Lord of the File Separators

Lord of the File Separators


I could tell it was not going to be a good day as soon as I woke up. A quick glance to the alarm clock showed it reading 12:57. I tried hoping that it meant 12:57 am and I could just go back to sleep but no amount of good thoughts would make it true (since I'd not actually gone to sleep until about 3 am) and no amount of quick showering and skipping breakfast would get me into work for "9 am without fail, no problem, I can manage that. Don't even worry about it." Damn.

By breakfast I was already warily looking for omens of worse-to-come and sure enough, the promised, freebie, plastic kitten of contentment was quite definitely missing from the artificially-sweetened, novelty cereal-product of life.

Fortunately, there was nobody in my office when I arrived apart from one other programmer and she's writing to various firms "your company may offer the chanlege(sic) I am looking for" and so was unlikely to be bothered by whatever time I choose to turn up.

Since I'd recently taken a long weekend, there was quite an amount of email waiting for me, including the inevitable, "This mail is vital, give it to your boss without delay, respond now. He will be giving a presentation on Tuesday." (My boss is not techno-literate to the point of doing email and so messages for his attention are transmitted via me) Damn. A few enquiries and a phone call reveal that he's likely to be in London and extremely unlikely to be giving the presentation. Double damn. I phone to cancel the meeting on the grounds that I can't find the person who's supposed to be giving the talk.

Time to check my snail mail. The usual junk - seminars I don't even understand the titles of, meetings that I'm not going to attend, parking permit and map for a conference I went to two weeks ago, postgraduate "information" about courses at another university (suspiciously these documents always include glowing recommendations of the locale, accommodation provided, university facilities, sporting achievements and night-life but maintain a suspicious silence on the subject of what they actually do research into), last months pay slip - nothing I want to read or keep.

The above completed I guess it was unavoidable that I felt obliged to make an attempt to actually do some work. But what to do? Since we're at a "planning stage" in our program design and we "really must have a meeting very soon indeed to discuss preliminary outlines of what we might later consider having meetings about doing" I had no _real_ work to do. The choices were to finish writing that paper I've been writing for months or to tidy my desk. Reasoning that by tidying the desk I will be able to write the paper much more efficiently, I elected to begin tidying. Reasoning that if I had a filing system I would be able to tidy more efficiently, I elected to get a filing system. Without a system of partitions for the filing drawer of my desk I could not have a proper filing system. At the time I didn't even begin to suspect the epic quest that this simple need would lead me on. Therefore I present, with no apologies to Tolkien (because, let's face it, he's "Tolkienesque" and the English Language holds no more damning criticism than that):

Lord of the File-separators

(or There and Back Again and There and then over There and over There a bit and Back Again)

In an office lived a Research Assistant. Not a nasty office with ends of worms sticking out of it but a draughty office which was next to the outlet from the laundry room and was too cold in winter and too hot in summer....

Though the RA had no love for filing, one day, things in his office had become so untidy and so filled with papers that he had to choose between a filing system and slash-and-burn. To file, one must have file-separators and file-separators are stationery and to get stationery one must present oneself to The Keepers of the Sacred Stationery (and Organisers of the Department) who live in the distant land of Vanbrugh College across the Loathly Lake from Goodricke College where the RA made his home. The RA had made this trek many times (for to be an RA is to use much stationery) and was not afraid. That very day he set out...

After an uneventful journey, he arrived at the Office of The Keepers of the Sacred Stationery and when they saw him they were sore afraid, remembering well the times he had petitioned them to send faxes and book hotels and sort out many complex matters of finance. Abasing himself before them, he told them of his quest and begged them for access to the hallowed Stationery Cupboard that he might obtain file-separators. Relieved that his request was so simple, they ushered him through to the Stationery Cupboard where he beheld wondrous many file-separators and many ingenious little plastic things for writing names on. The Keepers of the Sacred Stationary granted him free reign of the file-separators saying, "Take as many as you want because verily we have hundreds of the buggers." Bidding them many thanks the RA took up his file separators and his little plastic things for writing names on and returned with them to the land of Goodricke that he might make a filing system...

Alas, upon returning to his office he was much vexed since the file-separators fitted not into his filing drawer being of too great a width to fit _across_ the drawer. But the RA was a man with much knowledge of things mechanical (and many bits of paper to prove it) and he looked upon the filing drawer and he pondered its construction and after much pondering he reasoned thusly: "These file separators must surely fit into this filing drawer since it is the way of filing drawers to contain standard width file-separators and has been so since the time of our ancestors. Yet clearly the separators are to wide to fit _across_ the drawer. Therefore the separators must fit _along_ the drawer. To support the separators along the drawer I must hypothesise two Necessary Objects: two bars of great strength which will lie _across_ the filing drawer one to the front and one to the rear and will support the separators which will lie _along_ the drawer." And he peered into the darkest deeps of the drawer and sure enough he beheld such a Necessary Object and as he had reasoned it fitted _across_ the drawer yet he was much irked since it was clear that one Necessary Object would not suffice for the file separators must be supported to the front and to the rear. Resigned, the RA took up the Necessary Object and departed again to the land of the Keepers of the Sacred Stationery....

After a similarly uneventful journey he arrived again at the Office of the Keepers of the Sacred Stationery (and Organisers of the Department) and he presented them with the Necessary Object and begged them to see if they could find its likeness. But the Keepers of the Sacred Stationery said that they had not the Necessary Object and had never seen its like but they could order it from the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery if he could tell them its True Name. But the RA knew not the True Name of the Necessary Object and he was sore peeved and cursed muchly until the Keepers of the Sacred Stationery took pity on him and counselled him thusly: "Travel unto the far distant lands of Derwent College where thou mayest find The Keepers of the Deeper Stationery who may tell you the True Name of the Necessary Object. Return here with the True Name and we will enter it into the lists and thou may have it by Wednesday." And thus the RA set out to the distant lands of Derwent where no man goes except those in quest of poor beer, bad decor and Deep Stationery...

After a very uneventful journey he arrived at the Stationery Store wherein lived the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery. And he boldly ignored their warning Glyphs "Closed: Open again Monday 2:15" because he knew of the ways of the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery and how they would ward off those who were not firm of purpose with such portents. He smote mightily on their hatch and spake thusly: "Behold this Necessary Object - I seek its likeness and to do so I must know its True Name." But alas, the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery said that they had not the Necessary Object and they knew not its True Name for they said that it was not True Stationery but instead was part of an item of furniture. And the RA was mightily pissed off and cursed muchly and the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery took pity on him and counselled him thusly: "In the far distant Hall of Heslington, wherein dwells the Administrator (Speak Not His Name), thou may find The Wise Woman Who Knows of Furniture - she knows much that is hidden to mortals and may know the True Name of the Necessary Object. Take the straight stair and the winding stair and climb until the heavens themselves seem within reach and there thou wilt find The Wise Woman Who Knows of Furniture."

Yet the directions melted from the mind of the RA like the snows in spring even before he had left the Store of the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery. And they were much unimpressed and spake unto him thusly: "That's the cupboard, go out that way." And so the RA set out, and after a journey even less eventful than the previous he arrived at the Hall of Heslington but he had forgotten the directions told to him by the Keepers of the Deeper Stationery and he wandered aimless as an Undergraduate until he happened upon a Receptionist. He told her of his plight and begged her to direct him to The Wise Woman Who Knows of Furniture. But the Receptionist said that one who is a lowly RA may not pass the straight stair and the winding stair. The RA was greatly annoyed and pleaded with her and the Receptionist counselled him thusly: "Waitest thou on the Comfy Seats and I will contact The Wise Woman Who Knows of Furniture and she will answer thy pleas."

The RA waited on the Comfy Seats and before too long The Wise Woman appeared unto him and he showed her the Necessary Object and entreated her to tell him its True Name. But the Wise Woman Who Knows of Furniture said that she had not the Necessary Object and she knew not its True Name. And the RA was really livid by this point. But the Wise Woman took pity on him and counselled him thusly: "In the vastness of the University are wondrous many desks and these are bought from wondrous many manufacturers. If we can find the manufacturer of the desk then we may ask of them the True Name of the Necessary Object." But the RA wept bitter tears for he knew not the manufacturer of the desk. The Wise Woman comforted him and counselled him thusly "Return now to thy office in Goodricke and examine closely thy desk for there thou wilt find the Sigil of the Manufacturer. If thou canst describe to me this Sigil then I may find the manufacturer of the desk who may know the True Name of the Necessary Object and failing that we can get a joiner in Thursday." Thus did the RA return to the familiar land of Goodricke with hope in his heart but also fear for he knew well the ways of joiners which would cause much noise and disruption to work.

His journey from the Halls of Heslington to the familiar environs of Goodricke college was the most uneventful yet and upon his return he fell beneath his desk and searched thoroughly for the Sigil of the Manufacturer but alas, he could find no such Sigil and he was sore dischuffed and there was much wailing and much gnashing of teeth.

Seeking comfort he walked to the office that is next door to his office wherein dwelt Maurice who was a man of much good humour. But upon entering the office that is next door to his office the RA fell to his knees in wonder because he beheld that Maurice had a desk of similar manufacture. With his heart in his hands, the RA opened the filing drawer of the desk of similar design and beheld therein a single Necessary Object and he spake unto Maurice saying: "Please, for the sake of God, will you render unto me the Necessary Object since it is of no use to you, being but a single Necessary Object, but it is of great importance to me." And Maurice, who was a man of great status and owned many filing cabinets spake unto the RA thusly: "I am a man who has many file-separators and I have no need for further, and besides, thou helpest me patch up that web-browser that time. Thou may keep the Necessary Object and use it for holding thy file-separators."

And so the RA took the new Necessary Object from the drawer of Maurice and placed it to the rear of his filing drawer going _across_ the drawer and he took the old Necessary Object and he placed it to the front of the drawer going _across_ the drawer and he took his file-separators and placed them _along_ the drawer. Then he gave thanks to the Gods for he had learnt an important lesson: Although one may travel to find knowledge one must return home to find wisdom.

Thus are the ways of the Network Control Group furthered.

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