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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Why Can’t I Squee You?

(Secondhand SCIENCE, baby — catch the fever!

Well, don’t actually catch a fever. That would be uncomfortable. But swing over and see this week’s science-down, all about viroids. Which could give you a fever — but probably only if you’re a potato. Check it out.)

Since it’s not remotely what I’m supposed to be working on right now, this is clearly the only project I’m able to focus on: a modernized parody version of a 35-year-old song by the Cure.

I’d be a great poster child for Ritalin — if I were still a child, and if I ever looked good on a poster. Anyway, Cure this, if you can:


I would say, “my bad, wow”
If I sensed that you would stay with me.
But I see you mad now;
You are all scrunched up,
Like, O-M-G.

I try to say, “whatevs, girl”,
Don’t want to call you a B.
How can I say, “whatevs, girl”
When you keep callin’ me “twee”?
‘Cause boys don’t squee.
Boys don’t squee.

Yeah, I broke down in your crib
When you brought out your
Bichon frise.
He was so cute in his bib,
I couldn’t hold my gleeful squees.

So now your friends laugh about it,
Throwing shade till my ears bleed.
Even you laugh about it,
That noise I totes do not need.
‘Cause boys don’t squee.
Boys don’t squee.

I would tell you that I’ll sack up;
Be the man that you prefer.
But my voice will climb back up
Next time I peep your ball of fur.

I get excited,
not like a BOSS;
If I could fight it,
Everything would be awesomesauce.

Now I don’t know what it would take
For us to repair our “we”.
How can I keep from breaking?
You’re twice as manly as me.
‘Cause boys don’t squee.

Boys don’t squee.
Boys. Don’t. Squee.

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A Tall, Uncool Shake of Water

(Science may be strong, but this week’s Secondhand SCIENCE is all about the WIMPs. Beef up, get ripped and check it out.)

Being tall is hard.

I understand being short is hard, too, but overall that’s an easier kind of hard. I’ll explain.

If you’re short, you pretty well understand the troubles you’re in for. Hopping to reach high shelves. Getting turned away at carnival rides. People singing Randy Newman at you all the time.

I’ll admit, that sounds godawful. Subjecting people to Randy Newman against their will should be a hate crime, for starters. But these are heightcupational hazards for short people. They’re no (pint-sized) surprise.

We talls, on the other hand, have more subtle problems. Less predictable. Sneaky.

Take office peeing, for instance.

I work in a small company, and occasionally find myself overhydrated on a workday. We’ve got about fifty people in the office and (so far as I’ve been told, anyway), just the one mens’ room. So with eight-ish hours in the workday and twenty-four or so of us “going” throughout, there’s a fair amount of cross-traffic in the lavatory.

(But no “cross-streaming”. He who ignores the lessons of Ghostbusters does so at his own peril.)

This single mens’ room has one stall and one urinal, the latter of which has been designed by — or at least installed by — someone of the lower-to-the-ground persuasion. I know this because when I stand in front of it — I, who is “tall” but not “holy god, are you in the NBA? tall” — the top of the urinal is below my belt level.

Now, I won’t delve deeply into the biomechanical implications of using this mis-heighted urinal. I’ll only say this:

Most of the time spent in front of this urinal requires a bit of extra concentration, but is relatively low-risk — at least for someone with a fair amount of practice in these situations. And I didn’t just fall off the urination truck yesterday, as they say.

Or they would. If people ever talked about these things. You know what I’m saying.

The problem, as with most things in life, is in the dismount. There’s an old schoolyard proverb about not “shaking it more than twice”, which is excellent advice. But the unspoken rule implied therein is that you’re going to want to “shake it” at least once. It’s kind of important.

And that’s fine when the urinal is in your sights, dead ahead. But when the porcelain ends way down below your six (o’clock), that shake’s a little more dangerous. And in that situation, it’s possible — nay, from experience I’ll tell you that it’s incredibly freaking likely — to “water” the top of the urinal itself.

They don’t train you for such situations in Tall School. They should, but they don’t.

And what they should really teach you is what to do when you’ve thus sprinkled the top of the communal office peeing apparatus, and you look over your shoulder to see a company executive waiting behind you to use it.

(Not only that, but a much shorter company executive, who’s less likely to have considered the physics of the dilemma at hand — but much likelier to notice it. Because it’s about to be literally right under his nose.

Because he’s short. Is what I’m saying.)

I’m certain Miss Manners has something to say about the proper etiquette in this situation, but I haven’t read it. I came up with a couple of options for what to do next, neither very good:

I could wipe the offending fluid off the porcelain with my hand — or maybe my shirt, or the leg of my pants. But counterpoint: ew. I’ve spent the better part of my life desperately trying to prevent getting pee on myself or my clothes, so why the hell would I throw that out the window at this point?

I mean, I like my job and all. But not that much. Even Hugh Hefner’s not that invested in his work.

Or I could warn the exec to “stay there!“, walk past him to the sink for a paper towel, walk back to clean the urinal and then wave him in to do his business. On the plus side, that seemed fairly responsible.

On the minus, it felt like something that would make the situation look more suspicious than it already was. Like, what the hell was I cleaning up over there, exactly? And there’s just no good-sounding rationale for an emergency urinal wipedown. None. It unexists.

So I went with Plan C. I shuffled away from the urinal, nonchalant as I could, as though nothing was disgustingly wrong, and let the exec take his place. I quickly washed up, dried my hands and grabbed an extra paper towel. I sidled back over while he was still “in progress”, reached around to the top of the urinal with the towel and said:

“Here, lemme just get this for you.”

I figured, he’s short, so I wasn’t in his way, exactly. I didn’t want to delay him, but I felt like I should clean up my own mess. It’s pretty much the most graceful way I could have handled it. Almost certainly.

So anyway, I’ll be looking for a job soon. Or at the very least, another bathroom to use since I can never, ever step foot inside that one again.

(And it’s been a problem for years now. So maybe that’s not such a bad thing.)

Like I said, being tall is hard. But being tall, clumsy, socially backwards and unsupervised in public is goddamned impossible.

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If the Vibe Jibes, Ride the Vibe

(News, news, news! Like clockwork, Secondhand SCIENCE marches on. This week’s hot science take is on laser capture microdissection, which is at least as awesome as it sounds, probably.

Also, I’m uber-pleased to report that a short play that Jenn Dlugos and I wrote has been accepted by Theater@First in Somerville for their “Fractured Fairy Tales” festival this summer. Come out for all the plays, which are sure to be fantastic — and if you’re local (and you hurry), you can even audition for a part!

Finally, there’s another project Jenn and I (and now, a whole host of hilarious people) have been working on, Magicland. It’s not just Toledo, Ohio’s third- (or fifth-, or ninth-)favorite local family-owned lizard-themed 24-hour amusement park. It’s also a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, an upcoming web series, and possibly more. Stay tuned, and don’t miss out on the magic!)

Apparently, I give off a certain vibe.

I guess that’s okay. It’s better than giving off a certain odor, anyway. Or a certain electric shock, which would also probably be frowned upon.

I’ve been aware of this vibe for a while. It’s a sort of “hey, man, don’t complicate me with societal routines and conventions and stuff” kind of vibe, and frankly, I don’t mind emanating that a little bit. If I could have oozed a similar sentiment in the direction of certain former bosses and corporate event planners and professors scheduling 8am classes, my early adult years might have gone a little smoother.

(Of course, there’s always the possibility I was vibing at those people, and they just didn’t care. If I’m in public before nine in the morning, who knows what the hell I’m oozing?)

Anyway, there are a lot of “norms” I just don’t get. I’m not trying to be a dick about them — unless it’s before 9am; I think we’ve established my position on that — but I truly just don’t understand the rationale.

“You might as well strap Homer Simpson around your neck.”

Neckties, for instance. Those are preposterous. And not just because they’re “formal”. At least a suit jacket has pockets for stuff and keeps you warm in the winter, maybe. Ties have no purpose. They exist only to choke you and to attract mustard and gravy stains. You might as well strap Homer Simpson around your neck.

Ditto for birthdays. Those were great as a kid, sure. But the whole concept is a little wacky. We celebrate something that every one of us did, but we had no part in aiding and were too young to remember. And we commemorate the event every time the calendar says a certain day, which it only does because we came up with this oddball system of telling time with twelve sets of mostly 30-ish days, but not always, and we have to cram an extra in every four years or eventually Christmas falls in the summer. Which is probably more appropriate, but nobody’s interested in that because Santa would sweat his bowlful-of-ass off in the middle of August. Wacky.

Then there’s the workday. Eighty percent of the people with office jobs setting the same hours, so they can all sit alone in cubicles for most of the day, then herd into a conference room for an occasional meeting. Or a TPS report update. Or somebody’s birthday.

For the past several years, I’ve had the tremendous good fortune to enjoy flexibility in these areas, and a few bewildering others. My particular profession is fairly free of dress codes, and, within reason, able to support flexible schedules.

(They haven’t done away with birthdays, but nobody’s perfect. And we all know corporate birthday acknowledgements only exist as an excuse to eat afternoon cake. Which I totally understand.

I mean, the British just called it “tea time” and did away with the charade, rather than making sure every company hired someone with every possible birthday on the calendar. That seems cleaner, but what do I know? I don’t even wear ties to work.)

Anyway, I can’t exactly complain. And I don’t! I’ve got it pretty good in terms of maneuvering around the things that don’t make much sense. And I even follow a few conventions by self-policing — because you can’t be a complete anarchist about these things, or people will start to whisper about you. And since you don’t go to the birthday meetings in the conference room, you won’t even realize. Very dangerous.

Still, I must give off the vibe of having little patience for unexamined routines, because every once in a while someone will just assume I don’t follow any of them. Like earlier this week, when I was walking into work and ran into a fellow employee coming out of the office.

(Because we work on different schedules. Praise current flexible employer!)

He noted that it was finally getting warm around Boston again, and as he went on his merry way, he remarked in passing:

Guess you’ll be back to wearing shorts soon, eh?

Now, that’s not an entirely out of place comment. I’ve worked at jobs where I’ve worn shorts in the summer. I and many of the other employees, in fact. It’s another thing that to me just makes sense: if it’s really hot, and you’re not flinging dangerous chemicals or bacteria or saw blades around, then what’s the point of long pants, really? This isn’t Wall Street. Be comfortable. Do work. Breathe a little cooler; life is short(s).


I started at this company a few years ago, in the winter. And — outside the odd outfit change to hit the gym or a lunchtime jog — I’ve never seen anyone at this place wearing shorts. I watched, that first year, waiting to see whether shorts would emerge. Emerge they did not. So I didn’t wear mine. I’m quite certain of this. I have the ass sweat to prove it.

So I can say with confidence that this coworker who commented has never once seen me in a pair of shorts. And yet, the assumption is, I’ll soon be (“back”) into them, as the temperature climbs. Why? Because I’ve got the vibe.

I think I’m okay with that. As misconceptions go, I’m pretty fine if all the ones out there are about things that I would do, but I just haven’t happened to have done. It sure beats the hell out of people thinking I’m an Armani hound. Or a morning person. Or itching to sing them “Happy Birthday” in Auxiliary Conference Room B.

Honestly, most of the cakes are even store-bought. What’s the appeal, man?

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Lunch-a, Not a Bunch-a

(April showers bring May… science?

Maybe not. But Secondhand SCIENCE thunders on. This week, the topic is ytterbium — the element that’s tricky to say, but a star on the periodic table. And with a wicked slap shot, too, maybe. Swing over and find out!)

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently: all of the places near my office where I buy lunch are going out of business.

Other than all selling food — and taking my money — the places don’t have much in common. First, the middle eastern place in the food court in the nearby mall went kaput. Then, the sandwich shop down the street. And back in the food court, the good Chinese place.

(Okay, it’s a food court. So, the “good” Chinese place, let’s say.

There’s still the bad Chinese place in the mall. No quotes around “bad” necessary there.)

It’s been unnerving to see my usual haunts dwindle, over the course of not very many months at all. I’m not entirely sure what to think of it. I know people who would take this as a “sign from the universe” — or alternatively, from their magic sky person, animal, spirit or spaghetti monster of choice. Personally, I just don’t see it.

For one thing, I don’t think the universe is particularly looking out for me. Some people tell me that makes them sad, that in their world there’s always something — or someone, or somepasta — watching over them.

That doesn’t seem right to me. Also, I assume none of those people pee standing up. That would be weird.

“You can’t exactly hide. There is no transgalactic witness protection program.”

On the bright side, I also don’t believe the universe is out to get me. To which the tinfoil hat-and-panties crowd reply, I’m clearly not paying close enough attention.

But again, what are you gonna do, if the universe was actually against you? It knows where you live — namely, inside of it. You can’t exactly hide. There is no transgalactic witness protection program.

And anyway, if the universe is out there, feeling feels about things, I’m pretty sure it’s not concerned about me or my weekday eating habits. I find it highly doubtful the universe’s to-do list for 2015 looked like this:

1. Increase entropy.
2. Expand further outward into the void.
3. Paint dark matter with a fresh coat of black.
4. Deny some goober on a tiny schmutz of cosmic rock his twice-weekly chicken sammich.

I mean, I have misplaced priorities. But I’m not running a universe over here. If I can keep my shoes tied and my fly zipped for four hours straight, the day is a win. I have to assume the universe sets the bar a tad higher.

Anyway, back to my lunch conundrum. There are still plenty of restaurants in the neighborhood — but mostly not the kind I want to visit. Dunkin Donuts isn’t really a viable option. The off-brand pizza place sells, so far as I can tell, off-brand pizza. Which, gah.

Then there’s the food court Chipotle, which recently decided GMO-corn tortillas are the debbil, but GMO-corn-fed cow and chicken parts are muy bueno.

As a consumer, the scientific ignorance bugs me. But as a smartass, the hypocrisy might bug me more. Also “burrito bowl” is not a thing. That’s not a menu item; it’s a contradiction in terms. Get your shit together, gringos.

There are other places that seem solid — another middle eastern place in the other direction, a local burrito chain with better logic and syntax choices, and a sit-down Thai place that maybe would do takeout.

But I have to wonder: if I visit these places, how long will they last? The universe isn’t pulling any strings on my lunchtime spots — but it could still be me. Maybe I drive business away, somehow. Or I’m a carrier for some weird disease the health department shuts places down for. Do I smell? Am I unknowingly passing counterfeit bills? Oh holy sky pasta, tell me what am I doing wrong?!

I suppose I could always start taking my lunch. But if my logic is right, then eventually somehow it’d be me getting shut down.

Damn. I don’t want that. Maybe I should be nicer to those Chipotle wads. Sigh.

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It’s the Little Screens That Kill

(Who wants science? You do! You do!

Hopefully that’s true, because this week’s Secondhand SCIENCE post is mucho sexay!

That’s “sexay” as in “sex chromosomes”, not actually, you know, “sexay”. Still! There’s plenty of hot stuff to see about X-linked inheritance, so go have a peek. I won’t tell anyone. Promise.)

I try to be lazy around here. Really, I do.

I only write here once a week lately (whether the internet needs it or not). The site’s had the same look and feel, more or less, since 2006. And outside of shutting down various sleazy spam attempts — and then complaining about said attempts for weeks on end — I don’t really do any site maintenance. The whole site is probably Heartbleeded. Or Confickered. Stuxnetitated?

Why be lazy? Mainly because just about anything outside my usual post format — three dick jokes and a tagline, surrounded by fourteen paragraphs of nonsense — takes way more effort and time than I expect. Because I’m not very good at things.

Case in point: back in January, I made a resolution.

(Late January, of course. Because laaaazy.)

I resolved then to finally finish reformating the articles I’d written for, and get them live on the site. I’d already tinkered with a bunch of them, but had lost steam. So I drew a line in the sand — by April 1st, the two-year anniversary of ZuG shutting down, I’d get everything working. I had more than two months. I was motivated. I dove in and committed to the job, eyeing April 1 on the calendar.

And continuing to eye April 1, as it loomed ever closer.

Aaaand eyeing its ass running away as it passed by, mooning me in springtime mockery.

That’s okay. April 1st was always kind of a jackass.

Still, I did persevere and — only three weeks late, give or take a long weekend — I did, finally, just last weekend, finish the entire series of Zolton Amazon review articles, to go along with the Zolton Facebook prank series I’d recombobulated earlier.

And I was stoked. It was a little late, sure, but still a win. And the best part — I could go back to simply writing again, in relatively-lazy bliss, and not worry about any sort of formatting or templating or other back-end nonsense for… well, hopefully forever. That was the plan.

My “forever” lasted two days.

On Tuesday, Google implemented a search algorithm change that basically ignores any site that isn’t mobile friendly. This site was never mobile friendly — hell, it’s often not anything-friendly — so that was a problem. Only four and a half people come to read shit here as it is; I can’t have Google turning three and a half of them away because my nonsense doesn’t look pretty on their Blackberries or Palm Pilots or whatever the hell kids are shoving in their pockets these days.

That meant making changes, and that meant screwing everything up six or eight times before getting it right, because let’s face it, that’s really the only working model available for someone in my situation. The only one that doesn’t involve lots of gasoline and a convoluted blog insurance scam, anyway.

And I’m not doing that, because it sounds goddamned complicated. Lazy, is what I’m telling you.

Sadly, when I was choosing website software a decade or more ago, I backed the wrong horse. I picked a platform that was popular at the time, but soon moved to a pay-only scheme for new versions — and who’s doing that? Later, as so many half-assed American ideas, products and celebrities have done, it caught on in Japan, while everyone in this hemisphere moved on and forgot about it. Except me, because yadda yadda lazy.

Long story short, making a “simple” mobile-friendly site involves moving the entire gob of content into a completely new form, recoding templates, updating stylesheets and four dozen other things I haven’t even figured out yet. All for some yutz in Peoria searching for “Alton Brown quotes” on his iPhone 2.5, who’ll take one glance at the mobilified site and say, “meh, I was looking for the good ones“.

This is the torture I’ve chosen. Feel free to weep, if you like. I know I will.

All of this is to say that — or apologize for, really — the site is going to be pretty horked up for a bit, while I nail everything back in place. Links may go nowhere. Formatting will be higgledy-piggledy. I see that double spaces between paragraphs — which you’ll see in this post, where they’re quite pretty — have been stripped out of the previous 2,100+ posts. So that’s nice. (Update: got ’em back! Score one for the big fella!) And I’m sure there’s more. My “lazy time”, brief as it recently was, won’t be coming back any time soon.

But hey. At least that asshole in Peoria can find me on his phone. Yaaaaaay.

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HomeAboutArchiveBestShopEmail © 2003-15 Charlie Hatton All Rights Reserved
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Selected Clips:
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Scott's Tip of the Day
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