Wednesday, February 18, 2009

one year, already?

it was a year ago today when i stumbled across phone losers of america.

the way i found it was random enough: i was bored one night, and clicking my way through wikipedia. one of the random articles i stumbled across had something to do with telecom, and one of the links on that article pointed to the wikipedia page on phone phreaking. i had no idea what phone phreaking was, but had been idly wondering ever since i read jonathan lee riches ©'s brilliant lawsuit against 50 cent. in that lawsuit, jlr© claims that old fitty stole his lyric, "a phone phreaker, comin out your home speakerz." so, i clicked the link, read about what a phone phreaker was, and saw the links at the end. one of them was to phone losers, i clicked on the link, and i was up until 4am the next morning listening to prank calls on the site. i blogged it the next morning, and then stayed up absurdly late the next night listening to even more of the calls and reading the content on the site.

at first, i was hesitant to do any more than just listen to the stuff. i knew it was hilarious, but this phone phreaking stuff sounded a little dangerous. i was a third-year law student at the time, about ready to go through the background check from hell, and the last thing i needed was the character and fitness examination finding out that i'm active on some hacker board and deciding that was good cause to deny me a law license. i kept reading the website and listening to the calls. i even started reading the forums, but i didn't dare make an account or post there.

this resolve lasted all of about four days. i decided i had enough junk on the internet about me. i had a blog called the last refuge of the persecuted crack smoker, and even though i was no longer a regular poster on xoxohth/autoadmit, i had been an extremely-not-anonymous regular there for most of my second year of law school and that summer between second and third year. there was enough junk on the internet that could sink me, what was one more site? i made myself an account on the forums, started posting, and then started hanging out in the irc chat room.

i had no idea at the time what a good call that was.

i knew that i was going to have some good times. the phone mobbing and skype conferencing was fun to get started with. i was never a big prank caller when i was a girl, so i made up for some lost time and much hilarity ensued. however, the effects it has had beyond prank calling have been more than i could have possibly hoped for.

the talks in irc are a lot of fun. despite the random trolls that come in and out of the chat room, i've met some really great people in #phonelosers. some of you, i've met in person through hacker cons or through proximity to chicago. some of you, i haven't, but hopefully will someday. either way, i love the conversations we have there, be they serious, silly, or a little of both.

another effect was the rebirth of my interest in computers. sparked by conversations i had on irc and aim with trevelyn i tried out that "linux" thing that he kept talking about. i had heard of it, but never quite had enough confidence to go through with wiping windows and putting a new operating system on a computer. i gave it a shot, and figured out pretty quickly that my aging laptop ran a lot better with linux on it than it did with windows on it. learning to configure and get stuff to work on linux, in turn, led me to an interest i had pursued fervently back in seventh and eighth grade, but not done much with since: computer programming. i started picking up bash scripting because i needed to learn it to understand how to configure my system. i also started learning python...well, i don't quite remember why i picked up python, but i wanted to pick up a language that was good for things other than linux systems administration, in case i got any interesting ideas for non-sysadminny things that i wanted my computer to do. i'm not a linux or programming guru yet by any means, but i sure am kicking myself for going from the age of fourteen to the age of twenty-five without programming.

it was also through the people on phone losers that i heard about 2600 meetings. i had heard vague bits and pieces about the magazine or the meetings in the past, but didn't quite know what they were. they kind of sounded like fun, though, so i started going to them when i moved back to chicago. it was a little weird going to one since it was my first irl hacker meeting or event. still, i had been chatting with a couple of people in the irc, and they knew i was coming, so i went. the first one was fun, but a little weird. i felt like everyone knew more than me, and i felt very self-conscious about being a noob. still, there were some friendly people, and the talk [a prototype of the agreement talk that jaku and zack gave at shmoocon] was fun, so i kept attending. the more i went, the more new people i met, and the more comfortable i got there. it was at a 2600 meeting that eric told me about pumping station: one, the hackerspace in the works. that's been such an exciting project so far...the space planning itself has kept me extremely busy, and hanging out regularly with such a creative, interesting, and adept group of people has inspired me to spend my free time working on ideas that are idly bouncing around my head instead of just letting them bounce for the rest of time. being able to do that has made me a lot more confident about my abilities to do just about everything, and it has done a lot to get me started on a new phase of adult life after school, instead of spending lots of my time lazing about and telling myself that i just moved back here, and i'll find something else to do in my spare time soon.

finally...Rob. out of all the things i thought would happen as a result of posting on a prank phone calling message board, i had no idea it would lead me to meeting a significant other, much less one as unspeakably awesome as Rob. i had a vague idea of who he was before i went to hope back in july. he was some guy who made some funny calls, wrote some zine articles, and had been around phone losers for a really long time. however, i didn't know him, since he really never hung out in irc or on the forums much. some guys from phone losers were giving a talk at hope, and as early as march some of the people on the forums decided there should be a phone losers meetup there. i had the bar exam coming up a week and a half after the con, and was considering not going. i finally decided i needed a break before the final bit of studying, and i booked my ticket. i was just as nervous as i was for my first 2600 meeting, since i figured that i'd be meeting up with all these proficient hackers, and i'd be the only noob there. still, i did it. what parts of the con i actually went to didn't live up to the scariness that had build up in my mind. i met lots of awesome people, both from the phone losers boards and not [i'm talking to you, c4bl3]! i had fun at the con, and i didn't feel like i was in way over my head. i had so much fun at it that i've been bitten by the con bug, and want to go to as many as possible despite my relative noobishness.

however...i spent most of that con hanging out with Rob and getting to know him, and i have spent most of the time since the con either hanging out with him or looking very forward to the next time i'd get to hang out with him. he's smart, he's fascinating, and our weird senses of humour match up...to the extent that he gave me a spatula as a six-month-iversary present. Rob is awesome.

wow, that one-year retrospective got insanely long, so i will end it here. the long and short of it is...my life's a lot cooler now that it was before i stumbled across phone losers a year ago. thanks.

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