Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ears on the World

We form much of our world view via input into the two ear holes in the sides of our heads. Through them we  funnel random and indiscriminate palaver broadcast from our  VHF and Single Side Band radios dials. On the Armed Forces Radio Network, we can hear parts of All Things Considered, so we have a date there most every day at 4PM.

I was sitting at the computer  hoping for any internet at all via a new Digicel SIM card and the first cell tower we’ve seen in weeks.  A  program came on about a new movement of Slow (Inter)Netters. These are people who revel in the pleasures of Internet connection at 14.4 dial-up speeds. This is about the speed I’ve been dealing with a lot in Colombia, so they had my attention.

What is there to like about a slow internet?  The meditative rate at which the screen loads, matching the optimum rate of human thought, the slower pulse rate, the savorable perception of time, according to one study. I forget the rest, except for the mention of a lead-lined coffee shop where no smartphone could intrude. I was aghast, but I tried hard to  to see the Zen of this point of view, because I need the Zen of it.

Slow food? Of course, whenever possible. We certainly participate in the slow boat work movement. I hand-sand varnished trim and enjoy watching the golden-eyed low spots disappear beneath 220-grit paper. We tootle merrily along at 4 knots when much of the world does 70 or more. But didn’t these Slow people realize what a blessing, what a gift, a zippy internet connection is? Why un-invent the wheel? Personally, my heart rate goes up as the internet speed goes down, and the time I have wasted doesn’t bear thinking about. The only benefit to me of being an involuntary Slow-Netter is that I sometimes practice chord shapes and strums on my ukulele as I wait.

I was really challenged to think anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to the curse of a sputtering, underpowered internet.  It wasn’t until my head hit the pillow late that night that I suddenly realized I’d been had; April Fool-ed. Good one, National Public Radio!

Also heard on the radio – the local SSB net - was the comment that vessels should skip the Vivorillos Cays – a sprinkling of islands not far from Cabo Gracias a Dios where you’d turn to head to or from Honduras and Guatemala from Panama. The report (second-hand) was that the flies there were intolerable due to a shark slaughter that had taken place.  There’s a lot of unsupervised activity  including fishing, on those banks, I thought just for shrimp and conch. But that season is supposedly closed for March, April and May. So if the fly report is true, shark is the new target. Conservation efforts aren’t having much impact here.

Laura Dekker, the young (16?) Dutch girl who is trying to set a circumnavigation record, passed through the San Blas recently. We overheard a conversation wherein  someone tried to fix her up with a  bunch of TV and print reporters, in Colon. I was impressed to hear her say “That’s  not part of my plan.” I wish I’d been that focused at that age. Ah, but when I had a chance I looked at her website and learned she hadn’t been able to avoid the interviewers after all. http://www.lauradekker.nl/English/News.html

And, I’d like to also mention that we listen to the ambient soundscape – surf, breeze, very occasional birds, the whistle or ‘hola’ of an approaching cayuga. We listen to each other, and to silence, at times. Sometimes the radio is just too much!

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