Thursday, June 15, 2006

Chasing Dixie on the synaptic highway

Dixie loves to be chased. She won't admit to it (or she may, just because I said she won't) but she has always wanted to be the vicious prey that turns upon the hunter. Have you ever seen a science fiction movie where the hunter becomes the hunted? Those are biographies of Dixie. You don't mess with Dixie. Ever. Period.

Rolling Stone magazine figured that out. Through the years, I've given plenty of media interviews. Radio. Television. Newspapers. Magazines. I enjoy talking to the media, waiting to see how they condense an hour's worth of discussion down to a soundbite or a sentence. But Rolling Stone magazine contacted me one day and I got all excited and said, "What can I do for you?" I imagined myself sitting on the cover of Rolling Stone, surrounded by beautiful women, wearing the Fonz's cool leather jacket, looking like Mister Michael. "We'd like to interview Dixie. How do we get hold of her?"

Right. Well, it was the Australian edition of the magazine anyway.

Getting hold of Dixie, though, is like grasping at water. She flows through your fingers. You can't touch her, but she can touch you. She is in complete control. She decides when you get an audience. I had to beg and plead to get her to do the RS interview. I may even have had to sacrifice virgin Girl Scouts to dark gods or something. It was a truly humbling experience.

So I know when to leap, where to jump, and how high. After all, Dixie keeps the server running and she sorts out all the complicated icky Linux stuff that I shy away from. When Dixie calls, Michael listens.

So just this morning, as I was stepping out of the shower, my phone rang. I picked it up and Dixie's warm, charming, southernly accented voice seeped into my ear. I nearly dropped the phone because she never calls me in the morning. I thought, This is it. The server has died again.

"Guess what I found?" she asked coyly.

The server has died again, my thoughts repeated. I quickly reviewed my schedule over the next few days, wondering how much new content I've created for Xenite.Org on the fly that I don't have actual backup copies for. It wasn't looking pretty.

"What did you find?" I asked.

"You know our little spammer, the one who has been creating accounts at SF-FANDOM?"

The server did NOT die, I sighed with relief. "I blocked his domain," I said quickly.

"No, you didn't," Dixie replied. "He was still creating spam accounts. But don't worry. I blocked it for you."

This is why I keep Dixie on the payroll. And I said as much. "This is why I keep you on the payroll, Dixie," I told her. "Because you save me every time you catch me with my pants down."

In fact, I was so happy, I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time. As I started to explain my great idea, Dixie joined in the familiar refrain with me, word-for-word, with "[you're] going to double [my] salary."

Okay, that little motivational trick doesn't work any longer. But we did chuckle heartily over the fact that I'm able to double her salary at least once a year (nothing times two is still nothing).

If I could pay Dixie a salary, I would. Maybe even a good one. Assuming we made that much money from Xenite.Org, which seems mostly to be a charitable organization handing out valuable link love to strangers' Web sites. I've seen various estimates of how much money I could allegedly/supposedly charge for those highly coveted links. I think I could buy a farm with that kind of money, but what do I need an ant farm for anyway?

Dixie, on the other hand, really does need the money. She is so poor she can only afford two of the requisite four wheels that every American housewife is required to have. Poor thing, she sits around and serves Kandi to curious passersby and no one really appreciates all the great things she does for Xenite's network.

For example, just a few weeks ago I called Dixie on a weekend. I don't recall why, but I know you don't call Dixie on weekends (EDITOR'S NOTE: If Michael had a story about what happened with the weekend call, he forgot to include it). She's never home, or if she is home she's only passing through long enough to get a cup of coffee or something. Dixie just doesn't live at home on the weekends.

Instead, she's out riding the Hog, cruising the countryside, being an easy rider. Leaving me to fend for myself on the server, the server where I don't even know how to block your domain if you use software to create spam accounts in my forums (spam accounts that won't work because you stupidly forged the domain name and all the confirmation emails bounce).

I love Dixie's Hog stories. Unlike any farm girl, who might talk about what the pigs do when you hollar "Souie!" she tells me how she and her husband will spend hours racing across the countryside at breakneck speed. They might drive down to south Texas just to see his mother, or up to Oklahoma just to have a picnic in a specific park. All in one weekend.

How do you stay on a motorcycle for so long? I've ridden tweelers a couple of times and my legs cramped up. Dixie and Hubbykins do it on a weekly basis (maybe more often, but since Dixie usually doesn't answer her cell phone, I can't honestly say I always know where she is -- I am NOT responsible).

One day they were cruisin' back toward home and Hubbykins decided he wanted to get there (or maybe he had another trip in mind). As it turns out, Dixie actually likes to stop once in a while and stretch her legs. But the Man had a Plan, and he managed to slow down just enough as they came to each little town so that they never hit a red light.

This can be a serious issue for someone who wants to stop and ... do whatever it is when you stop your motorcycle. If it were me, I'd probably fall off, so I try to stop as seldom as possible. That explains a few police chases in my past, but I digress.

So Dixie and Hubbykins went cruisin' south along some Texas highway and after an hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours, Dixie realized he had no intention of stopping. So the next time they came to a small town she zoomed past him and pulled up to the nearest red light, leaping up in the saddle so she could enjoy 30 seconds of leg-stretching bliss.

Hubbykins reportedly pulled up alongside her with the biggest SEG (that's something-eating-grin for those of you who have never had a puppy) this side of the Cheshire cat. "There's a Starbucks up the road," he said casually. "You want to stop--"

Dixie roared off and hit the parking lot faster than he could finish the sentence. Rumor has it he bought the coffee that day.

So you don't mess with Dixie. If the server crashes and she is having a moment, you bite your tongue and bide your time. Not because she'll bite your head off, but because she likes expensive coffee. And motorcycles. That's a dangerous combination for someone who has to stretch her legs every now and then.

So there I was, fresh out of the shower, and I waited patiently as Dixie gloated over how she has accumulated statistics on some spammer who thinks his software is registering accounts at SF-FANDOM. "We're getting great statistics," she said. I nodded my head sagely, muttering something like, "I see."

Now, I've been waiting six months for Dixie to load a blog on Tolkien Studies on the Web and I've occasionally needed to get other things done. So I know when I'm supposed to shuddup and jes' say, "Yessum. I'm amazed at the audacity of that varmint!"

Frankly, the SF-FANDOM spammer has been more fun than a barrel of possums rolling out in front of your headlights. We don't often see his kind in our parts. What on Earth do you need 100 SF-FANDOM accounts for? It's not like you can use them to send email (right, Dixie?). It's not like you can use them for anything if you're too stupid to use a domain where you'll get the confirmation emails.

But Dixie decided that we needed to take the server down this weekend in order to install some security updates. Now, technically, I've been whining about these updates for, oh, three months. "Dixie, did you see my email about the security update?"

"Yes, Michael. Do you want me to install it now?"

"Um. Whenever you get around to it. I just wanted to know if you saw it."

"And you called me because?..."

"Oh, you know. Just to make sure you made it home safe and sound from the last bike ride."

"Does that mean you did something to the server again?"

I look innocent as a baby bumble bee every time she asks me that. I've learned my lesson. I don't mess with the server when Dixie is not around to save my buck naked bottom.

"No, ma'am. I ain't touched no server. But feel free to ignore any administrative notices you see in the logs. The problem that wasn't there may have been fixed by the time you realize there may have been a problem that you needn't be concerned about."

This is why I pay Dixie the big bucks. Not because she is so good. Not because I am so bad. But because, gosh darn it, I've never had anyone consistently call me at the most inconvenient times to gloat over idiot spammers who are too stupid to look for holes in a system where they're most likely to be found.

I know it means she likes me. She really, really likes me!

And I may even get my Tolkien blog this weekend if I'm really good. Unless she remembers she has a motorcycle and some free time....


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