Sep 21 2006

Fictionlet

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“Well,” said Alex, “compare just two items. The Macs had a little applet called ‘Oscar’ which, when they emptied their trash, would make a little animated Oscar the Grouch pop up and sing ‘I Love Trash’.”

“I had that!” said Brigid. “I used to love that.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Alex. “Anyway, Windows 95+ had something on a similar scale, which was a little VB thing you could put into your startup that would superimpose a silhouette of Joel and the Bots from MST3K over your wallpaper, and randomly play the occasional sound clip as if they were riffing on your work.”

“Heh,” said Brigid.

“Now, here’s the thing — the Oscar program was made for a Mac, so it was one of these ‘drag this into your startup folder and you’re done’ installs, fine and good. The Windows MST3K thing took a little more effort, because you had to have the Visual Basic DLL on your machine. Of course, that was simple to find on any file-sharing BBS, and all you had to do was drop it into your Windows directory, easy-peasy. But Mac people, being basically a bunch of effort-hating technophobes, would hiss and squeal and shrivel up into a little black raisin at even this much, crying about how Windows was so haaaarrrrd and rattling off a lot of nonsense about autoexec.bat and config.sys that they all got off of some Apple corporate white paper and didn’t even begin to really understand!”

“Ha!” said Brigid. “It hasn’t been that long since the days of Windows 95 — I remember watching people’s Windows computers crash and crash and crash, mouse drivers unexpectedly stop working, and the good old days of ‘plug and pray’. You’re not fooling me, mister!”

“Oh yeah,” said Alex, “all that stuff happened, I won’t deny it. But the thing is, Macs did all that crap too, but to hear Macvangelists talk, you’d think that reliable and useful computing on the Macs of the era was the norm, when I happen to know from hard personal experience that is was the rare, rare exception!”

“Ha!” said Brigid again.

“Well look, ask Greg,” said Alex. “I bet he remembers.” Turning to Greg, Alex said, “Well, what about you? What side did you take in the platform wars?”

Greg, who’d been in a kind of reverie, staring across the restaurant at a television set, raised his eyebrows. “Huh? Oh. Well, I was still at school and living off my parents’ life insurance in those days, so I certainly couldn’t afford a computer. I used to do all my word processing on the Unix mainframe, in the ‘vi’ editor. I still remember typing in ‘.ti5’ at the beginning of every paragraph to make line indents — man, what I wouldn’t have given for cascading stylesheets in those days! Or even just a copy of WordPerfect.”

Alex blinked at him for a moment, then suddenly started genuflecting in a wildly exaggerated manner and crying out, “We are not worthy! We are not worthy!”

“Eh?” said Greg.

-The Gneech

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Sep 19 2006

Fictionlet

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“Okay, I’ve got a question for you then,” Brigid said.

“Oh?” said Greg. “Fire away, young porcupine.”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to know just what it means to strike like thunderball. I gather it’s something that people who look at this world and want it all do … but that’s as far as I get.”

“Oh!” said Greg. “Well … it’s … um…”

“You don’t know either,” Brigid said.

“Certainly I do!” said Greg. “Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Well then what is it?”

“It’s … er…”

“Yes…?”

Greg blinked, moistened his lips and thought for a long moment. “No,” he finally said, tossing a hand into the air. “You’re right. I haven’t a clue. It’s utter gibberish as far as I can make out. A complete non sequitur.”

Brigid nodded. “That’s what I thought.”

“Still,” said Greg. “Tom Jones. That’s got to be worth something.”

“Absolutely!” Brigid replied. “That part was never in dispute.”

-The Gneech

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Sep 15 2006

Fictionlet

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“Cute,” said Brigid. “Cute kid. Boy or girl?”

“One would presume so, anyway,” said Greg.

Brenda laughed a light tinkle. “This is Chestina Elizabeth,” she cooed, adjusting the infant’s blanket again. “She was born eight weeks ago.”

“Chestina?” said Brigid.

“Born? Willingly?” said Greg.

“What?” said Brenda.

“I must admit, I admire the heroic spirit of any baby born of their own volition. I sure wasn’t.”

Brigid looked sideways at him. “What are you going on about?”

“Well, the way I remember it is that I fought tooth and nail against the idea. ‘You’ll never take me alive!’ about summed up my attitude. They eventually had to use drugs and a scalpel to get me out, and I put two interns down for the count.”

The two women stood there and blinked at him. Greg shrugged. “Well, what can I say? I resented the whole thing. I wasn’t even consulted! I wrote the doctor in charge a scathing letter of rebuke, once I could hold a crayon.”

“What?” Brenda said again.

“Ignore him,” Brigid said, patting Brenda’s arm soothingly. “They just dropped him off the mother ship a few days ago, and he hasn’t become acclimated to life on Earth yet.”

-The Gneech

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Sep 11 2006

Fictionlet

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Brigid took off her headphones and looked up at Wayne. “Yes?” she said.

“Hey, Brigid, sorry to disturb you while you’re busy, but Janeen told me to bring these pages to you.”

“Thanks,” she said, taking the folder, and Wayne popped off. After waiting a moment to make sure nobody else was going to appear at her desk, Brigid put her headphones back on.

Immediately, Janeen was lurking over her. Brigid took off her headphones and looked up. “Yes?”

“Did Wayne get those pages to you?” Janeen asked.

“Yup, they’re right here.”

“Thanks.” Janeen popped off. After waiting a moment to make sure nobody else was going to appear at her desk, Brigid put her headphones back on.

Immediately, Chris was lurking over her. Brigid stifled a sigh and looked up. “Yes?”

“Hey, Brigid, sorry to disturb you while you’re busy. Do you have those pages from Janeen? We need to change the rate table.”

“Sure, here,” said Brigid, and handed Chris the folder.

“Thanks,” he said, and popped off. Brigid watched him go, looked around to make sure the coast was clear, and put her headphones back on.

Immediately, Janeen was lurking over her. Brigid squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then took off her headphones and looked up. “Yes?”

“Did Chris get those pages from you?” Janeen asked. “We need to change the rate table.”

“Yes,” Brigid said. “Chris has them.”

“Okay, thanks,” Janeen said, and popped off. Brigid stood up and looked around — nobody was visible in either direction, so she sat back down and put on her headphones.

Immediately, Wayne was lurking over her. Brigid yanked off her headphones. “What?” she demanded.

“Whoa, sorry Brigid, didn’t mean to bother you. I just have those pages back from Janeen with the new rate table. Here you go.” He quickly handed off the folder and popped off.

Brigid looked down at the blinking cursor on her computer, then at the headphones. Cautiously, she reached for them and began to move them towards her head, watching carefully out the corner of her eye.

As she suspected, the half-visible spectre of Janeen was flickering in and out of existence. “I see you there!” Brigid told the vision sharply. “Well now you hear me! I’m just going to hold these headphones right here, halfway on and halfway off, even if it means typing with one hand for the rest of the day! You can just hover there, like Schrödinger’s Manager!”

Janeen’s ghost howled the cry of the damned; Brigid’s heart quailed, but she held her ground. By the end of the day, she’d got more work done with one hand, than she had the rest of the month combined.

-The Gneech

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Sep 07 2006

Fictionlet

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Greg pulled a small package out of his grocery bag and examined it dubiously. “The new XPLUSION has 64 blades and launches anti-tank rockets to give you a closer, more comfortable shave than any man has ever had in the history of the universe!”

“‘Xplusion’?” said Brigid. “What happened to ‘X-17, the Widowmaker’?”

“Had too much soap residue,” Greg said. “It interfered with the targeting reticule.”

“Aw, man,” said Brigid. “I hate it when that happens.”

-The Gneech

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Sep 05 2006

Fictionlet

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“So,” said Brigid. “What do you want for your birthday?”

“Oh!” said Greg. “Oh, well, that’s nice of you. But nothing, really. Maybe a card if you’d like to do one.”

Brigid frowned. “That’s no good. You’ve got to want something for your birthday.”

“There’s nothing I want in terms of stuff,” Greg said. “Really, all I want is … well … I want people to get into the lane they want in traffic and then stay there. I want for people to stop muttering under their breath and then being annoyed at me when I can’t make out what they’re saying. I want the people working at counters to stop getting my order wrong and then acting like I’m a jerk for not ordering what they served me. I want that guy in Nigeria to stop asking me to help get his funds out of the bank. I want people to stop asking my opinion when what they really want is for me to guess the option they’d already chosen and tell them what a good choice it is. I want the Demidupes and the Publioobs to stop shrieking hysterically about the other. I want people to sit down, shut up, and chill the heck out for a while.”

“Yeah?” said Brigid. “I want a pony.”

Greg clicked his tongue and headed for the hallway. “Right, well, I think I’d better lie down. Tell Ozymandias that if he wants to come in and sleep on my head, he’s welcome.”

-The Gneech

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