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Friday, May 12, 2000

Burning Out, Patent Pending

All effort, no reward -- this is how my life feels right now, and my flame is flickering out for lack of fuel.

I've basically finished the creative, constructive part of my Megacorp work, and I'm down to combing it for potential efficiency improvements, subjecting it to simulated loads, trying to break it or at least bend it so I can make it as resilient as possible. I may as well stick my head in a vice.

I listen to Garrett* and Samantha's playfully malicious interactions all day, and it wears me out. It's a habit I don't want to pick up, but am starting to despite myself -- I prefer my malice to be genuine, and my playfulness benevolent, but faced with steady challenges to my own space I'm finding chocolate coated parries are the only kind palatable in such quantities.

My eyes glaze over when I have to deal with any of the school's staff members lately. My mental model has subsumed them--their eccentricities have become predictable, as have their errors. Seeing what is coming, and seeing it happen anyway (because they don't see it coming) is a drain to my will, a demonstration of the futility of my presence, for all I have to offer is beyond the scope of the game in session.

I need to bow out, but am having trouble inventing a graceful exit. Staff elections are about to happen, and there are only seven people on the slate. Realistically, neither Garrett* nor I can commit to another year of this, and between the five people left I don't know that they can cover the schedule between them. Once again I am on a pedestal I did not mean to climb, but this time instead of someone kicking it out it will be my own leap that topples it and drops me on my face.

The deepest pit is the one I've been digging all my life, the one that is as tall as my own worth, that should be a pillar with a castle on top but for my anonymity has become a prison in which I am trapped alone with my treasures of soul watching them expire like a five layer cake in a locked box for which I have no key. I still have my castle, down here in my pit, but the rooms are empty and the halls quiet and the only noise from outside is the incessant rumble of the sheeple above, the herd that covers the planet and hides me from those who might visit, or even stay, if they knew I existed.

I got a call yesterday from the Megacorp patent attorney. Apparently my name is already on as co-inventor of two patents related to this project, and they want to file five more under my name. Patents aggravate me to no end -- the very notion that someone should stake a claim to an idea is absurd. I'm fine with copyrights -- when you copyright something, you're protecting something which no one else would ever have created if you hadn't. But patents, as they have been put into practice, lock people out from using their own ideas! You could have two inventors in two towns with no phones or other communication between them, and if the two inventors should come upon the same solution to the same problem, the first to rush to the patent office (and pay $10,000 for the legal overhead) gets to keep the other one from using his hard-earned solution. It's absurd.

But, it's in place, and if you threw me into a pit with a bunch of assholes with guns, I'd surely want a gun of my own. For example, someone sued Megacorp a while back for violating a patent on... get this... interactively modifying images using a computer. Of course it was an absurd patent, should never have been issued, but it cost Megacorp six million dollars to establish this basic fact. So I'll help them with the patents, trust that they'll be used mostly defensively, and hope instead for a unilateral dismantling of the patent system itself.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com