February 14, 2008

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My nerdy Valentine
How to impress your geeky love
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Yeah, you read that calendar right. It’s Valentine’s Day. If you’re coupled, you’re in trouble for not going all-out on a gift. If you’re single, you’re yelling, “No, it’s Singles Awareness Day!”

Pull yourself together. Try one of these suggestions for your significant other, your secret admiree or just those couple of friends you wouldn’t mind snogging if you send them something as a joke that they take a little more seriously. Just remember: you’re taking love advice from a guy who writes 600 words a week about computers.

• E-cards: Sure, there’s your sickly sweet ones, with the big red hearts and adorable woodland creatures prancing about in Flash animation to some nondescript happy tune. Or there’s the mushy ones, with soft-focus pictures of flowers and beautiful calligraphy being written out before your eyes. You could go that way. Some even let you attach gift certificates for online stores. Romantic.

Or you could do some edgier, grittier e-cards for the cynical love of your life. My personal favorite site is vd.meish.org, run by a London-based graphic artist since 2001. It includes such gems as an anatomically-correctly-drawn heart, a card about “cat wee” and one that reads simply, “You’ll do.”

• Personalized LOLcats: You’ve undoubtedly run across pictures of cats with silly, misspelled captions in bold block lettering. They sprang up pretty organically on Web message boards and are increasing in number so quickly, Bob Barker had to organize a dedicated spay and neuter campaign just for them. Pretty much everyone else likes LOLcats, though, even people who hate cats, so why not take the e-card idea one step further and create your own? Use your own cat photo or find one on the Internet. If you’re really inept with photo editing software, the leading LOLcat repository site, www.icanhascheezburger.com, has a generator that’ll plug those hilarious giant letters in for you.

The term “LOLcat,” by the way, was coined by some square trends reporter; the “LOL” is, yeah, “laugh out loud.” Whatever, they’re still funny.

• A phone call from Fabio: Does your squeeze adore romance novels? What about those automated voice menus you get when you call customer service? Head to www.fabiofone.com to combine the best of both worlds. Originally put up a couple years ago as a promotion for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, the Fabio Fone site will ask you a few questions, have you enter a phone number and bam! Fabio calls up. Well, really a recording of Fabio, with the pre-set answers filled in, so the lucky recipient of said call gets a halting, vaguely personalized message from a long-haired has-been with an indecipherable accent. Some people really get off on that, though.

• Digital photo keychain: The only suggestion on this list that’s not free, digital photo keychains are still pretty cheap. That doesn’t prevent them from being a ripoff, but hey, you won’t break the bank. The concept behind these things is kinda like wallet photo albums, only you can store a whole bunch of pictures — typically around 50 — on a little plastic gizmo with a 1” screen. It’s especially worthless when you consider that cell phones and modern MP3 players can all hold more and don’t add another gadget to fill up a pocket and charging outlet, but it’s just nerdy enough that a nerdy crush will appreciate it, and a non-nerdy one will forgive you because that’s just how you are.