S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Five topics

From the_lady_lily...

1. Advanced level internet user.

The internet is very young. It is a gawky and inefficient system which still has regular growing pains, although it's getting better at dealing with sudden cramps. Most of the time. The way to be an advanced user of the system is to understand this, and realize that what you see really isn't always what you get.

I was dumbfounded when my undergraduates this spring told me that their email always gets through right away. That it never bounces or is delayed by minutes, hours, days, weeks. No, it all arrives instantly, in this best of all possible worlds. The things is, they're wrong. Maybe they don't know many people, so haven't had much opportunity to see email go wrong. Maybe they're not paying attention, because it never occurred to them that email doesn't arrive instantly; it usually does.

Being good at technical infrastructure very rarely correlates strongly with being good at user interface. This is why so many websites have functionality that you will never know is there. This is why you use lots of websites which requires looking under many wrong places in order to find the right one. Google is usually faster than using a website's own navigational structure, when the website is spider-able. Work with others for better websites, whether it's team-built or responds well to user feedback.

So: Be patient. Do not assume email is reliable. Ask lots of questions. Ask for pretty diagrams whenever possible. Have a good spam filter, ideally a well-trained Bayesian one. traceroute, whois, and the Internet Traffic Report are your friends when bits of the internet are being flaky. And understand that underneath the makeup of Flash and Javascript and "Web 2.0" are the pimples of an adolescent internet. And to understand the internet at an advanced level, you need to be willing to understand its pimples. So to speak.

2. The adult uses of children's toys.

The important thing here is that toys are for playing with, not just for collecting. There's nothing wrong with collecting, whether stamps or immaculately boxed Barbies, but I'm a fan of actually using the toys I have. I've bought December Innocent fundraising smoothies just to get knit hats for dolls. The two times that I've registered for SF conventions which had the options of registering a stuffed animal too, I got Zmi her own official badge and took her along.

All that Playmobil I've accumulated since I started graduate school - I use that too. I use it to make icons for LJ (not nearly enough of them). And I regularly remember to set up vignettes in honor of the interests of visitors to the house. Just because they're toys, doesn't mean they can't be useful!

3. Lovely people of the interwebs who exist in my computer.

January, 1993. My first internet-enabled computer account. It had an ASCII graphical interface, so I could browse the major options available, which included Usenet. I found alt.fan.pern, and then, before the first few hours of my internet acquaintanceship were through, I'd logged in to my first MUSH. Several of the people I learned to roleplay with that week were people that I then met in person when I started my undergraduate degree. They were lovely, supportive, friendly, and they're still my friends today. Many of them, in fact, are LJ users.

So they started out existing inside my computer, but they didn't stay there. Many do, however, and it's possible to someone well without ever meeting them. No, I'll never know them completely, but you know - I'll never know anyone completely. People are interesting because there's always more to know about them.

The internet has been a wonderful source of social constancy over years of change, moving between countries several times and starting all over again, socially, in person. But I didn't have to start over online. All those lovely people came with me.

4. Transcontinental academic adventures.

The academic world is very small, and once I started traveling, it became even smaller. I run into people I knew in graduate school, unexpectedly, at the British Library. Kalamazoo is one big annual social gathering, in addition to being a reputable academic conference. Five or six medieval studies majors from Smith ended up at Toronto while was there - and there aren't that many medieval studies majors at Smith! My life abounds with small country stories in England, but academia is a far richer source - for me - of small world stories.

LJ is a useful tool for this, for it makes it easier than it usually is to see who I have in common with others, improbable combinations of people I know for unrelated reasons, but who come together in common links with the other people in my life. (Most recently, I've had these conversations with gylfinir and morganlf.)

Transatlantic academic adventures are about far more than small world stories, of course. They're about cultural differences and confusion, about dealing with timezones, visas, and currency exchanges, and books that go missing in the post, and the improbability of being employed on both sides of the ocean simultaneously.

5. Fine dining.

About a year after I moved to Toronto, I realized that I hadn't had a single memorable meal. Surely a city so large didn't just have mediocre restaurants! So I bought two restaurant guidebooks and started making use of a free weekly with reviews, and started working on finding good food. I realized early on that I do better with opinionated guidebooks that I can learn to mostly agree or disagree with - both are useful - than the wishywashiness of Zagat's communal poolings and its abysmal editing. (Torontonians: It told us of a restaurant located between Queen and Dovercourt.)

So that's where it started. Toronto's full of good restaurants, whether fine dining or casual and inexpensive, but you asked about fine dining.

I've always been fond of ritual. I like religious services, parades, graduations, and ceremonies for this reason. Fine dining, when done well, combines the satisfyingness of ritual with the joy and entertainment of really good food. This is why it's worth it to me to save my money for lavish dinners at expensive *but highly recommended by many sources* meals, upping the odds of achieving the nirvana of delicious elegance.
Tags: playmobil

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