“She still is…”

Erisa continued to tutor me, and I continued to learn new things. Perl is positively huge and has many nuances. Eventually, Erisa told me that I was good enough to start contributing to open-source projects. She recommended looking for interesting CPAN (= Comprehensive Perl Archive Network) modules, adding automated tests, doing bug-squashing, and maybe even adding a feature or two.

That’s what I did, and found myself contributing to various modules. Then, one day, Erisa approached me as I was taking things out of my locker. “Jenn,” she said, “I told my Mum about you, and now she bugs me about inviting you to dinner at my place. Would you like to come?”

“Sure! I’d love to come.” I told her.

“Good, it will give you a chance to see my computer and I’ll show you what a working environment of real men and real women is. Not the sissy environment that I recommended you to start with.”

“Heh.” I said and smiled.

We scheduled for the next day at 19:00. So, the next day, I wore some of my best clothes, and prepared myself for two hours. As I looked on my final form in the mirror, I said to myself, that I probably would have looked better than Erisa with much less effort. And so I walked to Erisa’s home.

She answered the door. Looking at her, I noticed I was right - she did look awful. “Hey Jenn,” she said, “please come in.”.

“Now I can warn you that my family likes to call me ‘Eve’. I don’t mind it too much, but to avoid bad habits, you should refer to me as ‘Erisa’.”

“OK. Why did you change your name in the first place?”

“Well, every person should have a right to choose his own name. My parents called me ‘Eve’ because they wanted a nice Hebrew name. I, on the other hand, am trying to be unique and individualistic, so I renamed myself.”

“I’m never going to change my name. I like it a lot.”

“Girlfriend, it’s you who succumbs to society, not me.”

Then I noticed a young boy (dressed perfectly normally) descending down the stairs. He looked at me, and said, “Eve, is this Jennifer?”.

“Righto.” Erisa said.

I approached him and said “Jennifer Raymond! Nice to meet you. Are you Erisa’s brother?”.

“Yeah,” he answered, “my name is Daniel Siegel.”

“Nice to meet you, Daniel.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Miss Raymond.”

“Hey, you can call me Jennifer.”

He looked a bit puzzled, and after a few seconds said “Whatever.” and ran to a different room.

“Well, as a good hostess, let me tell you what there’s to do here.” Erisa addressed me. “In the living room we have video games, a DVD player, and a VHS player. My family has bought a large selection of movies and video games. I have, for a long time, frowned upon this practice, as it pumps money into the content industry’s lawsuit machine. Nevertheless, I still don’t mind using them once they are purchased.”

“My personal computer is in my room up-stairs.” she added, “There are a few things I’d like to show you there.”

“I’d love to see your room. And to meet your parents.” I told her.

“Well, let’s go to my room now, OK? And then we can find some other entertainment for you until the food is ready.”

And so I followed her up the stairs. Erisa’s room reflected upon her personality. While the walls were white (luckily), it was filled with posters of Heavy Metal bands, with activism posters, and with a large amount of books (some of them had Hebrew writing on the cover). It exhibited a lot of disorder. In one corner, stood a desk with a nice PC computer beneath it, a flat screen on top, and a keyboard.

Erisa took the seat next to the screen and hinted that I should take the seat next to her.

“See, this is Debian - a distribution that real men and real women (trademark) use. It is maintained by a group of packagers worldwide, is controlled by an organization, instead of one of those companies that don’t really care about their users.”

“The first thing you should notice is that I login with a text mode. Newbies dig an X-login, but it causes many problems. After you are in a virtual console, you can start X-Windows [= the Linux windowing system] using ‘startx’.”

“And here’s IceWM - a usable window manager that actually does not eat your computer’s resources like KDE or GNOME do. Other people use fluxbox or whatever, but Ice works for me.”

“Cool,” I said. “I suppose I can give it a try. It does not seem to have as much eye candy as KDE does.”

“Eye candy in - memory and speed out.”

“Heeee.” I giggled. “Anything else you want to show me?”

“Well, can’t think of anything now. Why don’t you go downstairs and meet my family? The food should be ready soon.”

I went downstairs. Daniel was watching a film I really liked so I joined him. Eventually, Erisa’s mother called everybody to say that the food was ready.

Erisa’s family talked a lot during the meal, and I joined them whenever I could. I noticed that they called Erisa “Eve” (as she had previously noted). The food was delicious.

After the meal, Erisa’s father and her older brother had volunteered to clear the table, and her mother asked me if I’d like to look at Erisa’s photo albums. “I’d love to.” I said.

As a girl, Erisa was super-cute. “Us being Jews, she grew among lots of Jewish and Israeli kids, and she learned Hebrew very quickly. She also eventually learned how to read it, even without diacritics. Some of our Israeli friends and relatives were amazed at her mastery of the language, and said her accent hardly revealed her true birthplace.”

“She was so proud of her Jewish heritage and culture. Here are some pictures of her during her Bat-Mitzvah.”

I looked at them with interest. “So when did she become such a…”

“Punk?” Erisa interrupted me, “That’s alright - I fully acknowledge this fact.”

“Well, ” said her mother, “around the age of 14. She started staying away from her usual friends, dressing weirdly, and colouring her hair in flashy colours. We don’t believe in dictating our children how to lead their life, so we just let her be.”

“Was it because of her interest in computers?”

“Oh no,” she said, “she’s been tampering with computers since she was a little girl. She used to invite her friends, both girls and boys, home and show them how to play games and program. It was all very social. We don’t know what happened. She was always so caring for other people.”

“She still is…” I said.

Erisa smiled, and then went back to reading her book. After a short while, she said: “You know, I’m not exactly Miss Altruism here. As much as I think commercialisation is evil, and Big Business is aiming to ruin our country and the world at large, I still think tangible goods and especially people’s time is something that does not have to be given away.”

“Fair enough,” I replied, “I can agree with that. So?”

“Well, just for your information, by charging people for my time alone, I now have over 20 thousand bucks in the bank.”

“You’re kidding?” I asked surprisingly.

“She isn’t.” Erisa’s mother replied.

“How did you earn all of that?”

“Well, Mum and Dad finance my food, my clothing, and school, so I don’t have to worry about that. I used to work during the Summers for software shops, and I also give lessons (as is the case with you), work as a freelancer and have other gigs.”

“I’ll give you an extreme example: one day, in the very beginning of the Internet craze, this old man sent a mail to a mailing list I was a member of, asking for help trying to form a web-site of his own (with pictures of his grand-children, and stuff like that). I told him, that it won’t be scalable to create and maintain the site for him, and that he should learn HTML. It turned out he was living in the other side of L.A., so I said that I will be willing to teach him that, if he pays me for my entire time, including the long rides.”

“So he agreed and I actually taught him. Took a long time. You know, people his age can sometimes type very slowly, and he was not exceptional. After that, when he learned HTML, I told him that I’ll be willing to host his site on my server for a uniform monthly fee. He agreed.”

“So I got a lot of money teaching him, and now I get a constant stream of cash from him. He and his wife actually now totally dig having a web-site, and they fill it in with reviews and recommendations of their favourite movies, recipes, bio’s, memorial pages, and stuff like that.”

I shed a few tears and wiped them with my elbow. “Erisa,” I told her, “that is one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard. You must be the most compassionate girl in the world, and…”

“‘Compassionate’ my ass!”, Erisa interrupted me, “I’m charging this poor old man, instead of just hosting him on my server, free of charge.”

“I still think it’s very sweet of you.”

“Well, Blondie, sweet or not, my time and my resources are not distributed freely. It’s a tough world, and if you want to make it a better place, you should not give away your time, because it’s too precious to be worthless.”

“‘Blondie’, again?”

Erisa grinned. “Jennifer, the only reason I call you ‘Blondie’ is because I’m a sweet and compassionate girl who totally digs your hair colour.”

I reached to hug her. “No hug!” she snapped at me, as I stopped, and retreated, while she returned to her book.