I didn’t exactly self-destruct in Berlin. Think of it more as a controlled implosion. We all have bad days. Some are just more predetermined than others.

 

“No,” he said, “you won’t need your gun. Just in and out, find out how he does it and report back. That’s all. No heroics. No bodies littering his workshop. You got that?”

I said I had but Control didn’t look convinced. He was reaching for the phone even before I closed the door. I never got to finish the coffee.

What did I know of Joe Workman? Only what I’d read in the papers, seen on TV. He was a recluse. Made his fortune in real-estate and then ventured into stacks. Was now rumoured to be angel- funding some new internautical startup, all strictly hush-hush. Three years in his file that were unaccounted for, a black hole in his life no one wanted to talk about. No wonder Control was concerned.

An hour later I pulled off the Pacific Highway just north of Stack City Bay, left the ocean in my rearview and wound up into the foothills looking for the Pila Canyon my GPS had promised me was just around the corner for the last forty miles. It was just around the corner.

I parked at the foot of the canyon and approached the house on foot. The night was black, the sky open all the way back to the Big Bang. Crickets chirped as I crawled across the dusty earth, bullfrogs croaking as I bellied through clumps of wild sage. All my years of brutal SAS training coalesced in those last 20 yards before someone stuck a pistol in my ear.

“Mr Workman says, ‘Come on up to the house, why don’t you?’”

 

*****

 

Casa Monton. Three painful flights later they dragged me in to the workshop and threw me to the floor. There wasn’t much of it that wasn’t littered with stacks. Some I already knew, many I didn’t. Exotic names like Mask, Totem, Google Maps floated before my eyes. I looked up and tried to focus.

Workman was at the far end of the room, seated at a console that had more controls than a space shuttle. He swivelled in his chair, pushed back his porkpie hat and regarded me like a specimen under a microscope.

“Control is a sick old man,” he said. “He sees a conspiracy wherever three stacks are gathered together. You should’ve stayed at home.”

“Three stacks?” I let my scorn encompass the room. “I count at least eleven.”

He smiled. It was the smile of a man who had a map and knew where he was on it. “And all of them brand new and ready to unleash on a grateful RapidWeaver community.”

“Grateful?” I said. “They got kids to feed, Workman. You ever think of that? You developers make it impossible for weavers to lead a normal life. Beautiful new themes, great new stacks, new products every day, draining their resources, taking advantage of their helpless addiction…”

“We don’t exist in a vacuum, buddy. You forget I’m a weaver myself, subject to the same pressures we all suffer.”

“You want to talk to me of suffering? Do you really know how it feels to run out of Peanut Butter?”

He did, I could tell, but he shrugged it away. Could developers become addicted to their own products? Maybe in a topsy-turvy world it didn’t amount to a stack of beans, but the complulsion to buy every RapidWeaver add-on known to man is a cruel condition undocumentated in any respected medical journal. Workman had travelled the same hard road and he watched me now as I reached the same conclusion. “Welcome to the world of supply and demand,” he said.

But I wasn’t through with him yet. “Demand?” I looked at all the stacks piled ceiling-high on pallettes all around the workshop.

“X-Ray,” I said, picking one out at random. “Tell me why I need X-Ray.”

“Why? Because X-Ray auto-magically creates a list of all the files and folders of any directory on your web server. In fact you can either have a plain text list or have each item actually link to each item!”

Okay, maybe I did need X-Ray. It was a poor example. I picked out another. “Mask,” I said.

 

“Mask allows you layer two different stack containers on top of each over. These containers can contain just about anything that you want. You can add hover or click events that will animate the top layer away to unveil the background contents, and there are 11 effects to choose from.”

“Well, apart from X-Ray andMask,” I conceded.

“How about Totem,” Workman suggested, “which makes implementing animated vertical tickers a cinch.” He must’ve glimpsed the fleeting interest in my eyes. “Better still, it comes in 2 flavors and Totem RSS allows you to import an RSS feed and generate a Totem slider dynamically with your RSS feed titles.”

“Or the Like It Stack,” he added, twisting the knife, “which gives you the ability to add all of the various ‘like widgets’ from all well known online services in one stack. Then there’s the Google Maps stack which makes it dead easy to add a static image map to your website, and with no flash involved it’ll work beautifully on mobile devices.”

“Sure, sure,” I said, trying to free myself from the goon who held me in an armlock. “Is that the time? I have a vital appointment—”

“Relax, buddy,” Workman said, enjoying himself now. Maybe it was my discomfort that made his eyes shine or maybe it was just the spark of insanity from which all genius ignites. “I haven’t told you about the HTML5 Audio and HTML5 Video stacks which utilize the latest technologies to play audio and video on your site without Flash!”

There was a hole in the corner where the mice hung out. I could see their tiny shadows and the crazed pinpoints of their eyes as they laughed at my predicament. Things were getting definitely weird.

“And on the subject of Flash,” Workman said, “my newFlash Embed stack allows you to easily embed any SWF flash file directly onto your stacks page.”

“Sounds like fun,” I told him, trying to keep the desperation from my voice. But it was no go. He was in full flow, a glacial stack that would never be stopped.

“Fun you say? We even got that covered with ourMinesweeper stack which pays homage to the classic Minesweeper game. This one’s done completely in javascript and can be played in any web browser, so we’re hoping you have a lot of fun with it!”

My idea of fun was a silent cavern entombed in the centre of the earth where the dark fractal roots of obsession never see the light of day. It was a hopeless dream but I clung to it with the desperation of a seasoned weaverholic adrift on an endless sea of temptation.

 

But Joe Workman wasn’t like that. He was fashioned from a harder matter mined from the unfathomable depths of vortices that exist only along the edge of Time itself. Which meant he could supersede reality and focus on what developers do best. Talk. And drink. And make love to beautiful women. I made love to a beautiful drink once. But I was young then and I could handle the knocks.

I zoned in on Workman again. He was still talking about his new website, the one he’d been working on for three months now.

“The goal of our new Rapidweaver Products page was to allow users to sort through a lot of products in a clean and easy to use interface — and I think I accomplished that with the new filter bar that allows users to filter stacks by predefined categories. You can also sort the stacks by Date or Name, while the search field allows for even more flexibility by allowing users to search by tag with auto-completed suggestions.”

I was drifting in and out of consciousness now. Maybe there was too much productivity in the air, too much going on. I was just a simple weaver with simple needs and a loaded gun in my hand.

“The new product page is simple yet gives the user everything they need to know at their finger tips, with the most current version at the top of the page. There are screenshots of both Edit and Preview modes and you can click on the View Demo button to quickly unveil a demo of the stack with screenshots of the settings HUD as well as a download of the user manual.”

I didn’t know how long I could last. I had to act soon while I still had the use of my single remaining faculty, the sense of smell. But it was already too late.

“It’s true. I don’t deny it. We have big plans for the Tutorials section. Our goal is to remake a tutorial video for every stack asap. We hope to post tons of video to help users rediscover the stacks that they already own.”

He was gone, lost to us. I could see that as clearly now as I could see him dissemble and reform through the shimmering heat of my delerium. I took aim and fired but he had a stack for that too.

 

“Bullet Time Stack is one of our most popular stacks, of course, but we won’t be offering that in our special Starter Bundle which is perfect to get you started… and with a very nice discount to boot!”

Someone was screaming. It was me. They hustled me out of the workshop, along the corridor and down the bronchial tubes of the stairs. Someone mentioned a bar. It was Workman. Talking about InfoBar, a slender bar that floats at the top of your website, giving visitors a brief message. He said its initial release was to promote assistance for those in Japan who suffered the tragic earthquake. I looked around for a barman, but there was only me and Workman and his porkpie hat.

“Nice hat,” I said.

He took it off and angled it carefully on my head. “Fits you like a glove,” he said. “Even lends you a certain gravitas.”

I said, “Lend me any kind of ass you like, just don’t expect it back in one piece.”

When I regained consciousness I was eating gravel on the driveway and wishing I had a tongue in my head that wasn’t connected to my brain. Someone once told me a smart mouth is a lonely mouth. But I wasn’t lonely. I still had the crickets and bullfrogs to talk to, and all the clamouring voices in my head. Life was sweet again. All I had to do was make it back to Stack City and buy me a bundle. Another little stack wouldn’t hurt. I knew I could give them up anytime I wanted.

I found my car and turned it round and followed the smell of the ocean back down the canyon towards the highway.

 

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