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.It was the baby equivalent of an adult landing a job.Van ran his fingers through his thick sandy beard, still wet from the morning shower.He set his ThinkPad firmly aside to confront an unsteady heap of magazines.Junk-mail catalog people had gotten wind of Van’s huge paycheck.For them, a computer geek with a new house and new baby was a gold mine.Van didn’t enjoy shopping, generally.Van enjoyed mathematics, tech hardware, cool sci-fi movies, his wife’s company, and bowling.However, shopping had one great advantage for Van.Shopping made Van stop thinking about Nash equilibria and latency functions.Van had been thinking about these two computer-science issues for three months, seriously.Then for two weeks very seriously, and then for the last six days very, very seriously.So seriously that even Dottie became invisible to him.So seriously that sometimes Van had trouble walking.However, Van’s network-latency analysis had been successfully completed and written up.The white paper would be widely admired by key members of the IEEE, and cordially ignored by the Mondiale board of directors.So Van had given himself some time off.Dottie, slim and delicious and barefoot, was silently reading the instructions that came with her new toaster oven.Dottie always read all the instructions for everything.Dottie always studied all the safety disclaimers and even the shrink-wrap contracts on software.Back at MIT, classmates at the lab had teased Dottie about her compulsive habits.Van, however, had noticed that Dottie never made the dumb beginner’s mistakes that everybody else made.Dottie was pleased to have this quality of hers recognized and admired.Eventually Dottie wrote her own vows and then married him.Van leafed through slick colorful pages and discovered a Fortebraccio task lamp.The designer lamp looked both spoonlike and medical.It had the robust, optimistic feeling of a vintage Gene Roddenberry Star Trek episode.It rocked totally.Van ripped the lamp’s page from the catalog, and dumped the rest into the recycling bin at his elbow.Van’s next catalog was chock-full of chairs.Van, his attention fully snagged now, settled deeply into the problem at hand.He was sitting uncomfortably in a lousy plastic picnic chair, one of a set of six that he had bought on a hasty lunch break at the nearest Home Depot.That situation just wouldn’t do.Dottie repeated herself.“Derek! You want seven-grain bread or whole wheat?”Van came to with a start.“Which loaf has more in the queue?”“Uhm, the whole wheat loaf has more slices left.”“Give me the other one.” Logically, that bread was bound to taste better.As a serious programmer, Van used an Aeron chair at his work.The Aeron was in some sense the ultimate programmer’s working chair.The Aeron was the only chair that a hard-core hacker lifestyle required.Van hunched his thick shoulders thoughtfully.Yet, a family home did require some domestic chairs.For instance, an Aeron lacked the proper parameters for breakfast use.Spattered baby food would stick inside the Aeron’s nylon mesh.Van winced at the memory of the three FBI guys who had shown up at his Merwinster mansion, seeking his computer security advice.The FBI G-men had been forced to sit in Van’s white plastic picnic chairs.The Bureau guys hadn’t said a word about the plastic chairs—they just drank their instant coffee and took thorough notes on yellow legal pads—but they got that dismissive FBI look in their eyes.They were reclassifying him as a mere informant rather than a fully qualified expert.That wouldn’t do, either.Dottie didn’t know about the FBI and their discreet visits to the house.Van hadn’t told Dottie about the FBI, for he knew she wouldn’t approve.The interested parties from the Treasury Department and the U.S.Navy Office of Special Investigations had also escaped Dottie’s notice.This was some catalog.It had chairs made of black leather and bent chrome tubing.Chairs like baseball mitts.Chairs like bent martini glasses.Chairs cut from single sheets of pale, ripply plywood.Dottie slid a breakfast plate before him.Dottie’s new toaster oven had browned Van’s toast to absolute perfection.Van had never before witnessed such perfect toast.It lacked the crude striping effect that toast got from the cheap hot wires in everyday toasters.“Derek, can you open this?”Van put his manly grip to an imported black jar of English jam.The enameled lid popped off with a hollow smack.There was a rush of aroma so intense that Van felt five years old.This was very good jam.This black British jam had such royal Buckingham Palace authority that Van wanted to jump right up and salute.“Honey, this stuff is some jam.”“It’s blackberry!” Dottie sang out from behind her copper frying pan.“It’s your favorite!”Even the baby was astounded by the wondrous smell of the jam.Ted’s round blue eyes went tense.“Dada!” he said.“He said ‘dada’ again.” Van spread the happy black jam across his perfect toast [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]