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Editor's Note: All About Nothing, All About Everything

Mar 27, 2009, 23:02 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

Well here we are again, another good week gone by, and another welcome Friday. I'm tired and brain-dead, and looking forward to napping in the warm sun this weekend. I am definitely not complaining-- unlike 18% of the people in my county I have a job and a roof over my head. I am extra grateful right now for having a roof over my head because one of my friends doesn't-- her house burned down on Wednesday.

The county I live in is poor, and has been for decades. The population has been declining for years because family-wage jobs are scarce. This is about as nowhere as you can get-- no rail or bus, and only a small-craft airport. The nearest city of any size is a three-hour drive away.

You can build a good life here, if you like rural life and can make a living. I never did like city life much because to me it's insanity. Noise, stink, dominated by vehicles, human-hostile, and crowding people together like experiments with rats. Crowd them enough, they eat each other.

Firetraps Deluxe

So, getting back to my friend. A sizable percentage of the homes here are single- and double-wide trailers from the 1960s and 70s. They're called trailers even though virtually none of them ever move from their first location, and the trailer chassis is still there underneath. I wonder that some enterprising person doesn't mine old trailer parks as a rich source of old steel.

If you're not familiar with these, pre-1976 mobile homes are well-known firetraps. There was a time when people were sent to prison for arson when their trailers burned down, because fire investigators didn't believe that trailers could burn that hot and fast without accelerants. Finally some real investigation was done, and some real science applied, and they learned that no, they don't need help and are perfectly capable of burning unbelievably fast and hot, and can reach flashover faster than the occupants can reach the door. In fact it's the only thing they're good at, because they suck badly at being homes. In a saner world they'd all be condemned and gone.

People know all this, and yet these old trailers hang on because they're cheap. You can buy one in a trailer park for a couple thousand dollars, and rent the space it sits on for $150 per month including water, sewer, and garbage. You can rent a trailer for $300 per month.

My friend's place burned down from unknown causes-- it could have been the wood stove, a stray cigarette, or the wiring, which is always a horror story in those old trailers. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but she lost almost everything. We'll all pitch in and help, but it's an awful thing to lose your home that way.

What Does This Have to do With Linux?

I'm not sure because I'm still thinking it over. I have some half-baked thoughts on how Linux and FOSS reward people who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves, dig in, and learn something. I think that real hackers are hackers in multiple arenas, not just computers, because the essence of being a hacker is not being afraid to dive in and learn how things work, whether it's fixing a computer or building a fence. Or designing affordable housing that is not a death trap. 90% of learning is first believing you can learn, and having an open mind to new knowledge. The rest is observation, research, and trying things out. A person can learn an amazing amount just by looking at things and poking at them in different ways.

Then keep poking and improving and making things better.

Contrast that with why the economy here is so bad-- a lot of folks want it to be the way it was a hundred years ago. Those days aren't coming back, and they weren't that great anyway. All those emigrants flooding to this beautiful new unspoiled land, and then doing their best to ruin it beyond repair. Real life is adaptation and change; pining for the old ways doesn't accomplish much.

OK I'm done, now it's your turn to come up with some suitably deep thoughts. Or even shallow ones, I'm not picky :)