In those days we were older, and some were younger. We stayed up till dawn, addressed bartenders by first name, sampled exotic drinks and experimented with hangover cures. We drove unspoiled sportscars, top down, wind in our hair. We spent time with our children, reconnected with our spouses, and read thick novels by the sea. For some of us, life's work brought us unexpected bounty. We drank life to its fullest.
Then some of us died.
Launcelot forth wendes he
Unto the chamber to the queen,
And set him down upon his knee
And salues there that lady sheen
"Launcelot, what dostou here with me?
The king is went and the court bydene;
I drede we shall discovered be
Of the love is us between.
Stanzac Morte D' Arthur
"'The mind must be stronger, the heart the bolder, courage must be the greater as our strength diminishes.'" Transcript of Otho
I'm doing research. That means once a day, for about 10 seconds, I look something up between bouts of coding and management. Sixteen hours per seven days, it's getting to me. My creative muscle is wearing out. It's kind of wimpering in the corner. It kind of has an idea it wants me to write. It keeps me looking up middle english.
I'd tell you the idea, but then I wouldn't have to write it anymore, and that would ruin everything.
It's sort of King Arthur, but not. Sort of Camelot, but not. Sort of Fight Club meets The Knights of the Round Table. Sort of Guinevere cheating on Arthur with Lancelot, but more Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court meets 2005 high-tech electric powered 5Ghz 7 Terabyte pure sonic love in the form of the glittering sword that you get from a Lady in the Lake, sort of
if I don't play your game, why do I have to follow your rules?
Sort of thing.
The thing about Camelot, that my imagination loves, adores, is that in the end, it comes crashing down, like the city does at the end of Fight Club. And I've got an opening, which you've read by now.
And I have an ending, which is in my brain and would, I hope, be a real tearjerker when it's out. So all that remains is to add the words. Just fill in the middle part with the story. And Arthur, and Guinevere and Lancelot, they're bored as hell because their stories have been told about a bazillion times. Who needs it?
Why bother telling another love story?
I switched to Vonage.
Partly I did it because Vonage HQ is in Edison, N.J., where I once lived. So I have a minor soft spot in my heart for the place, but not really.
When I think of Edison I think of being driven through with my parents on the way to Menlo Park Mall. I think of the Edison Tower, near his workshop. I think of how I used to be the one being watched after when I was there, and now I'm the watcher of others. Strange how life changes you like that.
So I changed and I thought I should change my phones, too. So now I no longer have regular phones coming into my house, I have Vonage.
Vonage is Voice Over IP, or VoIP, to those who need acronyms to prove they're better than other people. To understand what it is, we should first understand what regular telephones are.
Regular telephone signals come into your house over two copper wires, twisted together in a helix, called, ceremonially, "twisted pair", by those who love the art of electricity. The signals for phones coming over the wires are generated by the central switch at the phone company. They're analog signals. What that means is they're warbling waves. They go up and down and everywhere in between, and your phone converts the warbles to the highly-compressed voice of your mom or boyfriend or the pizza guy.
Now, over the past couple years we all here in the first world have been getting broadband internet piped into our homes. We used to connect computers together over the warbling phone lines with modems (that convert computer digital speak into warbly analog telephone speak and back again). But those connections are slow, because the act of smooshing all that computer talk into an analog phone line is kind of a difficult thing to do. It's like connecting a fire hydrant to a garden hose. Lots of water going into a very tiny pipe. Not so effective for extinguishing burning buildings. This is why firemen use BIG hoses.
Broadband internet travels into your home over two common methods. The one that comes over your phone lines is called ADSL -- or just DSL, to those of us who think we're superior because we memorize acronyms. And the other is over your cable TV cable, and as I sit here I can't remember if the acronym is ATM or whatever, and it doesn't matter.
The main thing is that somehow these DIGITAL signals live happily on the same wire/cable as your regular old analog signal, which in some cases is your telephone , and in other cases, your cable TV signal. And you get a DSL modem or a Cable Modem "box" and hook it to your phone line or your cable TV line, and voila, out one end comes regular old phone (or TV) and out the other jack is the internet.
What Vonage set out to do was to replace the regular old analog phone signal on those wires (called POTS -- Plain Old Telephone Service -- no kidding, they call it that) with the phone service coming from the SAME wires, but over the digital signal.
Essentially, now, your phone is coming over the internet. You hook a "box" -- a network router in this case -- to your phone line, connect your regular old telephone to the box, and pick up the phone and you hear a dialtone. Dial away, and talk to mom or your girlfriend or the pizza guy. Just like you did before.
The difference is that NOW your entire phone service is "on line". If you get voicemail, and you're in Lower Slobovia, you go to the nearest internet Cafe, log onto the Vonage website, and play your Voice Mail over the computer. You can set up "800" numbers for yourself, so people can dial you for free. You can forward your calls to regular old analog phones. You can set a "fail over" number, so if your internet goes down, your calls will automagically route to a different analog or internet phone.
The most interesting thing about Vonage, to me, is that you can take your router box, the one with your phone plugged into it, and bring it to your mother's house, plug it into HER broadband network connection, plug in your phone, and your phone will ring at her house. In fact, you can order a Vonage system, and when the box comes to your house, you can send the box to someone else's house, anywhere in the world, and the new phone will ring over there. So, if you live in New York, and your mom lives in Vancouver, you can order a Vonage system with a New York phone number and mail the box to Vancouver. Then your Mom in Vancouver will have a New York phone number that rings in her house in Vancouver, so people in New York can call her all they want and only have to make a local call. It's sort of like turning land lines into cell phones.
So, now weird things are going to happen to the phone companies. What do long distance charges mean when someone in Juneau, Alaska, can have an Atlanta, Georgia local phone number?
I don't know. But if I was AT&T, I'd be freaking right about now.
Vonage is pretty cheap. Naturally, you have to have a broadband connection, which is going to run you $30/month, usually. Vonage is another $25 on top of that. So you're talking $55/month, which for me, is still less than 1/2 why my phone bill used to be. So I did it.
So far, it's working good.
I went with Vonage because there's a guy on the board of directors of my company, who's also on the board of Vonage. There was a bit of peer pressure for me to do it. This is not an unbiased commercial for the service.
Your mileage may vary.
The other materialistic indulgence I partook this month was to buy an Aeron chair. You ever hear of these chairs? They're the symbol of excess, and what I want to remembered for is my excess.
My chair--the chair upon which my ass depresses during my long programming and writing sessions, decided to give up the ghost quite suddenly a few weeks ago. The little piston thingy that keeps the chair from mating with the floor decided to stop pushing my ass upward against the force of gravity.
I went to Office Depot, but in the past 10 years my chair has served me, it seems office chair technology has taken a turn for the worse. I could not find a chair that did not behave as if it was on an uneven surface. It seemed the casters were different sizes. It seemed the little piston things weren't machined correctly, and so giggled from side to side. Those that allowed you to lean backward seemed to urge you into a backward somersault. None of them lifted high enough to keep my knees from bumping my chin. It's obvious these chairs are made by underaged slave laborers in Burma, and if George Bush had any balls he'd bomb the shit out of Burma just to stop this chair abuse of the innocents.
Clearly, I couldn't support puppet regimes whose main source of income is heroin money laundered through a slave labor industry in office chairs. Then I remembered reading the book "Blink" and their mentioning of the Herman Miller Aeron chair. How it looked like the exoskeleton of a dead hornet and how despite everyone saying it should be a miserable unloved product, the business world cleaved to it like free money at the pancake house.
So the silicon valley story of these chairs is that during the bubble of the late 90's, all the dot bombs and VC firms were outfitting their offices with the things.
In the late 90's, these chairs cost upward of $1000, each. For a chair. That you sit on. That basically keeps you from having to sit in the beanbag or on the table. That keeps your posterior from plummeting through the ground to the earth's molten core.
This is the treachery of trendiness. The Aeron is certainly a well-thought out device. And it is a device. It's got linkages and springs and pistons, and aircraft-grade high-fashion netting. According to the Herman Miller Company, you don't sit in an Aeron chair, you ride one.
When all the dot bombs went out of business, the market was flooded with these $1000 chairs, but interestingly, they were scarfed up instantly. So the price has remained pretty solid. Even my recent perousal of EBay showed people getting upward of $600 for an eight-year old Aeron.
They seem to hold their value, and the price has come down slightly.
So being a serious writer wannabe, I figured my ass deserved the best cradling it could get when I was plying my craft to no useful end. To my wife's chagrin, I purchased an Aeron chair on line. Soon, these words will be coming you to from a man who's ass is resting on aircraft grade woven kevlar and springs.
I got the strangest rejection yesterday. One of my SASEs came back. I hadn't sent anything out for a while, so I was surprised to find an envelope show up that had so clearly been folded and stuffed into another envelope at one point in it's papery history. The envelope had also been wet at one point, which I knew could not have been done by me. It was stained with what appeared to be coffee, though it could have been any other reddish brown, slightly radioactive substance. Inside, the manuscript was similarly stained. Inside was also one of my other SASEs from a separate submission I had made to the same place. That envelope was unused and empty.
There was no rejection letter. No note. No nothing. No signs.
The envelope was mailed to me from Long Island, New York. I had sent the submission to the agent/editor's home in Rumson, New Jersey.
I'd made a number of submissions to this same place, at the editor's request. That was over a year ago. In fact, this letter was postmarked 2003.
I wonder what happened to it, and to everything else I sent her.
Where was I before my mind drifted?
Why tell another love story?
I want to know more about the light
Why the sun goes away when it's dark and other stars shine as bright
And why whenever I see you it's daytime