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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Be Afraid; Be Just a Little Afraid

The world can be a scary place. My goal is to live without fear — or at least without fear being a chief and overwhelming influence in the things that I do.

It’s a nice goal. I think I came up with it one night while I was hiding under the covers, worrying about my job, the economy, natural disasters, terrorism, high-fructose corn syrup, that funny-looking spot on my elbow and the monster under my bed.

(Not necessarily in that order. My elbow and the monster seemed a little more immediate, just at the moment. Your neuroses may vary.)

I’m also interested in helping others to live a fear-free life, when I can be of service. And when it doesn’t take a lot of effort. And mostly for people who are doctors and nurses and such and could tell me if I’m going to die from this spot on my elbow, if they’d just shut up about all their phobias and worries, already.

However. It’s also true that a bit of fear — maybe paranoia, even — is occasionally warranted. As much as I’d like — and I’d like others to like — a fetterless, carefree lifestyle, some fears are probably not such a bad thing, after all.

“It’s possible I haven’t caused her this much pain in one night since the docs yanked me headfirst out of her.”

Take my Mom, for instance.

(Don’t take her far, for cripes sake. It’s Mother’s Day; she’s already tuckered out. Just take her to the ‘for instance’ and back. That’ll do.)

But just for instance, my mother has the occasional fear. Perfectly understandable — it comes with being human.

(Probably also comes with being my mom. Hard to say for sure — very small sample size. And no reliable way to test the hypothesis. There’s simply no way to determine statistically whether being my mother would create more anxiety or worry than being any other person.

I don’t care what she tells you. I’ve seen the chart. Her error bars are through the roof.)

A fair percentage of my mother’s fears have to do with computers. Also understandable, for a mammal of a certain age with opposable thumbs who’s been thrust headlong into the Information Age during the course of her lifetime.

(All the criteria are important, you know. Young children growing up with the interwebs don’t have computer fears. Feudal serfs from the 13th century didn’t worry much over the things. And cats, as a more or less thumbless representative, seem generally unperturbed about computers on the whole. Excluding those who enjoy a good ‘cheezburger’, of course.)

So, my mother has a few computer fears. She’s afraid she’ll hit the wrong key, or delete the wrong file, or plug the wrong cable into the wrong port and somehow scandalously-but-accidentally violate her CPU. And the CD drive will never be able to look her in the eye again. Something like that.

I’ve always tried to encourage her. There’s a whole world out there on the ‘net, I’ve told her. Just take a deep breath and go with it. Explore. Don’t worry. Practice your typing. Draw a picture. Make a spreadsheet. You won’t break anything. It’ll be fine.

(The caveat I’d like to add, but haven’t:

‘Don’t go searching for pairs of girls sharing a single cup or other girls hanging out in tubs or anything to do with how you might use lemons for a party.

For the love of all that cannot be unseen, Mother, do not look for any of those otherwise innocuous-sounding things. But otherwise, except for all the disgusting things I’ve forgotten or haven’t heard of or don’t exist yet, you should be fine.’

I figure she’ll be fine. It’s probably best that there are things on the internet that she doesn’t even know she’s scared of. But I’m just waiting for the day when she runs into something eye-wrenchingly repulsive and it’ll somehow be my fault:

Mom: I saw this… thing. This awful THING. DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS THING?!?

Me: Um… yeah. I saw it once.


Me: Well, how would I, really? I mean, literally. How should I have described that to you?

Mom: I… don’t know. You could have warned me about the horse. Or the girl with the egg beaters.

Me: Oh, right. Like those matter anyway, once you’ve seen the funnel scene at the end.

Mom: Just… don’t even remind me. It’s so awful.

Me: I know, right? Like curdled milk could even do that. Who knew, right?

Mom: Oof. Stop.

Me: And I’m not eating Jell-O for a while, now. Let me tell you. Or getting an oil change, for that matter.

Mom: Ugh. Just quit talking.

Me: And remember? ‘YAHTZEE!!‘ An entire Hefty bag full, they had. ‘YAHTZEE!!

Mom: That’s it; you’re grounded. Forever. Vow of silence. To your room, mister. March!

Hopefully, it’ll never come to that. If it does, I’ll have to feign ignorance of whatever visual nightmare she witnessed. I just hope I won’t turn out to be the one who sent her the link. Yow.)

Anyway, horrifying internet content aside, I’ve encouraged my mother to get herself out there and use the computer and the network as much as she’s willing. And she’s really embraced it over the past few years — she’s paying some bills online, doing research on family history, keeping up via email and more. She’s a regular intertubes whiz — and all because she was able to conquer her fear of doing something wrong.

So it was no great surprise when I called her for Mother’s Day this evening that she’d been on the computer a few moments before, checking out some new info. Unfortunately, she’d hit a little snag. But with the confident, ‘no fear’ attitude about computing that I helped instill in her, she was able to handle it all by herself.

Sort of.

Mom: You know, I was surfing around earlier and got this odd pop-up.

Me: Really? I thought we had those blocked in your browser.

Mom: Yeah, most of them. This one was weird, though — said it came from Windows Security.

Me: It wha, now?

Mom: Windows Security, right in FireFox. It said I had a bunch of viruses or something…

Me: Uh.

Mom: …and did I want it to run a scan of my computer…

Me: Eee.

Mom: …and download a program to get rid of all these viruses on my drive?

Me: Mom. Listen very carefully. Whatever you do, do not click-

Mom: So I clicked on it!


Mom: Was that bad?

Me: Um. Yeah.

Mom: Because nothing’s working now. Is my computer horked up?

Me: Pretty horked, yup.

Mom: Horked bad?

Me: Horked like a Jell-O covered horse with a set of egg beaters.

Mom: What?

Me: Nothing. Just something from some movie I’m watching.

To be fair — it is Mother’s Day, after all — the conversation didn’t go exactly like that. Mom’s much savvier in the surfing department than depicted above. And the malware she encountered is an especially sinister little beastie, designed specifically to fool users into thinking the ‘bait screen’ is a Windows Security alert, and that there are already a legion of viruses and worms and Trojan horses scurrying around your hard drive. Instead, those things get injected only if you click the link.

Which, after several attempts to repel the pop-up warnings, she did.

So the exchange above was fanciful. The horking, sadly, is all too real. And now Mom sits with an unusable infested computer on Mother’s Day, and while I can offer help and advice — or at this point, condolences — over the phone, I’m physically several hundred miles away. There’s nothing useful I can do, and the one related thing I’ve tried to do over the past several years — give her less fear and more confidence in wrangling a computer — may have led to the current mess, as well. It’s possible I haven’t caused her this much pain in one night since the docs yanked me headfirst out of her.

Which is to say, uh, Mom — Happy Mother’s Day! Very sorry about the computer. I hope you like the flowers I sent — though they probably won’t help you check Gmail, or pay your cable bill online. Still — they won’t show you disgusting movies or whisk nasty viruses out of the air, either. Something to be said for daisies and tulips now, eh? Henh? Yeah?

Sorry, ma. Hope the rest of your day was great, anyway. (Don’t disown me.)

Love you,


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