We had a birthday party for me on Saturday. I had been worried I might not be able to have fun — I’m such a geezer. But it was great.
My wife got helium balloons, which were fun and bouncy.
My artist friend Paul Mavrides was there, he recalled that we’d met thanks to our common “cult leader” Ivan Stang of the Church of the SubGenius who put us in contact when I moved out West twenty years ago.
Also my mad scientist friend Nick Herbert with fellow researcher Beverly Rubik. I got my ideas in Frek and the Elixir about quantum decoherence from Nick, not to mention much of the inspiration for Frank Shook in Saucer Wisdom.
My daughter Isabel made me a great “Swiss knife” with symbols of seven of the things I’m interested in: A Zhabotinsky scroll (for cellular automata), the Mandelbrot set (for fractals), a robot, A Square (for the fourth dimension), Infinity, a UFO, a Cone Shell (for diving, cellular automata, universal automatism, and SF). It’s gold-colored metal and the little “blades” swing in and out, with the icons in silver-colored metal riveted on. It's called, naturally, a Mind Tool!
The morning after the party, my wife, the kids and I let the balloons go up into the sky one by one, taking all cares away.
For the entertainment, my wife suggested the guests bring reminiscences about me (not necessarily true and, if possible, science-fictional) to read. I was very touched.
I feel a lot better now about turning sixty. I always love it when I have a birthday party and its time for the cake. The room lit by the warm glow of the candles, a sea of faces smiling and singing to me, my loved ones close. The highpoint of a year. My life’s turned out a lot better than I expected.
Here’s the piece that Jon Pearce wrote; Jon is in the CS department at SJSU and was my office mate for about twelve of the twenty years I was teaching there. The software he’s talking about is the Pop framework, available for free from me online.
Computers Trembled at his Approach (for Rudy on his 60th birthday) by Jon Pearce.
“Most people know Rudy Rucker the science fiction writer. I also know Rudy in his roles as educator and Computer Scientist. I shared an office with Rudy during the period of his career when he molded the jumble of functions and classes that make up the programmer's view of the Windows platform into a virtual world populated by digital predators and their flocks of prey. Rudy delighted in the God-like satisfaction his students experienced as they embellished his world with new landscapes and new species of creatures: sharks with laser beam eyes, bulletproof sheep, invisible pterodactyls.”
“Rudy was especially proud of those gifted students who assiduously pushed his framework to its limits, discovering new possibilities not envisioned by the master. Rudy was even grateful for those rare occasions when the limits of his world were exceeded, revealing an un-initialized pointer, an uncaught exception, or some other minor oversight. Within minutes Rudy would deftly locate and repair the problem in front of the awe-struck student.”
“On one such occasion, after the awe wore off a bit, the young man sitting next to Rudy pointed out that the artful patch Rudy installed to repair a virtual volcano that was erupting spaghetti instead of lava was causing fractal cuttlefish in a nearby sea to eat their young. Not a problem, Rudy assured the anxious student. Within minutes the cuttlefish were model parents, but now buildings in a distant city were melting like cheese on a hot plate.”
“Like a worn out beach ball, repairing a leak in one place only seemed to cause a blow out in another. The cascade of errors continued: self-aware televisions were torturing telepathic toasters, horny pan-dimensional kangaroos were humping hyper-intelligent hippos, left-leaning Vulcans were reaming reactionary Romulens. Esoteric error messages flowed across Rudy's screen like water from a burst dam: Compiler error #23, Linker error #48, Error reporting error #19, ‘Please contact Microsoft immediately.’ I watched as the back of Rudy's neck began to glow red. Slowly Rudy rose to his feet. His eyes were glazed. His hands trembled with rage. ‘F*ck!’ he bellowed, then plowed his boot into the face of the computer again and again and again. Microchips sprayed across the room like shrapnel. Sparks sprung from the motherboard. Smoke billowed from the hard drive. As Rudy's world went black we heard the last pathetic death cry of a mutant man-eating muppet.”
“Rudy sternly said to both of us: ‘This didn't happen.’ The student quickly gathered his books and scurried out of the office. Rudy turned to me and asked, ‘Do you think we should kill him?’”
[Qualifiers: It wasn't my program's fault the machine was crashing, it had a defective graphics board and/or motherboard. And I only kicked the box once.]