For All Nails #50: Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair
by David Mix Barrington
"Well, I will admit it's a nice color. It catches the setting sunlight -- almost the same color as my flower..."
Anna reached up again to touch the dark red-orange hibiscus flower pinned by her ear. Bobby had bought it on impulse from an about-to-close shop a few minutes before.
"Yeah, they kept that from the old four-lane version. But you still don't like it?"
"Oh, the bridge is fine -- it's just the idea of a twelve-lane locopista FN1 going through the middle of a city."
"The old road was a parking lot, between the commuters from San Rafael and Sonoma and all the truck traffic to and from Alaska. The food has to get into the city somehow, and you're not going to cross the Puerta Dorada FN2 with a railroad, not and get any big ships through it."
"Spoken like an engineer. You could put the north-south truck traffic over there, and supply the city across the Bay or up from San Jose." She gestured vaguely east toward Contra Costa and Cincinnatti FN3, where the evening lights were beginning to sparkle on the mansions climbing the foothills, and then south behind them.
"So you don't tear apart the middle of the city! Look around you. This neighbourhood is the only piece of original San Francisco to survive the earthquake and the Japanese, and you lost a third of it when that road went through." Actually, Anna thought, the Viejo was a lot like the French Quarter back home -- Spanish architecture from the days of the Trans-Oceanic War.
"Have you ever heard of the Defenders of the Viejo? Mostly little old ladies -- the toughest pressure group in the city, trying to keep new building and new parking lots out of here. You could join -- hey, you're a member of the bar now, you could work for them!"
"Maybe I should -- I still can't believe I can practice here, at least once they get the exam graded. No clerkship, no ten years of politicking, just prove that you know the Basic Statute and you're in. Have I told you lately how much I love your country, Bobby?"
The bar exam was the official reason for the night out in Town, not that they needed much of a reason now that term was over. Since the Basic Statute of the State of California was William Theodore's FN4 elegant codification of all the case law she'd sweated over for four years at UNO Law, distilled down to a mere forty pages (or one soundtape full of strange noises on the Box, she reflected), it hadn't taken her long to master it. She supposed some of her fellow PMU law students might have some nervous moments waiting for their grade, but she certainly wouldn't.
"You love the legal system, hate the city planning, I guess it comes out even eventually. So there's no twelve-lane highway through New Orleans?"
"Just a river and some rail yards, but the Vieux Carre is left alone like a city should be. Spanish houses, Spanish moss, Italian food, you'll love it, don't worry."
"And I get to see it in two months, along with all of your side of the DiMaggios. Do you think they'll approve of me?"
"Let's see, handsome, successful, smart, handsome, nominally Catholic, witty, handsome, friend of the family already, what's not to like? Did I mention that you're handsome?"
"How about 'Mexican'?"
"Oh, Bobby, half our family is as Mexican as you are now, at least as Mexican as our half is North American. Besides, relations now are as good as they've been in years." Moctezuma and Monaghan had held a summit meeting in Tampa last month, and the Mexican president had signed on to the "Atomic-Free Caribbean" initiative. Perhaps not a big concession when Mexico had no Bombs to station there, but the gesture was encouraging. More importantly, he had helped arrange the exchange of most of the prisoners from Boricua. There were reports of progress with the remaining four hundred "suspected war criminals", too, until one of the Boricuan negotiators got himself shot. Political murder was getting more common in the Jeffersonist Republic of Boricua all the time -- it seemed to be shaping up as a fight between the orthodox hard-liners and those who wanted an accomodation with the "betrayers of the Revolution" in the USM.
"Hard to believe it was just last year you were stuck here for a month, not that I was complaining about it. Do you think it would have been as hard for us to get through last summer if we'd only gone out a couple of times?"
"Oh, that's silly. What happens, happens, and there's no use speculating about how it might have gone differently. But I wasn't going to forget you, Bobby, not even after that first dinner. Speaking of dinner, where are we going tonight?"
"For something I bet they don't have even in New Orleans, a new Fukienese place near the Presidio. If that's all right..."
"In your city, you pick the restaurant -- I'll wait til we're in New Orleans. And then I guess you'd better pick in Burlington..."
"Well, there aren't as many choices there, but it's a good food city. I hear there's a lot more ethnic places opening up there now to go with the Tory FN5 and the French. And there's always been good Jewish food there too. You'll like it, I think, though I couldn't see living there -- we both seem to be big-city people."
"And warm weather people, too, don't forget. I know you have to go there a lot, but let's try to keep it to the summer if we can."
"Summer or fall -- you'd like the leaves. Actually, I wanted to ask you -- do you know yet how much weight a CNA patent carries here?"
"The quick answer is none. You thinking of stealing ideas from GC?"
"Well, it's more a matter of my own ideas that I've sold GC the CNA rights to. You know the Box is basically a GC-1, right?"
The Box sat on a table in Anna's apartment. It was considerably bigger than her radiocooker and weighed nearly a hundred pounds, which though impractical was a big improvement on the family-icebox-sized original GC-1. (It had also doubled Anna's electric bill -- no big deal in the USM but a deterrent to any buyers paying CNA energy prices. Its heat output had been convenient on spring evenings, but was now starting to be a nuisance as well.) The important thing about the Box was not the "calculating engine", though, but what was attached to it: a soundtape player, a telecopier, a fingerwriter keyboard, and a vitavision screen FN6.
Bobby's student Esteban Cupertino thought that everybody in the world needed a calculator in their home. He'd built the Box to prove that, and they'd loaned it to Anna to see whether a non-technical person could do anything interesting with it. She'd first used it to index her collection of sounddisks, and written a CISP FN7 script to sort her 62 disks into different categories. It worked fine, but once she acquired three more disks the index would no longer fit into the "scratchpaper" of the calculating engine and her script would no longer work. Perhaps by then she and Bobby would have merged disk collections -- when exactly in the relationship were you supposed to do that, anyway?
She had rigged up the tape with the Basic Statute on it so that a script could fairly quickly find any particular section or numbered paragraph. In principle, it could also find any particular word, but this was incredibly slow as it had to wind the tape to each little place to check whether the word was there FN8. Finally, she had the notes for her book stored as more funny noises on a couple of soundtapes, though she worked primarily with the traditional pads of paper and the file cards.
Overall the Box was of some use to a law student (a lawyer, she corrected herself) whose boyfriend had taught her CISP (even if that lawyer's boyfriend hadn't invented CISP). It had a long way to go before the general public would be very interested. Bobby sometimes went on about how the bigger and faster machines in the future would be able to hold an entire legal library for her. She'd tried to explain that finding the right case was a lot more complicated than just finding particular words. You could find every case that contained the word "banana", yes, but you needed a law library to find the case that was like your case in the legal sense. If your client had assaulted someone with a banana, the machine would find you a case about banana price controls, but not the one where the defendent was charged with assault with a mango FN9...
"So you think GC might sue you for stealing the design of the GC-1?"
"Well, they stole that from Kramer anyway and Steve and I changed it around a good bit. The problem is the work Belanger and I put in on the GC-2 when I was a student, the new instruction set that works better with CISP. I know CISP itself is mine, but can we build a doppelganger of a GC-2 and sell it in the CNA, or the USM, or both?"
"Hmm ... if they have a USM-based subsidiary --"
"They do, IBM-Mexico, though it doesn't build hardware --"
"Okay, that firm could apply for USM patents on anything that GC built in the CNA. You could fight the patent, but if they got it they could enjoin you from using their techniques for ten years FN10."
"Right. The smart thing is if you're the GC's USM-based subsidiary."
"Give them part ownership?"
"Right. You said yourself that GC thinks that practical small calculators are decades away. They don't want to put any time or money into them themselves, so why should they mind if you do? Give them five per cent of Pomona Calculators in exchange for all the licensing you need. If you fail they don't lose anything, if you succeed they get some of the money and a whole new market for their chips, right?"
"Say, you ever thought of being chief counsel for a struggling young company?"
"I was thinking more about being on the board of directors..."
Forward to FAN #51A:Victoria's Secret (Part I).
Forward to 15 June 1973 (Contreras Family): Even Paranoids Have Enemies.
Forward to Calculating Machines: Leebild Electronics, PLC.
Return to For All Nails.