The Main Character of this story (who will be revealed at the end) shares with me my exact birthday (year and everything). I found out this disturbing bit of data while googling him for story background.
Harvard, Circa 1976
We all thought the kid was an elitist partyer. Effeminate looking with his tall thin frame, perfectly trimmed beard, always in the latest styles—tailor fitted. He’d saunter into my class, rarely on time, often a coed with a finger through one of his belt loops, at times a boy filled the same role. The kid was polite enough; all that money had bought him some manors. The other students seemed to like him, but I figured him as the kind of guy that always picked up the check, making him easy to like. His accent was attractive too; you know how high born Arabs always speak English as if they’d attended Oxford.
I’d wondered why this guy was taking my seminar. Cybernetics 212 was for upper division engineering students, not some Mickey Mouse class. It’s essentially the study of the interface between humans and machines. You know, the way the knobs, levers and pedals are laid out in your BMW. He wasn’t an engineering major. I think he was in one of those useless fields like political science or sociology or something. Kid’s daddy probably bought his way into a year at Harvard so he could one-up his fellow parasites over brandy while they contemplated the democracy of hypocrisy.
So, over the ten weeks of the class the twenty of us discussed ergonomics, the limits that human physiology puts on mechanical design. Population stereotypes which is the reason that all light switches are pushed up for on and down for off and a hundred other topics that make up the science of cybernetics. To my surprise, the kid became engaging. He made intelligent comments, argued subtle points, my initial impression of him did quite a turnaround. Toward the end of the seminar I went so far as to suggest he consider a career in engineering. He grinned at me then, stroked his perfect little beard and said that facets of engineering truly fascinated him and he was sure that in whatever field he settled into he would make use of the skills he’d learned in his engineering classes.
His class project which accounted for half his grade was bizarre, but from an engineering aspect it was superb. He designed a human bomb. The operator would strap on something that looked a lot like those vests that fisherman wear, you know, with little pockets covering the whole thing. The straps that held it on could only be tightened, not loosened. Once you put the thing on it was like marriage (till death do us part). The pockets could be loaded with various types of explosives, ball bearings, nails or other types of shrapnel. Detonation could be accomplished by either pushing two buttons simultaneously or with a dead-man switch. Booby-trap wires lined every seam. He’d thought of everything. We all had a good laugh about the absurdity, the mental masturbation, of engineering the ultimate smart bomb. Osama earned his ‘A’.
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