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Author Topic: PC142: Abandonware  (Read 11457 times)
Talia
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« on: February 01, 2011, 07:53:55 AM »

PodCastle 142: Abandonware

by An Owomoyela.

Read by Christopher Reynaga.


Originally appeared in Fantasy Magazine.

I sat at my desk, feet jammed between the Quadra’s tower and my Dell’s, window cracked to let in the wet air. It’d been raining. Andy loved how the air smelled after it rained; I didn’t smell anything. I was just looking through Andy’s zip disks, thinking about her.

I opened one case and a disc fell out, dropping between the wheels on my chair. It’d been stuck between the pages, not fit into one of the pockets, and that was weird, considering Andy. Whatever the original label said had been worked over in sharpie, and the new label read only BURN THIS DISK.


Obviously, she hadn’t.

Andy was always open with me–ten years older and thinking she could tell me the secrets of life. She wanted me to tell her about girlfriends and classes and any juvenile delinquency I got into, and she told me about alcohol and sex and everything Dad didn’t want to talk about, like the time she got busted sneaking into a topless bar. I couldn’t think what she’d want to burn.

I turned on the zip drive, booted up the computer, and stuck the disk in. It was an early drive and an early disk, and it made a lot of noise for 100 megs, but it worked pretty well. Andy kept it fixed up.

The disk was named EraseMe. It had one file in it, a 77Mb document named SELDON.crn.

Rated PG.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 11:26:15 AM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2011, 10:46:29 AM »

  I knew from the moment the term "Zip disks" was used that I was going to like this story, but this ended up being one of my favourite stories that PodCastle has run in a long time. It reminded me a lot of the old "Twilight Zone" episode, "Nick of Time".

  I enjoyed how the story made me feel the narrator's loss so strongly, and its especially creepy turn when he puts in Andy's information.

  The ending made me wonder if I would be strong enough to destroy a program like that. Could I avoid the justification that I could just select good luck? My packrat tendencies make me think I would at least keep the disk (I do actually have my old Zip drive and a bunch of disks in my office, although the coolest things on them are probably data from my old Geocities page and some half-finished stories), if not continue to use it.
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2011, 02:38:02 PM »

Loved this story!!!

I learned to program on a C64, including childish attempts to "hide" information on random floppy disc sectors. I've always loved old Macs and used to own a zip drive too, so this whole story had a massive whack of nostalgia. Discovering an abandoned prognosticating program on an obsolete platform, wow. It has so much of the "invoking ancient dead gods" thing going for it.

This could be the beginnings of an absolutely epic Gaiman-ish tail, so many possibilities!  Using the resolution of grief and "moving on" thing to wrap this up quickly was perfect for a short story.  I think this goes on my top-10 favorite all-time escape-artists podcasts.
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2011, 07:07:05 PM »

I wanted to start this out with "That was great fun!" but really, the core of the story was not fun, however very well written.  I really enjoy stories that capture emotional impact.  The characters in this story were very real.  I felt for the dad who had lost everything and now seemed to be losing his son as well.  But I also understand the feelings of the protagonist of "the last thing I want to do is talk to Dad".  His sister had been the buffer and now she was gone.  I also could relate to the relationship he had had with his older sister, wanting to be into the things that she liked because he liked her, but also realizing his different preferences as well.

So where does the fun come in?  The nostalgia of older technology.  I too learned a lot of my initial programming on a Commadore 64, and spent hours typing in programs and disecting them to create my own.  I tried to build my own game called River Raid and wish I still had my console and that program.

The SELDON program was something I could completely visualize.  It sort of reminded me of the old text-based ELIZA computer psychiatrist program.  Try it out.  But what a great source for this bizzare fortune telling device, with limitations included!  I like how there are still many unanswered questions about Andy's death, and this program,, and how it all plays into the protagonists greif cycle.  It's destruction represented his acceptance and eventual recovery.

To sum up my felling on this story, I really dug it, on all levels.
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2011, 03:30:29 AM »

Excellent, excellent story.  Top marks all around, from a realistic portrayal of an emotionally shattered family to the wonderfully sly way the real darkness crept in around the edges.  I am envious.
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2011, 04:08:02 AM »

Great Lords of Binary, but I really loved this story.
We still have a ZIP drive and a few disks bumping around (my mom keeps trying to get us to through them away, arguing that we no longer have anything to plug the drive into, but packrat tendencies have so far won the day) so I totally dug this at a nostalgia level. I remember when we first got that ZIP drive and I was like "ZOMG! What are we going to do with 100 MB?" Lol at my younger self.
I like to program, and try to dissect code and all that, so I really loved that aspect of the story too.
And then there's the whole coping with a loss thing.
I think that in some way or another everybody has had to cope with some form of loss, and the protagonist's feelings here sort of summed up my own. If we try hard enough, then we don't have to let that person truly die, s/he will still be around as long as we keep them alive. Be it in memories, in some old program, a picture album... I really understood and felt his reluctance to destroy the zip drive, and why he finally was able to. It was as if his sister was giving him permission to kill this part of herself.
I also felt his frustration with the program, and trying to transfer his feelings of loss to understanding it. It was his way of coping.
I also understand the dad, trying not lose his entire family, but not really knowing how to back off.
*sigh*
It was a touching piece, and I really really enjoyed it.

I just have one complaint.
When writing something and referring to a directory (folder in Windows-Speak) it is common practice to type "directory_name/", so that it is clear that what is meant is a directory and not a file. However, when reading it out loud, saying "directory-name-slash" just sounds way too awkward.

Also, I kept trying to come up with some kind of easter egg or hidden joke about the file names. SELDON? MANCY? Some kind of acronym? A private joke us non-MAC users wouldn't get? Or just a pseudo random string of characters?

Oh, and finally, I still play Lemmings in DOSBOX. Tongue
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eytanz
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2011, 05:58:56 AM »

Oh, wow, this one hit me hard. Not so much because of the grief - I do know how it is to lose someone close - though not as close as the sister was to the narrator in this story - suddenly and inexplicably - but that's something I've come to terms with a long time ago. What really struck me is the part where the death of a loved one mean of not knowing, and there is no recourse. I have a big difficulty accepting that there are things that I want to know but can't. Just yesterday, half-asleep, my financee muttered something to me which I didn't understand, and she couldn't recall what it was when asked. I spent the next fifteen minutes fretting about it before I convinced myself it was probably not important. The thought of losing someone *and* being faced with a revelation that maybe there was something major going on in their life I was unaware of is terrifying to me.

Beyond this personal aspect, I agree with the overall admiration to this story. It is brilliantly written and evocative, and masterfully conveys the emotions of the narrator and his father in between the lines of what is said. The interplay between what the narrator thinks he feels and what he really is feeling deep down was marvellously done.
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2011, 09:55:52 AM »

Also, I kept trying to come up with some kind of easter egg or hidden joke about the file names. SELDON? MANCY? Some kind of acronym? A private joke us non-MAC users wouldn't get? Or just a pseudo random string of characters?

I wouldn't be surprised if there is some in-joke for SELDON, but if there was I didn't get it.  MANCY, I did get.  "-mancy" is a suffix used in many words as different ways of foretelling the future.  Such as:
necromancy--raising the dead for them to tell you the future (it's grown down different meanings so that it may just mean raising the dead)
geomancy--divining the future by markings on the ground or the pattern of thrown soil
There are a bunch more, pretty much any seemingly random event has been thought to be interpretable as omens of the future, reading tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, wax droplets in water, etc...


Anyway,  AWESOME story, one of my favorite Podcastle episodes.  I really felt like I knew Andy even though she was never even onscreen, which is a testament to how real David's character felt to me.  The idea of a prophetic program running on such an old system is intriguing and a little absurd (in a good way).  Awesome Awesome Awesome.  And the plot arc mixed well with his emotional arc of grieving, well mixed, well played.

Also I was very glad to hear a programming story from someone who sounds like they know programming (or at least has bothered to talk to someone who knows programming).  Too often, computers are used as a "magic" item by writers who don't really understand them.  Which seems odd to say, in a story where the computer was doing something generally considered magical, but the authentic details went a long way toward convincing me that this computer and the people around it were really real.  There were various details that indicated this, but foremost of those was pointing out that computers can't generate truly random numbers.  There are ways to simulate randomness, but it's never truly random.
-A side thought for you:  Humans are way worse at randomness.  That's why there are Rock Paper Scissors champions--they are the ones who are better at seeing the patterns in others attempts at randomness and exploiting them.

Interstellar Pig I was very excited to hear Interstellar Pig mentioned in the story.  Awesome YA Science Fiction book.  I had an awesome English teacher who assigned this as reading.  Extremely fun, I really got into that when I read it.  I haven't read it since, might be fun to read again.

Text adventures I love text adventures and other generally outdated game types.  About 15 years ago my aunt and uncle gave me "The Lost Treasures of Infocom" collection, I still don't know where they got it as they are not even computer players, barely able to use the internet.  It is awesome, having a couple dozen Infocom text adventures (they were the big developer of text adventures in their heyday).  I also like the old graphical adventures like King's Quest and Space Quest.  *sigh* They don't make games like they used to.

Abandonware On the topic of retro gaming, if you like old-school computer games, or would like to find out if you like them, you've gotta check out www.abandonia.com
They collect abandonware games and put them up for download.  Lots of text adventures, graphical adventures, and many other types.
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2011, 10:59:21 AM »

Also, I kept trying to come up with some kind of easter egg or hidden joke about the file names. SELDON? MANCY? Some kind of acronym? A private joke us non-MAC users wouldn't get? Or just a pseudo random string of characters?

I wouldn't be surprised if there is some in-joke for SELDON, but if there was I didn't get it.  MANCY, I did get.  "-mancy" is a suffix used in many words as different ways of foretelling the future.  Such as:
necromancy--raising the dead for them to tell you the future (it's grown down different meanings so that it may just mean raising the dead)
geomancy--divining the future by markings on the ground or the pattern of thrown soil
There are a bunch more, pretty much any seemingly random event has been thought to be interpretable as omens of the future, reading tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, wax droplets in water, etc...
Ahh, that also explains why it was "underscore mancy dot cee ar en".

Abandonware On the topic of retro gaming, if you like old-school computer games, or would like to find out if you like them, you've gotta check out www.abandonia.com
They collect abandonware games and put them up for download.  Lots of text adventures, graphical adventures, and many other types.
Yes, that's where I got Lemmings from Tongue
Well, recently. Originally I had it on a 3.5" floppy diskette.
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hautdesert
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2011, 01:11:26 PM »




I wouldn't be surprised if there is some in-joke for SELDON, but if there was I didn't get it. 


You kids these days!

Hari Seldon, a fictional character, is the intellectual hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series. In his capacity as mathematics professor at Streeling University on Trantor, he developed psychohistory, allowing him to predict the future in probabilistic terms. His prediction of the eventual fall of the Galactic Empire is the reason behind his nickname "The Raven" Seldon.

Don't they teach the classics in school anymore?   Wink


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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2011, 01:25:07 PM »

*repeated headdesk*
OF COURSE!!
Hari Seldon! How could I have forgotten.
I read the Foundation Series the first time (in the order it was written in) when I was 12, and a few times after that (chronologically). But it has been a few years since the last time. I knew that name was familiar, I just couldn't place it.
Naturally a program that could predict the future would be named Seldon.
However, this raises a problem.
See, the reason why (I think) that this story is in Podcastle and not Escapepod is because of the fact that it's NOT science. The way I define the difference is: if you explain the strange using magic, it's fantasy. If you explain the strange using science/math, it's scifi.
So, I decided that the program works by magic. This explains a number of things:
1. Why it's in this podcast.
2. How she could have written 76 MB of plain text code in her short life span. Remember, she was ten years older than him, and he said he was 16, so she died when she was 26. Allow a few years for her to learn how to read, write, type and program and that isn't really enough time. (Also, I think at one point he said she was 28?)
3. How a computer program could determine the future. At first, when he described the code "could have been a map of the universe" I thought "Of course! Determinism! That's how it works!" But then I changed my mind, because quantum mechanics blew determinism out of the water. So the only conclusion is that it works by magic.

But if it's called Seldon.... maybe that's just a joke. Yeah, that's it. Programmers have a strange sense of humor which is (more often than not) revealed in their choice of program names.
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2011, 01:42:45 PM »

This story struck me a lot, at first, but its effect waned in the days that followed. Although this was a delightfully uneasy story, full of subtle and disturbing quirks away from the sane, safe world we all like to believe we live in, the magic wasn't foreshadowed enough to make it really stick. I think the story would have been stronger if the big sister had been behaving strangely in the weeks before her death, as she dealt with the effects of life with SELDON. Then the story would have had more weight, more consequence, as the main character struggled to avoid his sister's fate while dealing with her death. Unfortunately, as it was, the metaphor sat lightly and faded away.

That said, I thought the story was extremely well done. SELDON's predictions and their deeper consequences sent shivers up my spine. The narration was also excellent and added a lot to the story.
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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2011, 01:51:23 PM »

Great story, very creepy.

What i found interesting was that there was a certain amount of "destiny" to the events, the main character was able to avoid the incident at school, but when picking the unlucky option for Andy on the day of her death there was a clear indication that it was just meant to be, and there wasnt any way of avoiding it.

One thing i found odd was the part where there dad came in all serious and mentioned the bomb at school, but then it turned out to be just a cherry bomb, which according to what i have learned from american tv is relativly harmless, or atleast not anywhere as serious as to his reaction.
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2011, 02:29:41 PM »

2. How she could have written 76 MB of plain text code in her short life span. Remember, she was ten years older than him, and he said he was 16, so she died when she was 26. Allow a few years for her to learn how to read, write, type and program and that isn't really enough time. (Also, I think at one point he said she was 28?)

What about self-modifying code?  That might explain why he can't decipher it.  It's not meant to be easily readable by any human, it's just meant to work.

Or

Who's to say that she wrote it all from scratch?  Maybe most of the space is occupied by data representing the map of the known universe and SELDON is nothing but a lookup program written spaghetti-style to make it hard to read.  The map could've been from any number of sources, such as just finding it on the internet somewhere (remember, SELDON ran on old hardware but was written recently), or perhaps she wrote another program to data-mine and create probability tables, and as time passed it could test its predictions against actual events and refine the weight functions for its decision criteria.


So I don't think the size of the file is necessarily unrealistic. She hadn't told him the details of what she was doing, so it's no surprise that he doesn't understand it.
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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2011, 03:45:27 PM »

I loved this story. The characters' grief and their reactions to it were so real. It reminded me of my own brother's death several years ago: the things we kept when we went through his things said something about each of us. Since then, I'm always evaluating my own things, routinely purging unwanted junk. Never forget: someone has to go through your stuff when you die. Now is the time to toss those oracular zip discs.
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« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2011, 05:44:09 PM »

I wouldn't be surprised if there is some in-joke for SELDON, but if there was I didn't get it. 
You kids these days!

Hari Seldon, a fictional character, is the intellectual hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series. (etc. ...)

Don't they teach the classics in school anymore?   Wink

You beat me to it.  I smiled when I heard the name of the program and figured out the reference.  Nice bit of subtle character-building/reinforcement, there.

2. How she could have written 76 MB of plain text code in her short life span.

Who's to say that she wrote it all from scratch?  Maybe most of the space is occupied by data representing the map of the known universe and SELDON is nothing but a lookup program written spaghetti-style to make it hard to read.  The map could've been from any number of sources, such as just finding it on the internet somewhere

It doesn't even need to be the data that is Not Invented Here.  A decent (and humble enough) programmer will look elsewhere for code (libraries) that already do what she wants, or close enough that it only needs a little modification to get there.  The creativity comes in putting together existing components in heretofore unknown ways.

(remember, SELDON ran on old hardware but was written recently),

Huh, I missed that detail.

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« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2011, 06:30:48 PM »

(remember, SELDON ran on old hardware but was written recently),

Huh, I missed that detail.

I don't think that was explicitly said in the story. In fact, IIRC, I don't think there was any indication how long ago it was written and when the sister decided to stop using it.
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« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2011, 11:15:46 PM »

(remember, SELDON ran on old hardware but was written recently),

Huh, I missed that detail.

I don't think that was explicitly said in the story. In fact, IIRC, I don't think there was any indication how long ago it was written and when the sister decided to stop using it.

I'm not sure about how long ago it was written, but I think that she stopped using it on the day she died. My reason for thinking so is in the message it gave to the protagonist under her name for that day: something like "Outside of the door is randomness." Also "Maybe predetermination isn't that bad?"

I really enjoyed this story.  A bit uneasy - not the big flashiness that some part of me was anticipating, but instead a slow reflection that really hit the spot. _MANCY didn't click for me until I read the thread, but "Seldon.crn" clicked just as the story was finishing and I was thinking about the names - and we were explicitly told a few times that Andy was always very much into Science Fiction.
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2011, 09:26:08 AM »

(remember, SELDON ran on old hardware but was written recently),

Huh, I missed that detail.

I don't think that was explicitly said in the story. In fact, IIRC, I don't think there was any indication how long ago it was written and when the sister decided to stop using it.

I thought it explicitly said that computer was her recent pet project,  I got the impression she'd been working on it hardcore within the last decade before her death or so, at which point she likely had internet access on her other computers.  In any case, I don't think it said that she didn't write it, or at least finish it, recently.


It doesn't even need to be the data that is Not Invented Here.  A decent (and humble enough) programmer will look elsewhere for code (libraries) that already do what she wants, or close enough that it only needs a little modification to get there.  The creativity comes in putting together existing components in heretofore unknown ways.

Good point, maybe I should look for Seldon's origins on SourceForge.  If that were code only, that would be a helluva lot of text, which would make me skeptical that this old machine would ever be able to compile it all in a short period of time... then again it could be an interpreted language.  Still seems unlikely that it's all human-written code though.  I still think it's more likely to be self-modifying code or data.  Plus self-modifying code kind of has a nice mysterious lack-of-clear-origin quality about it that appeals to me in this case.


Thank you!  I've read surprisingly little Asimov, or from any of the Grand Masters.  Thanks for illuminating this.  Smiley
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 09:32:11 AM by Unblinking » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2011, 03:10:17 PM »

Wonderful story.  Really says something about that element of grief that involves accepting that there are questions that can't be asked anymore, secrets that are lost forever.  The ending fits well with that, too.

Since I'm a programmer, stories about programming often include descriptions that break suspension of disbelief for me.  This one was an exception, it did a really good job of avoiding the old Holywood Hacking tropes and describing how someone with limited technical knowledge might try to understand a complicated program written by someone much more skilled.

So the only conclusion is that it works by magic.

It's "indistinguishable from magic", at any rate.  Which is itself a common source of programmer humor.
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« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2011, 05:40:50 PM »

Oh!  I found this one so frustrating.  Such a great premise, such wonderful emotional content, and SO overwritten!  This story could have been gorgeous if the author had trusted me to make a few inferences instead of telling me how to feel all the time.  It's not so much "show don't tell" but more like, you've already shown me, so why the heck are you telling me, too??!!  This is a beautiful story + one quarter of a story that could have been cut.
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« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2011, 09:25:43 AM »

I find it interesting that in a story wherein the classic Cassandra's dilemma trope is explored, everyone is instead wingeing out about the lost days of fuzzy green monitors and dot matrix.

This story had several levels, and to a certain degree I agree with BlueLu about this being a bit overwritten, though I would interpret things differently as to why it's overwritten.
On one level, this story is an episode of the twilight zone (for everyone who just started saying, 'oh, yeah... which episode' you're probably thinking of "Nick Of Time" with Shatner, or maybe "Misfortune Cookie" with Elliot Gould from the 80s iteration of the program) exploring the aforementioned Cassandra's dilemma problem; if you can see the future, can you change it? Can you believe predictions as you interpret them? This is an old, but still rich tradition. This story does a decent, if slightly rushed, job of exploring this idea. There was plenty more to explore here.

The story of grief, loss, and an inability to let go is decently done, though again is somewhat rushed. The final words from the program suggest that in some way his sister is actually still alive, in the program...

There's a lot more here, but I it's been said well enough above.

I think, to get to the reinterpreting that I promised, that there's a little too much here, both in actual content and potential, for this to work perfectly as a small piece. The world has gained a decent short story, at the possible cost of a good novella.   
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« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2011, 12:40:02 PM »

Loved this story.  There's a lot of geek candy here for me.  I used to work at Motorola as a Sys-Admin, and I remember collecting literally piles of old Quadras (which used Motorola chips) that took forever to replace with Dells.  They weren't bad machines, just no longer supported by anyone.  And I remember of those early zip drive laying around that were so slow by modern-day standards and used those parallel printer cables that would be about the thickness of your thumb.  Sadly, it was off to the dumpsters when I got married.  Come to think of it I wonder if the choice of Quadras, Zip disks, and Code Runner (real-world products that were left by the wayside of technology) were appropos to the story title.

Finally, +1 Geek Cred for mentioning Alienware.
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« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2011, 05:00:03 PM »

I absolutely loved this story. Hit very close to home, as I have a box of zip disks that I inherited from my Dad after he died. I should really try to dig through those sometime.
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« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2011, 09:10:22 PM »

Commenting at this point -- especially to say how much I enjoyed the story -- seems redundant.

However, I really did love this one. There was a lot of reality both in the geek trappings and in the family tensions, particularly the bit about the sister being the buffer between the boy and his dad. Take away the buffer and you get friction. Families, eh? Who'd have 'em? ;-)

I think I like the resolution but I'm not sure. I was waiting to see what Bad Thing would happen to the kid but he went and burned/erased Seldon before that happened. So, kudos to the character... I suppose if The Bad Thing happened it'd be tipping into Pseudopod territory.

Sometimes you get a story where you want to stay with the characters, in their world, see what happens to them. You care about them. This, for me, is one of those.
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« Reply #25 on: February 08, 2011, 09:14:51 PM »

Not much to add, except that did anyone else think Chris Reynaga's dad voice was heavily influenced by Nathan Fillion? Because I totally heard it.

Also, I'm curious: in the bio, were the use of nongendered pronouns at the request of the author or simply the reader's choice?
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« Reply #26 on: February 09, 2011, 08:02:59 AM »

Se didn't request it, but I knew from an old conversation that An preferred the use of gender neutral pronouns when referring to hir.  I did double-check before I went ahead and used them, partly because a lot of folks have very good reasons not to be public about their gender identity, and partly because there are several sets of pronouns and I wasn't sure which ones se preferred.

So, my choice, but I did consult with hir.
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« Reply #27 on: February 09, 2011, 11:51:28 AM »

...because a lot of folks have very good reasons not to be public about their gender identity...
This is true. Whenever I meet new people in a chat online I always ask which pronouns they'd prefer. Note, I do not ask their gender, but which pronouns we should use when discussing them.
Also, thank you. I re-listened to the intro and just caught the gender-nuetral pronouns now, in the quiet of my home. The first time I heard it, on the bus, I thought it was just background noise preventing me from hearing properly. But now I know how those pronouns are pronounced (I've only ever seen them in print, and whatever you call the letter on your monitor).
Oh, and you could use the male pronouns for me.
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« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2011, 04:38:24 PM »

I would like to chime in on the 76 MB of plain text code debate.

Personally, I'm not a computer kind of guy. To me, Clarke's third law is almost a constant phenomenon even in my daily life. That being said, when I read hard science fiction, the presentation of details can either bore me to tears or cause my sense of understanding to deepen my enjoyment of the piece.

In this story, the explanation of how much plain text 76 MB is what launched a sudden sense of wonder with the program. The structure of the story made it obvious that something important was on the disk but that one detail sold it for me that this was something of Magic and I never paused to think about how long it would take her to write all of it. Maybe that's just my luddite brain showing itself.
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« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2011, 08:39:06 PM »

In this story, the explanation of how much plain text 76 MB is what launched a sudden sense of wonder with the program. The structure of the story made it obvious that something important was on the disk but that one detail sold it for me that this was something of Magic and I never paused to think about how long it would take her to write all of it. Maybe that's just my luddite brain showing itself.

Well now speaking as a technical guy, that means it was a good explanation. If it gives you a sense of how much could be going on there, it's handily done the job.
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« Reply #30 on: February 10, 2011, 04:17:44 PM »

I liked this story but it felt wrong for Podcastle. Felt more like an Escapepod story to me. This felt more like technological precognition (due to the huge size of the source file and my knowledge as a programmer that it takes a ton of code to break even a megabyte of source code when programming) than fantastical precognition.

Also I would have liked a better resolution. Why did the sister ignore the warnings? Did she even get a warning? Maybe she got so bored knowing what was going to happen that she stopped running the program and hence didn't get a warning.
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« Reply #31 on: February 10, 2011, 04:23:37 PM »

Also I would have liked a better resolution. Why did the sister ignore the warnings?

I read it as, "She wants more than anything to find an example of true randomness because she feels weighed down by the way everything is predictable.  She tries to escape the grip of her wyrd, and the only way to do that is through her death, in grand Norse tradition."

She goes to the accident because it is random and senseless, in other words.  The terrible discovery her brother makes is that she wanted it to end that way, that she was in pain and suicidal.
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« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2011, 09:26:55 AM »

Also I would have liked a better resolution. Why did the sister ignore the warnings?

I read it as, "She wants more than anything to find an example of true randomness because she feels weighed down by the way everything is predictable.  She tries to escape the grip of her wyrd, and the only way to do that is through her death, in grand Norse tradition."

She goes to the accident because it is random and senseless, in other words.  The terrible discovery her brother makes is that she wanted it to end that way, that she was in pain and suicidal.

I think that's a bit of an overstatement of what's in the story. First, as I still maintain, we have no evidence that the sister used SHELDON to predict her death. All we know is what it would have told her, had she done so. And we also know what it has to tell her now that she is dead. Which is revealing enough.

Second, even if she had read it, the warnings were quite vague - "a truly random occurance" does not necessarily mean "something fatal". It means "something special". She would have known that randomness brings risk, but by its very nature, the promise of randomness does not guaruntee any outcome, including death.

Third, the fact that when asked for good news for a person who is already dead, SHELDON replies with "good news, it's over", doesn't mean that that person is suicidal (though I accept that the narrator did interpret it that way). I am in no way suicidal, and there is a lot I really love about my life. But there is also a lot in my life I would be very happy to leave behind. SHELDON was programmed to give good news, and presumably "it's over" is the best news it could come up with. That doesn't mean it's what the sister would have chosen or wanted.
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« Reply #33 on: February 11, 2011, 10:57:21 AM »

Well, I went with what the protagonist seemed to assume.  It certainly didn't feel like we were supposed to take that scene as only applying to him - remember that rigmarole about "the thing I didn't want to know"?
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« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2011, 04:07:00 AM »

Wow - liked this one SO MUCH.  I got the impression that his sister used SHELDON a lot, and the narrator mentioned that she would just 'drop by' and made references to 'running interference' with their father, like she knew how to handle just about any situation - well, if one had a program that could tell the future, that would be much easier to do.  It sounded a little more than sibling closeness to me, especially given the age difference between the two of them.

The only thing I stumbled on in the story at all was "Burn this disk"  It took me a good break after the first listening to figure out that it meant 'destroy' and not 'copy onto a CD' - once my mega-slow brain clicked in, I had to listen again with a fresh ear.  I'm sure this wording was done on purpose for that very reason.

Overwritten?  Really?  It's hard to write about the experience of the death of someone close - it's such an internal process, and it's hard to do the 'show vs tell' in this sort of story.  Overall I thought a balance between the two was struck pretty well.
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« Reply #35 on: February 12, 2011, 01:49:19 PM »

Well, I went with what the protagonist seemed to assume.  It certainly didn't feel like we were supposed to take that scene as only applying to him - remember that rigmarole about "the thing I didn't want to know"?

But the story was brilliant in establishing how the protagonist is an unreliable narrator - his perceptions, throughout, are very much skewed by his grief. I don't think that we are safe in assuming what the narrator does about the emotional state of anyone, especially not his sister.
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« Reply #36 on: February 25, 2011, 03:01:15 PM »

I will chime in adding my praise to the pile, and add one more thing: 

I loved the display of emotional stress that the MC goes through trying to decide how to interpret the "It's okay, it's over." messages.  It is a simple message, but could mean so many things depending on how you looked at it.
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« Reply #37 on: March 03, 2011, 06:13:08 PM »

I really loved this episode. I rarely read stories about sibling grief, and it was both painful and a sort of relief to hear this one. Though I didn't get most of the programming jokes, I did get everything about the emotions that the main character struggled with, especially regarding his dad. I wrote a little more about it on my site if anyone is interested.
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« Reply #38 on: March 07, 2011, 12:29:59 PM »

First of all, let me say that I did not listen to the podcast. I just so happened to read the story on Fantasy Magazine today (if you think my backlog for Podcastle is bad Cheesy), and when I was coming here to make a comment on The Coalwoman, I was startled to see this in the forum. I didn't know that Podcastle did it here. Coincidence?

::tries real hard not to think about it::

That said, I loved the story, even though I didn't get most of the programming references. I found the SELDON program a little spooky, but more sad than anything. Thinking about the messages, there were times it felt a little hopeful. In a weird way, I wondered if Andy had herself programmed it to in a way comfort the MC.

I better stick this in my listening queue now so I can listen to it...in a couple of months.
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« Reply #39 on: March 07, 2011, 03:40:16 PM »

In a weird way, I wondered if Andy had herself programmed it to in a way comfort the MC.

Oo, yes! And planted a $20 while she was at it!
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« Reply #40 on: March 10, 2011, 04:07:00 PM »

How did I miss this one until now?

Truly a great story and a perfectly creepy concept.

As a side note by way of nostalgia - my first computer was an Adam (which used actual audio cassettes and shared my name) and another later computer of mine had a Zip drive competitor - SuperDisk. Anyone remember those?

-Adam
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« Reply #41 on: March 14, 2011, 09:50:30 AM »

Hey, what do you know...this came up in my playlist sooner than I thought! It was good to hear it. I caught several things that I missed in my initial reading...including LEMMINGS! Holy cow, I used to play that SO MANY TIMES!!!!

Huh. I'm more of a gaming geek than I thought.
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« Reply #42 on: March 14, 2011, 11:49:40 AM »

Hey, what do you know...this came up in my playlist sooner than I thought! It was good to hear it. I caught several things that I missed in my initial reading...including LEMMINGS! Holy cow, I used to play that SO MANY TIMES!!!!

Huh. I'm more of a gaming geek than I thought.

Great game, that was!  It probably will reflect badly on me if I admit that the best part was setting a whole clan to nuke themselves and then seeing the patterns they blast into the ground.
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« Reply #43 on: March 14, 2011, 01:08:55 PM »

Hey, what do you know...this came up in my playlist sooner than I thought! It was good to hear it. I caught several things that I missed in my initial reading...including LEMMINGS! Holy cow, I used to play that SO MANY TIMES!!!!

Huh. I'm more of a gaming geek than I thought.

Great game, that was!  It probably will reflect badly on me if I admit that the best part was setting a whole clan to nuke themselves and then seeing the patterns they blast into the ground.
Kinda funny but, today I was super-bored in class. Digging around my hard drive I found the old Lemmings Holiday Pack from 1994.
I spent a happy 2 hours with that Cheesy
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« Reply #44 on: March 15, 2011, 08:37:00 AM »

Kinda funny but, today I was super-bored in class. Digging around my hard drive I found the old Lemmings Holiday Pack from 1994.
I spent a happy 2 hours with that Cheesy

If anyone's got a Lemmings craving but doesn't have the game, Abandonia.com has 5 Lemmings games, including the Holiday pack:
http://www.abandonia.com/en/search_abandonia/lemmings
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« Reply #45 on: March 17, 2011, 09:24:05 AM »

Feedback segment of the "State Change" episode, waxing nostalgic about old tech, reminded me of the FSR's "Back in the Day":

Quote
Coaxke:
Back in the day, System 7.5,
Had HyperCard stacks on my SyQuest drive,
Once I got a modem I was never fuckin' bored,
Always dialin' up a BBS to play me some LORD,
I stole my school's dial-up to get the internet,
Had a copy of Ircle and no regrets,
Chillin' in #macfilez, leechin' on bots,
It took nine years to get a download spot,
Hours and hours, makin' Marathon maps,
Always on the run 'cuz I set it to caps,
Eventually I got a brand new Power Mac,
So fuckin' fast, I almost had a heart attack,
Ran a Hotline server on my school's T1,
"Win Ben Stein's Warez" was the name of that one,
Quake 3 Test in the computer lab,
Never went to class 'cuz that shit was a drag.

All:
Back in the day, Shufflepuck Cafe,
Banner ads, gettin' paid, ICQ, gettin' laid,
Back in the day, we knew Sulu was gay,
Munchin' numbers, runnin' lodes, monochrome displays.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0HKHbJceAw
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« Reply #46 on: March 17, 2011, 09:27:38 AM »

Oh yeah, ICQ.  The "Uh oh!" notification still rings in my ears from time to time.  I know someone who has the "Uh oh!" sound as their text message notification, but they never used ICQ so it's rather lost on them.  My ear's still perk up whenever I hear it though.
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« Reply #47 on: March 17, 2011, 09:54:31 AM »

Oh yeah, ICQ.  The "Uh oh!" notification still rings in my ears from time to time.  I know someone who has the "Uh oh!" sound as their text message notification, but they never used ICQ so it's rather lost on them.  My ear's still perk up whenever I hear it though.


8727263

I don't remember my login or password, or I'd go cancel it. I don't even think the e-mail I used to sign up exists anymore.
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« Reply #48 on: March 17, 2011, 10:34:12 AM »

Oh yeah, ICQ.  The "Uh oh!" notification still rings in my ears from time to time.  I know someone who has the "Uh oh!" sound as their text message notification, but they never used ICQ so it's rather lost on them.  My ear's still perk up whenever I hear it though.


I don't get the "munchin' numbers" reference, and never played Shufflepuck Cafe (or Wacky Wheels, another old game referenced in the song) but I remember Lode Runner well (spent some mad hours making my own maps in that one).
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« Reply #49 on: March 17, 2011, 11:18:32 AM »

Oh yeah, ICQ.  The "Uh oh!" notification still rings in my ears from time to time.  I know someone who has the "Uh oh!" sound as their text message notification, but they never used ICQ so it's rather lost on them.  My ear's still perk up whenever I hear it though.


I don't get the "munchin' numbers" reference, and never played Shufflepuck Cafe (or Wacky Wheels, another old game referenced in the song) but I remember Lode Runner well (spent some mad hours making my own maps in that one).

Ha, I didn't even notice the "munchin' numbers" reference on my read, but I'm certain that's referring to the edutainment game "Number Munchers".  It was very popular when I was in grade school, they had some available computers for games in study hall and that was one of the games.  You're a little green dude who has to walk around a grid and eat all the number that match the level's goal (all the factors of a particular number, or multiples of a particular number, etc...).  All this while avoiding the Troggles who would try to eat you.  Some time in the 90s they even had Super Munchers based on the same concept but you'd get the opporutunity to turn into Super Muncher, who wears a cape and can Troggle-bash.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_Munchers
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« Reply #50 on: March 21, 2011, 02:20:50 PM »

My geek-cred:  I have my first-initial-last-name@hotmail, yahoo, and gmail.  No extra numbers, letters, or garbage.  Was in the beta program for all 3.  I still remember the "WTF is a 'hotmail'" question.  I sold an invite to gmail for $10. 
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« Reply #51 on: March 21, 2011, 04:47:54 PM »

I sold an invite to gmail for $10. 

Scalper.
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