Wednesday, March 28, 2007

[root@mel ~]#

This was one of those "I'm going to start typing and see where it goes" things. Chandra was right - I do describe myself as a computer a lot.

I am a homunculus, small and lithe and light, a flurry of happy activity with fingers and toes dancing over control knobs, spine twisting and stretching to reach levers, tiny sneakered feet dashing between displays in my head. A complex system of sensors and cameras and knobs twiddled by me, all running through the programs that I'm continuously rewriting - a system created by me in order to control something far more complex than my capacity to directly handle. It takes all this input, processes it, and and transmits the results out to her.

She's me, but she's not quite me. I'm the meta-Mel, the one that sits in the back, watches from above. She eats lasagna, runs in circles, and trips over cables in darkened auditoriums; she dances around classrooms to burn off excitement, screams Keats and Wordsworth and Frost into snowstorms because it feels good to scour your lungs out with poetry, and cries quietly in her room when she's depressed. She does things spontaneously; she sings, she laughs. I laugh also, and I am happy and sad, but I scurry around her cranium deciding whether to display it or not - I watch, I wait, and I decide who to be. I'm the only one of the two us who can.

It's taken a while for me to obtain this control. Remnants of a past era, when I was young and still patching together the bulk of this system, still pop up from time to time - PLEASE INSTALL PARENTAL PATCH #255. FOR SECURITY PURPOSES. I ignore most of them. I'll take the ones I deem useful - sure, a cell phone is a useful accessory to have, thanks Mom - and politely file the rest away, or delete them. They used to be able to override the system. It's less so now; I'm gently stepping down administrative priveleges, gradually chmodding the files of my finances, my education, my life - from 777 to 744 or 700. Mine. She can still access all this, of course. She has sudo privs, but I am the sysadmin.

My processes run quietly in the background. She's always the first impression people see. They live with her, work with her, get to know her - and they actually can get to know her. She's a person, not a mask; she doesn't try to control what she presents herself as. She can't. She's an open book by nature. We operate asynchronously, she and I; she can be her own person without me, just as I can wander off without her, but not for long - we are separate, but symbionts. Without the other to feed off of, neither of us would last too long.

Some folks will catch a glimpse of the control room, or ask to see it, or maybe she'll mention it to them in a tone of amusement, as you'd show your new dev kit to a friend. I'm more than happy to take them on a tour. Look, this display; see, these levers do that, and if I press this button you'll see a flashing light in the left corner. A museum tour. Sometimes I'll even make it interactive. Can you read off the screen for me? Okay, thanks - now toggle the green switch, and spin the red knob all the way to the right. Excellent. See what that does? Thank you. Next exhibit.

Sometimes I'll even ask people for advice on how to fix things, how to re-hack things, if I can patch their code snippets into mine. Here's my wiring; can you see where I messed up? Did you figure out how to make yours wake up earlier in the mornings? Here, take this plugin; I made it to teach her how to play piano. But she is mine, always mine, mine to make and control, mine to play with, mine to hack.

And I do. I overclock her all the time. Push the limits of the hardware, the software, my own ability to multitask and control. Sometimes I push too hard; she goes erratic, stops eating, doesn't sleep, her attention slams hard out of equilibrium and oscillates wildly until it trips a breaker or I pull it down. She's always running hot. The whine of huge fans is constant here, trying to drown out the noise and the babble that's always pinging around the cranium; warm jets hissing from vents and grills, and I'll rub my wrists in the mild heat when they get sore from long hours of pulling knobs and watch her go. Or I close my eyes and let her run entirely unwatched for a while. It's always amusing to see where she ends up taking us.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

*whistles*

Sorry 'bout sparring today. Caught a bout of mafia...