20 July, 2005

Yes, that's right, it's the ocean again but doesn't it look so much bigger now?

Our long path from New York.

Tonight it was big band night. Still no sign of punk rock. I'd settle for second generation ska at this point.

This is the main lobby which is actually the first room you see when entering the ship. Pretty majestic for something that floats.

Here we see the glass elevators that go beyond the top of the high-ceiling lobby.

A view down one of the endless hallways leading out from the main lobby.

Might as well show you what my room actually looks like from the entrance. There's a bathroom to the left and an obscured balcony beyond the curtain.

The view from the balcony back into the room.

We're past the halfway point!

This is the large space on top of the boat where I used the satellite phone for "Off The Hook." I was the only person up there for most of the show.

20 July, 2005

Day 4. If there's a theme to this journey, it's going to be small contained spaces. Here on the boat I have my own little cubicle which actually isn't so bad - I'm sure my hotel room in London will be much more cramped. And then it's on to a tent of some sort in Holland during the hacker conference, a train compartment on the Trans Siberian, and I can only imagine what awaits in China and Japan. And then another boat compartment for the long journey over the Pacific. What a contrast that part of the voyage will be. No bars, casinos, concerts, or thousands of other passengers to pass the time with. I'm quite looking forward to it.

But here, I can wander all over the QM2 and find new places to explore with every attempt. Everywhere you look, there's some sort of bar, club, or lounge with a particular sort of theme. And one thing I really like is the fact that doors never seem to be locked. If an establishment is closed, you can still go inside and hang out. You can go to the top of the boat like I just did in the middle of the night and nobody will harass you. Come to think of it, I haven't encountered a single security type anywhere. Oh I'm sure they're around. God knows there are enough cameras in this place. I counted four that could see me in a single part of a bar last night. I guess rich and powerful people really would make a stink if they kept getting intercepted by security everywhere they went. So security becomes discrete. Now if only the rest of us proles could figure out how to do that, life might become a bit more bearable for us as well.

We passed the halfway point today at around noon. I slept through it as I did my appointment to meet with the immigration people. That resulted in an "urgent" message being slipped under my door saying that Thursday would be my absolute last chance or else. The "or else" turns out to be having my name read out over a loudspeaker or something. I think the worst that could happen is that I might take longer to get off the boat than most of the others. Since we arrive in Southampton at around 6 in the morning, I doubt I'll be in a hurry to get anywhere. But since Thursday's appointment is at the far more reasonable hour of 4:00 pm, I really think I'll be able to show up. Unless of course I forget.

It was really weird looking out today at the ocean and thinking I saw land in the distance. Of course there was nothing there. But something made the water appear darker or higher way far away. It must be a real pain to be lost in the middle of the sea. I must remind myself never to do that.

It's also very odd to realize that you're out of reach from the rest of the world. No helicopter can make it this far out. Probably one of those water landing planes could. But if something bad were to happen, it would be quite a while before any sort of help could reach you. And by then it would surely be too late. A nice cheery thought to keep in my head as ocean madness begins to set in.

Speaking of cheer, I got the bad news about our latest distributor woes today which ironically forced me to deal with the crisis over the Internet which I'm trying to avoid like the plague due to its high cost. (Originally I thought it was $14 an hour but that was actually the half hour rate. An hour is actually $25.95. And I have this uneasy feeling that they're not so good at detecting when you've signed off. I'm summoning up the courage to look at my bill on the television sometime tomorrow after a few stiff drinks.) The crux of the matter is that one distributor totally ripped us off for a year's worth of issues and, as if that weren't enough, we had sales for the winter issue decline by a third because it wound up on the stands late and the spring issue got there on time. Most of the time, these are circumstances beyond our control. I only hope we don't get a snowball effect like we did the last time this happened in 1997.

One thing that cheered me up immensely was doing "Off The Hook" from the satellite phone while standing on the top deck of the boat. From my end the connection seemed quite good, it being the first time I'd ever used such a device. We lost the connection a couple of times: once due to a satellite issue and another time because of the WBAI phone system. But overall it went really smoothly and Redhackt did a great job engineering.

On top of everything else, we had to do fundraising tonight because of the WBAI financial crisis. We made a deal with the listeners which was basically a promise that we wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time begging for money if they brought us over $1000 in the first few minutes of the show. The response was staggering. It was over $2000 and counting by the time we were done, which was fantastic considering how many times we've had to ask for funds recently. It was also incredibly weird to be standing on top of the world's largest ocean liner in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean raising funds for the radio station back home - and succeeding. Many thanks to all of those who called in.

But there's more bad news. WBAI has decided to preempt us next week, despite our strong listener response and the fact that we had been planning a special program from the "What The Hack" site for many months with people from all over the world. I can only hope they come to their senses in time but I can't say I'm optimistic. Despite this frustration, I really hope people don't give up on the station. It's a vital outlet for people like us and for so many others.

So it's been a mixture of good and bad news from home as I move ever closer to my first destination. I'm just glad to still be in touch and I'm sure everything will work out somehow. You tend to become a lot more philosophical on the high seas which I suppose has its benefits.