07 November 2016

Noise, freedom, wheels

There is gunfire here, and...

I know, weird opening, but there was a scene in last night's The Walking Dead that looked exactly like the road outside my window. TWD is filmed in Georgia, so that's not really a surprise. Somewhere close lives someone who has zombie problems, has varmint problems, has a practice range, or all of the above-- I'm not well versed enough to identify a rifle shot only by its sound but I am convinced that whoever is pulling the trigger is armed to the teeth. Which is okay. It's not stupid noise, not random. It's hard to quantify, but I just have the sense that the gunfire I hear, here, has purpose. I certainly notice it, and my brain and nervous system and heartbeat all react to it. Somehow it doesn't feel like an immediate threat. Then again I don't go wandering far from the house on foot, even though there's enough land associated with the house to provide a sizable buffer zone, so perhaps there is some PTSD related caution going on.

I'm out in the sticks, obviously, on the far far (far) edge of what's loosely defined as "near Atlanta". Depending on where I'm going, and of course traffic, Atlanta proper is about 30-45 minutes away. Until this past weekend, I hadn't been "in Atlanta" since the last time I drove from Wisconsin to my sister's place in Florida. This past weekend I took her to an event near ATL, and then went to a hamfest in Lawrenceville GA-- the details aren't important. What does matter is that I spent the better part of Sunday driving in, through, and around Atlanta (for those of you keeping score, lots of I-75, I-85, and I-285) and it was pretty cool.

Okay, it was Sunday morning/afternoon, not Friday afternoon at 1630. Give me some credit anyway. I haven't spent all that much time in Atlanta traffic, but I've spent plenty of time in Chicago traffic (including in winter). More than once on Sunday, as I had to hit the brakes because traffic, I concluded that the likelihood of snow or ice falling from the sky made Atlanta still pretty nice to drive around in.

This brings up a bigger question-- actually several questions-- about where I'm going from here, where I want to be, etc.

With (a lot of) help from Google Maps I'm doing a decent job of getting around. Whereas Madison WI was pretty much a grid, and the scope of my travels every day stayed within a couple of square miles (I lived downtown, near campus), there's no grid here. Roads here are highways that go from point A (a given town) to point B (another given town). There is stuff in between, mostly located where roads from this town to that town intersect. Out of bread? It's a 20 minute drive to go get more. Ugh.

It's funny, though. I look back at Madison, and the walk to and from campus for work and class-- it (I) was miserable. It was a 1.2 mile walk mostly on a bike path, which meant I didn't need a car or the associated expenses. Traffic didn't ever really matter. Parking never mattered. The walking itself was exercise and that was of course good, but the walk-- the trip-- often was a nightmare. Every day, at some point walking towards campus, I'd come close to being hit by a car or truck or bus. I'd get honked at. People walking the opposite way wouldn't move an inch. People outside places smoking or whatever they were doing would stand pat and not move. Bikes-- technically, people on bikes-- would yell at me as they passed to "get the fuck out of the way" as if walking on a bike path was somehow illegal or immoral or both. Walking home I'd encounter the drunks, UW students, who were drunk enough to have courage. They'd say things. They'd wobble into my path, I'd push them away, and they'd think they wanted to fight.

I actually liked living in the city, liked being close to campus, because I never had to go far for anything. Groceries? Hardware store? Three blocks. Every kind of restaurant imaginable, within a mile's walk. Any kind of food delivered, almost any time of day with several really good places open until 0300. With that, though, came the constant stream of people walking past my apartment at any given hour of the day or night. Scream at your friends two blocks away on your way home from the bar? Yell at your who the fuck ever into your cellphone while standing in my apartment building's parking lot at 4am? Shoot fireworks from your porch outside my window? All acceptable, apparently. Downtown Madison was a noisy place, and people downtown and around campus didn't care about the noise. America's Greatest College Sports Town. Top Party School. Whatever-- I was in full on PTSD triggered mode much of the time.

Okay, maybe I didn't like living in the city so much after all.

So now I'm in a house with one two three four five bedrooms that's at minimum 20 minutes from anywhere. My sister lives here now; she's in the basement, and I have two rooms on the second floor. The room I'm sitting in now has a desk, so that's where the laptop and such live. It's almost as big by itself as my last apartment, and if you include the walk-in closet and the rather large bathroom it's bigger. When family-member-who-owns-the-house is here he has the large bedroom one door over that's about as big as three of my last apartments. When he's not, which is most of the year, that room is mine too. This is significant because it's stable, it's really nice, it's cheap, and because I can stay upstairs and keep to myself and have privacy and quiet. My sister is two floors away so I don't hear any noise she makes. Except for the occasional unexpected sound of firearms outside, and the occasional car that goes by, it's really quiet here (inside and out).

That "here" is out so far in the sticks means it's easy for me, or at least the part of me that's a city kid, to go a little stir crazy. I was going a little bit stir crazy in Madison too, because while I was out and going somewhere every day my life was in practice limited to the same area of the same city a large majority of the time. I like going places, exploring, discovering. I like being able to just go-- to just go somewhere, or nowhere, or anywhere other than here.

To do that, I need a vehicle. So I bought one.

It turned out that family here had a truck that wasn't being used, but that has a lot of miles and needs some body work. I'm not that much of a gearhead, but I can turn a wrench to tighten a bolt and epoxy a cracked thing as long as I have someone to call for advice (and sometimes rescue). The price was less than I expected, which helped, and in the absence of full time employment I need a project. Also at some point I have to make a trip back to Wisconsin to get some stuff-- clothes, but also a few other things. A truck means I can haul shit (and stuff) on my own instead of having to fly back and rent a U-Haul to get stuff here that's currently in Wisconsin-- for less money, and I have my own truck.

I've essentially been living out of my backpack (really nice house notwithstanding) since I moved out of my apartment in mid-August. This isn't a bad thing per se, but it imposes certain limitations on how much in terms of clothing and computing resources I can carry with me. I'm clothed but I have to do laundry every couple of days. I can do a lot of work with just my laptop, but the work related training I'm doing on my own could really be easier with some of the stuff I have sitting in storage.

At some point, I'm going to need something warmer to wear than just a hoodie, too. Even in Georgia.

I can't say for certain that I'm staying in Georgia. I can't say for certain that I'm leaving either-- I have no plans right now to go anywhere else. To me, right now, this place is as good as any other. I am from Wisconsin, and that won't change, but in light of everything that happened there I don't see a specific need to be there. The other side of the double edged sword that is freedom is that while every place has its charm, I'm not attached to anywhere. This place-- here--  is just another place.

That is perhaps why, when I hear the sound of someone outside shooting at whatever they're shooting at, it doesn't bother me all that much. Compared to where I most recently came from, the occasional sound of gunfire isn't that bad. That I now have a vehicle and at least freedom of both movement and stuff carrying ability is also a positive.

The question of school-- college or otherwise-- is still open. I am educating myself right now/again, studying (generally) information security and (specifically) how people exploit flaws in software for fun and profit. As I'm learning new things security related I'm going back to the hackathon projects I've worked on over the past few years, auditing my own work. It's admittedly ugly sometimes. I look at the code that I wrote, that's my fault, and I cringe for a minute before remembering that everything I wrote at (or after) every hackathon was something new that I learned. That I'm able to critically evaluate and penetration test code now that I wrote a couple of years ago says that my effort wasn't wasted.

I actually have a lot to say about PTSD and information security-- there are both parallels and intersections to explore. It'll have to wait, because my new truck has a really nice stereo and I'm really feeling driving around Georgia with the windows down and that stereo on for a few miles first.

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