A Naked Ape in a Digital World

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Chapter Excerpts, Introduction
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Ascent/Descent of Man

Ascent/Descent of a Man

This excerpt comes from the   prologue of my book. It describes the primitive equipment used in online searching before the internet.

It also describes how one man evolved from a hairy ape to a respected librarian, and then devolved back into a hairy ape who climbed roofs and banged nails for a living.

I’m re-posting this because I love the above image. It says so much about who I really am. I’m not that crazy about bananas, though.


A Naked Ape in a Digital World


Sometimes I wonder why, after my simian ancestors climbed down from the trees so many millions of years ago, I went right back up again. Not into the trees but onto roofs. I’m a roofer by trade, an over-educated monkey who crawls along the steep and bangs nails all day.

I will admit, though, that high places do have a certain appeal to me – as long as they’re not too high. I can watch the world go by yet remain aloof from the crap that goes on down below. The way I figure it, when Australopithecus dropped her banana, if she’d grunted, scratched her ass, and grabbed another one, there would be no roofs, no roofers, and no me. Thanks, Lucy.

How bold that first ape must have been to jump out of a tree to go chase a piece of fruit. She looked around and saw rolling savannahs of green grass. Forget about the predators that also lurked in the tall grass, Lucy decided all this was hers for the taking. Got to admire such an upright spirit.

Hit a button and fast forward to my life in the 1980s, at the dawn of the digital age. Bytes of text zip through phone lines that connected servers and desktops at an unheard of speed of 1,200 bits (150 bytes) per second. Wow! I want to get me a piece of that action, so I climb down off the roof and start a consulting business: Computerized Information Retrieval. Armed with a higher education (a master’s degree in library science), a TRS-80 computer, a 1,200 bit modem, and a big table, I figure I’m good to go.

I place an ad in the New York Times. That ad draws the attention of a Soviet intelligence officer named Mikhail Katkov.

He tells me, “I would like to discuss with you a business arrangement of mutual benefit, yah?”

He promises that as soon as I get a job in the library of a large U.S. defense contractor, “I will be happy to pay you quite a lot of money for interesting material.”

Instead of turning industrial spy for the Soviet Union, I contact the FBI and become their controlled asset (double agent). The next four years of my life runs like a movie-of-the week: Get Smart Meets 24 — how’s that for drama.

Guess when my hairy-assed ancestors left the safety of the trees it didn’t take them long to figure out the dangers that lurked below; i.e. lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Me, I’m not so smart. It takes a while, but I finally learn that spying isn’t fun and games. Now I feel like a lone antelope out on the savannah. I’ve let myself be separated myself from the rest of the moronic masses, and now a whole alphabet of wild dogs — the GRU, KGB, FBI and CIA — want to grind me in their teeth, swallow me, and shit me out by the side of the road.

I will not be left behind like a marker on their territory.

My attitude circa 1987

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