Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Iteration

It got worse when Garland got home to his well-appointed condo. Compromising with the neighbours, he had gone with a more traditional interior design; he would have preferred a postmodern look like his office had. His wife Eleanor had greeted him in the stately two-story entryway with the news that their kids had discovered something called “prepping.” They were out buying foodstuffs that were way beneath the Garland family palate. In bulk and on sale, no less. For the first time in more than two months, Harold Garland needed a drink after work. Out came a bottle of Margaux 2005 from Bordeaux Millesimes.

Eleanor, wasp-waisted and poised and five inches shorter than her husband, had taken the news with equanimity. It was only a trend, and her two kids would move on to something else. Besides, it would acclimatize them to the need for economy when in the college of their choice. Once they got tired of it, she would have Randolph deliver the staples to the local food bank. They had little need of the playroom now.

Needless to say, Randolph was becoming used to bringing them in.

For Harold, his kids’ new hobby only brought up the gold dilemma. Those goldbugs were in the prepper world, he had read.

His wife was surprised to see him gulp instead of sip. He was glad of the mildly dizzy feeling that kicked in, for it had not been the best of days.

Waiting, she was rewarded to hear him complain about the dilemma. Nodding him along, Eleanor understood his plight. She knew how dependent their income and status were on catching the trends. She also knew that he solved these problems himself; he merely needed her sympathetic presence. His monologue was interrupted by Judy coming in with her latest find.

When asked by her old dad, she replied in a clear self-confident voice; “because it’s hot, Dad. It’s hot like Watson.”

Not knowing what Watson was, he asked and saw his daughter looking at him like a senior associate looked at a rich client from flyover country. He didn’t mind it, as it was good practice that would put her in good stead later in life. Having barely heard of Jeopardy!, he needed the full explanation. She preened as she gave it.

“Wow,” he said somewhat flatly. Looking disgusted, in a way only a daughter can, she flipped her body around and supervised Randolph bringing in bags of rice.

He had come home early; it was dinner time. He needed his family close now.

But, habit prevailed. Going to his home office, he relaxed in a much softer leather chair behind his oak desk. Peppered with little drawers, it was a genuine antique that weighed more than four hundred pounds but provided little chair room. Reaching into the top drawer, he pulled out his spare tablet and began surfing around for goldbug material. He had to see it himself, to see if there was any way to adapt it to a more “Enlightened” model.

What he saw made him break precedent. He went back and retrieved the bottle and glass. For the first time in his life, he worked while inebriated.

Dinner over, it had been family time. Since his kids were as busy as he normally was, it had been quality time at the dinner table. Judy was fourteen and Harold Jr. was twelve. He had a habit of referring to his big sister as “stupid” despite her straight As. Although he was exercising the privilege of twelve-year-olds, he wasn’t all that far off. Like his understated mother, Hal was a genius. Blessed by the times, he was accepted as such in his private middle school. He was an inveterate watcher of The Big Bang Theory, and chuckled at Sheldon instead of laughing out loud. What Al Bundy had been to a low-wage slacker, Sheldon was to little Hal.

His twelve-year-old charm was in full display when he rattled off what Watson could do. It turned out that Carnegie-Mellon was deep into language recognition, and IBM’s proprietary research showed the design was converging to a singularity. Hal concluded, in his twelve-year old way, that it was only a matter of time before Watson came to Wall Street. With the economic self-confidence of the child born to wealth, Harold the Younger allowed that a Watson for Wall Street would make his old man retire.

Tickled, Harold Senior chuckled himself. The kid was a genius, all right. After both had vanished to do their homework, he had put to Eleanor the proposition that it was time for Hal to be groomed to fill his father’s shoes. “He can boss ninety computers,” Harold said with the warm glow of chilled wine in him. “At least they’d be rational.” Not like those goldbugs!

As he took to bed, his mind drifted to the educational plans for his son instead of work. He wanted to keep his mind off the gold question, as it would make for a tough sleep. After all – reminding himself to get back on track when habit kicked in - computers were progressive while those goldbugs were simply backward. There was no way the two could –

Then he woke up fully. Ignoring his wife’s surprised look, he pulled out his smart phone and texted a message to his office E-mail.

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