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Lindsey Kuper

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My name is Lindsey Kuper, and I don't have Internet access at home [Oct. 10th, 2008|02:05 am]
Lindsey Kuper

When I first moved into Maxwell TerraceTM, there were enough open wifi networks around that it didn't look like I would need to actually, you know, do anything to get Internet access. On the day my furniture arrived, Maggie magsterama, Will terror_firma and I were able to sit around my living room with our laptops and take our pick of open networks. In the weeks following that, the options decreased. Still, there was usually an open network to be found. The connection would be flaky, but I often didn't mind, thanks to magic indistinguishable from technology.

Around the beginning of September, my parents came to visit. My dad borrowed my computer to read the news, and that's the last time I remember it working. When the connection cut out on him and he asked me what was going on, I had to explain that we were borrowing Internet from the neighbors and it didn't always work so well. His reaction was, "Well, that's no good." That was just over a month ago. Since then, my home has been sans Internet.1

Now, I could pay $50 a month for Internet access at my place if I really, really wanted to. But the thing about living for six months on $9,050.63 is that it makes one do a fair amount of thinking about which things it is that one really, really wants. And I'm no longer convinced that I do.

When school started, Alex oniugnip gave me a wonderful present of a big LCD monitor. It lives on my desk in the middle of my apartment. When I'm home, I plug it into my laptop. I plug the desktop keyboard and mouse into the laptop, too. I have all my stuff, but I can't get online. There's nothing to do but be productive.

My laptop travels hither and thither with me from home to school. When I'm at school, I read mail, poke at the blagotubes, and commit to version control the stuff I was working on at home. I might get a little bit of actual work done at school, but it doesn't happen often. There are too many distractions, and besides, why would I want to work hunched over a laptop with a 15-inch screen when I can just go home, light some candles, and work on a glorious wide 24-inch display with OmniGraffle and TeXShop and Emacs and Emacs and Emacs all next to each other and not even fighting for room? And no distractions? O frabjous day!

I'm not making any grand claims that I can get by for long periods without Internet access. I'm at school and online every day, for work and play, sometimes for hours. I'm aware that this no-Internet-at-home thing would be infeasible if I didn't have another convenient place to go online. All I'm saying is that I don't have Internet at home and that it works out fine.

I've been forced to find new and wonderful ways to procrastinate. Never does my mail sit unopened. Never does the air pressure in my bike tires drop below 75 psi. I buy dried beans, soak them, and cook them myself instead of buying the canned pre-cooked variety. Eight years after starting it, I actually finished reading The Scarlet Letter. And: I write. I've got a monster essay in progress about computer science, the liberal arts, and women, if I can ever collect the rest of my thoughts enough to get them written down.

But, see, here's the thing, and here is why I doth protest so much: when people find out that I don't have Internet at my place, they always react negatively. Starting with my dad on September 1, and continuing with everyone else since then, the assumption has always been that I wish I could have it, that I would have it if I could.

Now, to be fair, I didn't choose this -- it's a situation I found myself in. And I reacted negatively, too, at first. Since then, I've come to embrace it -- but nobody seems to believe that. They think I'm lying, or that I'm fooling myself. And -- and this is really the heart of the matter -- I think they're actually embarrassed for me.

You've all read Bridge to Terabithia, right? Remember how Leslie couldn't do the homework assignment because her family didn't have a TV, and how everyone else in the fifth grade assumed it was because they couldn't afford one? Her enemies laughed at her; her friend was embarrassed for her. Not having a TV was a class marker.

Among my peers in Bloomington in 2008, it is socially innocuous for someone to not own a TV. I don't have one. My peers -- and my parents -- either respect me for it or, much more likely, just don't react at all. But I don't think we're so enlightened when it comes to the Internet thing. I think that not having high-speed internet access at home in Bloomington in 2008 is a class marker for my peers, just like not having a TV was a class marker for fictional eleven-year-olds in rural Appalachia in 1977. I think that not having Internet at home is viewed as lower-class.

So, I'm outing myself as a person who doesn't have Internet access at home. It happens to be a willing choice, but that shouldn't really matter. And, y'know, maybe next week or next month or next year, I'll change my mind and call Comcast. Who knows? The point is that it shouldn't affect anyone's opinion of me, either way. I mean, what are we, eleven?

  1. Yeah, that means that if it's, say, for instance, 2:05 a.m. and I'm posting on LiveJournal, then I'm at school. Probably either at the library or in the Abyss1.

  1. The Abyss is a room in Lindley Hall, and it's almost certainly the best feature of the building. It's on the first floor, more or less -- but you have to go up to the second floor in order to get into it or out of it. Kind of like writing the Ackermann function in continuation-passing style.

From: circumstances
2008-10-10 11:01 am (UTC)
Wow, great post!
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[User Picture]From: underwhelm
2008-10-10 11:05 am (UTC)
In other words, you can live with your living space outside the cloud because you're enjoying the fruits of being otherwise surrounded and permeated by it.

It's no big deal because your cloud provider, IU, isn't going to trawl your communications looking for a reason to terminate your occupation and livelihood, and you can avail yourself of it at any hour.

You're not saying you're voluntarily renouncing the internet lifestyle, just that you can enjoy it to its fullest for $50/month less—except the part where you do it on the toilet. It clearly doesn't make you a luddite, but of all the trappings of a luddite lifestyle it's got to be #1 on the Family Feud survey.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-10 04:48 pm (UTC)
You're correct on all points, as usual.
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From: rmfleming
2008-10-10 01:23 pm (UTC)
so what you need to do is read up on "third space" and let me know what you think.

I don't have the internet at home and I don't get nearly so much done. Damn.

I joke that I live in a cave. I like it. No cable, no internet, no dishwasher. When my garage door opener broke, I didn't even think about fixing it. I can open the freaking garage door with my own damn hands.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-10 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm anti-dishwasher, too. Washing dishes is, like, the only household chore I enjoy. The calming sound of the water, the warmth -- they're nice.

Third space? Third place? This? I did it all the time back in Portland, when I got cabin fever working around the house but I didn't have an office to go to. It's different now -- I can work in the library or the CS building, and I can bring my own food and drink from home. I cringe to think of how much I used to spend on coffee-shop muffins and the like.
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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2008-10-10 02:57 pm (UTC)
Hope you're enjoying the view from your high horse.

Of course people react negatively. Your lifestyle isn't possible for most people, because they a) work in a place where they can't or shouldn't use the Internet for personal purposes, or b) work from home and need to use the Internet for work purposes. I guess all these folks are "distracted" and unproductive.

Although I work 50-60 hours a week at a studio that has Internet, which I sometimes use for personal purposes, I also do freelance work from home, which requires me to communicate with and deliver projects to clients using the Internet.

I buy dry beans and soak them because it's less expensive that way, not because of some holier-than-thou thing. If I didn't save money in this way, I probably wouldn't be able to afford things like the external display that I bought MYSELF.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-10 04:45 pm (UTC)
I guess all these folks are "distracted" and unproductive.

Not at all. I'm not making any claims about other people's distractability, only about mine.

Of course people react negatively. Your lifestyle isn't possible for most people

Well, I haven't heard anyone express anything like envy. I've heard them express embarrassment for me and disappointment with me, and that's what I'm writing about here.

But I do think I'm extremely lucky that I get to live in the way that I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am. As complaints go, the social stigma against not having Internet at home is a small one.
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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2008-10-10 08:30 pm (UTC)
Your attitude struck me as self-righteous. Maybe it's not actually.

I just find it hard to believe that you are so distracted by the presence of wifi that you can't be productive. How did you work from home for so long if that were the case?
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-11 08:29 pm (UTC)
How did you work from home for so long if that were the case?

The nature of the work was different. A big part of my job was having Skype or IM conversations with people, or updating the wiki we all used, or reading or writing mail. And when I was writing code, my commits had to be frequent because I was working on a team.

I did get distracted, often. But the work was such that I could interleave work and non-work activities. I can't really do that with the work I'm trying to do now.
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From: gorthx
2008-10-10 03:36 pm (UTC)
Dang, I'm envious! If I could get my job & other "work" done (open source projects) without having it at home, I would. You are right about the distractions - I am re-instituting my limits on my time on-line, and re-starting my "one internet-free night a week" thing. It can be a real time sink.
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[User Picture]From: tornadogrrrl
2008-10-10 03:57 pm (UTC)
martin says to make sure you know that WEP is the same thing as open, plus or minus a few minutes to crack it after you take a few hours to install aircrack-ng. alternately, devoting a few gigs to a backtrack image would speed that installation and offer other useful tools.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2008-10-10 06:07 pm (UTC)
aircrack has never, ever worked for me.
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[User Picture]From: pixelherder
2008-10-11 08:01 am (UTC)
Not to mention that they might simply not be as savvy as we are about what's crackable these days and how to secure a network. Freeloading off an AP that was called something like "freeforall" and left open is one thing. But I'd take a password as a sign that I'm not invited, even if I could easily crack it.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-11 08:20 pm (UTC)
I feel the same way.
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2008-10-10 05:22 pm (UTC)
At first, and particularly judging from others' reactions, it appeared to be a major issue. But in fact it turned out to be a minor inconvenience which then became an opportunity to use your time in new ways.

Attitude adjustment. It's a wonderful thing.

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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2008-10-10 08:31 pm (UTC)
This is not an attitude adjustment. Lindsey made a discovery, not an adjustment.
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2008-10-11 05:51 am (UTC)
The two are not mutually exclusive. Call it what you want. I call it an attitude adjustment.

The post made me think of my friend Katrina who is a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana, South America; her Internet access is via an Internet cafe, and she has learned how to live without certain things most of us consider essential, and WITH other things most of us would freak out about. Recently she noted some preferences:

1. Running Water vs. Electricity
Hands down running water takes the cake. I mean, if a fridge doesn't factor into this equation, there is zero competition! I would take using my torch for a couple extra hours over fetching ridiculous numbers of buckets of water each day.

2. Rats vs. Bats
Bats. Sure there is the risk of glaucoma in the long term, but if you have experienced the rats brushing past your foot as they run out the door and eating holes in your fruit, you would prefer to see the bats roosting in the rafters too. Or sleeping in the base of the sliding glass door. Whatever.

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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-11 08:17 pm (UTC)
1. Running Water vs. Electricity
Hands down running water takes the cake.

I agree. Following the high winds a few weeks ago, I didn't have power at my place for three days. I hauled my perishable food off to the CS department fridge (I didn't want to throw it out -- I had a block of parmesan in the freezer that accounted for 10% of my monthly grocery budget), ate peanut butter and crackers, and lit candles for light, and I was fine. But if I hadn't been able to take showers, I would have been very unhappy.
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2008-10-12 08:09 pm (UTC)
Others might have been unhappy as well. Katrina writes, quoting from a book of stories from RPCVs (returned Peace Corps veterans): an optimist sees the glass half full, the pessimist sees the glass half empty, and the PCV sees the glass halfway filled and says, "hey, I could take a bath with that"
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[User Picture]From: stacy_bird
2008-10-11 06:45 pm (UTC)
"Well, I haven't heard anyone express anything like envy. I've heard them express embarrassment for me and disappointment with me, and that's what I'm writing about here."

If you haven't heard it yet, here it is. I'm jealous! I really did enjoy living in my 3 person St Johns home sans internet by choice. There is a certain happiness, for me at least, in having to go for a walk or bike ride to get to an access point. Since there are loads of free ones in Portland not requiring the purchase of muffins (read as libraries, personal telco park sites, etc) this doesn't have to hurt the pocketbook either. Having internet at home makes me seek out human company less. I like people and being outside far more than I've ever liked sitting in front of a screen.

Speaking of, while net access is a useful tool, I'm going to go play outside while the sun is out, and come back to this thought when it is raining. ;) Which may not be for a week or two!

Much love!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-10-11 08:31 pm (UTC)
I often dreamed of being able to sit in a park and work, but I couldn't think of any place where I would be comfortable enough to really get anything done. You're probably better at that than me. My porch made a good substitute, though.
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