Ask Ceil – Introduction, Computers and Asses

Hi. My name is Ceil Kessler and today I am pleased and proud to announce the addition of my advice column, “Ask Ceil,” to Magnificent Nose.

“Ask Ceil” will be published once or twice weekly, depending on both the frequency of questions and my availability to answer them. At this point, I will consider questions on any topic. Wondering what to name your dog? I’ve got an answer for you. Neighbor building a fence on your property? I’ll see what I can do. Trying to build a personal earth orbital craft? I might know a guy.

Warning: I have no professional expertise in any area, and answers are not guaranteed to produce desired results. Actually, answers are not guaranteed to be answers. Furthermore, in a court of law, if pressed, I will not stand by my own answers and I will claim that they were written by someone else. Or that you made them up yourself. I am not proud.

I’m soliciting questions now, so feel free to email your questions to me at or tweet ‘em to me @askceil. I’m looking forward to guiding you in your hour of need. And as always, if you have gleaned wisdom from my column, that does not make me culpable if you set yourself on fire while following my advice. That’s totally on you.

Ceil Kessler is an alumna of several fine institutions of higher learning including (but not limited to) Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; North Carolina State University; and the University of Pittsburgh.  In a life marked by crippling indecision, she has worked for a lawyer, a bank, a library, a retail clothing outlet, a retail music outlet, a metals manufacturer, a magazine publishing company, a survey-taking organization, a newspaper, a women’s networking group, on a beach renting umbrellas and beach chairs, and finally in her own business consulting on business intelligence software, marketing and publishing her new magazine, “Business Perks” ( Like everyone else in the world, she is working on a couple of novels. She also runs the Laurel Highlands Vegetarian Society, plays pool in her increasingly rare free time, and is an appreciator of fine wines and single-malt scotches.

Ask Ceil: Computers and Asses

Dear Ceil,

My Mac is broken; should I replace it with a new one, find a used one, or instead switch to a typewriter and a tape recorder?

Best, Off-Key in New Jersey

Dear Off-Key,

Go out and get yourself the slammin’-est, jammin’-est, fastest brand new Mac you can find.

Computer years are like dog years. In a year, computer technology leaps seven years ahead. (Note: dog-year and computer-year estimations are approximate.) If you buy a used one, it’ll be obsolete before you finish clicking “Complete Order”. You’ll spend half of your billable hours cursing while trying to fix whatever the previous owner did to it, and you’ll just take your frustration out on your wife and dog. And if you happen to be a person who uses media-heavy stuff — and what Mac owner doesn’t — you don’t want to figure out how to make the cool new software run on the evolutionary equivalent of a boulder.

In short, if you buy a used one, you’ll continue to have technology envy, your software won’t run, you’ll end up fighting with your wife, and your dog will run away, possibly for a year, and you will (apparently) miss seven years of its cute and furry little life. Who wants that?

If you buy one, the good news is that, if you use it for business, some or all of it may be tax-deductible. The bad news? It’ll cost you at least ten Franklins to get one. Not including shipping. But seriously, the one tool you use every single day should be something that kicks ass. And anything that really, truly kicks ass is going to cost you some coin. Am I wrong?

And if you really have a penchant for that typewriter, try this nifty thing I ran across the other day.

Dear Ceil,

Why are people anal-retentive?

—Tired of asses in PA

Dear Tired,

This isn’t going to answer your question, largely because no one really knows why people are anal-retentive, but I’m going to go ahead and give you my opinion anyway.

Freud (whose middle name was Schlomo — fact!) coined the term anal-retentive to describe annoying people who paid too much attention to detail. In researching this answer, though, I discovered that people who eschew this kind detail-centric lifestyle are known as “anal-expulsive”. I mention that because I find it to be an overly descriptive term; but you should know it in case you ever get the opportunity to use it.

Anal-retentiveness has left disaster in its wake throughout history. Thucydides reports that the Peloponnesian War was started when Demosthenes constantly interrupted Lysander to correct his pronunciation during an Athens-Sparta Troop Exchange team-building exercise. In 1173, architects Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano could not agree on where exactly to place the cornerstone for their building, and in constantly moving it, eventually softened the ground. When the Tower of Pisa was finally built, it started to lean, annoying Obsessive Disorder people everywhere. And in 1980, Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham worked and re-worked the songs on Collins’ album “Face Value” so much that they became tragically overproduced.

So, you see why anal-retentiveness is such a destructive force, and why it’s our duty as human beings to try to stop it. Freud thought that anal-retentiveness surfaced when children experienced conflicts during potty training. My own theory is that it surfaces when a child’s environment is exceedingly clean. I, myself, make sure that there are at least two rooms in my house that could be categorized as a federal disaster area, and I haven’t vacuumed since 2007. I don’t want my daughter to grow up having to set things at right-angles on her desk, or being driven to madness by improper grammar on every television commercial or magazine article. She deserves a better life than that. So, to help out, I take all of her clean laundry and pile it up on a chair in her bedroom. Then, through the week, I root through it like a Schnauzer trying to disinter a dead mouse.

And so, if you see someone who seems to be anal-retentive, take pity on them. Feel their pain. And if you get the chance, go through their filing cabinets and screw up their filing system. They may not like you for it now, but if everyone does it, they’ll be happier in the long run.


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