There was this engineer who worked for a power plant for the majority of his life until he decided to retire, well paid from his pension and eager to enjoy the later years of his life. He was touted as being one of the best engineers in his field and, as such, was hardly forgotten at his former work place. One day they called him up. One of their main power generators had malfunctioned and was costing them millions of dollars in revenue each day it was down. Their staff of engineers were clueless as to what the problem might be and their only recourse was to call the man who was a legend.

Finally he relented to come to the plant and take a look at the problem. A few hours later he appeared at the plant holding nothing in his hands but a single piece of white chalk. He walked around the generator for about thirty minutes and, finally, took the piece of chalk and made a big X on one of the generator's components.

"That's the part you have to replace," he told them. "I'm going home now. I'll send you a bill."

A few days later, after they got the bill for $30,000.89, they called and demanded an explanation for the high tab.

Cool as can be, he said, "The eighty-nine cents is for the piece of chalk."

"All right," the accounting deparment head said. "But what about the thirty grand?"

"That's for knowing where to put the X."

After I got off work last night I came to the cafe, painfully aware of the fact that I had only $2 in my pocket and one of them was about to be taken up by a cup of coffee. I had half a pack of smokes and enough gas to make it to work. I could live without smokes until I got my paycheck today (which is a whole other story and quite a nightmare in and of itself), so I wasn't really worried. When I got to the cafe, I checked my email, as I usually do. There was a message from a client I had been doing some web design consultancy for and he was asking me to come by his place this morning, early and before he went off to work, so that I could help him out with a serious work-related project he was having trouble with. Something about a Flash preloader, I gathered from the message.

I was already tired (due to stress and lack of sleep), but stayed awake until it was time to go to his place. When I got there, he greeted me at the front door, bleary-eyed and still in his bed clothes. We went straight for his computer and he opened up the file in question. The problem was indeed a Flash preloader- the simple kind. I took a look at the actionscripting and immediately saw what he'd done wrong.

"You have here 'if frame is loaded' and then it points to the first frame of the first scene," I said. "That's where you screwed up. Have it point, instead, to the last frame of the last scene and it'll work like a charm."

"What's the difference?" he asked.

"The difference," I answered, "is that Flash will load every frame that precedes the one you define. When you defined the first frame of the first scene, the only thing you preloaded was the preloader itself and nothing else, which is why it looked wonky when you tried to view it. If you have it pointing to the last frame of the last scene, it'll load everything that comes before it, thereby loading the entire site before moving forward. Also, right after the 'if frame is loaded' line, you'll need to put in a GO TO tag and that should point to the first frame of the first scene."

He stood there like a post for a moment, thinking it through, and then nodded. I knew what I was talking about and it made sense when he thought about it. "How much do I owe you?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "under normal circumstances, I'd charge you about $50. But these aren't normal circumstances and you're a friend. Call it five bucks." Hello fresh pack of cigarettes, I thought keenly to myself.

He reached into his wallet and produced the 5-spot. "Not bad for ten minutes worth of work," he said cheekily.

I smiled. "It was merely a matter of covenience. You're lucky that your place is on my way home or it might've been more."

"Well, you definitely pulled my fat outta the fire with this, man. Thanks. How 'bout dinner sometime with me and the wife? Call it a tip."

I shook his hand. "Sounds good. You know how to reach me once you and Kimmi decide on a good time. Now go back to bed and get some sleep. I'm headed home to do the same. Thanks." And I left.

...and $30,000 to know where to put the X. No, it wasn't $30K, but when I'm low on smokes and don't get paid for quite some hours away, $5 might as well be $50.

Well, I'm at it again. Sending another story off to get published. Another story entirely, this time, to the first place I sent my first story off to. On October 21, 2002 I got my first rejection notice from that particular editor, but it was a personal one, not a form letter. That distinction did not fall beneath my notice. First time authors almost never get personal responses from editors- not unless the story truly is good and the author truly deserves the attention.

Some of you might have read this second story submission here on E2 (it has since been deleted because I intend to push for publication on it). If it gets accepted, I'll spill the beans on which story it was.

It's funny, y'know? I've sent off to three different magazines so far and every time I do, I get all giddy inside, like a kid. This time is no different; I'm quivering with mad excitement and anticipation yet again. Man, I hope this kind of excitement never goes away whenever I send out my work.