The Bees are Back
Tuesday, July 20, 1999 by Dave Winer.
I've been sick since Sunday, bed-ridden with something flu-like, or maybe cold-like, it doesn't matter what you call it, it's kept me offline, coming in and out of consciousness, feeling miserable, but in a way, enjoying the break from the pace of mind-activating work on websites and editorial tools and keeping my servers running and fielding numerous complaints from well-meaning people who are losing patience. But sickness comes first, and I relax in the luxury of just tuning out.
Jesse Berst, in his AnchorDesk column today, says that working stiffs just call in sick when they need a break. This is half the story. The other half is that bodies get sick when the spirit needs a rest. When I get sick I ask that question of myself. Are you really happy with what you're doing? The answer is absolutely no. I want it to be a lot better. I want more help, more reliable servers, more talented and responsible people to work with, an easier path, a more loving life, more contact with my own and other people's humanity.
Hey on Friday at a BBQ, the Bees are back. Every year I write about them when they reappear. Every year they teach a different lesson. This is *my* holiday, one I share with my fellow Silicon Valley outdoorsmen. It's not like Christmas or the death of a prince or princess, or a war in the Balkans, you won't see the Bees on the cover of Time, or on Larry King. They are my issue, and mine alone. This feels good! The Bees are personal. Thank you.
Anyway the timing of my sickness was perfect to tune into the national hand-wringing over the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. It's just the right kind of story for my numbed-out mind. Breaking news? Hardly. It's been an exercise in no-news. Synthetic grief. How could anyone who didn't know the guy truly feel grief? Where is that coming from? A sense of collectivism, that Barbara Walters and John Glenn are somehow members of our family, but listen to the words they use. Stop and think, at the end of every sentence they utter, how much truth is there in what they're saying? None. It's all just a dream, no reality.
And it's also the 30th anniversary of the moon landing. The same talking heads speak in hushed reverence of the deep feelings they experienced when Neil and Buzz walked on the moon. What bullshit! Hey I was alive in 1969, I was fourteen years old. At the time, watching the moon men on TV, I tried to conjure up a sense of history, but I realized even at that tender age, that all I was witnessing were some lines on a cathode ray tube. Nothing actually was happening. Hey I believe the story, I believe there were actually men walking on the moon that day. But did I experience it? No way. I was at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Here's what was real. I made out with a beautiful young woman, both of us at the breach of puberty, and experienced the high of huge amounts of testosterone and endorphins, and the sweet smell of youthful femininity. To me, that was much more real than any supposed walk on the moon.
At the same time, there have been a spate of articles on the web about how the web isn't really making that many people rich. Wired had a great article yesterday categorizing Internet people into thirteen different classes. All this followed a hardware failure last week that has me using a defective laptop that has a broken shift key. All my hardware vendor can say is "Use the other shift key." Oh sure, reprogram my 20+ year-old neural pathways so they can save $49 on a junky piece of plastic. Hey, remind me never to buy another Dell product. No need to remind me. After buying eight expensive systems from them over the last two years, I've learned my lesson. They break, and they waste huge amounts of my time to fix them. I'm looking for a local dealer who cares. Good luck! When Computer Plus of Sunnyvale closed umpteen years ago, that was it. All we have in the way of local computer stores is Fry's and I know for a fact that they don't care. I was in there last weekend shopping for a wireless LAN. I tried an experiment. I asked one of the sales people if he knew anything about the products on the shelf I was staring at. Very politely he said "No sir." I smiled and said "Of course, I knew that."
Hey I'm having a great time writing this piece. It's turning into quite a rambler. There's something relaxing about getting it off your chest. And I can be thankful that I'm not this sick when there's a heat wave like the one we had last week. Then there would have been no relief. Now I have tea and a hot tub and central heating to get my temperature back in the normal, even comfortable range. And I'm not even minding that the shift key is making me backspace over words to correct capitalization errors. It's not so bad with prose, but try working on code when the compiler is barfing over 0's that were really supposed to be right parentheses.
Which brings us to the case of Chris Nolan, columnist for the San Jose Mercury-News. She's been suspended over what appears to be a trivial and well-handled tiny conflict of interest. Chris and I have had our differences, but it's always been in the domain of two opinionated people, wanting to deliver the best value to our readers. I like reading her columns. If the Merc doesn't reinstate her I'm sure some other publication will pick up her column. Will the Merc be able to look down at them? Nah. They've made their point. They care about integrity. This is good. Now they should show care for their readers, who appreciate Chris's biting commentary. You never know who she's going to go after next! I speak from experience, being one who has been so honored by Ms. Nolan. It's fun being trashed. (Sort of.) Bring her back. Let's get on with it.
I already feel better. Maybe I'll make a few phone calls, maybe I'll write some new scripts. I have a blank new server here, a dual CPU 500 Mhz Pentium III, 512MB, with a freshly installed NT Server 4. Unlike my other servers this one is fast (it's not carrying a load right now). Nothing like a big blank machine to get you going in the morning.