Some things are ubiquitous.
Scantily-clad women in a game (rpg, video, it doesn’t seem to matter much). People who use jargon completely out of context in a bizarre attempt to appear cool. (No matter what anyone might say, nerds are not ‘cool.’)
I don’t claim that’s a bad thing, of course, but it is a thing. It has… insinuated itself into (some) people’s lives in many ways, from the subtle to the… not-so-much.
An example of the former is the way that it has changed some of the things about how we (or at least I) watch television. Once upon a time when I had one of those “Hey, it’s that guy” moments there wasn’t really a lot I could do about it. I’d think “I know I’ve seen that guy somewhere but I can’t remember where…” so I’d wrack my brains for a while without success and three days later I’d sit bolt upright in bed at 3 AM and exclaim “It’s Damar!”
It doesn’t work like that anymore.
(Well, not always.)
With two (on second thought, make that four) internet-connected (or at least connectable) computers or computer-analogues in the same room as the television, the collected ‘wisdom’ (‘wisdom’ is almost certainly the wrong word, but once you say ‘collected’, it’s de rigueur (French for “I’m pretentious”) to follow it with ‘wisdom’) of an army of highly motivated obsessive-compulsives (and fewer — but still far too many — annoying corporate wankers) is right at my fingertips. So I see an actor playing a lawyer. I figure out the name of the character and the title of the episode then consult a list of guest stars for the episode in question and figure out the name of the actor playing the lawyer. His name sounds familiar but I can’t place it so I keep looking and eventually I find him here. It’s Damar! Instant (ish) gratification for utterly useless information. (I have touched on this theme before.)
Note that the two methods wind up in the same place (that’s why I call this type of insinuation ‘subtle’) but are a little different: One requires more work but avoids that inconvenient ‘waking up in the middle of the night’ thing. (The Eureka moment eases the pain a little — but only a little.) The other just requires time for the subconscious to work on things. Oh and the ability — which I, for one, do not have — to ignore the nagging irritation of trying not to think about that which you are trying to remember so that your subconscious has ‘room’ to ‘work.’ So to speak.
On the ‘less subtle’ side of the coin, I can receive communications from anywhere when I’m anywhere myself (Recommending). In particular, while eating breakfast at the Insomniac Capriform Cafe I can receive an email message from the Unix Sysadmins Special Interest Group telling me that I should lose weight. Maybe they know what I’m having for breakfast, maybe the universe has a sense of irony (it’s old enough) or maybe it’s just coincidence. (Coincidence is, of course, not nearly as much fun.) I call this ‘not-so-subtle’ because it’s not really a different way of doing something that I could already do.
One thing that this shows, though, is that the Insomniac Capriform Cafe provides internet access for its patrons. (Heck, sometimes you have a choice of three networks — the one in the cafe, one from the burger bar next door and a third from the cafe on the other side of the burger bar — that one’s pretty weak when it’s visible at all.)
Weak internet connections. Wireless internet connections. Weak wireless internet connections. I think I have a story about those…
Wireless internet connections are everywhere. Well, not quite ‘everywhere’ but lots of places: Cafes. Restaurants. Public spaces. (There’s internet in the dressing rooms at various arenas around town although technically you’re probably not allowed to use it: the Official Rules Of The Dressing Rooms prohibit any device capable of photography in a dressing room, which pretty much eliminates all (most?) smartphones, most (all?) tablets and a lot of ‘recent’ laptops (not that anyone is likely to bring one of those to play hockey). It’s pretty weak unless you walk to the lobby anyway.)
Recently I had the opportunity to use (or not, see below) the internet connectivity in a different public space — the train station. I was meeting the 1358 from Guildwood and I was early. (I wasn’t trying to be early — I’m rarely early — but the errands I was running took less time than I expected and the parking lot at the train station wasn’t its normal chaotic mess.) “No worries” I thought, “the station has internet access so I’ll take in my tablet and do some Crimbo stuff.” (Aside: Crimbo is the end-of-the-year ‘event’ in the online game ‘Kingdom of Loathing‘. I wanted to punch out my Advent Calendar, collect my tiny die-cast series 1 toys, fight intergalactic polar bears and make some awesome booze with my warbear high-efficiency still.)
It didn’t work quite the way I thought it would.
I went in, sat down and consulted the list of available wireless networks. The station network was available and, judging by the little icon, both strong and open. Cool. I touched ‘Connect’.
It didn’t work. It thought for a long time, then failed. I moved to a different seat where the signal icon was, if anything, stronger and tried again. It failed again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (Iteration in everyday life.) Another failure.
What was I to do? There were Crimbo presents just waiting for me (well, waiting next to mindlessly violent bears armed with laser axes, but presents nonetheless). I frowned owlishly at the list of available networks and there was another one. A weak one.
A very weak one.
It was the wireless network on the train parked on the siding outside. Was it strong enough to work? Only one way to find out — I moved closer to the window and tried it. The connection worked first time — not quickly — but I was able to punch my calendar, collect my toys, make my booze and dispatch a few ursine space invaders.
I thought back to the error that Android gave me when it refused to connect to the station network, the close network, the strong network:
Avoided poor internet connection.
Thanks, faceless software designer, for the completely useless error message and for saving me from the misery of using a strong network connection.