Chapter 1: Beer, Brandy, and Blowing Chow

It was a dark, and not-so-stormy night,... no, that's not right. Let's see, it was a March night in the town of Madison, a modest little State Capitol, housing a humble University. Perhaps it was those two ingrediants that made for such an explosive combination. I say this becuase, in my experience, there has never been, nor will ever be again, such a loyal, die-hard group of confirmed beer drinkers as those first four who made the initial discovery.

I digress. Our little group had formed from some odd backgrounds, but had soon formed a fast friendship. For myself, it began back in my sophomore year in Adkins House, Ogg Hall, University of Wisconsin Southeast Dorms. We, the House of Adkins, that is, had decided to have a party with a house from Sellery Hall. Since the dorm parties often aquire more bystanders than real House members, we decided to have this party in the basement of a bar called "The Church Key". I wasn't overly interested in going, but I figured, "what the hell?". One dormie on my floor was George John Pokorny III, known as "jayge", and not at all the picture of a "The Third". Well, Jayge had in- vited a friend of his, named Dean Baumgartner, to this party. This guy look- ed like a refugee from the second-string Badger Defense and had on the shirt to prove it! Well, for some reason (the germanic name, I think), I started talking to this "Dean" guy. Baumgartner; now there's a good Aryan name. Dean is definately German. He's got the sqaurish build, the blond hair, and the "cookie-duster" mustache to prove it. It wasn't long before we discovered that both of us had an intense craving for some brandy!!

Ah, Brandy, the "gentleman's" drink, conjuring images of the flame-warmed snifter, brought on a silver platter by a man named "Jeeves", on a night in the depths of winter, to a favorite fireplace leather high-back chair, nuzzled by an Irish Setter named, apropriately-enough, "Brandy". Ahem. After a few drinks at the bar, Dean and I decided to have a taste-test. My brandy stock against his! Needless to say, we had both been drinking the bar brand and dec- ided that it wasn't "up to par". First stop, Deans's dorm room. This is where he brought out the dreaded jug of E & J.

Dean's dorm room. This is where I should have taken my first warning. My room was quite a mess, what with wires and printouts, dice and maps, the trades of a CS student (and a D&D player), but this place took the cake! Amongst the usual student clutter: books, clothes (sorted by pile), various D&D impliments (hmmm, could be a game here!), a calculator, and graph paper; there was a shelf devoted to liquor and beer bottles! On this particular evening, it was the former of the two in which we were primarily interested.

A couple of shots later, we decided to head over to my place for some of my "stock". I believe it was "Five Star Brandy". Well, by this time, the flame-warmed snifter had given way to gulps from the bottle. Jeeves was nowhere to be found, it wasn't winter, the high-back leather chair was a vinyl beanbag chair and a tubular plastic chair, and the Irish setter was a hamster named "Fred".

The "gentleman's" drink had us both about as shit-faced as a couple of bottles of "white lightning". "The hell with walking back to the dorm, Dean, go ahead and pass out on the floor". No need to say this, he's out already.

Next morning. I look down from mmy bunk in a liquor-induced haze. What the hell? There's someone on my floor! Oh yeah, its this "Dean" guy. Also, through the pungent "morning after" I smell a sickly-sweet odor. Oh no, this guy's puked on my carpet! And I just met him! Well, Dean woke up shortly after that as I informed him, "In this room, 'He who does it, cleans it up!'".

Thus begins a long friendship. Beer, Brandy, and Blowing chow.

Chapter 2: The Tree That Walks

I was born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin. Home of the Appleton Foxes Baseball team, the Institute of Paper Chemistry, Lawrence University, and the college-run radio station, WLFM. Home also of the annual WLFM trivia contest, purportedly the first in the U.S., the one that started it all.

In Junior High and High School, the annual WLFM trivia contest was looked forward to with as much anticipation as summer vacation. Everyone who was anyone participated in this mind-bending 48 hours. These were some of the best times. After 12 hours, you were a bit wilted, but still quick enough. After 24 hours your eyes were pretty bloodshot and you had had about all the pizza you were likely to try that year. At 36 hours, you were getting delerious already ("Is that another Star Trek question???????? I know it, I know it, I know the answer!!!!!!!"...."No, they asked 'What's a blister pock', not 'What's a Mister Spock!'"). By 48 hours, you've recovered some as you wait for the final totals, argue with the Trivia Masters, and, if lucky enough, get an official WLFM Duffle Cakes and Tree Sap T-shirt.

With a background like this, it isn't suprising that after 2 years of abstinance, I was looking, no I was itching, for a good game. I found one in the guise of the Lakeshore Dorm Area's radio station. Having a great amount of help and footwork from the Borneman brothers, Doug and Brad, we were able to secure the basement of the Lakeshore commons as our "HQ". I had met the infamous Bornemann brothers in my first year and had found them to be from Kimberly, near Appleton, and avid Trivia fans as well.

Among the members of our rag-tag trivia team was a rather mysterious stranger who joined us in the second day of the game. He was rather tall, but with a boyish face and glasses. Picture a cross between John Denver and Herman Musnter. Tom Munro. You could tell this guy was some kind of leader, he looked like an ROTCer or an oversize Boy Scout. Airborne Ranger, perhaps? Well, he turned out to be a Boy Scout, like I figured. We started talking and we found out that we had some things in common. This guy liked D&D as well as I did and, suprise of surprises, he played Elves, Rangers, or other woodland-types.

We must have been two of the "wierder" ones (that's a relative term) in the group for we spent the rest of the game making Bagel & Mountain Dew runs to the cafeteria upstairs, making a pyramid from the Dew cups, and making general nuciances of ourselves.

At one point, this rather large specimen of "homo sapien" and I tried something that I will regret the rest of my life. You see, when a team like ours, out for the fun of it, not the prizes, gets together, every question answered correctly elicits spontaneous celebration. Well, we had gotten an answer to some question or other (not another "Star Trek" one), and were in a good mood. Although outsized by a fair amount, my rationale center of the brain had gone off the air, so I naturally attempted a "high-five" which accomplished a loud "BANG!" and nearly gave me escape velocity!

From this point on, Tom Munro, The Tree That Walks, and I decided two things. First, we should game together sometime. And second, we should never attempt a "high-five" again.

Chapter 3: The Graduate

The University of Wisconsin, as with any University with a reputable Comp Sci department, had too many students in CS courses, and too few terminals. Also, as with most CS departments, there are several types of students. First is the hapless freshman Fine Arts student who needs the 3 credits of Comp Sci to graduate and is getting them out of the way. This is the type of person that tries not to sit at a terminal until the last possible moment, then cries in agony and cringes at every bleep from the tube. Let's face it, for these people, if it doesn't communicate like Edgar Allan Poe or if it doesn't say "ya know, like that's really tubular, dude", they just can't handle it.

Second is the freshman CS student, non-hacker format. These are the ones who actually do their assignments on time. They are the ones who can be seen spending 8 to 10 hours a day getting their CS programs to compile wihtout errors. Unfortunately, as with the next type of student, long hours at the terminals does not necessarily guarantee familiarity with the systems.

The third type is the "Grade-hog", or "Curve-breaker", you know, the ones who ask the prof, "Do we have to show all 42 steps of that derivation? I think its intuitively obvious". Usually these are either the foreign students, pressured by their parents and their Governments (who generously sent them here) to ace every course offered by the University, or the honors students who missed getting into MIT at age 15 by 3 points on their SATs. They, like the CS Frosh, spend long hours getting their code running.

Finally is the "hacker" type. This person usually has at least one machine at home and a dedicated phone line to the University's network. This person skips most of the CS lectures in favor of "trying it out himself". The hacker is a person who rarely makes forays into the terminal rooms. Instead he hacks the program in on his home machine, then transmits it to the University systems to be compiled and run. The only time the hacker treks to the terminals is to "fool around" with the system for long hours (this is easier on the phone bill than calling in), usually late at night when only the CS freshmen and the foreign students are at the terminals (the Fine Arts students are partying and/ or contemplating the universe). The hacker, although a late night fixture at the CS lab, only spends an hour or so (if that much) on his assignment programs.

These are the same ones as the CS Freshmen and foreign students, but the hacker didn't include things like comments, problem definitions and flow charts; he thinks these things muddle up the code. He'd rather code tomorrow's assignment on the fly. It's easier that way. Besides, this gives him plently of time at the terminals to do other things, like playing "rogue", sending flames to the labbies, and using net news.

Needless to say, I was one of the later group, a hacker called Large Furry Marsupial. I got that nickname for several reasons. First you must under- stand that I was one of these "late-night fixtures" at the CS lab, the type who came in around 8pm and stayed until 3am or so, sans backpack or books. When I came into the lab, it was usually clad in jeans, a Canadian camoflage flack jacket, and topped off with an Australian bush hat. Also, being one of the "hacker" types, I spent alot of my time reading and writting messages on the "dartboard" (a kind of electronic hangout for the hardcores). For some reason (still unkown to me), I began signing my letters with pseudo-psychotic monographs, such as:

                           "Avoiding a rogue herd of
                            rampaging mastadon ...

                           "Somewhere over the rainbow...
But soon I tended to keep to a single "theme" for my sign-offs:
                           "Have tea and scones with some
                            Large Furry Marsupials...


                           "Discussing geo-politics, nuclear
                            Armeggedon, and Brooke Shields 
                            with some Large Furry Marsupials...

This particular method of ending my notes generated some interesting conversation on the dartboard. People began to speculate about by Nationality, my species, my sanity, and even the species of my fiancee. Well, after a while it got to be a bit rediculous, rumors flying every direction, and insults following them just as fast. All this while, the "Large Furry Marsupials" had been shortened to "JT and the LFM's", "JT & LFM's", and finally "JT the LFM". Thus was invented the Australian Ground Forces and their Commander, Cmdr. M. A. Tilda, and his advisor JT the LFM.

You might wonder why I mention all of this. So do I. Don't worry, however, because it *will* become important later on. The gist is that I was a one of the more voiciferous of the many personalities of the dartboard.

At the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the graduate CS-students are given account logins that begin with the letters "g-". This identifies them as graduates, people who know how to use the system, people to answer questions, to the pleasure of the undergrads and the chagrin of the graduates.

It was during my more "outspoken" periods on the dartboard that I began to notice, and more to the point, correspond, with a user of the login name "g-wardal". Having entered some rather bizzare conversations with the electronic manifestation of this being, I wondered what he (or she) really looked and sound like. You see, the problem with electronic communication is that there's no visual cues as to the intention of a phrase. In other words, its sometimes hard to tell if a person is being facetious, sarcastic, or honest with you.

One evening, after having electronically bantered with this "g-wardal", I suggested we get together. Much to my surprise he was in the vacinity, so he said he would wander over. I anxiously scrutinized every person who walked through the door of the terminal room. "Is this one "g-wardal"", I asked myself? Each person who strode into the room looked as if they had something to do, they walked in and sat down next to terminals, and began to type. After a few minutes I went back to my typing and ignored the comings and goings around me. Some time later, I was paged through the computer. Someone was trying to "talk" to me. This "g-wardal" person was on the other end and wanted to know where I was. I told him I where I sat and the next thing I knew, from across the room came "So you're the Large Furry Marsupial?".

His name is actually John Wardale. One of the quirks of the operating system we were using was that it wouldn't accept login names longer than 8 characters, hence "Wardale" had been shortened to "g-wardal" in order to indicate the status (graduate) of the user.

John, or "Wardale", as I called him, was a rather interesting person. Interesting to my type of person, that is, in that he was a hacker, and also a role-player (remember, I play Dungeons & Dragons). John and I hit it off pretty well after that and sometimes tended to "consolidate" our forces on the dartboard. It was probably more like John's forces that were helping mine, but I need an ego boost every now and then. Physically, I'd say that Wardale should have been a basketball player. He's tall and lanky, good assets for b-ball, but unfortunately he's not always as graceful as some would like. This isn't to say that I'm Fred Astair either, but I'm built a little lower to the ground so "speed bumps" like chairs and tables don't pose much of a hazard. While I tend to go "through" such annoyances, Wardale tends to attemp a flanking manouevre. John is also referred to as "the bearded one", as he does have a rather profuse set of facial hair in which, it is theorized, many generations of mutant life forms have arisen, built their microscopic civilizations, and died, much as the ancient Mayans and their struggle with the jungles of South America.

Chapter 4: Bolo BST - Unit of the Line

It wasn't long after making the aquaintance of Wardale that we started hanging out at the CS building or other "fun" places. John was a graduate student and thus had the good fortune of having keys for most of the "forbidden" rooms in these buildings. Many of these rooms contained other "hacker-types", hunched over terminals doing unfathomable things to the systems. One time, Wardale introduced me to one of these hackers. His name was Joe Burger.


JT Vogt
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