Tuesday, November 6, 2007

This Day has been "Swell"

This Day has been "Swell"

Every day since last Thursday has been longer than the last. I feel like I've been pulled in every direction like some piece of taffy. I'm trying to save the world and I have no idea what I'm doing. My sister-in-law is trying to kill me, my girlfriend has thrown me out (more in a sec), my boss is crippled and dependent on me (probably more than she needs to be) and my employer is preparing for some kind of cyber war.

I shouldn't have said anything to Ellie. I should have said that I was pulling an all-nighter, and everything was fine, and that I'd spend extra time with her later this week when things cooled off. I need to think more when I talk. Instead, I told her that Carrie had an accident and needed surgery. Most women understand this kind of thing. Most women are reasonable. Ellie just wasn't in the mood.

I had wheeled Carrie down the hall in her wheelchair. She would be on crutches for the next couple months, and have extensive rehab after that. She seemed cheery though as I pushed her out to the waiting room. I left her there for a moment as I gathered her belongings.

When I returned I knelt down next to her and talked softly for a moment.

"How are you doing," I ask her.

She looks at me and smiles. "Good. My leg is throbbing. Do you have my meds?"

I shake a paper bag. "Yep. You're going to be fine. I talked to the surgeon and he says everything went well." I pick up her slender hand and give it a little squeeze.

I feel a shadow hanging over me. It's Ellie. She must have come here after I called. I can't really describe the look on her face.

"What the hell is this," she seethes. "Is this your new boss? She looks like she's fourteen years old! You're going out on me with a juvenile? I can't believe this."

Ellie is wearing a warmup suit. It's tight-fitting with Spandex so it really hugs her curves. Her hair is tied back with a band into a pony tail. She's obviously on her way to her aerobics class.

I jump up and pull her away so we can talk. She throws my arm off of hers.

"Ellie, you're acting crazy. She hurt herself and I'm just helping her!"

"Don't fuck with me, Alex, I know what I saw right there. I saw that look in her eye. I can tell you are more than just friends. You fucking shit! I knew the minute you came home last Thursday that you were lying."

"What the hell are you talking about? You were fucking passed out on the couch! How the fuck would you know shit?"

"I could hear it on the phone when you called me. I knew it. You think you can fool me, Alex? You think I don't know what's going on here? You want to play with kids? You want to fuck little kids, is that it?"

We're starting to draw a crowd as our voices rise.

"What the fuck? She's the same age as you! Nothing is going on!"

Carrie walks right up to me. "Look me in the eyes and tell me nothing's going on."

I do it. I tell her to her face. "Nothing...is...going...on."

She relaxes for a second, then her face grows black. "You're still lying to me Alex. You fucking--"

She then spouts a stream of obscenities in Russian, the likes of which I've never heard before. I mean she is screaming at me in some language I don't understand. I'm at a loss. It would be funny if I didn't feel like my life was in immediate danger. She turns on her heel and starts running out of the hospital. Just at the door she wheels around. "And don't even think about coming home. You're not welcome anymore. Maybe that little slut friend of yours has some room!"

With that she runs out of the hospital. I can tell she's crying because she's holding her hands to her face.

Carrie is looking at me in shock, her mouth gaping open.

I consider running after Ellie, but I'm actually afraid of her. This is the Ellie I don't like. Irrational, moody, jealous, and out of control.

"Oh...my...god..." she says. "That's your girlfriend? Wasn't she waving a gun at you back at your cabin? She's totally psycho!"

I look at Carrie mournfully. "She's usually not like this. Last night was the first night we've spend apart in over six months. Things have been a little crazy lately."

"OK, Alex. I know I haven't known you that long, and I just met her, but to me she seems completely nuts. What the heck was she saying to you?"

"I have no idea. She picked up some Russian at some point. I don't think any of it was complementary...to either of us."

"What are you going to do?"

I didn't know what to say. "I guess I'll give her a few days to cool off. It's going to be hard. I don't even know where I'm going to sleep."

"Well my couch isn't the fanciest but it will do the job," Carrie offered.

I looked at her for a moment. "Yeah and if that gets back to Ellie I'm a dead man. We'll never get back together."

Carrie rubbed her casted leg for a moment as her brow contracted in pain. "You still want her then. After all that? I mean she looked violent."

"She's emotional. Her emotions go both ways, you know? Hot and cold. Fire and ice."

"I get it. You're in it for the good times and you ride out the bad."

"Yeah," I say with a smile. "Because the good times can be pretty good."

"You better get me home. It's getting late and you need to get into the office. I'm just going to take my pain pills and sleep the rest of the day. You're of course welcome to stop by later, but I'll understand if you don't. Maybe I can get my mom up from San Diego, if I have to. I don't know if she can miss her lectures. Although we'll still need to talk and it would be hard to get away from her."

I wheel her to her car and take her home. The meds are already taking effect and she dozes most of the way home. I help her out of the car and up the small flight up steps to her loft. When we get through the door I'm floored by the mess. There are stacks and stacks of papers and books so close together that I can barely get through the apartment.

Carrie mumbles something at me but she's beginning to become delirious. I literally have to carry her up a spiral staircase. She's holding on to my neck, her head nestled next to mine. I place her on her bed which is also partly covered with detritus, leaving just enough space for her body. She won't let me go, mumbling "no, no, don't go."

I finally pry her arms off me. I prop up her leg with some pillows, and then go back downstairs. I bring up her crutches and a sack of supplies in case she gets hungry or thirsty. I clear a huge swath of the room between her bed and her bathroom with is fortunately next to her bedroom. I go to say goodbye but she looks fast asleep. I creep out of the apartment and down to the street.

I take a cab back to the office, practically falling asleep myself. I did catch a couple hour's sleep in the lumpy hospital waiting room couch, but everything seems to catch up with me at once. It's already after noon at this point so I have the cabbie drop me off a couple blocks away from the office so that I can eat without dealing with running into people in the corporate cafeteria. I also need a really strong latte.

As I choke down a soggy burger and sour latte, I watch the parade of people walking by outside. I think about how Infinitae has a file somewhere on every single one of them, everything they've purchased, emailed, IM'd, searched for, and joined. Our software tries to get into the head of every one of them, by constantly testing their responses to our ever-changing software.

I pay for lunch and head to the garage to retrieve my laptop. After opening my trunk, I look down on the laptop case. Something strikes me as odd. I usually place my bag handle up against the spare, but the laptop is now sideways. I probably was in a hurry to put it in the trunk, and just threw it in. I examine the bag but everything is in order. I grab it and head into the building. Before I enter my office, I go to a conference room and log in so I can catch up without interruption.

I sent out some emails earlier explaining how Carrie would be out and I was taking care of her. Unfortunately that didn't quell the firestorm of demands that some explain what my team should be doing. Higher mucky-mucks had been poking around all day. Even I had received some emails marked confidential, that required me to enter a password before reading each one, and they would close by themselves. Apparently one of them talked about the "fingerprint" API, the code that could uniquely identify every computer in the world.

I look through the secret files I have access to. I'm trying to find out something more about the fingerprinting. I finally stumble across a project that mentions quantum tunneling and a bunch of other strange physics. I'll try to summarize it here, but it's extremely technical and I don't understand it.

The basic concept is that every object in the world is connected. In the case of networks, this connection is easier to read because of the constant stream of pulses flowing between each node of the network. Every time your machine emits a pulse, that pulse contains a quantum signature of your machine. That pulse enters a network router, which then repeats that pulse to the next node. Because of the uncertainty of matter and energy, some of the signature is copied to the new pulse. Even through thousands of routers, that signature remains readable, and is completely unique to each machine, no matter how perfect a copy it is. It turns out that we are not composed of complete indistinguishable atoms, in fact like snowflakes, every atom is unique. Therefore every object in the universe can be distinguished from every other one.

I don't know what all this means, or how Infinitae could use it. I print out a copy to show to Carrie when she's better.

Somehow I muck my way through the rest of the day. I keep waiting for Ellie to call and apologize for her outburst, but she never does. I'm vaguely worried about getting back to my apartment, at least to just get some clothes. I know the thing to do right now is to give her space, but I've now worn the same clothes for two days. I took a quick shower in the company locker room but it didn't help much.

I decide to swing by Carrie's place before trying to retrieve some of my clothes. I knock on the door but there's no answer. I try calling her cell.

"Hey," comes a weak voice on the other end. "Come in." I hear a buzzer.

I'm able to get through the door and go up to her loft. I find her still in bed.

"How's it going," I ask.

"I'm ok," she says weakly. "I can't get downstairs to get any more food. I'm too dizzy. My foot is throbbing. I sent out for a delivery, maybe you can leave a note on the door."

"Sure, Carrie." She really looks like a mess. She's sweating and shivering, a side effect of the medicine. I help her get into bed, finding some extra blankets under a pile of clothes in the corner. "I found a document about fingerprinting," I tell her.

"Cool. I've been trying to figure out how we're going to accomplish that."

I hand her the paper. She studies it for a minute.

"My head's swimming too much. None of this makes sense. I just need to rest. Do you know where you're staying?"

I shrug.

"Seriously, take the couch. I'll just pass out here."

Well, to make a long story short, I'm here, at Carrie's place as I write this. I tried to get some clothes from my apartment but Ellie threatened to call the cops if I even tried to enter. I have no idea what happened to her. I wound up getting a couple things from the local Walmart, just sweatpants and a sweatshirt. It's better than nothing.

Well I can't keep my eyes open another minute. See you tomorrow.

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