Where would you be if you weren’t here?
Before I launch
“Nose Job” from the archives is a short story you might find amusing. That is, if ever you’ve looked into your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning to shave, or at five in the afternoon preparing to shellac and glue your face into readiness for a hot date. Doing so, suddenly discovering new geology on your face. Anyone who says they’ve not experienced this treat is lying and will suffer sores on their tongue.
It’s a short story. It is not flash fiction. Originally posted in three segments, so as not to scare dictaphobes. If length bothers you, skip this one.
Working mostly novel and novella length pieces when drafting, my fingers abuse the keyboard. Even completing two editing adventures, “Nose Job” still scares the hell out of three thousand words. Not gonna edit anymore because not more than three readers will be so ennui-depressed they struggle through to the end. Maybe only one of those will complete that post before losing consciousness.
You’ve been fairly warned. You might, though, find “Nose Job” a pleasant diversion. You’ll have to exploit the link yourself. I can’t reach it from here.
To the business at hand.
Spellcheck is bad enough
Leave spellcheck to its devices, “Hey Bigglebow, you fancy the Red Sox tonight?” becomes, “Hey, big boy, you fancy red sex tonight?” Just a tiny bit of difference there. Strongly suspect a lot of irate non-responses to my posts might be in part not so much due to what I intended to post but rather to what spellcheck thought sounded better. Blame spellcheck.
Can’t blame it all on smellcheck
Lately I find myself wrestling my space bar. It has determined it knows better than I do where to break and start words. Factually, if a space is even needed or purely a waste. Spaces are not ‘nothing’ you know. Propagating them consumes electrons – ASCII 3210 408, EBCDIC 6410 or 4016, Baudot 05, etcetera,1 for example.
It gets better. Somewhere in the guts of my keyboard, a life-size thing from pre-millennia, a gremlin works at delaying some detents, speeding up others as they trickle through the bus, occasionally for the gremlin’s efforts, out of sequence. That makes for an interesting but uninformative read.
My personal keyboard gremlin is on a conservation drive. He sees no reason for “all.” That’s a pointless duplication of “L.” He deems “al” sufficient. Spellcheck bridles at that, transforming it to what I surely meant, “Albert.”
Turn off smellcheck and fifteen minutes after typing like a madam [madman] to get a torrent of thoughts down before they expire, whole chunks of text are pure noncsene [nonsense]. Even to me. [I hear you chuckling. Best be careful, lest comment-karma visit your next post.]
Didja ever look inside your keyboard? I mean a genuine keyboard, not some photo-thermal-pressure-sensitive, plastic laminate-covered chunk of glass? Not much there. Easy to understand how the tiniest dribble of coffee (oh, say, from reading Hobbo while you enjoy that first morning cup) could cataclysmically alter truth.
Were it not for insubordinate spacebars, mischievous keyboard gremlins, and fuzzy-headed smellcheck, we’d no longer be dealing with many significant problems of the day. Problems have been solved, the answers, remedies, pounded into keyborads [keyboards] but lost to mankind. Forever.
Were it not for that, no one would argue over facemasks, they’d be utile only in Operating Theatres. The integrity of elections would be unquestioned. You’d know how much you’d pay for a brand-new Ford Mustang3 before you knew if you wanted cloth or leather upholstery and if you needed a high-speed glovebox. Crime and punishment would only be a book title. There’d be a definitive list of real gender/sex/emotional identities. Spam would not exist except on grocers’ shelves. Telemarketers would all be hand-harvesting murder hornets for a living.
A letter from Venus
Ima boutto wagert haton ceag ain, Ivewa ltzed wellpa stthe tho usand-wo rdmar kwi thth ispost. On etho usand wo rdsis suc han arbi tra rymark.
Oh hell. Enough of that.
For those of you not fluent in Venusian
I’m about to wager that once again, I’ve waltzed well past the thousand-word mark with this post. One thousand words is such an arbitrary mark.
We had contests in early machine programming years. Not contests, really. It was a way of life. Memory and mass storage were limited and computer speeds measurable with a stopwatch. Once a program ran what we deemed flawlessly, we’d set about trimming instructions to reduce memory load time, minimize segment swaps, and cut microseconds from end-to-end execution times. If you failed to reduce program storage and execute time, you could not add new features.
I do the same with compositions for blogs and certainly for eventual real publication. The trick is to achieve ultimate brevity while retaining full value of the story.4,5 The effort reaches a point a work can no longer be reduced, except by abandoning a lot of, too much detail to the reader’s imagination. That, let me tell you, is an iffy proposition.
Now, “Finder” demands my attention. See you in a couple of days. Maybe.
1 Early-on, every computer manufacturer took the IBM approach: there is the real way, my (our) way, and then there’s the rest of the world’s ways. Encoding information though, requires a pulse, or a change in state to indicate presence or absence of a number-system digit. Multiple times. Depending on the system, three pulses, or five, or eight. Electricity. A sacrifice of electrons. Consider as I have, joining SPECAM.2 At worst, a time-lapse is necessary. Baudot for example, has a genuine nothing or no-chad as the TTY paper tape advances. Not going to get into the chad/chadless thing. It confuses the snot out of me still. Last dealing with ASR and KSR devices fifty years ago, even I don’t give a rip anymore. Don’t ask me about NRZ(I) encoding. Not going there.
2 SPECAM Society Preventing Electron Cruelty And Misuse. A noble cause. You wanna join, lemme know. I’ll give you an address to mail-in your checks and money orders (cash is okay too).
3 Anybody market Mustangs beside Ford? Pretty sure Chevy doesn’t. Mopar? Hillman? Peugeot? Volvo? Rover Group? Yugo?
4 What on earth? Take a transition state diagram for an elevator (lift). It is conceivable at some point your diagram accounts for all situations. EPROM is coded. You optimize. Oops. Economizing, you cut an instance where an asynchronous interrupt comes relating a change in load. There is nothing in any other sensor or combination of sensors to account for that. Motors, cables, switches, actuators, and servos are not going to imagine what happens for a change in load. You reach a point where the apple is no longer an apple. The story is no longer a story. The elevator stops, or worse, plummets.
5 In the case of writing, especially fiction, it’s possible to pare a comfortably written two-hundred-word story down to one-hundred and fifty words. Superfluous “the” is removed. Expansive single words replace phrases. Where “color” is not necessary it’s removed. Statements inferable from preceding or following statements are eliminated. Logical antecedents perish. The danger is what you insist the reader know is in peril. Satisfied with compression, you begin the process again. Then again. At some point, the intent vanishes. If it’s something specific you want in your story, too much cutting and compressing leaves the tale, though excellent, not what you’d intended because the (thinking) reader develops different premise, plot, and product. You must strike a bargain.