January 2022 Newsletter: Data's Gloomy New Year...
My name is Henry "Data" Hallux. I have hacked...I mean appropriated Conway's newsletter this month.
I wanted to talk a little about the holidays and perhaps comparatively improve your perception of your own holiday experience.
I spent last New Year’s Eve in my grandma's rundown double-wide in a shady trailer park in Sandusky, Ohio. It was definitely better than the previous New Year’s Eve when I was locked up at a minimum-security federal correctional facility in California. We were locked in our cells at 9 p.m. with lights out at 9:30, so I didn’t exactly celebrate the New Year in style that year.
My best New Year’s Eve was in Las Vegas in 2013 with my software startup partners. They all drank expensive champagne and gambled until sunrise. I made an appearance for the champagne toast at midnight, pretended to take a sip of it, and spent the rest of the night in my hotel suite playing Call of Duty.
Within a few months of that party, we all went to prison. The criminal acts we committed in California were mostly victimless crimes, at least at an individual level. We stole intellectual property and mislead investors, among other things. The investors were all very wealthy, so it wasn’t like we were robbing the life savings of the impoverished.
Luckily I was paroled for good behavior and left California for Ohio. My parents in Anaheim weren’t willing to support me, but Grandma was and the court permitted me to relocate.
But let me circle back to that New Year’s Eve in Sandusky. Grandma had only lasted until 7:30 p.m. She asked earlier what time Dick Clark came on. I didn’t have the heart to tell her he had been dead for several years, so I just shrugged. When she kept nodding off, I dispensed her medication and helped her to bed.
I was surprised to find that there was still a “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve” program on the air. Some stiff named Ryan Seacrest was hosting it since Dick was dead. It was endless hours of celebrities and musicians I had never heard of partying in New York City and various other cities across different time zones. The ball dropped, confetti fell, and the people in the crowds all hugged and kissed each other. Meanwhile, I was alone drinking a flat Mountain Dew and eating a strawberry Pop-Tart in a dilapidated trailer in a flyover hellhole.
After I turned the TV off, I could hear the wind whipping through the poorly insulated trailer walls. Winter in Sandusky meant constant high winds and snow flurries. I may not look or act like a California kid, but I am a California kid. I spent most of my life in the sun at room temperature before I was exiled to the Midwest. Now I was in an icy trailer with a semi-senile old woman who fanatically kept the thermostat at 61 degrees. The actual temperature was much colder; at night I could see my own breath when I exhaled.
Television was all I had for entertainment that night because I possessed no other electronics. No computer, no smartphone, no gaming system. Nothing. That was a condition of my probation. If my probation officer dropped by and caught me behind a keyboard I would immediately be returned to prison.
The lack of tech was torturous because tech is my life. I am a computer science wizard. This isn't bragging because it’s the truth. That is how I earned the nickname “Data”. I can hack into any network if you give me enough time. I also have a memory that is close to photographic, so I forget nothing. Taking away my technology was like amputating my dominant hand, I felt completely lost and useless.
Why would I bother to describe such a drab New Year’s Eve? Because that night at my grandma’s would turn out to be one of the better nights I would spend in Sandusky. It was the calm before the storm.
I failed to appreciate the safety and simplicity of my life at that moment because I felt sorry for myself following my downfall. It was before I was recruited to work for a two-bit crime boss. It was before I was roughed up by his goon for making mistakes. It was before I was given access to all of the advanced electronics I could ever want in Trailer Alpha and then compelled to use them for crimes. It was before my hacking was used to harm people and ruin lives.
What will next New Year’s Eve bring? My prospects are bleak. Things are falling apart. I will likely be dead or back in prison unless I can make the right decisions. I don’t have any trusted allies. People I have harmed are seeking revenge, although I am merely a tool that a crime lord manipulated to expand his business into more lucrative and insidious enterprises. I am just a pawn waiting to be taken off of the board for good when all of this catches up with me…