4. That’s the number of times I hit the snooze button this morning. The bed in the hotel was so beautifully comfortable that the prospect of leaving it was more than I was willing to bear. Still I had set the alarm for a reason: I had an important task to accomplish today and it had a start time, 10:00am. The alarm dutifully went off at 9am but was slammed into silence multiple times so that I could enjoy just a few more sweet moments sprawled out under the covers. The enormity of the task I had set myself soon began to weigh on me however and I pulled myself out of bed to get ready for this monumental task.
I was going to pick up my first American rental car.
Usually this wouldn’t be much of a big deal but since I’d never driven a car in a country that drives on the wrong side of the road (even though the majority of the world does so) I was on tenterhooks as to how I would cope with it. I tried to soothe myself with some facts like the one that many countries have completely switched from one side to the other with no ill effects, even on the day of the switch. Still those first few moments when I sat in my shiny red Toyota Yaris had me scrambling to figure out which way was up, with blinkers and window wipers going crazy as I tried to gain control over my 68hp beast.
The following couple hours of driving were strikingly uneventful as I drove towards my chosen destination the Florida mall. This was due, in whole, to the fact that I got completely and hopelessly lost for those two hours. It wasn’t for the fact I didn’t know where I was going, I had looked it up before I went. No it was more due to the fact that I had no idea how to interpret 90% of the road signs and missing the other 10%. Thanks to the plentiful McDonalds restaurants that spotted the highway I was able to purloin free wifi Internet to help guide me on my way to the Florida Mall. I arrived there around lunch time and set about hunting down the places I could do the following things:
The first task was relatively easy, despite my tendency to be completely disinterested in most fast food. I eventually found a place that had a decent chicken salad and a juice bar that served up a mean fruit cocktail. Once I was flush with energy from consuming all that I went onto a shoe store called Sketches which I had seen multiple times before in other places. I managed to find two pairs of shoes that I thought were pretty decent and they had a sale going on so I grabbed both of them:
Getting my online self mobile proved to be a little more difficult however. After searching most of the store I couldn’t find anyone that sold AT&T, the only cell provider I knew would support my iPhone with 3G. As it turns out Radioshack stocks them so I hunted down one of their resellers. I had done some research prior to leaving that said all I needed to do was to buy the cheapest handset I could find and then rip the sim out of it and stick it in my phone. It made sense to this former phone salesman so I scored myself a brand new Samsung A107 for a cool $20 (including $15 credit), plus another $15 for credit (required for activation, apparently). After spending 10 minutes with the salesman getting it activated I headed off for the trip back home. On the way I, of course, got myself lost and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to switch out the sim and get the maps working.
As it turns out not only are the phones locked to the AT&T network they also lock the sim to the phone itself. After wrangling with my iPhone to get the new sim in it greeted me with a No Service error and refused to work. That, my friends, was $40 down the toilet and a couple quick Google searches confirmed that AT&T had been doing this for about a year. So much for that plan then. I’m not sure if I’ll bother trying to get an American sim now, it might just be worth grabbing a cheap-o GPS unit like my friend Nick did on his jaunt over a couple months back. That’s basically all I’d need it for anyway (and my next car apparently comes with one for free).
After dealing with my fail I managed to get myself back to the hotel and worked off the aggression with a good workout. I then had dinner at one of the local restaurants where the food was palatable, but nothing to write home about. I took this opportunity to sample one of the local beers, this one being a Sam Adams Octoberfest:
It was a decent brew, easily comparable to some of the more premium Australian lagers. I’ve become more of an Ale man over the past couple years of refining my beer palate so there wasn’t much to write home about this one but it was a decent accompaniment to my meal of skewered beef and roasted vegetables. Hopefully I’ll be able to indulge my inner beer fanatic a bit more when I’m down in Miami as I’ve read that there are some very good restaurants down there.
Casting off the exhaustion of yesterday was a good feeling and whilst my day was filled with fail it still felt good to get out and about around Florida. Tomorrow the real fun begins as I say goodbye to my plucky Yaris and trade up for a more manly set of wheels: a Z06 Corvette. I’ll also be upgrading my hotel from the Hyatt Regency to the Viceroy in Miami and by all accounts it looks to be one heck of a step up. I’m looking forward to living a little bit of the highlife down there as my suit has been aching to get out of the cramped confines of my suitcase. The heat here however has been quite intense so it will probably be a night only affair. Still with the reputation Miami’s night life has I don’t think I’ll be out of place late a night, seeking a classy encounter 🙂
Back in the early days of the Internet we didn’t have things such as Youtube or Facebook, so we had to make do with such wonderful technologies as good old HTTP and Usenets. The Usenets in particular were pretty niche, and most people wouldn’t know of them, let alone use them. It really was a golden age for the Internet, since you really needed to know what you were doing in order to get something online and you had to look pretty hard to find and cross over to the wrong side of the tracks.
These days with it being so easy to set up a website or blog anyone can throw up a page or just perform a quick search to find what their looking for. Modern day search engines do a good job of filtering out most of the chaff, but when you’re looking for something obscure it’s very easy to get something that looks genuine but is nothing but utter dribble. I remember a good example from a while back on the Holy Grail. A teacher of mine knew quite a bit about the subject and decided to see what material was available. Out of the myriad of sites he found about 2 where factually correct, 3 were misguided and the majority were plain wrong or bordering on delusional.
Sometimes however, people are drawn to this kind of insanity. Whether it is the freedom of anonymity or just a desire to cause and experience choas, places on the Internet exist for those among us who seek to see the taboo side of our humanity. I make no secret that I am one of those people, and I’ve spent many hours seeing what us humans get up to when all the rules are left at the door.
Probably the most famous example of a place such as this is 4chan. Whilst on the surface it would appear to be a clucky little clone of the Japanese imageboard 2Channel delving deep into its recesses shows a dark underbelly. In the early days of this board it was particularly famous for its /b channel, which is void of a general topic of discussion and is deemed to be “random”. It is in here that people from all over the world post things that would normall be taboo, wrong or downright illegal. It is also the gathering ground of the online group Anonymous, who delight in causing mischief for corrupted organisations or just the general public. Strangely enough it has even started a trend, with other sites carrying the *chan identifier popping up all over the places wishing to emulate its success (or even drive deeper into deprativity).
It is interesting to note the places that because of their size, attract a great number of people who aren’t there for the board’s purpose. The BodyBuilding website appears normal on the surface but digging down into their forums will show that their largest forum, Misc, has the most threads (in excess of 800,000) and as a consequence the most rubbish. Whilst it isn’t as removed from reality as the likes of the *chan boards, due to the sheer volume of people on there it attracts people who aren’t interested in body building at all, and sometimes even those who are at the end of their rope.
A more regulated but none the less interesting place to visit is the Something Awful and its forums. What makes this place interesting is its dedication to comedic material, which sometimes leads it to strange and whacky places. Over the years it progressed from a personal site for the creator “Lowtax” to a bustling news site with a set of forums renowned for their online shenanigans. Whilst it is probably closer to the right side of the railroad then the other sites I have mentioned you can still see some people using the freedom of anonymity to spew forth their misguided opinions at each other.
Often I would wonder as to why I would visit these places, why I would revel reading the vulgar reality of the human condition. That was, until someone else summed it for me:
Lampkin: The horror of the age. The great ugly material. The cloak of deceit.
Apollo: The truth. Hmph. Kind of overrated, I guess. You know, when I was nine, maybe ten, my grandfather… he would wave me over. And he’d do this all the time. And then he’d say, uh, “Lee, be a good boy. Just don’t be too good.”
Lampkin: Everybody has demons. Them, Baltar, you, me. Even the machines. The law is just a way of exorcising them. That’s what your father’s father told me. You want to know why I hated him? Because he was right.
Apollo: So you hated him because he was right, and I hated the law because it was wrong. Because of what… Of what it put him through. I mean, he defended the worst of the worst. I remember reading about him. The outrage. Helping murderers go free. What I don’t understand is why he put himself through all that abuse.
Lampkin: You think he gave a flying frak? Joe Adama cared about one thing. Understanding why people do what they do. Why we cheat our friends, why we reward our enemies. Why we go to war, sacrificing our lives for lost causes. Why we build machines in the hope of correcting our flaws and our shortcomings. Why we forgive, defying logic and the laws of nature with one stupid little act of compassion. We’re flawed. All of us. I wanted to know why, so I did what he did. I spend my life with the fallen. The corrupt. The damaged. Look at you, you were so ready to get on that Raptor with me today. The bad boy, the prodigal son.
Bonus points to those who recognised that exchange from the TV series Battlestar Galactica.
Sometimes, to truly understand ourselves we have to delve into the most extreme parts of our humanity. It’s just amusing that the internet, which was created for only one thing has given us this opportunity.