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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Does TOO Compute!

My office did an awful thing to me when I was hired. They bought me an outrageously kickass laptop to use.

You might think that would be a good thing. More power equals less frustration, right? And to a degree, that’s true. With all those extra-snappy electrons zooming around, my huge to-do lists open faster. Emailing those hourly TPS reports takes no time at all. Solitaire practically plays itself. So there are perks, sure.

But faster isn’t always better. Speed kills, too. Or at least gets you a big fat ticket and points on your license, and has you sent to a remedial adult ed. driving classes where they have one of the nastiest gross-out slide shows this side of “The Disgustingly Horrific Miracle of Birth“.

Or in this case, what speed gets me is “not off the hook”. Which is nearly as bad as those pictures of mangled sedans and throbbing placentas.

(It’s possible I may be confusing slide shows. On the bright side, I now have two top picks for band names, if I ever start that punk rock group.)

The thing is this: I’m a programmer. I sit at the computer all day, writing code and slurping files and poking at databases with a pointy electronic stick. Hence the hefty laptop. We’ve got these big jagged hunks of data, and I’m supposed to smooth out the edges, carve away the noise and sculpt something beautiful from the signal hidden in the hulking slabs.

“I’m accustomed to megabytes of RAM and noisy hard drives and Blue Screens of Damn-You-to-Hell-Bill-Gates-You-Four-Eyed-Weenie. “

(Never mind that all I know how make is lumpy ashtrays. No, you shut up.)

This is all well and good, and the muscle in my laptop’s chassis helps me get more things done in less time, at the same time, and practically all the time. It’s a rare moment when there’s not some window or other busy loading data or parsing data or breaking data down into little humbled bits, just to show it who’s freaking boss. Because sometimes tough love with computer files is the only thing they respond to.

Give me an error, will ya? So help me, I will slap those smirking zeros right offa your ones, buster. You do not want to push me, blinky.

So things are just peachy when I’m puttering away at my desk, alone. But it doesn’t always work that way. I’ve been around a few weeks now. People know where to find me. They mosey by my desk, hot on the heels of their data, and say:

Hey. Show me what’s cooking.

And therein lies the problem. Because with the bulging behemoth of an overgrown abacus on my desk, I can.

That’s new. And pretty damned inconvenient. I’m not used to this next-generation sci-fi-worthy sort of tech. I’m accustomed to megabytes of RAM and noisy hard drives and Blue Screens of Damn-You-to-Hell-Bill-Gates-You-Four-Eyed-Weenie. With the computers I’ve known, I might not get a big spreadsheet open if I moved the mouse the wrong way during the load. I’d get emails faster if you sent them in semaphore from a dinghy in the closest bay. “Multitasking” was a four-letter word.

(According to spell-check, anyway. Which took for-freaking-ever.)

So when someone asked for a report or a PowerPoint slide or a beautiful lumpy ashtray on the spur of the moment, I’d give it the old college try — and more often than not, the hardware would crap out. The screen would freeze, or blink, or fall on its pixelated knees and beg for mercy.

Oh noes!” I’d say. “It looks like I’ll have to get this to you later.

In other words, “off the hook”. Say what you will about four-year-old Dells. But those hunks of junk can come in pretty handy in a pinch.

This machine, though — this one is different. It doesn’t matter what else the computer is doing. It could be churning through fourteen files, calculating pi to a million digits and digitally remastering Star Wars to draw Leia bikinis on all the Jawas — because how cool would that be? — but there are still enough cycles lying around to do whatever insane computational gyrations are requested.

There’s no “later” any more. There’s only “more now”. All the “laters” in the day pile up and run at the same time, channeled down Slip-‘n’-Slides of RAM to separate humming processors at the core of this insatiable beast. No job is too large, too wide, or too “do it right now; I don’t care if you were totally about to wipe that smug grin off Freecell’s face”.

And then “later” gets filled up with tomorrow’s “nows”, and then tomorrow’s “laters”, and pretty soon this machine is doing work I had every intention of putting off till next summer. It just won’t stop. It’s relentless. It’s a machine.

So productivity’s through the roof, which is good, I guess. And people who stop by my desk get their answers right away. I’m know they appreciate that. They say so in the emails that come careening at warp speed into my inbox now. I suppose I should be happy. It’s just…

With all that work getting done all the time on the machine, I haven’t had the time to beat Minesweeper into submission. And damn, are those bytes getting uppity. I might have to fake a blown keyboard soon, just for the chance to put that game back in its place. “You wanna piece of me, hotshot?!

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