Tales of Tadeusz

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Death of a Blogger
By Eric R. Ashley

…posting from an alternate universe near you…

Dedicated to my darling lady wife who made it possible, my children who provided me with reasons to work and to live, and to the blogosphere for illumination and conversation.

All characters, nicknames, handles, websites, etc. are posted from an alternate reality, and thus are fictional and creatures of the author.
The novel is Copyright Eric R. Ashley 2005 ©.


The Troll existed in an apartment that overlooked the Snake River, and the shadow of the great ironwork bridge fell across his balcony from ten to ten-thirty in the morning. He told himself regularly that he would greatly enjoy his view of the river, a largely unspoiled mass of water, but for the cruel iron chain Mankind had placed on it, in the form of a royal road for polluters. He rather wished for a return to days of yore when ferryboats were pulled across the river, by hand. And when he voiced such a viewpoint, at an infrequent meeting of acquaintances for someone else’s birthday, someone would always with a touch of incredulity point out that “they” lived in the suburbs, and such a plan would therefore not work.
The Troll used to be able to muster a minimum of politeness at such
stupidity, while slipping the dagger in, but yesterday night, he had gone off on the poor fool for nearly half an hour. He explained that cities needed to be dense to avoid urban sprawl, and that fleeing the city was “White Flight” and ipso facto, proof of racism. At first, his friends had thought him “joking” on the boyfriend of one of his officemates, but then the intensity of his speech got through to them, and man, it had been good to see the fool with his mouth trying to open and close; physical action trying to stimulate thought.
Granted, the “birthday girl”, Abby, had given him a harsh look, but that did not really bother him, not really. Besides, she had sat there, laden in her conspicuous consumption, covered in an expensive sweater that hung gracefully on her, and had not one, or two, but three guys offering her jewelry. Later she had yelled at him, when they stood out in the parking lot amidst the snow, crusty ice, and chill wind.
“Why couldn’t you just let me have one night, just one for a nice party?”
Because there are people starving, oppression is rampant, he had wanted to say, but could not. He’d said as much before, too many times to count. Even he got tired of saying the obvious. People just did not listen.
Finally he reached for his trump card.
“These are not your people, Abby, they are a bunch of Nazi’s. Trying to seduce you by giving you jewels and junk. How many poor people could that…?” He had begun to ask when someone dared to lay hands on his too thin for the weather jacket, and spun him around demanding that he look at the dork’s arm.
Finally surrendering to the idiot’s insistence, he saw a string of numbers up the man‘s thick, brutish forearm. It meant nothing to him, and he said as much.
“Those are my grandfather’s numbers. He died at Auschwitz. I got tattooed to remember him. I gave her a diamond pendant, you want to call me a Nazi, you freak? Say it to my face.”
The first words that sprang to mind was a crack about too bad he hadn’t been croaked before spawning you, but the Troll sensed that that was too far, even for him. And so he looked aside in the dark parking lot littered with the chunks of dirty, crunched bergs, remnants of once pure snow.
“I thought so. You know nothing. Nothing.” The Jew sneered in a low voice, and walked away to help Abby into her car. Typical male chauvinist garbage. It all meant nothing.
The Troll looked up from his cup of espresso in which he had been seeing memories of last night, and considered the drink again which he had brewed in his very nice machine atop the cracked countertop, and then considered his computer. Oh, he knew plenty of Nazi’s; they littered the Internet. He knew plenty. In fact, he had all the tools he needed right now to show Them. He’d show that Jew, and Abby, she would see too, but later after he‘d proven his point, why he might catch the two in bed, and weird fantasies of using a burning smoke from poisonous plants on the both of them ran through his mind, but he dismissed those for was not Abby a friend from the old days? Now he had some more brewing to do, of an altogether different, and more dangerous kind than espresso.
Lucky for him, he had tried a Botany major before giving it up as too arduous, and settling for a Computer Science major. Both sets of skills would be most useful. And the fantasy came back to entertain him, and soothe his hurt.

End of Prologue.

Chapter One: Pursuing Love

Charles Walker got out of his station wagon parked in his short, straight driveway, smoothed down his khaki pants, and scooped up a soft brown package left on his front steps by the UPS man. Vaguely curious, as it was at least a month before Jenna, his youngest daughter of three children had her birthday in August, he let himself into the two-story quasi-Victorian that he, darling Sharon, the three kids, and Cooper the Golden Retriever called home, and tossed the package onto the pinewood kitchen table next to the pile of bills. The stack of “friendly reminders” creased his high forehead capped by thin, straight blonde hair. Thankfully, Sharon was the one with the Accounting degree, and the designated bill payer while he helped companies install new computer systems, or on the side gave them advice on whatever they wanted to know. Because otherwise, he would have a permanent headache.
He had a Trivia Pursuit sort of mind. In fact, he had long given up playing the game because it embarrassed him to win so often. The most amazing collection of unimportant facts was stored in his head, along with dozens of theories trying to make some sort of sense of it all. But occasionally, some of those facts gelled with some other facts, and fit a theory, and it all became very useful indeed. When that did not happen, he crawled around on the floor, or under the floor, connecting cables, and subsequently sub verbally begged computer systems that should run by all that he could see in the manual to actually run.
His two careers and Sharon’s accounting worked well enough to keep them in groceries, and Veronica’s orthodontistry, but not well enough that he looked with any degree of gladness toward the inevitable fate of college bills that would arrive in ten to twelve years for Sam, his eldest.
A quick step around the pile of Loc Blocs® scattered on the cream oval-shaped room rug that filled the living room nearly to its brim, and down the short hallway, lined with pictures of children, and relatives, and the former house, and a special picture; at it he turned to face the picture and gave a warm smile to the redhead in the wedding dress. Passing that guardian, he attained his sanctuary from Which He Was Not To Be Disturbed, but he frequently was.
The small room had a bright light mounted in its tilted roof under the stairs to make reading a computer screen easy, a dingy dark brown carpet that would not object to another Coke can seeping out on it, a large computer desk with a suitable, and leather covered spinning throne, and several dressers full of fabrics that his wife had considered glorious, and to be used in a project when bought, and which he felt sure would still be there when he got toted off to the Old Folk’s Home. He did not want them there, but they were not too much of an imposition, and since she tentatively let him have his “office” without too much objection, he took his half of a crust, and was moderately grateful for it.
And then with a flicker of a smile, he fired up his PC, and began checking the blogs. Blogs, short for “biographical logs” or “web logs”, were another innovation of the Internet era which had taken the world by storm, as had email, and web pages before them. A single person, at a keyboard, could type an opinion, and lay it out for the entire world to see at a cost that to begin with could be nothing but time as plenty of free services existed. It took worldwide publishing from a high-capital intensive business to an almost no-capital business.
Unlike the mainstream news such as CBS, or the New York Times, they the bloggers, a burgeoning cloud of pundits and experts and diarists, did not pretend to be objective. Each blogger had his or her own take on reality, and quite openly acknowledged this up front which made it easier to evaluate their analysis if you knew what biases they had going in.
Another advantage of the forum over what was called the “dead-tree press” was the hyperlink. A simple click, and the reader could jump to a source document to decide for herself if a speech was as damningly stupid as a particular blogger thought. Or that link could take you to another with a totally different opinion, which was a common enough practice.
And most bloggers had comment sections which, while frequently beset by trolls, also offered a quick chance for different takes on the data. Trolls, and flame wars were a new peril of the age. A troll baited people, not seeking reasoned argument, but wanting to provoke rage for malice’s sake. And such creatures often beset the more popular bloggers because there they could find the attention they craved, and enjoy the fuming remarks of their offended targets.
“Don’t feed the trolls” was common policy on most sites, but it could be hard, after a supposed Nazi posted on a Jewish site, denying the Holocaust, or some such atrocity of words, for the regulars to resist the urge to use a metaphorical cluebat on the troll’s head.
And all this activity happened at the speed of electrons. Trolls dangled bait. New stories were posted. Data got sifted, analyzed, and fact-checked by dozens of people before the mainstream news even realized a story was in existence. And worse from the mainstream media‘s point of view, many of those people who did the analyzing had directly relevant experience, or were experts in the field.
People came to Charles’ blog for three things. It served as a clearinghouse for computer maintenance experts; produced odd but eerily insightful political comments; and for the stories of his and other parents strivings with young kids. But a few trolls came to bother him because they disdained his views, or for sheer childish mischief.
His most recent post, occupying the position of honor, top-most and in the center of his computer screen discussed the problems of double-standards, and their inherent inevitability with an eye to finding some solution to minimize their abuse while keeping in mind that loyalty was a necessary virtue to inculculate. Below the five hundred or so word post was a link to a comments section, and a number which revealed that “32” people had commented.
Below that going down the screen was another post. To the left was his blogroll. It held permanent links to other blogs and websites that he found worthy of notice and support. To his right, in another column running down the screen lay some advertisements.
Recently, he had started running BlogMachine® to help defray the cost of his bandwidth. Earlier, it had not cost him anything to run his blog, but with increasing fame and status he had around four thousand regular daily readers. This made him pretty small fry still, but the cost for bandwidth from his server host company was going up. Why just last week, he had a Blogalanche, a hyperlink from the top political blog in the Blogosphere run by the so-called Blogfather, which had shut his server down from overload, but not before pegging over a hundred thousand visitors.
He shook his head, not sure that he really wanted that level of fame. Of course, when he started two years ago, he would have thought the idea of four thousand daily readers the sheerest fantasy. He’d just been venting about stupid Windows this, and dumb political that, and posting pics of the crayon drawings that Veronica had then been drawing.
But even at this level, there were headaches. After sifting through the stories on other blogs, and finding a few he might comment on, he went back to his own blog, and looked through the comment section for “ ‘Ol Diablo”. The guy had started out as funny, but off-kilter, but then as he saw his political viewpoint losing in the late election, the guy had become less funny, and more a ranting madman who screamed “fascist”, “oppressive”, “police state”, and “AmerKKKa” at the top of his lungs. So after nearly a dozen warnings, Charles had decided to ban him from his blog.
No doubt you’re going to ban me, just like you fascist oppressor promised too. That’s one good thing about you AmeriKKKans, you can always keep your word about being a jerk, too bad you can’t keep it about anything else, what with your lying president, and his Uncle Tom toadies in his Cabinet.
Charles read the comment, which went on in like fashion for some time, mangled English and all, and feeling a headache coming on, he sighed, and deleted all Ol’ Diablo’s comments, and banned the moonbat from the electronic premises of his blog.
Within five minutes, he saw a message from Elton Too, another frequent poster.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m surprised you took so long. What’s that, like the third troll you banned in the last couple months? Price of getting popular.
Charlie considered, and then replied rattling out a message on his ergonomically enhanced keyboard, a gift from his children on his last birthday.
Yeah. I hate to do it, but it is my property, and all they do is spray graffiti.
Another message came on.
True, but then you get an echo chamber effect where everyone agrees with you.
It was Morgenstern. Another regular.
Morg, I agree, but there is a line. Tamlin, my first troll, insinuated that I was a, well I can’t even say it, but I would have broken the nose of anyone who said it to my face. It was vile. ShadowlordXXIV threatened to find me, and run me over with his truck, and Ol’ Diablo just can’t seem to finish a sentence without at least one “fascist oppressor” in there. I just had had enough. I know you and I disagree about politics, a lot, but you’ve never called me a Nazi.
Charlie paused, and then pushed the send button on the screen with his mouse control. He was surprised to see his right arm was literally shaking. And his stomach hurt. Really, he hated to be so rude as to slam a door in these peoples’ faces, but enough was enough.
True enough. I’m just worried about the slippery slope, but some people are absolutely beyond the pale. BTW, I wrote up a possible solution to that synchronicity problem you were describing in hooking up the portable electrical meter readers to the company database. Its over on the other thread.
Morgenstern replied. And Charlie checked on the comment section of a post on political violence and its relation to non-political violence where he had been trying to argue that a pool of regular criminals offers a resource to unscrupulous political actors who might seek to influence elections by intimidation, or by vandalism of property. He glanced at the post describing his current conundrum at his this week’s workplace, and soon got himself buried in the intricacies of merging Cobol, for the company’s ancient mainframe, and the barely year-old computer language of the new meter readers. His planned for posts on current events would have to wait. Many of the ideas listed were off base, but held a glimmer of insight. And Morgenstern, while not quite right, had most of a solution for half the issue in one post. All together, his problem looked mostly solved except for the fine details, and the actual implementation, which is usually a bear. In the computer field, the first ninety percent of the problem took ninety percent of the time, and the last ten percent took ninety percent of the time. He was now down to the last ten percent by reading the post and its associated comments.
Charlie clicked his tongue on his teeth. Whoever, Morg really was, his politics might be stupid, but he really knew his way around computers. From occasional comments, Charlie figured the man had to have been in on the ground floor when Windows took over the world. It was one of the nice things about blogging; he’d met more genuine experts here in the last couple years than in his whole life previous.
The sound of the SUV, necessary with three kids, going up the driveway roused Charlie, and he quickly scanned up a painting by Veronica, his budding artist, and cut and pasted an amusing story about Sam’s baseball game from yesterday, and then asked if anyone knew a good way to explain to Jenna that since she seemed to be allergic to cats, that petting the neighbor’s five cats was not a good idea.
They had taken the child to the emergency room last week, and still his wife Sharon complained this morning over a hurried breakfast that she spotted Jenna encouraging the cats to come across the wooden fence to play with her. A quick reply from MomofFive told him of some new allergy treatments which path he had not really considered, being fixated on his solution of banning the cats.
Scratching his chin, he turned to get out of the chair, as his wife walked into the room...

Next Segment: End of Chapter One and Two


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