Due to a gap in memory, we join this dream already in progress.


The room is huge, like an airplane hanger. It is fitfully illuminated by flickering fluorescent lighting. The room is filled with work tables scattered with tools and parts, telephone booth-sized apparatus with electronics attached, and powered-off industrial robots. I'm sneaking around the room, looking for something, I don't know what. Suddenly the workers return. I look around for someplace to hide. It's too far to the door and there's nowhere to go.

I quickly take off my clothes and hide them, then get into one of the booths, planning to say I thought it was the safety shower. I am quickly discovered, and while no one seems alarmed by the nudity, they don't believe my story. They begin to debate whether to call the guards or torture me themselves. While they do swiftly I put on a nearby lab coat, and suddenly I blend right in. I simply walk away and go out the door. At the door I take off the coat.


Outside the building, still naked, I need to find some clothes. I walk across the lush, soft lawn and into the nearby mansion.


It's the classic dark oak hallway with half-glimpsed Hollywood set dressing and large doors. I look in a few rooms. The first bedroom is occupied by a couple, and I close the door quickly. Again I hear people approach, and I take refuge in a marble bathroom.


This room is clean and brightly lit. Many items cover a small vanity table in the bathroom. What I had taken to be a doll on this table turns out to be a young girl in a long and heavy brocade dress. She wants to talk philosophy. Do I believe in God? I pick up a hand mirror and tell her that I do, and that if you're quick enough with a mirror you can sometimes see God. I explain that God's not good with the physics of reflection. He'd never meant to have reflections work the way they do, but he messed up on the math. That's why reflections are "backwards" left to right, but are not inverted top to bottom. We angle the hand mirror around at other mirrors and set up a triple reflection. For a second, we glimpse a surprised looking man with curly black hair, who then vanishes.



The kids are back from Halloween, they have lots of candies. I regret that I didn't buy any Halloween candy for myself, I'm hungry and there's none for me. The kids also have Halloween toys. One toy is still wrapped in its Halloween paper (?!) The toy is very dangerous, somehow defective, and needs to go back to toy factory ASAP.



I'm now the small boy who got the toy. I've just snuck in the door of the toy factory. Disassembled toys lie all over, the night watchman is tinkering with them. He has curly hair. He's clearly a mad genius. I sneak past through the scattered parts and replace the now-unwrapped toy in inventory. Doing so trips an alarm! A watcher outside in a van is alerted. He looks into the toy factory with his x-ray vision and recognizes that this toy contains a glowing green part. The watcher is The Incredible Hulk! He knows that this toy can control him, and he 'hulks up' and comes to get it. I grab the toy again and run out the back of the factory.


A standard industrial back lot. A 1970s era convertible sits in the lot. A young woman and her boyfriend have been making out in the secluded twilight. I leap onto the hood of the car and yell at them to get going. The boyfriend sees The Hulk coming around the building, objects, and jumps out, but the woman hits the gas and we peel out in a spray of gravel.



I'm now moving at high speed in some other vehicle, but since I'm inside I can't really tell what it is. Possibly It's the bed of a pickup truck. I'm now being chased by the young woman in the convertible, and behind her an A-team style purple mini van (guess who?). The highway suddenly turns a distinct shade of orange and the roadbed rises into a trademark overhead loop. As the pickup reaches the top of the loop, I jump/fall out, and then simply hover in midair as the trucks and car race around and then pelt away down the roadway into the distance.



I'm now an old man at a summertime church supper, seated at a picnic table, telling this story to some other old geezers. Out front, the pickup, convertible, and van race by on the gravel road in a cloud of dust. "You tell this story to kids today," I say, "and they won't believe it."


I want them to code in Linux. Do what you have to do.

Undergraduate Numerical Analysis Prof, my advisor, my sensei

All right. I'll see what I can do.

Sysadmin log, day 3

So today I gave my first tutorial to the numerical analysis kids on how to code in GNU/Linux. Some of them are uneasy. Others are curious. At least one of them is downright terrified.

This is extremely exciting for me. This is it. This is what I have been training for for so long, almost since I came to CIMAT and my free software views became so adamant. This is where we see if bright kids, mathematics majors, kids who already know how to code in C, certainly not your average n00b, the very academic kids for which Linux and all of Unix in general was originally made for; this is where we see if they can actually handle it or if the penguin and and the wildebeest are going to go out in a blaze of glory.

Ah, I can feel the excitement.

I have always held a few beliefs, and now is the time to test them.

  1. It's a pleasure to be a Linux user if you have a good sysadmin.
  2. It can be uncomfortable at first. But later on it can be uncomfortable to leave it.

I have decided to be the absolute best sysadmin that I can be for these kids. I spent many days and sleepless nights lovingly handpicking for them each package from the Debian repositories in order to ease their transition into wild and unfamiliar operating systems. At first, I decided to show them the pretty: Beryl (or Compiz Fusion, as it's come to be called). Wobbly windows. Quadruple desktop on a rotating cube. Transparency. Exposé effects. Just a taste of what it can be like.

I set up a net for them. I want to show them what a real multi-user system looks like, the flexiblity, what it's like to flow throw the ssh tunnels, the miracle of X-forwarding. I want to show them the marvels of free software. The value of privacy, of being able to do absolutely whatever kind of mess on your own desktop, and have it your own. These may be mundane concepts for them, but they're already loving the idea of it.

Today I showed them bash. That took about 30 minutes. I could have gone on for hours. But all I wanted to show them was how to move around through the filesystem with it and how to execute programs. Show them tab-completion. Remarked that although it's quite possible to use graphical tools to accomplish the same and never use bash, that with practice it becomes so much faster to use ten fingers to communicate with a computer than a measly index finger and a wrist.

And too much wrist motion causes strain. Let's not forget this. This is why it's important to know about Emacs and vim. Not fall into wedlock with either one of them, not just yet, just know about them. The two great editorial philosophical currents. They're both important. I told them, work through both their tutorials. Try one of them out for a week. If within a week neither one of them suits you, that's fine. I will allow you to use any other editor you please; Kate if it so must be. But you must be allowed a chance to give your wrists a rest.

I'm very nervous. I don't know if this will work out. I'm also very excited. The stakes are very high. Will they love it or hate it? Will their use of Linux survive beyond this course?

No more speculation if "Linux is ready for the desktop" or not. No more musings about what free software in education could be like or not. No more theory. It's all practice from now on. It could fail. I could fail them. But it could also be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Last night, I had a dream that I was playing a very dangerous game with everyone I had ever met. I don't know if it had a name, so I'll call it the "inject the opponent with volatile chemicals before they inject you with the same noxious fluids game."

A large scoreboard in the sky showed everyone's name and teams. As people were killed, their names were grayed out. If you made a kill, your name would flash a bright red before returning to the normal green color.

As I ran around the course with a syringe full of some neon yellow fluid, I watched as my friends and family killed one another. A stab in the heart as I watched my mom's name grayed out as my brother's name flashed red. Another stab as I saw my boyfriend's name was grayed out. One by one, everyone was dying and I didn't know why.

People would run at me and try to kill me, but I somehow would get them first. Inject the syringe, watch them die, run away and kill more people. Fight for your life.

Finally, only my team and one other team were left, and we outnumbered them 6 to 1. As the last person on the opposing team was killed, it suddenly turned into a free-for-all. In my panic, I hid in a corner in fear as my former teammates eliminated one another.

At the same time, all of those who'd been killed were suddenly walking by, and injecting one another with something. One of the living dead claimed I hadn't killed him properly and so I had to die. As he came at me with the syringe, I ran at him and knocked him down, then broke his neck.

Before I could retreat back to my hiding place, the last remaining person found and lunged at me, but I stabbed the syringe in her eye and I won. A group of scientists came out to congratulate me and tell me how unbelievable it was that I had won. One even told me that she thought that I would have been one of the first to die.

The scientists then began trying to feed me chemically altered pillow mints. I put one in my mouth and it instantly began to foam like mad. I spit it in the trash while the scientists were looking the other way, but they soon noticed I hadn't eaten it and asked why. I told them it was just surprising and I spit it out accidentally. They then watched as I ate each one.

Each one had a strange diagram on it and a name for each. One had a picture of a naked woman and was called the "The Eleanor Mint". Another had a picture of a boat and was called "The Viking Mint." I asked the scientists what these mints would do to me, but they refused to answer my questions.

As I ate all these mints, I could see through a window into the adjoining room the bodies of my dead friends, animated and leering at me, almost as though they were jealous that they were dead and I was alive.

I woke up and nearly threw up all over my comforter.

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