Category Archives: Talk nerdy to me

Waiting for the phone to ring

After I graduated from college, I spent some time working as a temp. I alternated between theatrical work and office work, one for fun and the other to pay the bills. One of my office assignments was at Hasbro Interactive in Beverly. The company has been out of business since 2001, so I think it’s safe for me to share this story.

I was covering for an executive assistant who was on vacation. I arrived a few minutes early, got my badge, and was introduced to the executive whose assistant was on vacation. He showed me to my desk and outlined my duties, to wit: if a fax came in, I was to make two photocopies. I would bring one copy to him, and put the other copy and the original into the file cabinet.

That was it.

I read toy catalogs until lunchtime. I ate a tuna sandwich in the employee cafeteria, admired the view out the window, then went back to my desk to re-read the toy catalogs. This is where I discovered Elefun. I may have fallen asleep at one point.

Around 1:30 a fax came in. I was very grateful to have something to do. I took the fax and went to the photocopier, but it was displaying an error message: replace toner.

“Sorry to disturb you, but where is the toner?” I asked.

“Oh, we have a technician from Xerox on site. Call the number on the poster and he will come change the toner for you.”

I assured him I was perfectly capable of replacing a toner cartridge, but no, only the Xerox Guy was allowed to open the machine. Okay then. I called the number and left a message.

At 5:00, the Xerox Guy had still not arrived. I went home.

The next morning, I brought a book with me. When the executive arrived, I asked, “Are you sure there’s nothing else I could be helping you with?”

The executive thought for a moment. “Actually, yes! You can check the email account. If an email comes in, print it out and make two photocopies. Bring one copy to me, and file the other with the original.”

I didn’t even try to explain all the different ways this was ridiculous. It’s their house; I am just a guest. I launched the email app (Groupwise, if I recall correctly) and was prompted for a password.

“Sorry to keep bugging you, but what’s the password for the email?”

“Oh, right. Well, there’s something strange about our email system. No matter what you type for a password, it shows up as an asterisk. So everyone’s password is five asterisks.”

I went back to the computer, trying desperately to keep my face neutral. I entered five asterisks and the email account opened up. There were no messages.

When I got home, I sent an email to Scott Adams. I never received a reply, but a couple of years later, he wrote a strip that I firmly believe was inspired by my email.

I was there for a week. The Xerox Guy never did show up. I think he was on vacation too.

All the world’s a sunny day

Sailing is many different things to many different people, but I think we can all agree that it is primarily an outdoor sport. Outdoor activities do not come naturally to me, but I’m learning. This weekend, we sailed to Martha’s Vineyard with Sarah’s parents. We spent two whole days on the water, from dawn to dusk. I learned a few things about the sun. I would like to share some of these lessons with you, as sort of a public service announcement.

  • UV rays can reflect off of water, snow, or sand. Sitting in the shade is no protection.
  • One should re-apply sunscreen every two hours.
  • When sunscreen gets old, it loses its efficacy.

I don’t use a lot of sunscreen. I would rather wear protective clothing, or burrow deep into the cool, moist earth in order to avoid the sun entirely. When I buy an eight-ounce tube of sunscreen, it takes me years to use it all. Conclusion: I need to buy sunscreen in smaller quantities, and use it in larger quantities.

I took my bright red legs to the Consumer Reports website, where I read this article. The bottom line: I am going to discard the remainder of my six-year-old tube of now-completely-worthless Coppertone Sport SPF 48 (goodbye, old friend) and purchase some No-Ad SPF 50.

You might be wondering if Nate got burned as well. Have no fear. Sarah, as always, is looking out for him. That Consumer Reports article was just published this month, but somehow she knew what it would say. She bought him a 16-ounce bottle of No-Ad SPF 45 Babies when he was six months old. Yes, it’s a little bit past its shelf life, but it still works. He survived the weekend without getting burned, and now that I know to look for the sell-by date, I’ll pitch it and get a new batch.

The only issue he has is this: when he is wearing his Thomas the Tank Engine hat and sunglasses, strangers tend to call him Thomas. Luckily, the sunglasses hide his disgust at their idiocy.

I’ve searched everywhere

Aw, stats!

I keep track of all the activity on my website. I love to browse through the statistics: how many hits have I had this month, which websites have linked to me, or which posts are most popular.

My favorite thing to look at, though, is the search keyphrases. If someone comes to my site through a Google search, I can see what they were searching for.

Hardly any of them appear to have been looking for me. There are a lot of people out there who want to know how to fix their leaky Price Pfister faucets, I can tell you that. But there are always a few that make me laugh. Here are my favorites so far:

last nate the ship of my heart
I’m picturing someone who doesn’t speak English very well, trying to find the lyrics to that Sting song.
chocolate rabbit transubstantiation
Ecce Cuniculus Dei?
how do i keep earthworms out of my basement
Believe it or not, I actually know the answer to this one. Play Zamfir: Greatest Hits twenty-four hours a day, at a sound level of at least 85 dBA. Worms hate Zamfir. Either that, or dig all the dirt out of your basement.
how to intubate a rabbit
Wow. Just… wow. Look, I know how attached we get to our pets. But I think you might have bigger problems than a sick bunny.

Keep ’em coming.

Heavy Metal

Modern Problems; or, Into each life, some acid rain must fall

As a computer geek, I think I may be a bit more sensitive than the average bear when it comes to the nasty chemicals lurking in our lives.

Old TVs and computer monitors contain cathode ray tubes, which are full of lead. LCD displays, such as you might find in a laptop or a flat-screen TV, are backlit with fluorescent lamps, which contain mercury. Thermostats and watch batteries also contain mercury. Camera batteries contain lithium. Easy to buy; hard to get rid of. You can’t just put heavy metals in a landfill or an incinerator.

When we lived in Salem, they had one “hazardous products day” every year. It just so happened that it was always in the summer, always on a Saturday; in particular, it was always on a beautiful summer Saturday when we’d been invited to go sailing with Sarah’s parents, and we had to leave early to catch the tide through the Hole.

We never did make it to a hazardous products day. Amazingly enough, sailing always won out. By the time we left Salem, we had quite a large collection of old, broken-down TVs, computer monitors, and camera batteries.

Luckily, our new town has a hazardous waste recycling center, open every Saturday from 8 to 3. The guy who runs the place knows me by name. They take CRTs and fluorescent tubes, but they don’t take batteries.

Behind the lens

Last week, my dad discovered that his former place of business has a battery recycling program. I handed him my collection of dead batteries, and I dug out Sarah’s camera bag to see what she had squirreled away. I found another handful of dead batteries, along with (surprise!) her cameras, containing even more dead batteries.

One camera also contained some exposed film.

These were the pictures from our last trip together. We went to Puerto Rico with her parents in January of 2006.

I took the camera to CVS, bought some new batteries, and put them in the camera. I rewound the film and dropped it off to be developed.

There were lots of great pictures of me and Nate.

Not one picture of Sarah.


I hate drugs.

But! Nate’s been sick. He’s been waking me up coughing. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep all week. So tonight he’s at Jennifer’s house, and I went to CVS/pharmacy to see if I could get some sleep.

Sarah used to have Tylenol PM around the house, and despite a strong aversion, I’ve taken them once or twice when I was desperate. But, and see above where it says “I hate drugs,” I’d prefer not to take a pain reliever if I’m not in pain. What I really wanted was Tylenol PM without the Tylenol.

I took my time and compared all the sleep aids. I was looking for the cheapest one. Turns out the active ingredient in Tylenol PM, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, is indeed sold separately. The Tylenol brand is called “Simply Sleep.” But it’s the same chemical in Sominex and about half a dozen other sleep aids. The CVS brand, in a snazzy blue box (trying hard to look like, but not too like, the Sominex box), was cheapest, four bucks for 24 tablets.

Again: But. That name looks familiar. Diphenhydramine… where do I know you from?

By golly, it’s Benadryl. And the CVS brand of Benadryl was only $3.50 for 24 tablets. Exact same dosage; pink box. And fifty cents cheaper.

Now all I have to do is shut off the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack that’s been playing in my head since I saw the Sominex, and I’ll be all set.