I can’t hack it

I am fascinated by books and movies about computer hackers.

It’s not that I think I will learn something about how to hack computers. I can’t even send photos by email because it keeps asking me for a password that I think I don’t have. So I can’t even hack into my own computer’s information to send a picture of a refinished dresser to my sister — let alone hide a secret code in the oil-rubbed finish of the dresser.

I think I’m fascinated with hackers because they are the James Bonds of the 21st Century. Instead of enticing dangerous women in cocktail dresses and bikinis, they work their charms on binary code. And what they do is more devious and daring than anything Bond has ever done.

My fascination dates back to the movie “The Net,” about a computer nerd (Sandra Bullock) working from home in a hermit-like setting. Her mom has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize her. The neighbors never see her. So she gets set up by some computer hackers who give her a computerized criminal background. But thank goodness sweet Sandy is smart enough to actually counter-hack by movie’s end.

No, you wouldn’t catch Sandra Bullock hunting for her own password.

One of my biggest obstacles to working on a home computer is that I don’t have an IT department. Trust me, when I was working in the newsroom, that IT department was at my computer almost daily. And unlike other reporters who might have to wait 45 minutes to get help, help arrived at my desk almost immediately because if I had to wait for more than 2 minutes, I would be back in the IT room whining some more.

Now that I am my own IT department, I actually read those tutorials that pop up on the screen when I’m having a problem. Sometimes, they actually work. Usually, though, I stumble upon a solution by accident.

Once, when I couldn’t get a router software program to install properly, I started banging on the keyboard randomly.

It worked.

So I’m no hacker, but it still seems that annoying the IT department will get me what I need.


Potatoes beyond compare

Ina Garten just broke my heart.

For those of you who work and thus may not know, Ina Garten is the Barefoot Contessa, a cook extraordinaire on the Food Network. And she is one of my favorites.

But today she uttered these soul-killing words: “Potatoes are kind of boring.”


Ina, wash your mouth out with chicken stock. What were you thinking.

I  should have known because there she was at her kitchen counter in the process of ruining a perfectly good couple pounds of potatoes by turning them into potato salad. Her reasoning was that adding mayonnaise, dill and chives would all help the potatoes to achieve a greater stardom than they could achieve on their own.

Though I dearly love to watch Ina cook, I should have known someone living in the Hamptons would know more about seafood than she does about the humble potato.

The potato is my main food group. When I was in my 20s, I was out for a couple days when I had a wisdom tooth pulled. Upon my return to work, I was presented with a depiction of myself as Geri Potato head, drawn by Tribune artist Bob Hess. Everyone signed it and I’ve saved that get-well grocery bag card all these years because it was such a great reminder of how well people at work knew me.

I like my potatoes hashed, mashed, roasted, baked, fried, french fried, boiled and covered in butter and cheese.

Mashed is probably the best because the one enhancement that any good potato would enjoy is a finely mixed gravy.

Don’t even speak to me of mayonnaise. Save it for your chip dips and your chicken salad. It’s my least favorite way to eat potatoes and you won’t ever find potato salad on my dinner table.

While I accept Ina’s right to fix potato salad (needless as that may be), I can’t accept her denigration of the wonderful spud.

Potatoes are not boring so take it back, Ina. I could be watching HGTV right now. It’s not too late to switch.


You say potato, I say tater

I was shopping at Woodman’s the other day when I picked up a bag of Tater Triangles. And just like that, I was back in college.

But in college, they were listed on the menu as tri-taters and they were always served with corn. Probably the meat was chicken or hamburger.

Anyway, I loved tri-taters. Everyone who ate with me knew that. I liked them even more than the endless sundae bar and always went back for seconds.

So seeing that bag, I had to buy it, because it reminded me of one college day in particular.

I was excited because my sister was coming for a visit and I was violently homesick, so this was going to be a highlight. But she called that afternoon and said she wasn’t coming because her best friend would be home that weekend.

I hung up the phone and had a crying jag, which upset my whole floor. So they decided we would all go eat together. And that night, they happened to be serving tri-taters. One by one, my dorm mates forked over their tri-taters onto my plate until I had a stack so high I couldn’t possibly devour them all. Maybe those girls couldn’t say what they were feeling, but they knew how to show me.

That one thing has stuck with me all these decades because it was such an obvious sign of support and friendship. And that was when I first realized I had made many friends at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

So when I saw that bag of Tater Triangles in the freezer case at Woodman’s, it was if all those girls were back in my life, supporting me.

Sadly, I have lost touch with all of them. But when I eat tri-taters, I have them back for a moment.

And that’s the taste I remember.