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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Search Engine (10/06/11)

TITLE: Grandpa Ed's Spiders
By Beth Muehlhausen
10/19/11


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Grandpa Ed’s Spiders

A brown spider descends on a single strand of silk, targeting a shiny, flesh-toned bald spot surrounded by a silver-white halo of unkempt, flyaway hair. It’s the top of Grandpa Ed’s head.

Blink-blink-blink-blink-blink. Grandpa Ed squints through a tousled white forelock trapped behind his thick trifocal lenses as Google simultaneously blinks its silent-but-questioning cursor-eye inside the skinny, rectangular box on his computer screen: “WHAT-what-what-what-what is your search topic?”

Although Ed’s man-cave-of-a-basement-room is thick with darkness and quiet, the cursor’s blinks speak decisively in something like a secret code. “You have to start somewhere, Ed. Type something.”

Something. Grandpa Ed types the word something.

Being efficient and timely, Google flashes about 3,150,000 results in 0.18 seconds. Up comes a site about a song entitled “Something,” another with a definition of the word something from MacMillan Dictionary, and finally one advertising a store called SomethingStore.com that for $10.00 will send you an unidentified something valued at over $10.00.

Ed squirms in his hard oak chair while the spider correspondingly sways from his silk like a skydiver without a parachute. This computer is a birthday gift for Ed’s sixty-fifth birthday; he has only begun to learn how to use it.

“How about something worthwhile?” the winking cursor suggests.

He types in something worthwhile. This time about 18,800,000 results pop up in 0.15 seconds. Ed scrunches his shoulders and peers at the screen, but finds the first page of links disappointing.

“I can help you discover something that matters,” Google’s cursor persists. And so Ed types in something that matters.

Up pops a book title from Amazon, Start Something that Matters. Ed is currently reading that entrepreneurial book as inspiration for his retirement years; there it is on the table next to his laptop! Coincidence? Serendipity? Divine intervention? Could the computer have already KNOWN?

The deliberate, focused spider drops lower and lower unbeknownst to Ed, inch by fractions-of-an-inch, slinking ever closer to the slick-looking landing pad.

With a tired, old-man-style shudder-of-a-yawn, Ed sighs and stares outside the window where so many stars stand suspended in the dark abyss called space. Space. Cyberspace. What is it? Where IS it, anyway?

He types cyberspace.

In 0.14 seconds about 35,500,000 results are at his fingertips.

An official-looking web site catches Ed’s eye. He skim-reads, hunting for tidbits that might make sense to a technological newbie, and learns cyberspace is an “indefinite place” where people communicate in space. Cyberspace is a term coined by William Gibson, a science fiction writer.

He scratches the back of his bald spot, just inches below the spider, and wonders how search engines work in some “indefinite place” where reality and science fiction evidently collide.

Hoping to understand Google’s inner workings, he types, “What is a search engine?

Google responds by flashing a web page explaining how a search engine sends out something called a spider. This spider grabs armloads of documents containing whatever keywords have been typed into the little rectangular box at the invitation of the cursor.

“Hmmmmm,” Ed murmurs to himself. “Spiders. Quick, crafty little fellows. Intentional. Industrious. Hard workers. They keep at it. Never quit. Worthy of praise.”

He turns his head to gaze outside at the stars, remembering enchanted childhood nights when gangly-legged, spotlighted spiders worked industriously in the beam of his flashlight.

A shooting star streaks the sky, as if to sear Ed’s drowsy consciousness with flashlight-like clarity. A worldwide web encircles the globe, and is managed by technological spiders lurking inside the web’s space: cyberspace. Those spiders must be patient and passionate, ready to jump at a moment’s notice to retrieve web sites containing keywords.

Meanwhile, the ceiling-spider boldly lands on Ed’s head, one spindly leg at a time. Ed simultaneously puts his computer to sleep and closes its metallic cover while unknowingly wearing the spider like a tiny hat. He shuffles half-a-dozen steps in his fleece slippers, mumbles “drat those mosquitoes” while brushing a tickly spot on the top of his head, collapses into bed, and drifts into happy slumber to dream of lightning-speed-spiders preparing to retrieve answers addressing his forthcoming entrepreneurial dreams.

Undaunted, the brushed-aside-but-undaunted spider climbs the edge of a hand-quilted comforter on Grandpa Ed’s bed. As an icon inspiring Google’s perseverance, he will begin again to spin a new web - starting over as many times as necessary - and spend the night hard at work while upholding a tenacious reputation that has inspired technology to change Grandpa Ed’s life, and the whole world, forever.


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This article has been read 697 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Camille (C D) Swanson 10/21/11
That was a deep and brilliant way of using the topic. I enjoyed it, I read it two times to gather all its worth...The "Web" clever!
Nice job! God Bless~
Linda Goergen10/21/11
What an ingenious story of description, paralleling the world web and its spiders with Grandpa Ed and his spider! This magnificently woven story pulled me into its “web” from beginning to end! Loved this! Terrific job!
Mona Purvis10/22/11
I'll never think of the web the same. Simple, and yet it says a lot. You drew a picture with your words.

Mona
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/26/11
This is brilliant in so many ways. I loved the spider analogy. You packed a lot of story in 750 words. Nicely done.
Melanie Kerr 10/30/11
I loved this one. Grandpa was such an interesting character. The setting of the basement in darkness and the stars outside - so much detail. And the spider kept me reading till the end,
Patricia Turner11/03/11
Beth, a great big CONGRATULATIONS on this wonderful word picture - every detail so well spun - he he :)
Danielle King 11/03/11
Congratulations Beth on placing 1st and EC with this superb entry. I'm petrified of those eight legged little beggars but I quite took to this one! Fantastic job!
Jennifer Dawn Dexter 11/03/11
Congrats on your win! This is such a clever story. I love that the spider is lurking about, unbeknownst to the MC, and how the spider relates to the world wide web.
Margaret Kearley 11/04/11
HUGE Congratulations Beth! Wonderful result and wonderful writing as always.
Sydney Avey11/04/11
The visual imagery in this is stunning. I like the way you give so much information so effortlessly and I like the context -- technology informed by nature. Be careful with those adjectives strung together with hyphens. They are distracting (too many hooked together). Very deserving of a number one pick!
Lisa Johnson 11/06/11
Congratulations on your 1st Place on level and in EC. This awas a fascinating read. You really drew me into this piece. I kept waiting for your MC's reaction to the spider landing on his head. I think I was holding my breath!