A Day in the life of a Netjunky

The Tokyo Institute of Technology
Author's note: This piece was written in late 1993, when I was doing my Ph.D. at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in Tokyo, Japan.
You get up at four thirty in the morning, and catch the first 6.04 express to the university, change trains and by 6.22 am you're at the door of the lab. You fumble with the keys to open the door. As soon as the door is open, first thing you do - first thing you do, is switch on the computer. As the computer starts up, you realize you haven't even put down your bag yet, haven't removed your coat yet, not even switched on the room light. As you do those things, the computer is ready.

And thats how my day begins. I find myself mumbling under my breath. Yeah, let me log on to the soc-gw server, should be faster in the early morning ... login:hari password:******** ... start email server ... one, two three, four ... wow, there are 23 messages waiting for me. I scroll down to the end, checking the index listing ... click, click ... my mouse races ... Hi! Liked your homepage very much. It really helped me the other day when I had to write a paper on developing countries - thanks for having put that info. ... yeah sure. I hit the reply button ... Thanks for your reply. I am glad you have found the homepage useful. If there is anything else I can do for you, glad to oblige ... Send button.

Click click ... Hi, Hari! Long time, man! How have you been? Meet in Ropponggi on Friday? ... sheesh, these guys. Is that all that they think I have to do? ... forget it ... click click ... Hello there! I wonder if you could help me out. I am looking for the address of SEWA whose case studies you have posted in your homepage. I need it to ... yeah, sure. I don't even read the entire message ... reply button. click, click ... thanks for your email. Here is the address you were looking for ... click click ... BBBbeeeeeppPPPPP ... Mailer daemon ... click click ... Error: User not found. While talking to: ... send to thrashcan ... if they don't know how to use email properly, they don't deserve an answer ... click, click ... hi! I have this new homepage that you might want to add to your homepage ...http://www.asd.fer.as ... click, click ... Starting Netscape ... open http:// ... 8 seconds later its on the screen ... scroll, scroll, click, click. Not so bad, ma-ma desu kedo, has some good info ... OK, bookmark ...open source file ... <a href="http://www.asd.bpcm.as">Best Practices in Community Management</a> ... fine, added that one to the homepage ... back to the email window ... Hi! thanks for suggesting the homepage. I have now added you to my homepage. If there is anything I can do for you ... Send button. click click ...

BBBbeeeeeppPPPPP ... You have new mail ... Digest no. 25 from INFOFRONT ... yeah, I know these guys ... they're so caught up in their own world, their own viewpoint, just can't accept that there's a whole WORLD out there. Gosh! ... scroll, scroll .. no point ... send to thrashcan ...

And then you look up. Sheesh, its already 9.00 am! The guys will be coming in anytime now. Better log off. They might need the Unix. Pick up the keys, go down to the second floor, and continue to junk in the terminal room. Click, click ... login:hari password:******** ... click, click. BBBbeeeeeppPPPPP! ... in the time it took me to go from the fifth floor to the second, two messages have come in ... click, click ... Hi Hari! I was wondering if you have the reference for the case study you put in your homepage ... No! not another one. Haven't they read the Chicago Manual? All they have to do is to go to the bibliography section of the homepage and find it. BUM. ... click, click ... Thanks for your email. Here is the reference you are looking for. More can be found in the bibliography section. Regards, ... click, click ... scroll, scroll, click, click ...

Look up at the clock again and now its 10.45 am. Two telephone messages to call them back are lying on my table when I get back to the lab. I ignore it. Having had my breakfast at 5.30 in the morning, my stomach is growling with hunger. Go down to Jiyugaoka and hog down some pizza at Shakey's. When I get back, my guilt gets the better of me and I return the telephone calls. Ah! the unix is free. Grab it! Click, click ... login:hari password:******** click, click ...

An hour later, one of the guys bring in the post. Lying on top is a letter from my old professor in Canada. He was with the Univ. of Calgary, and is now retired and living in Victoria ... Hello Hari. How are you? It has been a long time since I have heard from you. How is your studies? Ruth is still having her weekly visits to her doctor, hope she pulls through. ... I am sitting by the window as I write this letter, and not far away, I can see the ships streaming into the Victoria harbour, sailboats anchored closer to the shore. I like it here in Victoria - better than the bitter cold in Calgary. Heard from Robert recently. He returned from Australia, leaving behind, I suspect, a broken heart in Sydney.

I stop reading. The images are flooding in, of large ships in the Victoria habour, Rob and I hogging up bowls of noodles in Bangkok at midnight, Prof. Robinson scratching his beard every time I ask him something. Pick up the letter again ... Monica came to see me the other day. She will be finishing her Ph.D. soon. Ahh! Monica. More memories flooded in. She had helped both of us out in a report.

I look out from my window on the fifth floor and way down below, I can see the nearby nursery school children playing peek-a-boo with each other behind a large planter - aaaaaahhhhh !!! they go like jack-in-the-box every time a kid runs up to the planter. All have the same pick hat. Their teacher joins then too, aaaaaahhhhh !!! An old woman walking her dog pauses to watch the kids, a smile on her face.

I finish editing an article I am writing. Someone wants a paper for a conference in South Africa ... thank you for your invitation to write a paper for the upcoming conference. I would be glad to do so. The tentative title is ... gosh, it takes such an effort to complete the covering letter. Print it out, fold the letter carefully three ways, scribble the address on the envelope. "Yubinkyoku ittekimasu" I shout, and go over to post the letter. There's a queue at the post office, and I have to wait until its my chance. "Ah, Hari-san, shibaraku desu ne" the clerk calls out. There's a bit of a scramble as she figures out how much it is to South Africa. Why on earth didn't those conference people get an email from somewhere. Would have saved me a trek and a half to the post office.

I get back to the lab. Click, click ... login: hari password:******** ... starting Netscape ... scroll, scroll, tap, tap, tap ... I add a few of the case studies I had written up last night, and include them in the "What's New on the Homepage!" section. Couple of typos to be edited and email to be sent too ... Hello! I would like to share with you a web resource that I have been maintaining. Its called the ... send button - click, click ... BBBbeeeeepppPPPPP!!! You have new email ... click, click ... I am a researcher with an NGO in Cambodia. Since we don't have web access, I was wondering if you could send us the articles from your homepage by email ... Gosh, I didn't even know they had email in Cambodia. Routed through Bangkok probably ... click, click ... yes, sure! I would be glad to help. Attached is a list of the titles. Please choose the ones you need and let me know ... Crtl-F: Attach file ... documents.html ....

8.30 pm. Click, click ... logout ... Logout: Are you sure? [y/n] Yes. Go down to the Chinese noodle shop behind the railway station. I stare at the steam from the bowl, trying to see if I can see my future. It only manages to cloud my contact lenses. A noisy group of students at the next table laugh at some joke. My eyes ache. Can't even look at the TV they have there. I pay up and go home. Got to get back at 6.22 am tomorrow.

That night I dream of multiple windows open on my computer screen, trying desperately to find the email I am writing to Prof. Robinson. He doesn't even have email access.

Hari Srinivas

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