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This entire storyline is based on my online dating experiences. Only, you know, with more science.

I think that's a scanning tunneling microscope Dave is working on. Every once in a long while I'd bother to get some photo reference and draw real lab equipment.

Lovelace is of course named after Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, 19th-century mathematician and computer pioneer. Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage star in their own awesome webcomic now.

Helen is maybe a little insecure about this development. She really does hold Dave's tech skills in very high regard, though.

"We have enemies! Insidious enemies!" is the best line here. I don't know what enemies Helen thinks the lab has, but what we've seen so far would not exactly be described as "insidious." Her mother, maybe.

I just wrote this one to fill out the week, although my friend Rob was inordinately excited that I made a "Love Boat" reference.

Dave's online name, Bluemoose, comes from the children's book by my ultimate hero, Daniel Pinkwater. He's been using it since way back when he was a character in my college strip, The Ratio.

SPOILERS: I put a lot of references to stories about AIs into the backgrounds of the strips introducing Lovelace, as a not-especially-subtle clue to her identity. Here, Dave has the poster for Blade Runner on his wall. The books on top of the file cabinet are way too small for the titles to be legible here, but they're something by Richard Kadrey, probably his Blade Runner-like cyberpunk novel Metrophage, and Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead.

I read tons of Orson Scott Card in high school, and then he got really, really bad and really, really homophobic, and it just wasn't fun anymore. For my money, Jane, the AI with the inexplicable crush on smug, whiny Ender Wiggin, is the only worthwhile thing in any of the Ender books after the first one. Wait, no, I also kind of like the Chinese girl with the OCD. She and Jane should have fallen in gay love, ditched their respective stupid planets full of bickering twits, and gotten the hell out of Orson Scott Card stories before it was too late and Jane ended up with her consciousness downloaded into a magic mind-clone of Ender's sister that came out of his subconscious or something. (SPOILERS: This happened.)

Incidentally, the Li'l Mell storyline "The Horror of Rukavina Caverns" is based simultaneously on "The Originist," the story Orson Scott Card wrote for the Tor Books "Stories Inspired by Isaac Asimov" anthology, and "Feed the Baby of Love," the story he wrote for the Tor "Stories Inspired by Ray Bradbury" anthology. One of these days I should probably do commentary for the Li'l Mell stories like I'm doing for Narbonic.

Oh, Dave. So close, and yet so far.

Remember the girl from Dave's gaming group? Iris? End of the time-travel storyline? Never mind, we'll get back to her next week.

48 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

I envy whoever owns the original of this strip. It's got all four cast members and a record low text-to-graphics ratio.

Dave should probably just walk away now. It's going to be loud embarassing revelations for at least the next ten minutes. His being unnaturally happy was the single domino behind which stood all of his darkest secrets.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Darg narb it.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Love Potion Number 9", Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller)

I felt my love life was a total bomb ...
I found a website, "Loser-Boy Dot Com" ...
I wanted a girl, so that I could call her mine!
Could not believe my luck, but ...
I met a girl online!

I liked the site, I though I'd stay a while ...
I made a handle and a nice profile ...
There was a monthly fee of fourteen-ninety-nine!
It seemed a little high, but ...
I met a girl online!

    To I.M. a new friend, you send them a "wink" ...
    I found an in-ter-es-ting girl, her stats didn't stink!
    Too good to be true, didn't know what to think ...
    I held my breath, I closed my eyes ...
    I clicked the link!

She answered back, we chatted through the night!
This girl was perfect and we seemed so right!
I'm happy and smiling and ev'rything is fine!
Though Mell and Helen tease me ...
I met a girl online!
I met a girl on-li-i-i-i-ine!

Bob Alexander (rea5245) says:

Why is Helen so happy about this? Shouldn't she be feeling pangs of jealousy?

 

Daibhid Ceannaideach (daibhidc) says:

And why is Mell suddenly using British slang?

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Perhaps Mell was outsourcing her dialogue, and didn't want the thick accent that goes with outsourcing to India.

(Above statement is based on my own experience; no offense is intended to anyone with connections to the Indian subcontinent.)

Wayne (wayne) says:

There's nothing wrong with online dating, my wife found me online and our 6th anniversary is 3 months away.  The 500 mile drive to see each other was a little rough, but her job as an astronomer gave her large blocks of time off and I was very underemployed and telecommuting.

Cesario VIola (cesarioviola) says:

Mell's always used randomly sampled slang from various sources.  It's part of Mell's weirdness whole.

Andrew Cole (andy4hire) says:

@rea5245:  Because the joy occasioned by having a new reason to make fun of Dave outweighs the jealousy occasioned by what that reason actually is.

Or because the joy-response took hold before the jealousy-response was roused.

Or possibly because her failure to join in and make fun of Dave might alert Mell and Artie to feelings she's not yet ready to acknowledge in front of them. But, Helen's brain being what it is, I kind of suspect it's one of the other two reasons.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

My wife and I also met online (although our commute was more like 50 miles).  Together for over 10 years, married for eight.  Yeah, I kinda like her a whole lot.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

@Daibhid I blame Caliban. When celestial/infernal beings become human, they're often kinda British.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: DUN DN-DN DUNNNNNNNNN!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

"Handle". Such a quaint word. Nowadays we'd probably just use "username".
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

I wonder if Lovelace was programmed in Ada?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Pete: I had a job once where I had to program in Ada.  I wouldn't wish that on cybernetic Gaddafi.

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

Cybernetic Gaddafi is my Hatebreed cover band.

We're not well-liked.

Rob (rrreed) says:

[Announcer:] Next week on U62…
[Announcer:] He's back
[Announcer:] And this time
[Announcer:] He's mad

[Announcer:] Gandhi II

[Announcer:] No more mister passive resistance
[Announcer:] He's out to kick some butt
[Announcer:] This is one bad mother you don't wanna mess with

[Gandhi :] Don't move, slimeball

[Announcer:] He's a one man recking crew
[Announcer:] But he also knows how to party

[Gandhi :] Gimme a steak, medium rare

[Gangster :] Hey, Baldy!

[Announcer:] There is only one law
[Announcer:] His law

[Announcer:] Gandhi II
Zarathustra's Id (zarathustrasid) says:

Great comic link, why is it so hard to find these things? Also, nice comic. I would say something more insightful but sometimes I can only appreciate them like a woman asking me how she looks, and I know she's clothed and her hair is still there, and I'm happy with all that, but am incapable of picking out the subtle new detail I'm supposed to see.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

@Zarathustra's Id: Not to worry, "I know she's clothed and her hair is still there, and I'm happy with all that" is one of the sweetest compliments I've ever heard.

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says:

Well, Madblood may not be totally insidious, but he is kinda sorta somewhere in the vicinity of North Sidious.

Rob (rrreed) says: And by all means, stay out of uptown North Sidious. With all the condo conversions and general upscaling, it's become downright mainstream.

<sigh> Long ago, North Sidious truly was considered the place to be by the sanity-challenge scientific cognoscenti!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Helen is thinking about the old "seduce the henchman" ploy, a ploy she no doubt considers too theatrical for anything less than a full-scale assassination plot.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Just The Two Of Us", Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers)

Tried to crack our firewall,
They could not get through at all!
Dave assures me we're secure!
But what if he were led astray?
Dave could easily fall prey
To some feminine allure!

REFRAIN:
    They're insidious!  They would break in if they could!
    They're insidious, devious!
    They're insidious!  What they're up to is no good!
    They're insidious ... worse than us!

Dave has awesome techie skill,
But this online romance will
Be the cause of workplace strife!
And when Dave is telling me,
She's a "GIRL", then I agree!
(That's a "Guy In Real Life".)
     (repeat REFRAIN)

Robert Hughes (rrth) says:

I signed up, just to talk to the spam bot Zarathustra's Id. I always love it when I see a spam bot show a glimmer of inteligence and actually realize not only it's own shortcomings, but also even ask for help. (I was part of the old community under a different username, but the sign up proccess for this is rather arduous, and annoyed me each time I thought about signing up to say something). I lobby that we don't delete Zarathustra's Id, and help it, with the understanding that it is not to post links.   Hear that Zarathustra's Id ? We let you stay, you do not post links, that means do not post anything with 'http'. Hard to tell with a single comment, but I would give this one the inteligence of maybe a two year old. It's complaint of course, is it doesn't have sight, a common complaint amoungst computer AI's

Brian Bogue (badbear) says:

Helen's mom is pretty insidious as enemies go.

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Does Helen have any insidious friends?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Love Boat", Paul Williams & Charles Fox)

Love ... way deep underground ...
Yes, it seems ... that's what Dave has found!
And Mell ... does teasing quite well ...
Helen scowls, makes an angry sound!

What was it?
What made poor Helen begin to shout,
"That does it!
I'm turning both of you inside out!"?

She says Dave's not her fellow,
Though she's showing jea-lou-sy!

And now ... see Helen deny
What she feels ... for her techie guy!
Not love!
Helen denies it's love!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Silent penultimate panels: 30. Mell has no fear of Helen's surprise experiments. Fate will protect her, and the worst that could happen is that she is transfigured into a much deadlier form.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

She chose ... pourly.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

It's not like it's a surprise experiment anymore after Helen tells her that she's doing it.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "Jeopardy," Greg Kihn Band (yeah, I know, I think of Weird Al's version first, too)

Who are you
Are you evil, too?
Your name cannot be found
What can I do
I want to be with you
But you run me around

Well should I take it as a warning
That you tried to hack my Mac
Deviousness makes me horny
You won me over with your attack

Your girl is vaporware, Davy
Ooooh-ooh-oooooh
Your girl is vaporware, Davy
Ooooh-ooh-oooooh

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

My favourite AI story, and one which is amazingly similar to the premise of the above comic is... agh, I can't say its name because that's the huge twist in the story, right here. But it's very recent and really good. And, I might add, extremely existent.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE:  "Blue Moon", Rodgers & Hart)

Blue Moose!
Searching for girls in the night!
A girl whose morals are loose,
A girl whose source code is tight!

Blue Moose!
In cyberspace he found Lovelace!
Although he hasn't seen her face,
Her IP address he can trace!

But when she finds a guy she likes, then she will
Attempt to crack his fi-re-wall ...
He realizes that she ... is e-vil ...
And that's when he, in love, begins to fall!

Blue Moose!
He's not alone in the night!
Turn all the other girls loose ...
The one who's left is just right!

James Donnelly (jamesthetechie) says:

>  (SPOILERS: This happened.)

Pfffffahahahaha.  Brilliant.  I'm going to steal that one.

Sean Duggan (duggansc) says: Regarding Orson Scott Card, I'll admit that I haven't read his latest works, but my impression was always that the uproar was more over his personal life than over what actually happened in his fiction. *shrug* For me, the two always seem somewhat disconnected for most artists.
Noah Ramon (bibulb) says:

re: OSC : No, His writing kind of atomized into a miasma of bad. "Children of the Mind" was INTERESTING, in the Chinese proverb/Minnesotan sense, and the Shadow novels were mildly infuriating. I haven't had the guts to try his "Empire" series yet.

 

Re: "Metrophage" : geeze, read that one in high school. The phrase "flare gun party" still sticks with me. I need to dig up a copy of that sometime soon.

Wayne (wayne) says:

I stopped reading OSC a long time ago, Ender's War is definitely the best of his that I've read, followed by Speaker for the Dead.  The rest just went progressively down hill until I stopped reading.

Have you tried John Scalzi?  I quite like the premise for Old Man's War and Ghost Brigade.  He also re-wrote his third book from the perspective of the adopted 14 year old daughter of the two main characters, and every chapter had to pass his wife's inspection to be from a believable female viewpoint before it was approved.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

I stopped reading OSC at the Alvin Maker book that opened with an introduction explaining that the new townspeople were all based on characters Card's fans were roleplaying on his Usenet group. I should have known that was a bad sign.

This did not stop me from later using people's roleplaying characters in Narbonic.

My favorite of his works is still the Worthing series, his collection of increasingly batshit stories that form a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon. I like stories that build from semi-reality into a kind of cosmic absurdity. These days, however, I'm mostly reading 1970s New Wave sci-fi, which is probably obvious from Skin Horse.
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Hee hee. As an actual Mormon, Shaenon, the Worthing series was totally uncomfortable and unreadable for me. The Book of Mormon is rad and is rife for genre-adapting retellings, but by that time I was super disenchanted with OSC as an embarrassing political figure, and was mostly like "whyyyyyy are you doing that, that was way less cool" every time something happened. Also, and more pointedly, I know of no other author who is so eager to talk about his characters' trips to the bathroom.

And yet! And yet Ender's Game is /SO GOOD/. I'm so confused.

Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says:

Second the thumbs-ups to Ender's Game and The Worthing Chronicles (and also The Worthing Saga, I liked both, don't know which one was the original and which the revision but I wanted it all.)  But my very very favorite OSC was Pastwatch--that's still the one I give people who've never read him.  And one of the things I love about the above three books is that if you didn't read the author's name, you wouldn't know the same person wrote them all. 

Alvin Maker series was almost unreadable.  Call of Earth series included some fabulous ideas (I love the concept of the Ravelers, e.g.) but I hate reading about whiners, especially when they're the main characters.

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Yeah, the Ender novels after "Speaker for the Dead" got kind of surreal there, didn't they? :) Anyway, I liked "Ender's Shadow" and its followups, even if it did get pretty heavy-handed on the "yay, marriage" theme at certain points. Mostly, I guess I was just glad it was a little easier to understand than "Xenocide."
Andy Wetmore (efogoto) says:

Anytime someone mentions whiny protagonist, I think Tommy Covenant. He took merely whiny and made it epic.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

I didn't like Ender's Shadow, because the idea that two people as smart as Ender and Bean were alleged to be could spend so much time hearing two totally different conversations when they talked to each other shattered my suspension of disbelief.

The rest of that tangent was pretty decent, though I recall that I never actually bothered picking up the last one. (Though I've heard that that's where Hot Soup gets to be awesome.)

But why are we talking about OSC when Shaenon mentioned Pinkwater? Yobgorgle had a much more formative effect on my psyche than Ender's Game ever did. A quarter-century later, I still weird out my lady and other Rochester-dwelling friends with references to bits of their city that are likely entirely fictional and certainly completely insane.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Also, I note that Lovelace doesn't seem to agree with the boss's platform preferences.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

Helen is definitely playing the Peppermint Patty to Dave's Charlie Brown here. It's actually kind of sad.

Off-panel head inserts: 22;
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Girl That I Marry", Irving Berlin)

The girl that I met in an online chat,
Is someone I know, yes, I'm sure of that!
This girl that seems so right,
Is the same that I game with on Thursday night!
She's smart, with computers she's got a knack,
She's funny and cute, got an awesome rack!
We're role-playing, dragons slaying,
All her curves have my nerves badly fraying!
I hope to do "that" with
The girl that I chat with
Online!

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

No "breaking the fourth wall" count?

And this is the woman who slips mutagenic compounds into his coffee when she's in a good mood...

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

I suppose that is breaking the fourth wall. I do that.

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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile