If you were standing there you would see an old computer, with what would be called a CRT, which is out of fashion in any advanced computer economy. It was in an office with narrow cramped ceilings. There were people who were much brighter than the people who surrounded oneself with in the little town that was the home of the people company in Western Pennsylvania. Which was a backwater, and had very little to recommend it. She and he were talking. Of course his conversation was by text, not email, or voice. And of course it was with her. By this point he knew what her name was, and also the English sounding name which she used. Because people in English did not know how to pronounce her Chinese name.
“It is good that you are out of that nasty little place.”
“I'm still working for the same company, but I have transferred to the, well let us say the company that is dropping the business on us.”
“Do you think they know what they are dropping?”
“They are a smaller company, and have decided to leave while the leaving is good. We are a large company, and can charge more.”
“Is it worth enough?”
“My directors think so, someday various people will be caught. We just have to make sure it is not us.”
“And what do they think they will find?”
“Almost certainly that someone has hidden a bug that will be uncovered by the Y2K nonsense. And unless I miss my guess, the rumblings from different parts of the cable company, make it clear that they do not have a fix for things. They were trying to pawn it off as someone else's. But that is not going to work. At least, that is what I am doing. Making sure that all of the changes they make stay within the bounds of their code, and thus say that if anyone is responsible, it is them.”
“And what do you think the changes are?”
“I do not know, but there is something wrong with the number of people. I put in a fix that should have reduced the number, by eliminating duplicates. But that has not happened, and I do not know why.”
“Could it be as simple as wanting more money?”
“It is always that simple, but the key question is not how much, but when. Always ask when, because the aim is always the same.”
“I have noticed that too, when they want to get out is always the question. And the key point is how dishonest they make their getaway.”
“I think it is the same the whole world over. At least in America and China it is the same, though the means are different.”
“America and China have different house rules, that is all.”
“And what would the house rules be for China?”
“In China they would admit that there were more people on the system. They would not have to hide it.”
“Is that an aspect of what you call 'face'?
“Oh indeed so, it is the very essence of face.”
“In America that is part of the difference. We hide.”
“And how do you trick other people?”
“By telling them one thing, and doing another.”
“How does that help?”
“When the appropriate time comes, people want to sell out, and they find out that all of the stock is at a low price, when they thought it would be at a high price.”
“Cannot they look at the market and sell when the price is high?”
“They go to bed, and the prices high. In the middle of the night the price goes very far down. And when they wake up in the morning, they find that their was only a little bit of stock, and that had been sold while they were asleep. Then the market opens and the stock plunges in value, and essentially they find out that there stock is worthless, having had new chance to sell.”
“Is that the way it happens?”
“There are other tricks, do you want me to explain them to you?”
“Another time. I wish I could be there with you, and unbutton your top.”
“That is rather risqué.”
“I remember that you said you always want to tell me what was on my mind.”
“Have you changed your mind?”
“So what would you like me to do?” The question did not need all that much of a response, and he sketched out a proof of the idea from his head. There were a large number of other details – and there were technical challenges which really were people challenges in disguise. But none of these would be problems. He had already been introduced, and the Indian woman in charge of the junior construction party would be amenable to all varieties of technical challenges, so long as they would make it finished sooner. Which he was willing to assure her that this would be the case. The other problem was a rotund old man who herded a huge team of junior Indians, and made them jump through hoops. He probably knew much more about whatever it was they were doing to their computer system. And making sure that it stayed broken, their was a deviousness to have he sat up this which was more Baroque than it needs to be. But he would think of something.
A minion stood the before him in the real world, asking some sort of question, but he knew that it was not for the job. Probably about how he drifted down here on the highway rather than taking a plane. He did that, both here and to Western Pennsylvania. It was a lovely drive to both locations, and he would often do a bit of scenery. Once he took Route 5 in New York state, which was a long way out of his way. But when you have to show up at 3 AM, no one is going to complain. Thus he brushed the minion away with a wave of his hand.
Several things popped in to his mind, and he wondered if he should type any of them in. he probably should, but he did not do so. It was not that he was shy, particularly. Or at least not usually. But he did not want to express these things by typing. For a moment his mind was deciding whether topographical could be made in to a play on words, it probably could. But he did not have the wit to come up with something on the spur of the moment. He imagined that after the session was over, something would come to him. Then he would have to explain not only the play on words, but the circumstances as well. He could imagine how that would play out, even though the play on words was not known yet. But it was tantalizingly close.
The headlines from the finance section were dismal, and everyone began to wonder if they had missed out on a great opportunity. But everything was going so swimmingly well, at least all the commentators on the television thought so. And the giddy little little people thought that well would come trickling down, and they would at least have a job. But Galbraith had said differently in one of his books, though it was not read at the time. Some things go in and out of fashion.