radio, as it is often called, would be an amusing hobby to pursue. (Albeit a very expensive one!)

For a number of years prior I did quite a bit of research on what was required to take the exam, where they were given, as well as what was going on in the local ham radio scene. I was aware of the number of radio clubs in the local area and which ones were the "good old boy" clubs filled with holier-than-thou thinking and douchebagguery. Because of this, I was not really thrilled about the prospects of meeting new people in this hobby but I thought that they could not all be bad.

To this end, I decided that it would be in my best interest to take the test far outside the local area, so I found a testing session in Columbus, some 70 miles away. This way I would be nearly guaranteed to not interface with anyone from the local crowd that might cause issues in the future. So, one Saturday morning, "GL" and I went east and took the test and passed.

Afterward, we had to wait for about two weeks to get the official paper license and our call signs before we could actually start talking on the radio. To pass the time we became active on IRC in some of the local radio chatrooms to see who was around and what they were up to. It was in here that I met a good friend "B", who had been licensed since the dawn of time. She, "GL" and I would talk often, usually about nothing in particular. Also in the chat rooms were a number of douchebags that were affiliated with some of the aforementioned clubs.

In ham radio, one of the things clubs often have is what is called a repeater. This is a radio who's sole purpose is to take incoming transmissions on one frequency and retransmit that over another frequency with significantly higher power. This is so users of small, handheld radios with low power can talk far and wide while still maintaining low power. This is quite useful, and will end up as a radio-based party line, if you will, where people over a large area can congregate and talk about nothing in particular. This, at least, is the way it is supposed to work. (More on this coming up...)

One of the clubs was having problems with its repeater. There was intermittent interference which they thought was being caused by someone. Jammers, as they are called, are an unfortunately common problem.

In the chat room, the douchebags were talking about the jammer when "GL" came in and joined the conversation. I do not remember what he said, since I was not there, but he made some innocent remark that the other people in the room, except for "B" took exception to. This, then, escalated into those people thinking that he was the source of the jamming. "B" took exception to this and started to defend "GL" and myself. Why was I all of the sudden involved? Because those in the room knew that "GL" and I were friends, and our call signs were one character different! I wasn't always around, so I must be lurking around jamming their repeater. (Never mind that I was working full time and had a part time job.)

This turned from online IRC chat into phone calls from the "leaders" of the club to "B". She was once affiliated with said club except she decided that the general attitude of the members, the embezzling and crookedness was too much to handle, so she left the club about 15 years prior. (She launched an investigation into an accouting scandal that caused a lot of aguish amongst the officers of the club that were embezzling funds.)

After essentially proving that myself and "GL" were indeed two separate people, and that neither of us had the need or desire to cause interference to the club's repeater, "B" told those in the chat room that were causing us problems to lay off or they would answer to her personally. One of the people was an ex-acquaintance of hers that tried to swindle her farm out from under her and hit her on one occasion.

"GL" offered to help track down the interference. So, one evening when the jamming was really bad, he and several others set out to find the problem. After hours of hunting they finally converged on an address in Enon, Ohio, not far from where I live. They traced it to an apartment in a block of flats. Much to the dismay of one of the people that caused "GL" and I grief on the air and in the chat room, it was found to be where they lived. It was discovered that there was an intermittent short in the microphone to the radio and that would cause the radio to transmit dead air when a nearby fan would blow on it. Talk about just desserts.

After finding out from the FCC's online records where "GL" lived, some of the members of the club actually went to his house and knocked over an antenna on his property. No one ever did anything to me, thankfully.

This series of incidents showed me that even something as interesting as ham radio, which is supposed to be the epitome of camaraderie and "help in the times of disaster" is not free of "griefers" and douchebagguery. It was this series of incidents, too, that nearly caused me to turn my license back into the FCC.

It was "B", though, that caused me to not do that. With her help, we overcame the trouble that the griefers started and we now are involved in the same small club, with our own repeater. The club that the griefers were affiliated with is no more and most of the irritants have faded into the distance.

Some clubs don't like for people to talk on their repeater. When you do talk, you are admonished if you make idle chit chat and not give weather and signal reports or talk about club business and functions. This is the exact opposite of one of the main ideals of our club. Anyone that wants to come on and talk on our repeater is free to do so, member or not. What is the point of having a repeater if all you can do is give a weather report? Just look outside! Ham radio is supposed to be about friendship, camaraderie and courtesy. Chit-chatting and having a good time is part of that, helping in emergencies and being available and prepared to disasters is another. Causing problems and hurting people is not.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Stuck in Traffic

I had some errands to run today, so I left early. After completing them, before going home, I needed to go to the car dealer to get my oil changed, tires rotated and have some annoying rattles looked at.

I tried to get on the highway and was almost at the end of the ramp when I and numerous others were stopped by security escorts for the motorcade carrying presidential hopeful John McCain and his hitherto unannounced vice-president. They were appearing at a rally at the Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University here in Fairborn. (Though they tell you it is in Dayton, Ohio, it isn't.)

I sat on the ramp to the highway for about 20 minutes ... waiting. A little voice inside me said that I should take the surface streets, but I didn't listen.

Whatever. They should have to fight traffic just like the rest of us!

Interesting fact: I can see the Nutter Center, a.k.a. "The Nut House", from my house as I live only about 1/4 mile from the campus. I can often pick up wireless microphone transmissions from concerts and such on a police scanner. I am sure that if I were home I could have picked up the live broadcast truck satellite transmissions on my big satellite dish, too. Not that I give a sh*t about politics though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pointless Victories

I was aggravated today at work and decided to play a few hands of Solitaire on my computer rather than deal with dumb things and people. In one game I played, I beat it in 93 seconds for an end score of 8,222.

It is these pointless, stupid little victories that can make life kinda sweet and calm the nerves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

World According to Uncle Dan

Fig. 1: The Art of Dan, in his Black & White period.

The image above was sent to me by my friend, Chris, whom I work with. It was drawn by his son, Dan. It was sent along by his wife...Chris' wife, not Dan's...with the following (unedited) explanation as was dictated to her by the artist himself.
The attached illustration depicts how Daniel views his family lifestyle.

On the left, we notice that he has titled the work with his name using large capital letters, showing ownership for his viewpoint.

Beneath, he has drawn a remarkable likeness of his brother Jason (including ears of greatness and curly hair) holding a heart.

Underneath the image of Jason, Dan described the work as containing a picture of his own heart, which is shining like a star and to the right of that a sun, which represents his happiness.

Finally, along the right we must interact with the drawing by turning it around so that we can realize the full visual impact of the artist's viewpoint - the Famwee Hug.

When interviewed Monday morning, just minutes after the work was completed, Daniel said, "This is a Famwee Hug. It's where my mommy and daddy scoop me up and kiss all over me." As you will see, the famwee hug portrays family cohesion: with three happy face circles at the top (two facing the viewer and one drawn as an implied circle, i.e., back of head), a large body circle encompassing the group, and their feet entwined with love.

It is clear that Daniel is a lucky boy.
I have noticed that he has an unusual and unique insight of how the world works. Such is being a child. A lucky boy indeed!

Of note: he may already have a small grasp on Russian, noting the backwards "N"...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Leaf Creature

I believe that the image below is one of the few that could change history. Study it carefully, for this is a scout working for our future insect masters. He/she/it is obviously scoping out territory and gauging our expected response to their impending invasion.

Fig. 1: One of our future insect masters.
Sony alpha 200, Minolta Macro Zoom 300mm, f5.6 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 400.

Enclicken the image for a closer look.
Together we can fight for our futures!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thinking of Papaw

I was thinking of my dearly departed grandfather on my mother's side, or papaw as I always called him.

I remember a riddle that he would tell me all the time, and I was thinking of it just now for some odd reason.
On my way to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives.
The seven wives had seven sacks,
the seven sacks held seven cats,
each cat had seven kits.
Kits, cats, sacks and wives;
how many were going to St. Ives?
I am not great at math but I would often try to figure it out. I would never arrive at the proper solution, in his mind, because I was over thinking the problem. Conventional wisdom would assume that if the traveler going to St. Ives met someone on the way, then it would mean that the person they met would be traveling away from St. Ives. By this pattern of thinking the answer would be one. There would only be one person in the story going to St. Ives.

Nothing is said of that the group could have been traveling slower than the traveler and they all were headed in the same direction. If this is the case, then... (please bear with me as I am no good at math)
1 Traveler
1 Man (with 7 wives)
7 Wives (each with 7 sacks)
49 Sacks (each with 7 cats)
343 Cats (each with 7 kits)
2,401 Kits
There would be 2,802 items traveling to St. Ives. With this volume of feline objects, one could be certain as to why they would be traveling slower. And seven... SEVEN ...wives! Holy crap!

Papaw also used to tell me how to spell "Cincinnati"... C - I - N - "needle and pin" - "gnat and a fly" - cincinnati - I.

I miss mamaw and papaw both dearly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Anniversary

I had a Dr Appointment today with my radiation oncologist. He mentioned that it is my first anniversary. I officially started cancer treatments on August 15, 2007.

It doesn't seem like it has been a year. Time keeps on slipping...

Anyhow, I am still doing just fine. I have gained 10 lbs, so that means that I am about 90 lbs down from when I started the adventure a year ago. I find that this weight gain is weighing heavily on me...about 10 lbs to be I am making a conscious effort to try to lose a little bit. I liked hovering around 200 lbs!

Mum and dad will probably want to celebrate. The best way that I can think of is ordering a pizza and watching TV. I guess I have still retained the lazy streak that I had pre-cancer. Radiation and chemo can only do so much!

An image for your consideration: