{picture of 
Bryan Hance}

 - Ahh, Valentine's Day.
 - No matter what state your personal life is in, it's here.
 - As a Friday columnist I'm put in a strange position, because I can't exactly produce the usual 'Valentine's Day Roundup' article. You know what I'm talking about, the kind of article with links to the  - incredible  - number  - of  - Valentine's  - Day  - pages out there, with cute stories about people who met on the 'net, or even married on the 'net or IRC. That sort of thing.
 - However, those kinds of articles have all been done to death, and by the time you read this we'll already be well into Valentine's Day. The last thing you'll want to be running your hands over is the keyboard, if you get my drift. Besides, if you've wait ed this long to get your partner a gift, you're toast.
 - What's more, you'll be in more trouble if your significant other catches you surfing the net instead of feeding him/her bonbons and showering him/her with roses.
 - With this in mind I'm splitting my column into two parts today, one for each kind of Valentine's Day reader.
 - There's one part for those of you who are hooked-up, ga-ga, lovey-eyed, and who will be having a nice candlelight dinner with your honey tonight in front of a romantic fire.
 - And then there's one for those of you who are single, unattached, not likely to hook up with anyone in the next ten hours, and who will probably eat chinese takeout tonight in front of a glowing computer monitor. Call this my 'Valentine's Day for the Una ttached Webweenie' column.
 - No matter what category you fall under, Happy Valentine's Day from all of us here at the Online Wildcat.

 - OK, so you're got a sweetheart (maybe even a few of them) and the only thing on your mind today is that person. As an Online Columnist, I probably have very little to say to you that you're going to pay any attention to. You're probably just biding your time with the Web until work is over and you can stop pretending like you're actually getting anything done.
 - Here's something to think about though:
 - Your ex.
 - That's right, your ex. Maybe it's someone special you secretly think about every now and then. Maybe you still harbor some feelings for that person. Then again, perhaps it's that special someone who left with your wallet, your clothes and your ex-best fr iend after trashing your car and setting your houseplants on fire.
 - In either case, it might be fun (or therapeutic) to find them and see how they're doing. You know, just drop them a note while nobody's looking - for old time's sake, just to say hello and to recognize the fact that they were once part of your life. Even though you're sure you haven't thought about them in years. No, really, never. Not ever. None.
Ok, maybe just a few times.
 - If it's that worst case scenario though, you've got your own reasons for finding them. Just don't mention me when you do.
 - Here's how we'll do this: Peek around first. Nobody looking? Good, because the Internet has made it incredibly easy to find people these days. We'll try the phonebooks first.
 - Databases like Lycos, WorldPages, Switchboard, and Four11 have made mill ions of phonebooks and city directories accessible via the web. Some can even give you a visual map of where you're looking, and most of them have reversible phone-number-to-person or scaleable searches, and relatively up-to-date information.
 - Next thing we'll do is look online for a possible mail address. These are sometimes found using the sources above, but the more detailed online phonebooks - known as CSO's, are usually good sour ces too. This is the place to look if you know the person you're searching for is at a specific place - such as another university, a military base, or a corporation.
 - If you already have their person's mail address and just don't have it in you to send them e-mail, don't fret. You can always send them something anonymous, like flowers or a postcard, or just some plain old anonymous email. That's right, I said anonymous, so get whatever you need to off of your chest while you can. Remember, they have no way of getting back to you, so make it good.  - Of course, if all else fails you can always run a blind Internet search for that person's name, but this usually only works if they're a pretty wired person to begin with. I'll spare you from hearing the names again, bu t all the big search engines are worth a try if you haven't though t of this already. Make sure you get the right person. You'd be surprised at how many people have the same name these days, and the last thing you want to do is send a complete stranger a message intended for your ex.
 - If you have no success with the search, you should still consider yourself lucky. After all, you have a new flame, and it's comforting to know that while the Internet is making it easier to track people down it still hasn't reached the point where you can call up your past relationships at the click of a button. Some things are best left off the net, and maybe your ex is one of them.

Happy Valentine's Day.


 - No date tonight?
 - Cool.
 - Do you spend more time in front of a computer than you do in front of other humans?
Ok, I'm guilty too, rub it on...
 - Not a problem, even on Valentine's Day.
 - There's no need to feel bad about this, because this means you're part of the special group of individuals riding an intense wave of popularity these days.
 - Yes, it's the geeks.
 - I'm talking about the new geeks, of course, the geekium digerati, the 'Wired Nerd.' This is an online column, so I can't just talk about any geek that comes along.
 - Hey, don't look so offended! Being a geek is a very hip thing these days. Ten years ago the word 'geek' was worn like a badge of shame. Then, WHAM, along came the computer industry. Suddenly geek-dom became the 'in' thing, and the Geek sta rted making the media rounds - movies, books, the works. Geeks are hot!
 - What's more, the people responsible for making the term 'geek' derogatory in the first place fell underfoot during the Great Geek Boom. Now they have to amuse themselves by yelling "Geek!" out the window of their minivans as hordes of geeks fly by in new Porches on their way to work at places like the campus, iD Software, and Wired.
 - Which, strangely enough, brings me to Valentine's Day.

 - Don't feel bad if you're not part of the Valentine's hoopla, especially if you planning to spend today engaging in some quality geek time instead. Go ahead and geek out. Be proud of who you are, because in five years you'll have a cooler job than the res t of the planet, and maybe a Porsche, too.
 - And all this hype about, err, you know - intimacy? Love? I'll let you in on a little secret. We've got something different than love. Consider it Love 2.0.
 - It's called Geek Love.
 - Sure, the 'net is peppered with the diaries of the lonely and the wailing of the single, simply because of the demographic makeup of the online community. Try searching for the phrase "we met on IRC". See? There's millions of geeks hooking up online. Then try searching for "We broke up online". Zero. By nature, we're more likely to find someone suited to our personality while online than we would if we hit the bars for years on end. It's the environment, folks, so run with it.
 - Forget all this nonsense about geeks not having a love life. If this guy can get hitched, we can too.

Sorry, Bill.
 - And, face it, love is a brain thing. You can always find someone who makes your heart pound if you look hard enough, but when you find someone who makes your heart pound and can program too, or hold a risque conversation about the
Pentium chip - watch out. There's only one thing that can match pent-up hormones, and that's a pent-up intellect.
 - So go to it. Geek out and spend the day doing something you really like to do, even if that means learning C++ or overclocking your motherboard. It doesn't matter if the rest of the world doesn't understand, because sooner or later you're going to run in to the Geek of Your Dreams, and life will never be the same.

Happy Valentine's Day.

(Wildcat Chat)


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