The basement files: Random. Access. Mayhem.


I got a new toy! It’s a laptop, it’s a tablet, it’s now full of fingerprints and, most importantly, it still works! I’d like to keep it that way too. Unfortunately, I’m what people like to call “a man,” and as “a man” I can never “leave well enough alone.”

I’ve done pretty well recently. My current “not-also-a-tablet” laptop is still in great working order, and I’ve had that over a year. Sure, by technology standards it’s as old as dirt, but at least I didn’t melt it, like my previous laptop.

What? Oh don’t look at me like that, it’s not like you’ve never accidentally melted the inner workings of some electronic gadget in the past. I remember the first device I melted, way back when in a day before cell phones and even MP3 players … I melted my Palm Pilot. Through no fault of my own, and by that I mean it’s totally my fault, I inadvertently picked up the wrong charging plug.

Now, this isn’t like today where dang near everything charges via USB. Heck I can (and do) use the same cord to charge my phone, my kindle, my old phone that is doubling as an MP3 player, and PS4 controllers. Will the wonders ever cease! No, back in the day, everything had its own proprietary plug … kind of like Apple products. But this particular cord fit. So I thought nothing of it, and went about whatever it is I was doing. I would’ve gone back to check, but I couldn’t, because about 10 minutes after I plugged it in, my house began to smell like a smelter. It’s an odor one does not soon forget. But, you live and you learn, and to this day I still check every single non-USB plug I use before using it, just in case.

Unlike my old personal digital assistant (a term that went obsolete surprisingly fast) my old laptop was a victim of being used by a man. Now, for the ladies out there who either don’t understand or simply refuse to and attempt to change our behavior (good luck on that!) we men have to tinker with things. It’s a necessity. I may not be an engineer. I may not be a programmer. I may not be a mechanic. I may not be a mathematician. But doggone it, I can make this work better if you just let me fiddle with it for 10 minutes.

That’s exactly what I did. I fiddled when I should have just lived with it the way it was. But the laptop that brought the Stillwater Gazette such memorable moments over the years such as “there is whale-barf in your perfume,” “contact lenses are made from animal bones,” and my personal favorite, “The Adventures of Frank” (look it up), just couldn’t play the newest and most graphic-intensive video games on the market. So I did what any good gamer would do — throw caution and common sense to the wind and start messing with settings!

For the record, let me state that things worked out great. Games ran better, loaded faster, and looked much better. Still, I knew something was dreadfully wrong when my fingers started burning on the keyboard, and that pungent odor of burning plastic and electronics started wafting into the basement. The laptop was gone … and even worse, so were all my save-game files!

But that’s all in the past. I’ve got a new system that plays games, a new system that I use for basic, everyday Internet surfing and writing, and with all my real-world experience, I now know exactly how far I can take things without burning the place down, or worse, voiding the warranty.

Don’t worry though, I’ve leaned my lesson, and nothing will inhibit the flow of what some have called “the most droll and intelligent drivel I have ever read.” I won’t be fiddling with any settings on my machines at all, because my rich brother built himself a computer that would make the animators at Pixar jealous, and I can just use that.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.