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Charlie Hatton
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The Magic Begins

(Let’s science again, like we did last summer. That sounds like Secondhand SCIENCE — and it is!

This week, we’re talking about the joule, and various confusing homophones thereof. Science up, compadres.)

It’s been a long time, and a lot of silly film footage, coming. I’m talking, like, miles of the stuff. Completely ridiculous. But it’s here, and it’s finally taking visitors:

The Magicland webseries.

Episode 1: Safety Jake is now available for repeated squee-filled viewing on the Magicland website. Or, if you prefer, right here:

Stay tuned for mo’ Magicland, mo’ Magicland, mo’ Magicland, coming soon from Magicland (duh) and the good folks at Drinkstorm Studios.

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The Tail End of the Tailgate

(What’s the time? It’s time to get science!

That’s Secondhand SCIENCE, and this week’s topic, wild type. Go see, and get wiiiiiild.

Also! Come out on Saturday to see the Seven Deadly Sins play festival. I’ll be acting foolish in a play Jenn Dlugos and I wrote. It’s got zombies. And Twinkies. You’ll dig it.)

There’s a certain point at which you’re simply not helping.

For me, that point is, like, ninety percent of my life — which includes this coming Sunday.

For the first time in several years, a few friends and I will be able to get together for a football game. Back when this was a more regular “thing” among this group, we’d often tailgate before the game. So we decided to tailgate on Sunday — for “old times’ sake”.

“Tailgating in that weather just looks like a bunch of Jack Nicholsons from the end of The Shining sitting around frowning at each other.”

(A couple of us still go to games regularly. But we don’t tailgate any more. On non-special nostalgic occasions, it’s rarely worth the hassle.

Plus, this is New England, so half the games are played in four feet of snow and six-degree weather. Tailgating in that weather just looks like a bunch of Jack Nicholsons from the end of The Shining sitting around frowning at each other. Kinda creepy.)

There are four of us, and we’re organizing via email. The first three hours of which I missed — due to work meetings or sleeping or possibly both at once — and wherein it was established that:

One guy volunteered to bring a grill and all the plates and paper towels.

Another guy said he’d hit up his favorite butcher shop for several kinds of meats.

And the third guy offered to bring a cooler, beer and chips.

I got back to my email, ran down the list and said I’d be happy to chip in for… well, that’s just it. What the hell else is there? It was then I knew that I wasn’t going to be helping. Not really.

Oh, sure, I’ll still contribute. But it’s a very fine line I’m walking here. There are four of us guys, and none in prime tailgating shape — meaning we don’t want fancy, we’re not grilling gourmet and our livers can only take so much, cap’n. That limits the options.

Plus, I have to be careful here. Sure, I could play technicalities, but that doesn’t score any points. If I show up with six boxes of plastic silverware and say, “Hey, nobody called forks!“, it’s not going to go over well.

Anyway, who uses forks for a tailgate? Maybe to crack open a beer, if you forgot an opener. Otherwise, leave that shit at home. We eat meat with our hands, drink beer from the can and if there’s potato salad, we stare at it with mild disgust and derision.

Or we eat it with our hands, too. Which is not a rule I’d normally admit, but it’s quite possible I end up taking potato salad to this shindig. Cut me some slack, tatercakes.

I can bring more beer. I mean, I’m going to bring more beer, because nobody’s ever going to argue with that. But I’m not sure it’s “helping”, exactly. It’ll add some variety, but I suspect if we have more than a half-case in total, somebody’s coming home with leftovers. It’s a work day on Monday, after all. And some of those guys have kids to tuck in Sunday night.

(Also, there’s a place with fantastic margaritas on the way home. I’m just saying. Ole.)

That leaves my practical contribution in serious jeopardy. I’m not taking silverware. We don’t tailgate sweets. I’m trying not to take potato salad… but I’m not ruling it out, either. Hamburger buns? Wet naps? Chip clips, in case we can’t finish the Doritos?

None of these are “helping”. At this rate, they’ll make me sit with the grill until the coals die down. Maybe somewhere in the middle of the second half. It’ll be lonely out there in the parking lot, with everyone inside enjoying the game — but I’ll understand. I responded late. There’s nothing good left to bring. And I’m not helping.

Oh, well. At least I’ll have plenty of potato salad.

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Drink in the Magic!

(First, the science. Secondhand SCIENCE, specifically. This week, we dig into XOR, which isn’t quite as UFO-alien-probey as it sounds. Promise.)

Have you heard about Magicland?

Why, it’s just the 16th most popular family-owned theme park in northwestern Ohio, and the pride and joy of park owner Frank Skinkerelli — sadly, recently deceased in an unfortunate Tilt-a-Whirl incident. It’s now the angst and bewilderment of Frank’s son, Jake Skinkerelli — recent business school graduate, carny mark and corn dog enthusiast.

Magicland is also an upcoming webseries written, produced and directed by Jenn Dlugos and myself, and acted, filmed, designed and scored by a wonderful team of talented folks you can visit at the Magicland page at Drinkstorm Studios.

Hungry for more? (Or maybe a corn dog?) Then have a gander at our brand-new Magicland webseries trailer, and keep an eye out for the first episodes on the website soon. It’s Skinkerrific!

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Wishing Not-Very-Well

(Don’t call it a comeback! Because… well, it isn’t a comeback. It’s just Secondhand SCIENCE, as usual.

This week, we’re touching gloves and punching above the belt with the knockout mouse, which is not at all like Mike Tyson, and apparently also not like cats. Ding-ding-ding!)

It’s budget planning time for the higher-ups in my office, and they’ve asked all us desk monkeys for our “wish lists” for the next fiscal year.

I thought that sounded great. So I sent my Amazon wish list to the CEO. It was mostly filled with Bloom County books and seasons of Futurama.

My wish list is filled, that is. Not the CEO. I assume.

I got a note back from his secretary saying I’d misunderstood — they’re asking about our wish list for things relevant to the job.

Of course. I apologized, made some adjustments and sent the link to my amended wish list. It’s now made up of Dilbert anthologies and an Office Space DVD.

“She didn’t care. Lady probably eats at Chotchkie’s.”

She said I still wasn’t getting it. I asked if she realized that was the Collector’s Edition of Office Space. With director commentary.

She didn’t care. Lady probably eats at Chotchkie’s.

The next day, someone from HR came to my desk to explain what they’re after. Apparently, “wish list” in this context only applies to wishes for items that can be used at the office and would make my work more productive. No problem.

Me: An Ali Baba rock.
HRer: A what?
Me: A big rock I can put over the cubicle entrance, that only moves if I say “Open, sesame!” Like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
HRer: How would that improve productivity?
Me: Nobody could come in and bother me, for one. Also, I wouldn’t have to retaliate against Carl every morning for rebooting my machine.
HRer: IT does that. It’s a security thing.
Me: Oh.
HRer: What have you been doing to Carl?
Me: Nothing?
HRer: Are you the one who put bees in his filing cabinet?
Me: Maybe Carl’s a closet beekeepist, I don’t know. Can we get back to my rock?

In the end, HR rejected my Ali Baba rock on three counts:

1. They thought I only wanted it so I could make Easter resurrection jokes every time I left my cubicle, even though that was only 80% of the reason, max.
2. They said everybody would know the “open, sesame!” password and get in, anyway. I offered to reset it to something like “boogerjuggler” that was harder to guess, but they didn’t go for it.
3. Apparently, Ali Baba rocks don’t actually exist. Not in any of the vendor catalogs the company uses, at least. Though I’m pretty sure Sharper Image has one. They have to.

Also, HR made me send Carl a gift basket to apologize. I found one with twelve kinds of assorted honey. From bees. Because to hell with Carl.

Finally, my boss got involved. She insisted this is a good opportunity, so I should think of something that makes work easier, can be bought for the office and actually exists outside the world of fairy tales. And also isn’t alcohol, which negated my next twelve ideas. It was tricky, but I finally found it:

A pony.

It makes perfect sense. Ponies trot faster than I walk, so trips to the break room will be much faster. When people do come to ask me something, they’ll get distracted by it and I won’t have to pay attention to them. And I can keep gum and snacks and possibly Dilbert anthologies in saddlebags strapped over it, so I won’t have to go to the vending machines or surf Amazon any more.

Of course, my boss protested that the office can’t take care of a pony. But it couldn’t be simpler:

Throw some hay under my desk. The pony can sleep there at night, and we’ll share it when I’m taking secret lunchtime naps.

Ponies eat carrots. We have bananas in the break room, which are basically the same size and color, so that’s taken care of. Also, most of the Splenda packets by the coffee machine are dried up into little cube shapes already, when it’s time for a special treat.

Everybody will help groom it. Who walks to a staff meeting and passes a pony without brushing its mane? Nobody. Maybe the Grinch. Or Hitler. That’s it. Nobody else.

If you can train a horse to pull a wagon, then surely you can potty train an office pony to use the toilet. And even if it’s not perfect, the state of the bathroom still isn’t getting any worse. Our office is a block from a burrito shop. Some days it’s like Jackson Pollock pooped a painting in there.

My case is pretty ironclad, I’d say. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m confident that come next quarter, I’ll have my very own productivity-boosting, gum-vending, banana-munching toilet-pooping office pony to work with. It’s practically a done deal.

And Carl asked for more RAM for his computer. Jesus, Carl. Get in the game, already.

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Dinner by Lighthouselight

(There are only three certainties in life. Two of them are death, and Secondhand SCIENCE. I forget the third; it might be Donald Trump’s hairpiece. I’ll get back to you on that.

In the meantime, put off death and check the other thing for something far less sure: the latest post, about the uncertainty principle. It’s the most prison-film talk you’ll get in your science reading this week, I’m pretty certain of that.

Hey, maybe that was the third thing. Neat.)

Last weekend, the missus and I took off for a long weekend to celebrate.

(Celebrate what, exactly? Who the hell knows?

At our age, every week is the anniversary of something important or other, probably. Maybe it was twenty years since our first time sharing potato skins. I don’t know. Who am I, Cupid O’Remembercrap?)

Anyway, we went off to celebrate, part of which was a reservation to have dinner together inside a lighthouse.

“I expect next year I’ll be gifting her a poem scrimshawed onto whalebone or something.”

Because this is New England. That’s the sort of shit you do, if you live here long enough. I expect next year I’ll be gifting her a poem scrimshawed onto whalebone or something. Assuming the sea — or Pablo Sandoval — hasn’t swallowed me whole by then. Yar.

Now, this lighthouse thing is sort of a special deal. It’s an old “range light” in Newburyport, Mass., which sits in town near the marina — so it’s not perhaps as “lighthousy” as one might immediately imagine. If you have a picture in your head of some grump swaddled in overcoats and muttonchop sideburns trudging out a barren peninsula to Ye Olde Beacone Lighte, that’s not exactly what this is. There’s a Thai restaurant in the next building over, and a bar next door you can climb down and visit, if you have to pee.

“Lonely lighthouse”, this ain’t, is what I’m saying.

Technically, it’s no longer a lighthouse at all. A few years ago, they took the light and lens out of the fourth-floorish chamber, and replaced it with a single table, cushioned benches, two dozen battery-powered candles and a pile of menus from local restaurants. A party of two — or four, if you really enjoy each others’ laps — can rent the space for an evening, and have a fresh-delivered meal overlooking the bay, just in time for sunset. It’s pretty spectacular.

(Unless you’re afraid of heights. Or bays. Or sunsets. Then less spectacular, one would imagine. But still memorable.)

Because it’s necessarily “exclusive” — in the sense that no more than four people can exist in the space at one time without running out of breathing air — this is the kind of place that you’d usually like to keep a lid on. Don’t spread the word too far. Keep the riff-raff away, that sort of thing.

But what the hell. We’ve already been there, so what do I care? Knock yourself out. Honestly, it’s a ball.

(It was even named as one of the “Top 35 Things to Do” by Yankee Magazine, apparently. Which is the most non-specific and arbitrary list I believe I’ve ever heard of. Why 35, precisely? And why “things to do”? Was “stuff” already taken by Mumbling Teen Weekly?:

“Do you like stuff, and junk? Well, here’s 47 1/3 stuffs you might like, and junk.”

This is in no way meant to impugn the lighthouse. Yankee Magazine sounds like an idiot, is all.)

Of course, I can’t go anywhere on the planet without feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable — but I had my work cut out for me here. For most of the time, it was just me and my wife, and I’ve already too many enough dumb and awkward things around her to worry about one more. I could have come to dinner dolled up like “Captain” Danny Noonan from Caddyshack, and it wouldn’t have cracked my personal “Top 35 Idiot Moves My Wife Will Never Let Me Forget”.

Also, I would have been fabulous. And nautically fabulous, too, which is one of the best kinds.

Anyway, nothing we did up there made me uncomfortable. So by the entree course, I settled on feeling guilty about our host, who spent his evening taking our orders, running them to the restaurant, and schlepping the trays of takeout up a tiny spiral staircase and a ladder, through a three-foot hatch in the floor and up to us. They’ve “got it down to a science”, according to him, after a few years of dinner hosting — but damn, it seems like a lot of work. And stairs. And eventually, the poor guy’s going to catch a sleeve on the ladder and dump poached halibut all over his own head. If he hasn’t already.

In all, I think he made five trips, including the first where he led us up and set the table while we slid out a hatchway onto the outside porch. Or light-veranda or cat-fish-walk, or whatever the hell it’s called by old seamen on their “Top 35 Nautical Terms for Junk” lists. Any one of those trips would have been a nice workout for the week. But he made them all, and — judging by the logbooks previous visitors had filled out — somebody’s making those five or six trips, five or six nights a week on average.

Say what you like about lighthouse keepers. But they must have some pretty amazing glutes. Forget cracking walnuts; after a summer feeding people up there, you could probably solve a Rubik’s cube with your ass muscles.

(We didn’t ask our host for that trick. After five trips, it seemed a bit rude.)

At any rate, if you’ve always wanted to dine in a lighthouse, but thought you didn’t have the muttonchops for it, then maybe this is up your alley. And if not… well, there’s still that Thai place in the building next door. You won’t rock-hard up your glutes, maybe — but the satay chicken’s probably not bad. Definitely put it on your Top 35 Substances to Put in My Mouth list.

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