I Almost Named Her Jacqueline

It is with a heavy heart I announce Black Betty is no more. My trusty laptop of the last four years suddenly and unexpectedly retired to the great network in the sky last Saturday morning, serendipitously after I had just finished backing up all my files. Some ninety minutes later, I drove to the nearest retailer of name-brand electronics to purchase her successor…

This new gal is running Windows 11, which I’m personally finding to be the most frustrating version of Windows since the widely-panned Windows 8. Those folks in Redmond have tossed a lot of the best features and interface elements of Windows 10 for no apparent reason (like that visually striking full-screen start menu — whose idea was it to get rid of that?), but that’s not even the half of it. This new system is very cloud-oriented. They pretty much expect you to do all your work on the cloud, which is not the way I’m accustomed to working. I have close to half a terabyte’s worth of archival data, and syncing the whole enchilada would be a bandwidth-intensive and tedious process. Time-consuming to boot. I can easily see the whole job lasting several days. Days I’d rather be spending doing something else. So for practical reasons, I can only sync the files I’m currently working on, leaving everything else in the archives. If there’s something from the archives I want, I must necessarily get up off my arse to fetch my removable drive and plug it into the USB port. While I appreciate that she automatically archives everything on the cloud the second I hit save, that whole having to getting up off my arse bit is a definite minus.

Upon booting her up for the first time, I launched Microsoft Edge to do the only thing I ever use Microsoft Edge for — downloading my browser of choice. I thought it was real cute that the system gave me so much attitude for doing that. Like I committed the ultimate mortal sin. I’m sorry, cupcake, but Opera has been my go-to browser for years and I’m not going to stop using it just because some corporate shill whose tie is on way too tight says I should.

It has long been a custom of mine to give all my devices proper names. There’s a method to that madness. When I hook these things up to a local ethernet, the names make them easier to identify. If I see several laptops on a network, I’ll know right off the bat which one is mine. She’ll be the one called something like BLACK-BETTY as opposed to one with some forgettable factory-issued identifier like ACER-284-H3823-GH01.

I did briefly consider giving my new laptop a name that fully captures the essence of her personality. Decided to nix that idea in the end, though. Mostly out of laziness. Couldn’t come up with an appropriate name along those lines by the time I got around to establishing a Bluetooth connection with my phone. She needed to be called something for networking purposes, so I hastily christened her with a moniker that’s been floating around in my head for a few years that I haven’t used yet. Thenceforth, she has been known as SWEET-LORRAINE. After the Uriah Heep tune.

The Bullhorn of SILVER BROWN

Spring Has Sprung, and So Have Two New Chapters (and a map!)

Hark! The Beast has molted again! Two brand-spankin’ new chapters have been added to the version of Silver Brown available for free from this site. Not only that, but I’ve also thrown in a fourth map of the Environment to compliment the three that are already in the book. I made the amazing discovery these last few weeks that the complete Adobe Creative Cloud suite is installed on all the Mac computers in the Fanshawe College Library, for the convenience of anyone with the know-how and a valid student ID to log in. So I cracked open Illustrator and wasted a perfectly good afternoon creating this map of a typical island located in the world of my story, showing its urban areas, road system, (nude?) beach and entry points (or seaëxits, as they are known to the Environment’s denizens)…


In the Environment, an island is typically known by whatever expressword has been assigned to its index seaëxit by its registered administrator. Hence, the island depicted in this map would be called ₪VONOKAEL. The number shown in the centre (293119DAC) is an address within the Environment’s grid – specifically, that number indicates that ₪VONOKAEL is Island No. 293119 in the Delta Alfa Charlie sequence. Even if the administrator decided to change the index expressword to something other than ₪VONOKAEL, the island would still be known as 293119DAC in the eyes of the Great Monopoly. Being a heartless corporate bureaucracy and all, people and things are just numbers to them.

It’s also worth mentioning that these two new chapters are the first in the book featuring a character other than Florys MacNab as the narrator. Thus, these chapters have a slightly different look and feel, for the purposes of conveying an impression to the reader that the point of view has changed.

Implementing that look and feel was a tad bit challenging on my end. When I set about republishing the e-book to include the new chapters, I would learn the hard way that certain fonts cannot be successfully embedded in an EPUB document without paying a buttload of money in licensing fees. Not specialty fonts, either – I’m talking your standard-issue dingbat fonts that come prepackaged with just about every desktop operating system. This put a slight damper on my ability to depict certain graphical elements in the manuscript as I originally envisioned them.

As an alternative to selling my spleen on the black market to appease the Lords of Redmond, I decided to improvise a workaround. An earlier draft of Chapter Eleven (which is actually the book’s twelfth chapter; the first chapter is designated Chapter Zero in keeping with the story’s overall theme of computer technology run amok) featured an ornamental section break with a “glorified book” glyph in its centre that was cobbled together from Webdings and Wingdings…


In the current draft, this has been replaced by a new glyph – a stylized representation of the Aardvark radiating his aardvarkly aardvarkness on all the denizens of the Environment…


The ebook reader on my phone seems to like this new glyph better. The old glyph displayed correctly when I viewed it on my laptop, but when I transferred the ebook to my phone it displayed as ï&ð, which was not quite the effect I was going for.

As I heavily implied earlier, this new glyph (and the new chapters which feature it) are available for download now. The book cover below is the link to the download page. I reckon it’ll only be a matter of time before entire languages and writing systems become registered trademarks of some soulless multinational, so this new version of the e-book could become a collector’s item someday.