January 03, 2006

Page 1

The problem with starting at the beginning is that most things don't have a
beginning, middle and end. You can start at the end, or in the middle, but
that suffers that same problem.

Once upon a time, shortly after the collapse of the Internet industry, there
were two people who didn't know each other and didn't know that they didn't
know each other. His world was the one that had collapsed. Hers had a fresh
hole in the middle of it. Both were seeking to assuage some temporary pain,
and instead they found each other.

Once upon another time, when Reagan was president, there were two people who
could have known each other, but didn't. They were attending the same
college, part of the same social circle, and saw each other around campus
without ever quite connecting.

There is a universe in which he never met her. There is another universe in
which these two people met in the 1980s. In the universe of this story, he
and she "only" lost out on twenty years together. This is the story of those
twenty years, and of the first years in which their world lines reconverge.
Someday, there will be another story, of another twenty years, and who knows
what will be written then.


In 1984, on a small college campus in Turlock, California, a young man arrives
to pick up the pieces of his life. He had foundered on the rock of college,
as all too many young people do, and through a circuitous route had come back
to university to finish his degree in advanced geekery.

We'll call him Scott, as that was his name. Scott had graduated near the top
of his high school class and had fled from New Jersey to California to attend
a top engineering school, Harvey Mudd College of Claremont. His parents,
well-meaning but not themselves college-educated, were more ready for him to
be cut loose than he was - 18 and middle-class, he was not prepared to face
the world. The truth of his situation is that keeping the brain supple for
an extended education involves prolonging childhood and adolescence, and Scott
was as wilful as any child. Thrown on his own resources in a very real way,
Scott had failed to cope with the demands of a high-caliber school, and after
three semesters had flunked out of Mudd.

After two semesters of junior college and a very short period of service in
the US Air Force (courtesy of those self-same parents), during which the US
invaded Grenada, Scott had determined a new life path for himself. He would
attend the nearby California State University campus (his parents having
relocated from New Jersey to Modesto, California in the interim) as a commuter
student, get a degree in the relatively new field of Computer Science and once
in the world of work, find a comfortable niche and establish a solid
professional reputation.

This was a quite solid and respectable life plan for a 21-year-old to come up
with. The first step was to get admitted to CSU, Stanislaus - not too hard
given two semesters of junior college at a near-4.0 average to counter the
0.67 of his last semester at Mudd. The plan from there was to aggressively
attack the remaining curriculum requirements, challenging what could be
challenged, taking what had to be taken, and determinedly attending every
class and doing every single exercise in order to maintain focus and

So, in 1984, in blue jeans, pocket-T shirt and combat boots, Scott started his
first year of college in Turlock. He was tall, slim, and handsome with more
than just the good looks of youth, with dark, wavy hair and deep dark eyes.

Posted by scott at January 3, 2006 04:55 PM