Gapping (not spark plugs though)

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A gentleman who I think lives in Vancouver asked for stories about

the struggle to close the gap between an idea and its realization.

Well, that’s kind of the story of my life, isn’t it? So I tried to think of an example and the first thing that came to mind was that time I tried to modify seven gecos fields simultaneously while dynamically merging five different password files.

It didn’t work, of course — I tripped over an extremely subtle bug (or possibly an undocumented limit; I never did find out) in Perl 4.036 and had to find a workaround that was easy to implement, easy to explain and wasn’t too ugly (not that my code was a thing of beauty, you understand, but still…). It was a moderately entertaining process and…

Hmm. This is where it occurs to me that not everyone might find the process of crafting kludges (even if it is sort of on-topic) endlessly fascinating. Perhaps a change of subject is in order.

It was gaming night.

When I was younger In the olden days, technology wasn’t what it is today and some (not all — not every memory is in soft focus and sepia-toned) aspects of life were somewhat simpler. As a result, gaming night was usually a regularly scheduled thing. These days are, well, different. We (our group) is older, less flexible and scattered over an area several hundred kilometers across. At the same time, technology has made it simpler and faster to coordinate a posse of nerds gamers. So when I say ‘it was gaming night’ it means that it was at best a semi-planned thing. Some Preparation on my part was required.

First of all, gaming involves trappings.

ote_gear

Gear. But no chainsaws, psychotropic fruit or neurotoxins made it into the bag. Cattle prods, well, I’m less sure.

Apparatus.

Supplies.

Gear.

So I assembled what I thought I needed and crammed it into the Traditional Gaming Bag:

A rulebook. After all, rulebooks are important. How can you possibly bicker about meaningless minutiae without one?

My notebook. In particular, my notebook with the ‘confidential’ sticker that a nice lady named Margaret put on it in 1981. It contains virtually every character I’ve created in the last thirty-five years. Because what could be more relevant to today’s game than the character sheet (from 1982) of a delusional, sociopathic, violent aristocrat?

A 0.3 mm pencil. Not 0.5, you understand — .3. What better way is there to leave tiny bits of graphite under the seat cushions in someone else’s basement?

A bag (the red and white one that may or may not have been washed since the 1980s) of dice. Plus some ninja ones.

That covered the actual, you know, Gaming Stuff. But other things are de rigueur as well — one does not simply game without Sean Bean refreshments. That night I decided to adhere to the ‘sweet+caffeine/salt+fat’ theory of gaming snacks: I filled a badly-designed (but Canadian and not pink) bottle with organic stimulants and sugar and added it to the bag. Then I checked the pantry for salty, fatty snacks.

There weren’t any.

Oh. That was a problem.

Gaming without snacks? InconCEIVEable. (For the proper effect, you have to imagine Wallace Shawn saying that.) What was I to do? Well, I realized, the supermarket that’s sort of vaguely on the way to where I was going was still open. Yay! Saved! All was not lost!

Yet.

On the way to the store I had decided on what sort of I was going to get. I had settled on something from the chip family — something simple, traditional and thematically appropriate. Easy peasy.

Or not.

There was a veritable wall of chips, about eleventy-zillion flavours. There were cheddar cheese flavoured chips. There were yogurt flavoured chips. Maple bacon. Dijon mustard. Pepperoncini. Low sodium (what exactly is the POINT?). Sriracha (inevitably — there’s sriracha-flavoured everything these days). Curry.  Poutine, f’r god’s sake. Even baked bean flavoured chips, although I can’t imagine anyone willingly buying those. But simple, traditional and thematically appropriate? Hard to find. Eventually I tried to visualize the N-space of chip flavours and calculate what flavour would minimize the least square distance from the Platonic ideal chip. Or at least the N-dimensional origin.

But that’s damned hard, so I picked a bag more or less at random — I think I settled on jalapeno.

The moral of this story is, I guess, that the weirdest obstacles (Butter chicken chips? Really?) pop up when trying to do the simplest things. Well, that and you never know when a copy of Bevington might come in handy at the supermarket.

 

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The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.

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