Grouping (more polite than the other choice)

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I went on a little while ago about things that frighten me. If I change the verb to ‘dislike’ then it becomes really quite an extensive list. Today several of the things on that list ganged up on me all at once.

After that introduction, I’m going to change the subject for a while. (Actually, I’m not — it just looks that way.)

To news.

I’ve mentioned news once before, in passing. Usenet news is, as the Wikipedia page will tell you, a worldwide distributed discussion system. A lot of things have been written about usenet but I think one of the…. pithiest was written by Gene Spafford. It’s very brief:

“Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea — massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind-boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it.”

Usenet is organized into ‘hierarchies’ of ‘newsgroups’ (venues where discussion on a given topic takes place). There are several ‘core’ hierarchies (currently eight, if I’m not mistaken) and several more outside the core.  Within the various hierarchies, there are/were newsgroups on literally thousands of topics.  The name of a newsgroup tells you what hierarchy it’s in and a little bit about what sort of discussions might take place there. For example, once upon a time, there was a group (in the ‘rec‘) hierarchy called rec.arts.comics. In it, people talked about (duh) comics. In talk.abortion the subject was a little different. The comics newsgroup was largely a friendly sort of place. The other one?  Um, not as much. (I never ‘went’ there all that much, but I remember seeing a lot of…  heat.)

I said above that usenet is distributed; this had/has a lot of consequences. Most obviously, though, it means that there is no central server or servers. As a corollary, it also means that there is no central authority. As a result things can be a little anarchic.

A little.

Despite this, folks were (are?) willing — albeit grudgingly sometimes — to follow some amount of direction.

Well, a small amount.

One example of this was (is?) the creation of a new newsgroup within
the core hierarchies. There were (are?) ‘rules.’ A process. A
procedure. As time would go by, it would become clear that a new group might be needed. A new group or groups would be proposed. A Request for Discussion would go out. Discussion would happen. A Call For Votes would go out. There would be votes. If enough people thought the new group (or groups) was a good idea, it would be created.

For example: I mentioned above the newsgroup rec.arts.comics. This is the way it was, Once Upon A Time. But things changed. It grew. It became more popular — too popular. It became a victim of its own success; it got too high-volume to keep track of so the process (whatever it was in those days; it changes somewhat as time goes by) happened and when the dust settled there were half-a-dozen groups (possibly more — I don’t remember exactly and it’s been a while) where once there had been one. (From memory: rec.arts.comics.marketplace — for buying and selling. rec.arts.comics.strips — for discussion of comic strips. And so on.) It was almost civilised.

This was in the core hierarchies. Outside the core hierarchies, though, things were different. There were/are regional hierarchies (country or province or city or even institution).

And there’s the alt hierarchy.

I mentioned above that usenet can be anarchic. Well, the alt hierarchy is anarchic even for usenet. It’s been called a sewer. There are some scary things there.

There’s also a fair bit of silliness and playing with language.  For example, back when TNG was on the air a newsgroup appeared in the alt.* hierarchy called alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die. (I see that the group still exists; today there’s a thread discussing whether Wesley Crusher is more or less annoying than Harry Potter.) There were a ton of silly newsgroups like this in alt. I can’t remember them all of course, but off the top of my head, there was alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork, and my personal favorite, Not that I had anything against Enya, it’s just when this group was created it was created incorrectly so it showed up with an error EVERY SINGLE TIME I STARTED MY NEWSREADER (ANU NEWS in those days. An excellent piece of work.). When I hear Enya, I automatically think ‘puke puke puke.’ It’s not my fault. And it’s got nothing to do with the music.

I have now finished changing the subject. Back to things that I don’t like.

Today I had an appointment for an MRI.

The reasons for the procedure aren’t important; it’s enough to say that I find all medical-type procedures stressful. I have a nasty — one might even say ‘extreme’ — case of White Coat Syndrome. Heck, on my last visit to the doctor (He’s a very nice man; I played hockey with him for some time before I even knew he was a doctor. I joke that he’s the only doctor of mine that I’ve ever seen naked.) I took my pulse in the waiting room. It was over what is recommended for someone my age during exercise — and I was just sitting there.) So I was feeling stressed.

I was also feeling a little sick. Everyone around me has had a cold for the last week or so. So far I’ve avoided the worst of it but not all of it. This morning I was feeling a little down. Even the Dalek attacking the cleaning lady (several times) didn’t help a whole lot.

So I was feeling a little sick and a lot stressed. Then the relentlessly perky technician told me that I’d be administered a paramagnetic contrast agent.


She meant an injection.

Now, injections aren’t bad. I know that, but knowing that doesn’t really help. It’s just that I hate needles. Just looking at one on TV is enough to make me want to…

I just don’t like them, okay?

It didn’t help that the relentlessly perky technician couldn’t find a vein. “Oo! That’ll leave a bruise! Sorry!” So I’m lying there inside an iron maiden, band-aids on both arms, sick, stressed and nauseous when…

Another digression. MRI machines are a lot of things. They’re big, they’re hot, they’re claustrophobia-inducing but above all they’re NOISY. Loud. Deafening. Worse than a bag of jack hammers. (Heck, the relentlessly perky technician even compared it to one.) Because of this, before sliding you into the MRI (… of DOOM) the relentlessly perky technician fits you with headphones. They help a lot — the sound is only painful, not actually deafening — and the music mix isn’t even that bad. But…

I’m lying there, inside an iron maiden. The room is cold but I’m sweating. I’m sick. I’m stressed. I have band-aids up and down both arms. I’m nauseous. And what’s the VERY FIRST THING that comes on the headphones when I’m put back in the machine?


The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.


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