Tales of a Cheeky Geekery

Not a lot of folks know this but I went to Cincinnati’s first ever computer-based school. Well, the school wasn’t computer-based but the curriculum was. Called CUP , it was an alternative educational program run out of Hughes High School during the mid-80’s. Being a wholly unique program for its time, it began the integration of computers into school life, something that I think a lot of people these days take for granted.

What made CUP unique? Students would learn about databases, word processing, even simple computer commands. All homework handed in was to be done on computers, nothing could ever done in handwriting or on typewriters. There were no chalkboards at CUP, because chalk dust could easily make a computer overheat. Also, the fluorescent lighting had special filters to reduce glares on the CRT monitors (ask your parents, kids). In addition to notebooks, folders, and pens — no pencils because erasers, too, could gunk up a computer back then — we also carried hard plastic disk boxes to protect our 5¼-inch or 3½-inch floppy disks.

Sadly, not a lot of attention was given to actual programming, per se, and most of the teaching staff spent more time figuring out how to implement their pedagogy into this burgeoning technology. However, the two years I spent at CUP exposed me to a lot of neat, new things (for its time) and pretty much set me on a technological trend in my life that still causes my older siblings to call me for computer advice or tech questions.

The cover of COMPUTE!'S Gazette from December 1984.

COMPUTE!’S Gazette, the cutting edge of Commodore computers! No, really.

Being at CUP was a really cool thing to be apart of. You had to be selected to go to there, which meant having some knowledge of or capacity with computers, if not a desire to learn. I fit that prerequisite, I think. I’d been monkeying around with computers and programming for a couple years, first on my old VIC-20, then on my beloved Commodore 64. Back then, computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. To be into computers was to be instantly branded as a nerd or geek, the sort of person who would type in the 1000+ lines of code in the back of a COMPUTE!’s Gazette and try to figure out where you went wrong, since the programs rarely worked on first try.

Naturally, it’s all cool to be into computers these days, and many people are fine with using them having no idea of how they work. For me, however, programming is where it’s at. There nothing more fun than taking some lines of text and, say, turning them into a beautiful looking webpage. But I digress.

Being at CUP put me among people who, at the least, had one interest in common with me and probably wouldn’t be like the dolts at my junior high who branded me “Lumberjack” just because I wore a red flannel shirt to school one day.

CUP, indeed, was a unique school, but although the people in charge of the program got ‘it’, not everyone did. One particularly obstinate teacher who was at CUP once cause me doing something that I can’t remember and I probably felt was pretty arbitrary in terms of violation of principles. It probably had something to do with running a program I’d written on an Apple ][c (that’s what we had most of) during class when I should’ve been working on something else. She did the old punishment of having me write 100 hundred sentences, something like “I will not misbehave during class” or “I will not call the teacher a powerless figurehead”, and then have my parents sign it.

Remembering the mandate that CUP required all work be done on computers, I used this nifty little loophole to circumvent tedium and hand cramps. I whipped up a quick program on my old Commie that was similar to this:

5 cls
10 for x= 1 to 100
20 print x$;". I will not blah blah blah blah."
30 next x
40 end

I had also set it up so that the output straight to my printer so that it would create the following in lovely dot matrix print *.

1. I will not blah blah blah blah.
2. I will not blah blah blah blah.
3. I will not blah blah blah blah.
4. I will not blah blah blah blah.
5. I will not blah blah blah blah.
96. I will not blah blah blah blah.
97. I will not blah blah blah blah.
98. I will not blah blah blah blah.
99. I will not blah blah blah blah.
100. I will not blah blah blah blah.

I handed my dad the Z-fold printout (you kids with your laser and inkjet printers don’t know the first thing about spooling, do ya!) and asked him to sign it, which he did in a rather bemused manner. I then presented it to my teacher who, rather than the two or three page handwritten sentences, was given a three-page computer printout. Understanding that I would probably get some blow back on this, I had pretty much assumed that this would be taken to the next level (ie, a visit to the program administrator’s office).

Which it did.

It was over in about five minutes. She told the PA that I was being lazy and insolent. I explained that I was following the spirit of the program’s principles. Long story short: the PA chuckled at my chutzpah but reminded me that, in future, I should stick to following class rules, or “keep my nose clean” as my dad used to say. It was a small victory and I’m pretty sure I was the reason for a couple of post-school glasses of wine for my teacher.


Life and Soul

In my opinion, gallows humor is not callous humor. As much as I miss my parents, I have a distinct irreverence towards their current state (dead) and their current activities (not much), so a dark joke at their lack of expense isn’t out of the question. It’s how I’m wired. Indeed, my dad used to joke with friends often that he had purchased “property in Kentucky”. When they’d ask him where, he’d mention the cemetery plot where his mortal remains currently reside. Dad was a paramedic and would sometimes come home with stories of having picked up some poor soul who eventually became a DOA on the way to the hospital. His kids, especially me with my proclined attitude towards a morbid curiosity, would often ask how this particular person died. Dad’s response was, “his heart stopped beating”.

This is all to say that my humor tends dangles in the dark, crossing from time to time into the nihilistic. In most extreme cases, there’s a distinct antinatalist. One of my favorite Bill Hicks quotes is “We’re a virus with shoes”. In the election that would doom us to the wiles of Trumpian ignorance and bombast or to the Not-Quite-As-Evil yet surely to be obstructed to tedium Clintonian neo-liberalism, I considered throwing my support towards Asteroid/Plague 2016. It’s how my mind works.

Life and soul of the party, I am.

These last few weeks have been rather stress-based. I work a job where I’m underemployed and even further underpaid. We work a rich man’s hobby and, frankly, I’m better than what I do there. Heck, all of us are, but no one wants to pay in this economy. My brain is run through with ruts trying to get out of this problem — because I am still yoked to a capitalist’s thinking. For all the railing and distrust of a system generated to keep most of us indebted and in-debt, I still have that hangover. It was like when I walked away from Judeo-Christian (ie, “religious”) beliefs. Even though I knew I was getting away from a system that was harshly authoritarian and patriarchal, I still had doubt in my doubt. Anyways, it means that I have a hard time taking step one, meanwhile, I grow bitter and resentful of working for a company that has only slightly less disregard for their clientele as they do their employees. That’s my bridge of matches to burn later, I guess.

It’s hard to stay funny in a universe in which everything is programmed to deteriorate.

Poem: So You Don’t Have To

I beat myself so you don’t have to.
I lash my back, I give myself the pain,
Upon my body I inflict this beating
So you don’t have to.

My flesh opens wide for your convenience
My blood drips from wounds torn by my hands
I break my own skin, I expose myself
So you don’t have to.

I end myself, I disappear into the abyss willingly.
Freely, I fling myself into the void, the absent.
I crush my heart, my self, into self-annihilation.
So you don’t have to.

I See Nuzzink!

Change is a part of life. Change is life itself. If I’ve been trying to hold on too long to a moment, to a place, even to my… friends, well… then I’ve been guilty of… holding my world in stasis… of not trying new things and letting myself… grow. Then you run the risk of just doing what’s expected of you. Of looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing nothing
Or you can experiment, take a risk. Honor the familiar with one last hurrah, perhaps. Then leave the familiar behind. And go forward, into the future.

— Paul Cornell, Doctor Who: The Third Doctor. “The Heralds of Destruction” #5

Hello. My name is Brian. I’m in my mid-40’s and I still enjoy reading comic books. But just, the old favorites eh?

It’s been a while since I’ve written here so it’s best to get you up to date: Absolutely nothing has changed. I’m still mostly struggling, I’m still fighting a double-dose of depression, and I find my odd, Bohemian lifestyle not so much interesting as decrepit. It seems I’ve spent the last few years recapturing moments from my lost youth, a time when I became a young husband and father, as all of my current friends were sowing oats, wild, machine cut, or otherwise. With sugar, naturellement.

If we move the Time Scope about twenty years, oats are good but are high in carbs, my friends have settled down, passed away, or disappeared into the past memories. Meanwhile, muggins is working a tolerable job for not a lot of pay, living in someone else’s house, and otherwise being not quite what most people expect of a 40-something White Guy.

Alas, my succor is escaping to fantasy worlds and writing little bits of interesting things. But otherwise, I am not doing much of anything. My social life has diminished and I feel a bit of a hermit. My diet is passable — I get the fruit and veg — but also stuck in a rut. I am going… nowhere. As the Doctor says above, guilty of holding my world in a stasis.

Some has changed. I’m working on getting a podcast on, what else, Doctor Who up and running and I’m writing my days’ events in my battered yet reliable brown journal book. Maybe I can make this my online battered journal, yes?

Time was, I felt like I was an interesting person who could have had some adventures but out of fear, duties, and living to other people’s standard, I’ve lost the spark. I do what’s expected of me and the reflection is see in the mirror is a man tired and frustrated. Someone beaten down and feeling beaten. Alas, this is old news.

The new news, should there be any, may be told here. Stay tuned and keep your nose clean.