Grunion Moon (grunionmoon) wrote,
Grunion Moon

The hails of abuse

An important thing I've learned over the years has been to not let go of oddball questions. The old ragged encouraging saying, "There are no stupid questions," has always been not quite right, and we all kind of know it: there are some stupid questions, and you never know for certain whether your question may be one of them, until afterward. But, whether it's stupid or not, you don't know the answer, and it's the question you want an answer to. So the thing is to stick with it... and only abandon it if you find good reason to abandon it. Do not abandon it because lots of people are mocking the question, or insisting that another question is the right one, or insisting that you are actually already asking a different question.

Be prepared for things to take time.

I got off easy a few days ago: I asked a question of Google where the main barrier was the problem of how to phrase the search, and I happened across the answer in a day. Which was great, actually.

The thing is, I wanted to know which way the Earth was travelling, or at what time of day the part of the Earth where you are standing is pointed "forward" in the Earth's orbit.

(There are applications, panicky and unlikely and not really useful ones but applications nonetheless. If an asteroid or a comet is going to strike land a hundred miles or so from you, or at any rate where the combination of its size and the distance are presumably such that you might just barely make it through the ground shock and heat and the air blast in your underground shelter - is it going to bury you under tens of feet of ejecta blasted out of the earth - in other words bury you under a respectable percentage of the territory it struck? Or will that landscape be splashed in a different direction? Or in equal amounts in all directions? It depends on the angle at which the object hits, surely - and, although the object will have come in on its specific course, and that course will have been tipped toward the Earth in the end by gravity, a respectable component of the angle of impact may be determined by the fact that it would be hitting a moving target, the Earth, ticking along at thirty kilometers per second. So - when are you at the front end, or which direction is the front?) (Well, SOMEONE's got to worry about this stuff.)

I had been non-dim enough to know that "forward" on the Earth would either be toward sunrise or toward sunset (well, it couldn't be when we were facing toward the sun at noon or dead away from it at midnight, could it?). But I couldn't tell which one it was, sunrise or sunset, because I didn't know which way the Earth revolved with respect to its direction of travel. It could have been either, depending. Explaining this to Google took a while.

In the end the right combination of words brought this up, halfway down a list of responses:
Relative to the Sun, our average orbital speed is 29.786 km/s (around 67,000 mph).

Since our orbit is (almost) a circle, we move in a direction perpendicular to our orbital radius.

You can visualize the direction we travel in:

On one day, see where the Sun is around Noon (when the sun is due south).

Next morning, just as the sun rises (actually, 6 hours before the sun passes due south), point to where the sun was at noon the previous day. That's the direction you (and the rest of us) are heading at that particular moment.

As the Sun appears to cross the sky, our "heading" will always be 90° ahead of the Sun.

If you live near the equator, and you are standing up at sunrise, then you are going "head first" with the Earth following you. At sunset, you are going feet first, with the Earth "ahead" of you.

So now I knew where we were going. But before that, I had had to bear through a whole lot of answers about the direction of the Earth that were not what I meant, that referred to various other things - the fact that Earth orbits the sun, the circularity of Earth's orbit, the direction the entire solar system is travelling, etc.

Fortunately those answers weren't insulting.

Frequently they are. Recently it took the free moments of two days to find an answer, and the way was heaped with abuse. Fortunately the abuse was not aimed at me, because I was just passively looking, but it had been aimed at people who had dared to ask their question out loud.

My laptop has periodically been going very slow - nearly freezing, more usually windows will not change except with long waits, etc.

I had noticed that, at these times, when I looked in the Task Manager, nothing was taking up a percentage of resources except for the System Idle Process, which was hovering between 95% and 100%.

So I went looking online for complaints of the same thing. I found many such complaints, on tech-help forums.

My God, the mockery. Over and over, responders denounced the questioners for ignorance. With partial good reason, as I soon found out. The System Idle Process isn't something that "uses resources"; on the contrary, it shows how much of the processor's capacity is unused and available. So a System Idle Process of 100% means that the CPU is supremely unburdened and ready to serve you.

Over and over this was pointed out - along with what idiots these people were. The old saw "pack your computer up and take it back to the store, because you're too stupid to use a computer" was dragged out. "The System Idle Process isn't hogging your system, moron!!!!" Ah, yes, techies tend to be a type.

But what the techies were not focusing on, in the manner of people who jump on microscopic questions of semantics as if they contained the formula for the Philosopher's Stone - and what was being emphasized by every person who was actually complaining about this situation - was that the computers in question were indeed bogging down and going incredibly slow.

Which meant that the nature of the System Idle Process only made this more puzzling. The computer is specifically NOT occupied with anything - and it's going slow...

Mercifully, deep down in the response threads were a very few responses from knowledgeable people who did indeed see the entire situation described, and who knew what would match it. Under these circumstances, they said, the problem is apt to be drivers on the computer, aggressively-written drivers for certain devices. By "aggressively written", they meant that the device drivers would request that the CPU periodically stop and pay attention to them for intervals of time much, much longer than drivers should really ask for - even thousands of times longer. Enough of those interruptions and long latencies, and voila - a bogging-down CPU that is not busy with a damn thing.

I downloaded a free latency monitor one of them suggested, ran it, looked at all the tall red spikes, and went into my Device Manager to disable this and that and see what happened to the spikes. The problem is actually the wireless card I plug in to the laptop. I'm letting it be for the moment.

These sorts of mistaken takes on the nature of the question are usual, at first blush - with anything. Come up with a new idea, or read about a new idea, and try to explain it to someone. You may succeed, but, especially if the idea is quite a new departure, you may first have to bear through a whole lot of pronouncements about the area that may still be true, but that are none of them what this idea actually bears on. The insults are frequent too.

And complex and ideological subjects are just as rife with them - but with no assurances of solid handholds to cling to. Worse than all of us bawling incommensurably different social and economic assumptions at each other (but also funnier) is all of us MISUNDERSTANDING the things that other people are saying to us, and coming back at them with Koozebanian boilerplate that is allegedly responsive - and appending "you dense, tendentious, obsessively myopic dunderheads!!!"

Tread with caution, and with listening patience. None of this is easy.
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