I’ve been a geek all my life.

I’d like to clarify that I’m referring to the current definition of ‘geek’, as in “a socially awkward oddball who thinks too much”; not “a sideshow performer who bites the head off live chickens” (which was what the word meant when I was young).

I have never bitten, and with any luck will never bite, the head off a live animal of any sort.  Chocolate animals?  Oh hell yes!  Cooked animals?  Maybe… though I’d likely use a knife or cleaver or some other suitable implement instead of my teeth…


There I go again.  Over-thinking.  Over-clarifying.

Even as a child, I couldn’t grasp why people didn’t simply say what they meant.  When the teacher asked, “Does anyone know the answer?”, I never understood why she apparently stopped being able to see my wildly-waving hand after I’d answered the first few questions correctly.

When the other girls assured me, “Of course we’re still friends!” and then never spoke to me again, I just… didn’t get it.  There’s something to be said for being completely oblivious to social cues.  I thought I had lots of friends, and it was sheer coincidence that I never got invited to anything.

The rest of the world doesn’t understand that geeks take words at face value.  A classic geek joke goes like this:  A software engineer was found dead of starvation in his shower.  Preliminary investigation suggests that he was following the instructions on the shampoo bottle:  “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

This joke is funny and sad on two levels:  1) You have to be a bit of geek to get it; and 2) If you are a bit of a geek, there’s probably some small part of you that’s thinking, “You know, that makes perfect sense…”

Another diabolical geek trap is the phrase casually bandied about by normal human beings:  “Suggestions are welcome”.

Hint for the geeks in the audience:  No.  No, they’re not.  One suggestion is welcome.  Maybe two, tops.  If it’s your personal responsibility to resolve the issues, you might be allowed three suggestions.  Presenting twenty pages of closely-spaced bullet points will only end in annoyance for you when you realize that your listeners’ eyes glazed over after the first two points and their minds are now fully occupied by desperate escape plans.

Another hint for geeks:  If your listener is gripping a letter opener with whitening knuckles, it’s time for you to leave.  Lingering to make sure they grasped the subtle nuances of item will only result in bloodshed; and that gets awkward for everybody.  For one thing, stab wounds hurt.  For another, if your listener decides to commit hara-kiri instead of attacking you, it’s very difficult to explain to the police.  (Don’t ask how I know these things.)

Anyway, after 50-odd… okay; very odd years, I honestly thought I had this stuff all figured out.  (Note:  All geeks think this.  They’re always wrong.)

But then I went for physiotherapy a few years ago.  The physiotherapist said, “Keep your legs straight and touch your toes.”  So I did.  It hurt like a bitch.  But she hadn’t said, “… and tell me if it hurts”, so I didn’t mention it.  I threw away a lot of money on physiotherapy before I grasped that little detail.

But I’ve got it all figured out now.  Really, I do…

* * *

P.S. Book 13, “Once Burned, Twice Spy” is now available for pre-order at all retailers (click here for links)… except, for some unknown reason, the Amazon international sites. is up, but none of the other countries are showing the listing.  Grrr!  I’ve submitted a trouble ticket to Amazon and hope to have the problem resolved shortly.  To everyone who received the pre-order announcement and can’t buy from the Amazon of their choice:  I’m sorry about this.  I’ll send an updated announcement as soon as the pre-orders are up in all countries.

Shakin’ It Up

I like to try something new every now and then, so this year I decided to take “shaking it up” literally.  Yes, I signed up for belly-dancing classes.  I do not expect this to contribute in any way to building my self-esteem or maintaining what little dignity I possess.

I went to my first class this weekend.  I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.  I’m not uncoordinated, but I’m incapable of translating verbal instructions into useful movement.  I know that.  I’ve known it for years.

I was the woman flapping around like a brain-damaged goose at the back of aerobics class in the 80s.  I’d barely have caught onto a move when they’d change.  Forget lagging one beat behind; I was a whole song behind.

I had the same problem in Jazzercise.  The instructor busted out a new move and the rest of the women nailed it in minutes.  I flailed around as if in the throes of an epileptic seizure for the rest of the class.

It’s no coincidence that I haven’t attempted anything of the sort for decades.

Part of my problem is scale.  In the studio mirror, I look as though I’ve been badly Photoshopped.  I’m in proportion by myself, but I’m scaled up 10% compared to all the other cute little women.  When my arms are extended, they span six feet.  This means I need a LOT more space than everybody else.  This is not viewed kindly by anyone standing next to me.  Particularly not if the choreography involves vigorous arm movements.

The other problem is that my body is conditioned to run, jump, kick, punch, and heft heavy objects as forcefully and efficiently as possible.  This does not translate well to activities requiring feminine grace.

But I knew all this up front.  My expectations were realistic.

I arrived at the studio early and bought a bright, jingly hip scarf.  It fit.  So far, so good.  (Yeah, I know it’s virtually impossible for a hip scarf to not  fit.  But like I said:  low expectations, yada, yada.)

The other students were half my size, but that was no surprise.  The instructor was (shockingly) almost as tall as me.  For a few moments, I had hope.  Then she moved.

Oh my God.

The woman was sheer grace.

She explained the dance posture.  Even standing still, she was graceful.

I tried to copy the position.  I looked like a linebacker with hemorrhoids:  ready for scrimmage, but poised gingerly on tiptoe.

The hip scarf didn’t help my look.  I have no hips to speak of, so where the other women’s scarves draped gracefully on their bodies, mine looked like a bandana tied to a telephone pole.

Then we started some simple choreography.

Well, the rest of the class did.  I galumphed around in the back row, seven beats behind.  I know it was seven beats because there was one merciful portion of the song where we shook our hips for eight beats, and I caught up on the very last one.  Then the dance went on, and I was lost again.

On the up side, I discovered my core strength and flexibility are good.  Maybe by the end of the course, I’ll even be able to do something remotely attractive with them.

Or maybe not.

But, hey, I’m shakin’ it up.  And if nothing else, it’ll be a character-building exercise.

I’ll keep you posted…

Boom. Splat.

That’s the sound of my brain exploding.

You may recall my computer died a couple of weeks ago.  The reload went pretty well, until… *cue ominous music* …I loaded a new(er) version of my accounting software.

It crashed.  Even my geek skills couldn’t persuade it to work, so I phoned and waded through the usual labyrinth.  Why do companies choose automated telephone systems?

“Hey, let’s take customers who are already frustrated by our product and irritate the shit out of them by making them respond to ten minutes of increasingly obscure menu choices before putting them on hold.”

“Ooh, good idea!  And let’s set it up so if they press the wrong number they have to hang up and start again.”

“Right on.  Should we play music specifically designed to promote speechless rage?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea, but I think we should intersperse it with monotone assurances of how important their call is to us.”

“All in favour?”

“AYE!”  *roars of demonic laughter*

I finally got through to a human being.  In India.  Obviously I missed a point in the decision-making process:

“Let’s route the call to someone with a tenuous grasp of English, an unintelligible accent, and absolutely no hands-on experience with the product.  Both the now-frothing customer and the poor underpaid bastard in India should suffer as much as possible.”

“Support” refused to help me unless I a) paid for the call; or b) bought the 2013 software.  After reflection, I bought the new software, comforting myself that it was probably good to get the latest version anyway.

I installed it… and discovered it’s impossible to update contact names.  Call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to direct invoices to the person who’ll actually approve them?

I called India again.  When I finally vanquished the automated menu, the support guy put me on hold for several minutes while he searched for my customer ID.

He couldn’t find it despite the three numbers I supplied from my receipt.

He told me I’d have to pay for the call.  After a terse conversation and some deep breathing on my part, he finally unearthed evidence of my purchase(!) and agreed to help me.

Apparently the definition of ‘help’ was lost in translation.

I explained the problem.  He put me on hold for several minutes while he consulted his helpdesk database before coming back with a completely unrelated answer.

I explained again.  Hold.  Another unrelated answer.

Repeat six times until he grasps the problem.

Then he put me on hold for several more minutes before trying to get me to change the invoice template.  That would solve the problem for the one invoice I’d called about… but completely mess up the umpty-thousand other invoices in the system.

I (not-so-)patiently explained to him how his product works.


Repeat until I bleed from the eyes.

An hour later, I gave up and requested a case number so I could try another day.

Hold for ten minutes.  Then he came back with another useless attempt at a solution.

Slow, distinct enunciation:  “Just.  Give.  Me.  A.  CaseNumber.”

Hold for five more minutes.  He finally spouted a (probably random) number, and I hung up.

I got a survey from the company.  The first question was ‘Were you satisfied with your recent technical support call?’  When I chose ‘No’, their next question was ‘Please explain why your issue was not resolved.’

Boom.  Splat.

Uh… I dunno… maybe because your support system sucks?

I never did complete the survey.  I just couldn’t get past that question.  Can anybody help me out with an appropriate answer?

P.S. I can’t believe I forgot to mention this last week: Curmudgeon-at-Large wrote a fabulous Fallen Arches post, “Corned Beef on Spy“.  It’s hilarious in its own right, but if you’ve read my books, you’ll get the satire (Updated: Oops! That should’ve been “parody” – I just looked it up) immediately.  I laughed my ass off.  Go.  Enjoy!  (C-a-L, I’m sorry for my brain fart – thanks again for honouring me with your wit.)

Thanks, Technology… I Think…

Fortunately, it was Thanksgiving here in Canada this past weekend.  If I hadn’t been reminded of how thankful I am for all the good things in my life, I’d be seriously cranky.

The night before I left for another 1,600-mile road trip a couple of weeks ago, my computer’s USB ports died, leaving my mouse and keyboard to uselessly mourn their passing.

It’s kinda hard to use a computer when you have no input devices, but hell, no problem.  It’s not like I really needed to finish my last-minute work and pack and get a million other things done before I left.  Technology, you’re a real sonuvabitch sometimes.

But on the up side, I use my laptop to work remotely on my home computer when I’m travelling.  It was as if nothing was wrong the whole time I was away.  Thanks, technology.

When I got home, I spent the better part of a day trying to fix the ports.  No luck.  Sonuvabitch.

But I could still work through my laptop.  Thanks, technology.

But my laptop couldn’t connect to the program I need for my invoicing.  Sonuvabitch.

But that was okay.  Since my motherboard was toast anyway, I decided to replace my aging computer.  I could take my time building my new machine and make a graceful transition using my laptop in the mean time.  Thanks, technology.

Which was a great idea… until I woke up the very next morning to discover my old computer had committed seppuku in the night and was completely dead.  Not even a beep or a blinky light.  Where it got that sword, I’ll never know.  Sonuvabitch.

Computer seppuku. Try not to look at the bloody entrails.

But I had backups, and I had my new hardware.  I could start rebuilding right away.  And it was the long weekend, so I had three whole days free.  Thanks, technology.

Well, sorta free.  Except for the bazillion other things I’d hoped to accomplish after being away for a week.  Oh, and maybe have a day or two off?  Nah.  Not allowed.  Sonuvabitch.

Amazingly, all the Microsoft products installed beautifully and worked first try.  Thanks, technology.

Unfortunately, all the other hardware and applications seemed childishly determined to assert their independence.  One after the other, they:

  1. refused to install; then
  2. installed grudgingly after I spent hours pissing around finding solutions; after which they
  3. promptly broke the parts of the installation that had actually been working before, so I had to go back and fix them.  Again.

I spent three solid days glued to my desk, swearing until the windows melted.  Sonuvabitch.

But I’m thankful beyond words that this is the only thing in my life that’s complaint-worthy.  My saintly husband tolerated my savage mood with his usual graciousness and helped me buy and assemble my components.  I ate Thanksgiving dinners on two different days and didn’t have to cook for either of them.  I was warm and safe and well-fed and surrounded by family and friends.

Now I’m happy in my home office, doing work I (mostly) enjoy on a zippy new computer that’s (mostly) loaded.  It’s all good.

Thanks, but, um, technology…?  You’re still a sonuvabitch sometimes.

It looks like an angel when it’s sleeping…

P.S. I’m still reloading my RSS feeds and digging out from under my backlog, so I haven’t been by to visit my blogging buddies lately.  I’ve missed you – looking forward to visiting you again soon!

Better Left Unanalyzed

I’ve just been reading a fascinating dialogue between Charles Gulotta at Mostly Bright Ideas (Better Left Unsaid, Part 1), and Priya at Partial View (Better Left Unsaid, Part 2).  Go and read both posts, along with all the comments.  It’s well worth it.  I’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, here’s my two cents worth. 

I was intrigued by the fact that both Priya and Charles seem to use the words “attraction” and “appreciation” interchangeably.  I think there’s a fundamental difference between the two.  Appreciation is window-shopping.  It’s harmless, enjoyable, and free.  Attraction is walking into the store to buy.  Attraction can cost you big. 

It doesn’t bother me a bit if my husband appreciates, or is attracted to, another woman, celebrity or otherwise.  My husband and I are both geeks, so our minds work a little differently than the rest of the world. 

Geeks believe that all issues can be resolved using a flowchart.  Look below for my take on the whole “Better Left Unsaid” discussion, if you dare.

WARNING:  Viewer discretion is advised.  This flowchart reveals the horrifying inner workings of the geek mind.  May cause warping, distension, or catastrophic failure of normal brains. 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.