Home' Technology Review : November December 2007 Contents 74 FICTION
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"Let s take that discussion o ine," Yuri said. "Let s
call Gretchen right now, and the grandsons, back in
Michigan. They ll be wondering how things are going
here. You never call us, you know."
"A 12-year-old and an eight-year-old."
"The boys are 11 and seven."
"I was thinking ahead. Do I look like I want to
wet-nurse your kids? I just received a major commis-
sion! Back to Michigan ---to hell with your Michi-
gan. That whole place is nothing but forest! You
can hear the crickets chirping in Flint, Saginaw,
and Grand Rapids! Your kids are like two sand-
lot baseball kids straight outta Norman Rockwell!
And Gretchen ... Gretchen doesn t even show up
here! Where the hell is she---still putting her spice
racks in order?"
"Gretchen looks after the network in my absence.
She s got a talent for billing and accounting."
"That s not a talent, you dolt! I know you under-
stand what s really at stake here! I taught you archi-
tecture when you were some cornshuck kid from
Kentucky wandering into my o ce like a lost soul!
And speaking of lost souls---where the hell is Preston?
I told Preston to be here with us half an hour ago!"
Preston Mengies was an architecture critic who
had once been the PR man in Roebel s San Francisco
o ce. He had earnestly pumped up Roebel s world-
wide reputation, until his doomed relationship with
the hopelessly unstable Carmen Roebel made that
e ort impossible.
Despite everything Preston had su ered at the
old man s hands, he arrived. He d bicycled in from
South of Market and thoughtfully brought some Chi-
Yuri sor rowed at the sight of him. Preston Mengies
had once been a very sharp and uent guy---a sar-
castic little weirdo, to tell the truth, but fun to hang
As a result of his long entanglement with Roebel,
though, he had become a threadbare, gaunt, myopic,
Nowadays, Preston spent his lonely hours groom-
ing architecture websites. There he gamely removed
the moronic popular commentary and tried to drum
up some intelligent interest in the doctrines of Arts
& Crafts, Futurism, the modern movement, the post-
moder n movement, and New Urbanism.
These were architectural schemes that long-
forgotten people had created with pencils on paper.
No proper 21st-century person could tell these primi-
tive notions apart. Still, some critic was bound to
take a keen interest in such e orescences of human
genius, and it was bound to be some weedy obses-
sive like Preston Mengies.
Roebel sipped and scowled at the hot-and-sour
soup, but he had clearly lost the thread of the action.
All the old man could do was bitterly rant about "law-
yers" and "hoodwinking" and "bank fraud." The cli-
ent s demands had caught him at-footed. When he
tottered o for his customary afternoon nap, it was a
relief for all concerned.
He left Yuri and Preston to patch something
together for the client s imminent visit.
"How are the kids?" ventured Preston, who had
never had any kids.
"The boys are both great, thanks."
"They re normal kids?" said Preston, his eyes ick-
"Oh, yeah, they re completely normal boys," said
Yuri. "Not at all like the maestro there; they just faded
right back into the universal gene pool."
Preston brightened at this sally; he was a critic, so
a little acerbic sarcasm always cheered him up. He
munched his cold shrimp chow mein and gestured
at the workstation with his cheap plastic chopsticks.
"Did he ask you to touch that dinosaur? I sure wouldn t
touch that wreck if I were you."
"Why is that, Preston?"
"You know how he s trying to patch that fossil to
modern standards---and to get his own way, right in
the teeth of the entire construction industry? Well,
he nally blew it. He had a massive, comprehensive
data loss. No upgrade path for ward. And no way back.
He s completely stuck now. He s neck deep in the
mud of defunct code."
Yuri munched a heat-blistered egg roll stu ed with
gleaming California tofu. "He claimed he was design-
ing on ClearWorks. I just couldn t believe that."
"Nobody r uns ClearWorks," scoffed Preston.
"That s the greatest design platform ever created, but
no modern professional could use it. It doesn t inter-
operate with other disciplines."
"It s even worse than that," Yuri admitted. "Out in
the Midwest, we do interoperate, so we became all
the other disciplines. As soon as I gave up on architec-
ture and admitted that I was administering software,
well ... step by step, I took over the site, the str ucture,
the skin of the building, all the services. We supply
the space plans; we even retail the furnishings. But
we re never architects. Not at all. We re real estate,
interior design, engineering, landscaping, plumbing,
electrical ... we re the Net."
Yuri knotted his hands. "And it s all bucket-of-mud
piece-of-junk legacy code! Every bit of it! Those pro-
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