Monthly Archives: November 2008

There’s a pretty sad story from Walmart that you’ve probably heard about by now:

By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.

Damour’s injuries were fatal.

I almost always respond to things like this with a cold curiosity before anything else. So here is what I was curious about: Walmart was closed? Half of the reason I’ve historically shopped at Walmart is because it does not close. Not in the big city of Colosse or the rural locations in Deseret. I was vaguely aware that some did somewhere and maybe this is one of them.

I’ve always wondered how 24-hour stores handle events like this. I got a taste several years ago when John Fustle, Hubert Graham, Dennis Loxley, and I (maybe Web was there, too, I can’t recall) went around from location to location trying to get ahold of PlayStation 2’s when they were originally released. Walmart was one of the places that we stopped. I remember wondering how they would handle people piling up in their store for the release that was supposed to happen at 8:00 or so. Or maybe they would keep everybody in line outside the place or something. The answer, it turned out, was that they secretly started selling them at 6:00 and were sold out by 7:45 when we got there.

Category: Market

Somewhere, at least three guys are going to try this.

I suspect more than one of them will run into this reaction:

Category: Theater

“I know when I’m busting them. What I didn’t realize is what a pain I’ve been when I thought I was just being me. At age six, I decide I don’t need to talk to other kids ever again, my parents are the ones that get called into school. At 12, I decide to try out some Shakespearian insults on my teachers, my parents are the ones that called ito school. At fifteen, I decide to start writing revenge fantasies just to get a reaction…” -Daria Morgandorffer

Perhaps the best episode of the old MTV cartoon Daria was the last one. It was an unusually somber episode. In the episode, a refrigerator box triggers a memory of Daria’s of her parents having some nasty fight and her father yelling as he ran out the door. The cause of the tension that caused the fight was Daria herself. She had made the decision to go her own way and she paid a steep cost for it. What she never realized was that her parents were paying a price for it, too.

The same goes for Dharma’s parents on the TV show Dharma & Greg. Being anti-establishment and all that, they chose never to formalize their relationship with marriage. For them that was fine for the most part, though it was a form of isolation and instability for Dharma. The instability turned out to be illusory as they were happily together for 28 years at the outset of the show, but it was there all the same.

“There were times growing up when I wish you guys were married. Like that time in ballet class when all the kids called me The Graceful Little Bastard…” “All my life, you guys told me that your way was better because every day you chose to be together. Did you ever stop to think that there was somebody in that house that woke up in the morning wondering if this was the day her parents were going to choose not to be together?” -Dharma Montgomery

One area where my wife and I differ philosophically is when it comes to tradition and cultural norms. Her perspective is that culture norms must be justified rationally, practically, and morally in order to be adhered to. I take a slightly different view, which is that a cultural norm and tradition must be demonstrably irrational, impractical, or immoral in order to be tossed aside.

To me, tradition and cultural norms have intrinsic practicality and are naturally rational because the path most taken is the path of least resistance. That’s not to say that I always advocate this path, but if I am mulling over an alternative, I need a good reason to take it. Being different for the sake of being different is a social dead end and is not good for the actor, for the culture surrounding him, and as I’m getting to in this post not good for the people around the actor. As Daria and Dharma’s parents learned, there are people around you who pay the price for you to “do your own thing.”

One last example I will throw out there is from The Practice, where one of the biggie lawyers at a major firm is talking to a lowly associate that she just caught dancing on a bar-room table.

When you meet new people I imagine the question ‘What do you do?’ pops immediately into the conversation. You answer ‘I’m an attorney at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt’. When others describe you: smart girl, nice, works at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt. As much as you might like to lay claim to your personal time and your private life, who you are and where you work are inextricably bound, Sally. And when you’re standing in a public bar, on the bar, half-naked, thrusting your great divide as if it were a tourist attraction, there are people saying ‘she’s a lawyer at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt’.” -Hannah Rose

It’s certainly no secret that what we do has an effect on those around us. What I think that we sometimes forget, though, is that even when we’re not doing something that directly harms someone else, we may be harming them in another way. Putting them in a particular pickle. Even if what you’re doing isn’t wrong at all, as long as it garners negative attention to you, it does the same to people around you.

If a couple chooses to get married by a JP in some location other than a church, that could cause discomfort for the bride’s or groom’s mother who has to explain to her religious friends “Why not?” (if they’re religious). A wife that chooses not to take her husband’s name may have good reasons for it and may not mind explaining to everybody that she chose to keep her birth name, but she has enlisted the help of her husband, her future children, and others in associating them with a principled stance that isn’t theirs. Parents that don’t go to church are isolating their kids from one of the great social magnets of American society and making them forever different. A kid that grows up and becomes a shock jock is putting his parents in the position of having to pretend to approve of what he does or tell their friends that they’re not proud of their kid. A Mormon that leaves the church also leaves behind parents that are stuck with some judgmental fellow parishioners who think that they’ve failed as parents.

None of this is to say that anybody should toe the line for the sake of everyone around them. We all have to make our own decisions and be our own persons. The main thing that I’m trying to get at here, though, is that who we become affects those around us even if we are not doing anything wrong in our own eyes and we’re willing to pay the costs of going against the grain.

Category: Coffeehouse

quenkyle: Any plans for Thanksgiving?

trumwill: None, actually. My wife is working the overnight.

quenkyle: So what are you going to do?

trumwill: Not sure, which is why I have none plans. I saw a light billboard that said that there was a buffet at the Sandlot Casino.

quenkyle: Sounds fun!

trumwill: Yeah, but I’m kind of anti-gambling, so that may be a problem.

quenkyle: Could be. So why would you go to a casino if you don’t gamble?

quenkyle: Come to think of it, why would anybody go to a casino on Thanksgiving? If you’re spending Thanksgiving gambling, you have some pretty serious problems.

trumwill: Someone should go to the casino on Thanksgiving and hand out fliers for Gamblers Anonymous. Anybody there on T-Day needs it more than anybody.

quenkyle: Not as much as someone that’s there on Christmas.

trumwill: Good point.

quenkyle: Actually, what someone needs to do is go to a casino on Christmas and hand out fliers for their pawn shop.

trumwill: I’ll bet a pawnshop next to a casino makes some pretty good money.

quenkyle: Totally.

trumwill: Of course, there are some heavier operating expenses. The real estate can’t be cheap. Nor the melatonin.

quenkyle: Melatonin?

trumwill: Yeah, cause if you’re buying off the last bits of property from gamblers on Christmas, you’ll need something to help you sleep at night.

quenkyle: True.

trumwill: I don’t see as many pawn shops out here as I did in Delosa. Of course, seemed like the pawn shops in Delosa made a lot of their money on selling guns. I’ll bet Cascadia has stricter requirements on that.

quenkyle: That’s a shame. Lots of money to be made selling guns to gamblers at a casino on Christmas Day.

trumwill: How much melatonin would you need then?

Category: Server Room

Barry and Bob have a back-and-forth on one of Web’s post about the extent to which sex that is derived from the impairment of judgment that comes with alochol consumption should be considered rape.


There’s always the argument that, if it’s possible to consent to sex while under the influence of alcohol when normally you wouldn’t, then the person loses some of that right to use it as a defense the moment they take that first drink. One might say by taking that first drink, you open yourself to the possibility that one might lead to another, and another, and another and eventually waking up next to a guy (or girl) you don’t know and terribly afraid of something you (or they) did that night.

To me, sure there’s a lot of grey areas in that forbidden land of who said what and when and under what degree of impairment – but it’s the responsibility of each individual to not drink if there’s a chance that such an unwanted event could occur.


Barry, you could a organize society according to the rule you propose, but we have not. In general, I cannot agree to sell my house for you $10 when I am drunk. Neither can a nurse get me to consent to giving her my kidney as I am coming off of general anesthesia (despite my having known fully well that I would be groggy when I got out of it.)

The problem with Bob’s example is that it is something where a “take-back” is possible. You can invalidate a contract, but you can’t un-make a night of groggy sex. Of course, if you agree to sell your kidney under the influence and it is taken before you sober up, that’s somewhat more comparable. Though even there you have expectations at play. A man or woman that gets drunk knows that there are certain risks involved from something relatively minor like coyote ugly to something severe like rape. There is no expectation that a kidney-seller might want you to become a vendor on the spot.

That being said, I’m probably more sympathetic to Bob’s point of view than I am Barry’s. A woman that gets drunk and gets raped may share some moral and logistical culpability, but I could not even remotely support a regime where she bears moral culpability in all cases. For one thing, the man may have been less than forthcoming about what he put in the mixed drinks and it should not be up to her to prove otherwise.

When it’s obvious that the man got the woman drunk for the sake of fornication, it’s pretty clearly rape. When a woman gets drunk independently and a man (knowing that her judgment is impaired by alcohol) and in a sober state takes advantage of her, that’s something less severe than forcible rape but is extremely serious nonetheless.

But there are a lot of gray areas. If a woman is in extreme emotional turmoil, she may consent to actions that she would later regret. Her state-of-mind may be such that it’s actually worse than if she should be drinking. I can imagine scenarios in which this is actually worse than taking advantage of someone that got independently drunk. The woman is less likely to have been put in that awful emotional place as voluntarily as the woman got drunk, for instance. The problem is that opening up a law to this effect, criminally prohibiting sex because the woman was not emotionally prepared for it, opens doors that few have seriously suggested opening and even if I did oppose the criminalization of having sex with a drunk woman, one wrong need not justify another.

Another area of concern when it comes to rape law is that when a drunk woman has sex, there is a not-unsubstantial likelihood that the man is drunk as well. What is the right approach when that is the case? Most of the time the woman will not feel taken advantage of and would not press charges. But what if she does? Being drunk is not a defense against committing other crimes. Even something like solicitation, where there that’s exactly the sort of misjudgment that alcohol would set free to roam. Should in that vein, why should we make an exception for rape?

Some women (and some men, to be sure) are rather unsympathetic to this plight. The idea is that he should have thought of that before he got drunk. But of course that same argument could be used for the woman, as Barry suggests. The second prong to the argument is that consensual drunken sex wouldn’t be brought to the courts because the hardship a woman faces when making rape accusations would make it so that she would only step forward if it were something serious. There is definitely some truth to this as I would bet a substantial sum that unreported rape cases are much more frequent than false accusations. But relying on the honor and judgment of women can be a pretty serious risk to impose on men.

One of the stimying problems in the discussion is that by and large men are far-and-away more likely to be accused of rape and women are far-and-away more likely to be raped. That puts each side of the gender divide of having to assess the risk to the other. No great surprise, men often assert that women should assume the risks (or assumed them with the behavior that led up to the act) and women assert that men should.

Though it does happen, men are rarely raped and so it’s hard to fully appreciate a woman’s fear of it and why it’s so important that women that are raped have as many rights as possible. If you make it harder to make the accusation, there will be fewer stepping forward and more ways for men to evade responsibility for their acts. Women, on the other hand, are rarely (falsely or otherwise) accused of rape and so it’s hard for them to fully appreciate men’s fear of it and why we’re often very apprehensive about making rape charges easier to make. The easier it is for women to make substantive accusations of rape, the more vulnerable they are even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

As I say with regularity, it’s easy to be cavalier about the risks assigned to others than to ourselves.

Preteens watching American Idol react to a vote gone (apparently) horribly, horribly wrong.

I can’t help but point out here that in the World According to Gannon, many of these girls are only a couple of years away from being sexual prospects for 20-25 year old men.

Category: Theater

I’ve mentioned before that I wasted a lot of time when I was young watching and re-watching the same episodes of Matlock. Matlock, because it was always on every day and, when we got cable, on several channels every day, remains my greatest time-sink sin. It was never a good program (would that I were raised in The Age of Law & Order!) and… well, it was Matlock. Some people, however, might contest Matlock’s status as the primary timesuck because for a year every day I would watch a show of legendarily shoddy quality. In case you haven’t figured it out yet by the title of this post or the video up above, that show is Small Wonder.

Small Wonder was a program about a little robot girl, VICI (“Vicki”). She was created by her geeky father as a human replica of sorts. Ted, the father (whose name I didn’t even have to look up!), didn’t want to tell his employers about his little project for reasons that I cannot recall. So Vicki was the Lawsons’ little secret. The episodes generally revolved around either the typical hijinx of situation comedy with often a few robot-related things thrown in for good measure. A lot of it involved trying to keep what would have been the greatest techological achievement in mankind up to that point (an achievement still unmatched in the real world) from anyone that might notice little Vicki’s monotone voice, odd behavior, and lack of a bedroom (she “slept” upright in a closet).

To give you an idea of just how much sense the story made, one episode involved around Jamie (whose name I also did not even bother to need to look up), Vicki’s brother, getting impatient with living with the coolest invention ever and not being able to tell anybody when faced with the typical “My dad is cooler than your dad” arguments at school. So Ted tells Jamie that the blender in their kitchen is really a nuclear somethingorother. Jamie thinks this is awesome, but then of course Ted tells him that he can’t tell anybody. Somehow, Jamie doesn’t seem to notice that he is in no better position that he was. Maybe because he tells people anyway (despite being perfectly able to keep Vicki a secret throughout the show). Hilarity ensues when the Lawson’s neighbor (and Ted’s father) gets wind of the blender. Ha, ha.

Another episode (a couple episodes, I think) had a more high-tech clone of Vicki named Vanessa (VICI was short for Voice Input Child Indenticant… no telling what Vanessa could have been short for) who was smarter and more human than Vicki but also more freedom-minded and likely to get herself (and the lawsons) into trouble. There was apparently talk of a Vanessa spinoff.

There was once a Very Special Episode about Jamie’s friend, who is… horror of horrors, a latchkey kid! You may have to reach pretty far back in the recesses of your mind, if you’re old enough, to recall that term. It referred to the poor, poor unfortunate youths who had working parents and had to let themselves in when they got home from school.

I make fun of the show now, but it will always have a place in my heart somewhere between Thundercats and Gilligan’s Island. I used to watch it day in and day out with my best friend Clint. Not over at his house or anything. We’d both be watching it at our own houses and talk about what transpired on the phone. I didn’t have a phone or TV in my bedroom, so I sat on the wooden chair in the kitchen so that I could be on the corded phone and we could discuss this important television program. Ahhh, those were the best days. I never went through a “girls are icky” phase like a lot of boys did, so Vicki was always cute even though I did not yet know what was meant to be done in response to that cuteness (though some say that Vicki was TV’s first lesbian! Then again, on the show the girl was a robot, so I shouldn’t go there anyway. Notably, the actress found Jesus and appeared on The 700 Club at some point).

Below are some clips. If you’ve never seen the show or want to get a blast from the past if you have, you can get a pretty good feel in the first minute or so of each clip.

-{This blast from the past courtesy of BoingBoing}-

Category: Ghostland, Theater

In America, we have a large variety of “rights.” A lot of things people consider “rights” today – health care, college education, etc – aren’t really “rights.” There is no right, for instance, to not be offended… indeed, the actual right we have (the right to free speech) seems specifically designed to ensure that one can say things that may be offensive, a right that is nonexistent in many other countries.

Thus it comes to one of the weirdest cases the Supreme Court has declined in recent memory: a rape trial in which the judge ruled that the plaintiff was not allowed to use certain words.

The conflicting rights brought up in the case:
– The right to face one’s accuser (she took the stand against him).
– The right to free speech.
– The right to a fair trial.

The other weird things in the trial:
– The first trial ended in a “mistrial” when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, at least partially due to the fact that they found the plaintiff “unreliable.” She was, quite believably, constantly stopping to check her words, terrified of the judge attacking her for violating his word-ban order and holding her in contempt of court (which could carry jail terms and other issues). In other words, the witness was being tampered with and intimidated by the judge himself.
– The retrial ended in mistrial because the judge called it so, citing media attention and victims’ rights protesters who were upset at the bizarre ruling.

Unfortunately, this is a lousy case to go on – and as the saying goes, “Easy cases make bad law”, with the necessary corollary, “Hard cases make bad law.” In this case, we have one of the classic he-said she-said conundrums that always gets advocate groups (on both sides) upset; a case in which we know sex occurred and that verbal consent appears to have been possibly given, BUT the woman is (now) claiming it was rape because she was too drunk to actually consent to sex.

Not to make light of these sorts of situations, but it’s entirely possible that this ought to have been one of those “mistrial and no jury will ever come to a unanimous verdict” situations to start with, because it could be any one of any number of situations. It could be that she was drunk, and “consented” without consenting (and equally possible that he was ALSO in a drunk enough state not to be able to consent… which would mean two people, neither of who was in a condition to consent to sex, had sex anyways and she is merely the first one to go to the police). It could be that it was consensual, but she felt guilty (for religious reasons or anger reasons later) and went to the police, changing her story. It could be that this is one of those situations where sex contract advocates always say to get something in writing… though, again, “too drunk to consent” would also apply to a written contract I’m sure.

Again, are there situations where men get women drunk (or slip them drugs) merely to have sex with them? Yes. There are also men who do it to other men, women who do it to men, and women who do it to women. I don’t mean to minimize this as real rape; I do have to consider that in this particular case, the chance of getting a real and just verdict is a matter of severe difficulty and that the judge was dealing with a very difficult situation trying to balance the right to a “fair” trial against the usage of some very severe words, the societal impact of which has very much become a “guilty until proven innocent” problem, and as we mentioned above… bad cases make bad law.

On the one side, the right of the victim to make her accusation, in full exercise of her 1st-amendment right to free speech, and see her rights represented in the courtroom. On the other, the accused’s right to a fair trial. In the middle, a case of “he said, she said” in which the physical evidence means little-to-nothing and the line between “consent” on the part of either party comes down to the particular BAC levels of each individual… and since we lack a notarized breathalyzer test and signed sexual consent form, we probably will simply never know the 100% objective “truth” of what happened that night.

He said, she said… and a bad case winds up making bad law. I’m actually not surprised the Supremes took a look at this and said “oh heck no, we’re not getting anywhere near this mess.”

Category: Courthouse

Last month, Transplanted Lawyer linked with modest disapproval to a new idea that’s being tried in schools across the country: Pay students to make good grades. Half Sigma has approvingly nodded to the idea.

Whether paying students for performance is effective or not I do not know. The jury is still out and the results we have so far are not particularly encouraging. Kids generally have short time horizons that make it difficult to tell them that if they work hard for the next six weeks they will get a reward then and only then. A more effective strategy might be an approach measuring small gains. Give them a test at the end of every couple weeks and see how they do. Mark Kleimann has actually recommended doing something like that in lieu of our current standardized testing performance-measuring regime. It could well be true that even paying students for performance will never be more effective than other uses for that money, but I’m all about trying new and different things to see what works. If it doesn’t work, move on to something new.

This post is not an endorsement of this particular strategy. Rather, it’s an objection to an objection to it that I’ve heard so frequently that it’s grated on my nerves. The objection goes like this: If you start paying kids to get good grades, they will do whatever they do for the money and not for their future or for the sake of actually learning.

I don’t know what my IQ is, but I think it’s fair to say that I would be somewhere in the top-third of the curve. I am also an intellectually curious person that spends a lot of time thinking about things and probably spend more time than most people out of school learning stuff. My High School GPA was solid if unremarkable at one of the more competitive public high schools in the city and I graduated with membership in the honors college of my alma mater. None of this is spectacular, but even if I’m not remarkable I have achieved more than the vast majority of people my age.

I say this not to brag (again, not spectacular), but to get to an important point: Despite having turned out much like my parents and school system had hoped, I couldn’t have cared a camel’s lick about learning when I was in K-12. I didn’t start enjoying learning for the sake of learning until I was at least a couple years past teachers and professors trying to thrust knowledge upon me. I learned what I learned for one major reason: to get good grades. And I didn’t get good grades to go to a great university or so that I could get a great job. I got good grades for one major reason: my parents expected it of me.

I did what I did for parental approval. My parents (particularly my father) had tremendous moral authority and their approval was very important to me. Getting good grades got positive results. Bad grades got negative results. Had my parents not taken this attitude, I might well have dropped out of school altogether as soon as legally capable. More to the point, had my parents not had the respect from me that they did (a respect that they did not just demand, but earned), I would not have turned out so well. Had my parents not had the time and money to monitor my progress and to assure me that I would be going to college like everybody else, things might have been different. While maybe it would have been preferable if I’d had my own ambitions and thirst for learning at a young age, the fact that I did what I did because I was (in a sense) manipulated to do it does not matter one fraction as much as the fact that I did it, regardless of my motivations. Further, had my parents relied on me to want to learn for its own sake or for my own ambition so that I’d do the right thing for the “right reason”, I would almost certainly have done the wrong thing and my reasoning would be moot.

A lot of kids don’t have my parents. They may have parents that have an abstract desires that their children go to a good college, but they don’t have a clear roadmap of what to expect when. Or they don’t have the time to monitor their kids as my parents monitored me. Or they didn’t have the moral authority to demand it or the consistency to apply the right pressures at the right time. And much like me, they don’t have the future time orientation to do all the right things on their own accord. Maybe it would be ideal if they had any and all of these things, but they don’t. And stripping them of any other motivation won’t necessarily give it to them.

To bring it to something that adults can relate to, it’s like going to work. Ideally speaking, we should go to work because we enjoy it or are making a valuable contribution to society or industry and we should consider that enough. Mostly, though, we do it to get paid. Otherwise, we’d be in a nation of 50 million writers, 20 million musicians, and no janitors. I really don’t know what position we are in to say that money should not be a sufficient motivator.

As I said above, this is not an endorsement of pay-for-performance with students. I don’t know if it works or not or whether it can be tweaked to work or not. Even if it can be tweaked, there are some questions of fairness if you give it to kids that go to this school but not kids that go to that one. And there are questions about whether we want kids to get money bypassing their parents entirely because they could likely find some destructive uses for it. But the notion that it provides bad incentives and is bad on that basis is ignoring the lack of good motivations that the vast majority of young people have.

Category: School

Spungen has written a post inspired by a comment that I made on Half Sigma about community colleges that left her with the impression that I didn’t think that I would be bothered by being surrounded by people of lower economic and social classes.

One of the constant themes of Spungen’s posts regarding money and class is that the worst parts about not having money is the inability to filter out lower-class people the way that they are automatically filtered out when you grow up in an environment with money and with the seeming impenetrability of the upper classes who are rather difficult to meet when you didn’t have the opportunity to go to the same schools that they did or work the same jobs that they do.

The second aspect of that, the impenetrability of the upper classes, is something that some people can relate to even if they come from more money than Spungen did. When a lot of us get out of college we are suddenly no longer surrounded by peers. One of my earliest jobs outside of college was in an office place where I was the only person under 35 working in the office throughout most of my tenure and I was the only unmarried person ineligible for AARP. Contrast that to my job at Falstaff in Deseret where I was surrounded by young and mostly unmarried people* and had one of the best social atmospheres I’d ever had at any job before or since.

Of course, that’s definitely not the same thing as Spungen’s complaint because I still had my college friends and roommates to lean on. I also had friends in the area dating back to high school. If I’d been more on-the-ball, I could have utilized those friends to make more. The issue for Spungen is that those opportunities were not available to her in the first place. She’d been at that point where I was only temporarily (at a couple jobs in Colosse) for most of her life. Plus, I had the first part. When I was working at Wildcat, I could go out and hang out at the warehouse if I wanted to or I could stay in. It was completely my call. But it at least gives me an idea of what she means and a place to start from when contemplating it.

In the course of the conversation that followed from Spungen’s post, Larry pointed out that the Internet changes this somewhat. Now there’s a way to meet people outside work and geographical boundaries.

I think that there’s an important distinction to make, though, between friendships that start on the Internet and move offline and those that start and end by way of the Internet. Those friendships that have always existed independent of geography rarely last as long as those friendships that you take offline. Part of it is that friendship bonds occur, in part, through common experiences. Having a common background helps, but it seems to me that friendships that occur without something concrete tend to dissipate over time once whatever bond you do have loosens. One of you gets out of the routine of visiting a particular message board or stops collecting whatever collectables you originally started talking about, your paths diverge even if your online friendship once went beyond that to a more personal level.

Where I would expect the Internet to be most useful are ones that may have started online, but eventually moved offline. That requires, among other things, geography. Once a friendship moves offline, it becomes like any other. The fact that you met via computers and cables becomes a biographical detail.

As most of you know, when I was in my late teens I joined a BBS that allowed me to talk to others through a computer. I made a lot of friends on Camelot BBS. I met a lot of those people offline at parties and whatnot. Some I became friends with independent of Camelot. Whether we became friends offline or not share no more than a little corrollation with how close we were online. It would start because we both happened to be free on the same weekend, they needed a ride somewhere, or something like that. More on that in a sec. Yet it’s those friendships that endured. It was through those people that I found my social networks. Those are the people that came to my wedding and I theirs. Those are the people that I talk about here in the present tense. Hubert, Kyle, and Tony were never my best friends on Camelot, but they’re among my best friends now.

That’s one of the downsides of the Internet compared to Camelot. Since calls were clearly marked long and shortdistance in the age before cell phones and VoIP, everybody that called was in the same town. When I was hanging out on the Internet as a single guy, I had to work to filter out-of-towners when it came to meeting girls or guys to boost my social life. In that sense, something like a BBS wouldn’t have helped Spungen back in her day because there was probably not a big BBSing scene where she’s from. Young people growing up there now can make friends all across the country, but not in ways that noticeably improve their social life.

Geography matters a great deal in these things. I remember my freshman year in college when Hubert and I were living in Lecter Hall and most of his friends were in Greenwood Hall. Despite the fact that they were his friends, they kept doing things without him. Not because they were trying to exclude him (he had not yet become nearly intolerable), but because they’d all be hanging around the dorm and they’d decide to do something spontaneously and he though he was a building away he was nonetheless excluded by default because he didn’t happen to be right there. On the other hand, I became friends with Web, Karl, John Fustle, and various other people at first because they were around a lot. They were sort of friends by osmosis. Some of those friendships endured, like Web and Hubert, but others have since become frequent acquaintances. Even with the latter people, though, the point is that we all had ample opportunity to get to know one another due primarily to proximity.

That’s one of the hardest parts for people that aren’t in proximity to people that they’re a good match for. Spungen was born with the sharp, inquisitive, and ambitious mind that was suited for the sort of nice suburb that she lives in now. She just didn’t grow up there and never had the kind of money to have the sort of proximity that she needed until much later in life. The Internet or BBSes could have helped her find those people that did live near her that shared her interests, but only to the extent that those people existed and that they had transportation to form their own network outside their school, as I did with my Camelot friends, or the opportunity to join an existing network.

Of course, even with that, she would still have the Hubert Problem. And she would have the problem that I had in junior high and at other select portions of my life, where she is stuck around people not of her own choosing that often don’t treat her (or one another) well and aren’t generally compatible even if they do. So while it would alleviate the overall problem, it certainly wouldn’t fix it even in the best of circumstances.

This all leaves me a little concerned for the future children that Clancy and I will have. We will be living in a small town. Most small towns are generally speaking undereducated and a lot of them contain a fair amount of poverty. Poverty won’t be a problem in the Truman household, but that may not matter as much as I would like. Clancy once did a brief stint in a small town in the rural northwest.

One of the things that stood out to me when I visited her there was how unusually “middle class” the town was for such a small place unconnected with any particular large places. There was a two-year college there, but it wasn’t a college town. Clancy and I have been looking closer at college towns than other places of comparable size so that, as I put it, I wouldn’t be the only person on the school board voting to teach evolution in science class. Keeping all of the above in mind, finding a town with a substantial educated population takes on more importance because of the effects that it might have on our kids.

* – Yes, I was married at the time, but I was a residency widower. So while I wasn’t in the dating market, I still needed friends moreso than the average married guy does. And they couldn’t be “couples” friends because the other part of my couple was always working.