How the Geek Stole the Ed Note

Picture of Sheri Burns
There will be no Sherri Gulczynski Burns in this issue. No, we didn’t give her the month off, nor were we trying to spare her the effort of being late with her essential Sherri-ness and bimonthly monologue on the joys of electronics and traveling.

I stole this column because I can. I am the Geek, and I speak for the dweebs.

I’m that thing your company keeps in a glass box, which you let out only to fix the servers or upgrade the network — and then quickly sweep back into seclusion before there’s time for yet another recitation on why Battlestar Galactica  2.0 is the greatest sci-fi show in the history of television.

I’m here illicitly, to address some lingering concerns about this magazine’s Editor’s Note. (Yes, I have that power. Just imagine what your geek can do!) Some of these concerns have been voiced quietly by staff, while additional input has been given by a number of road-weary readers (no more angry letters written on barf bags, please; it’s been done).

Mirror, Mirror
To start with, let’s discuss Sherri’s photo. Give up on the idea of it changing. Ever. Trust me — we’ve tried to get her to update it more often. It would get her out of the office, which would give us — and her red pen — a rest, but, ultimately, trying to motivate her to venture out of her throne room is just more work for the staff (sorry: Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed, song six).

If you really need to satisfy your voyeuristic appetite for Sherri, I can give you access to the webcam I’ve hidden in her office. Details on how to subscribe will be posted on the website soon (keyword hint: Aerosmith’s 1973 self-titled album, song three).

For those of you who bemoan each issue’s installment of “All Things Sherri,” I performed a text analysis of her 2006 columns. I focused on keywords and on pronoun usage by means of a simple pattern search. (Okay, so I just grepped some things, using a shell script. Not very thorough, but I am busy holding the world aloft.)

You, Me, and I
As you can see in Figure 1, at left, first-person pronouns beat out all other keywords in terms of frequency. Surprisingly, BlackBerry occurred only 12 times in 12,745 words. The fact that therapy occurred only twice does say something about how badly it’s needed.

But (did you see the managing editor cringe when I started a sentence with a conjunction?) to shed some light on the psychology behind the pronouns, you need to understand Sherri’s weltanschauung. My humble keyboard pecking is not up to the task, so see Figure 2.

This Space for Rent
No, product placement in the ed note is not the result of kick-backs, free swag, or other inducements from a company with the initials RIM. (Sherri secretly longs to shed the mantle of editorial dictatorship but can’t find a job opening for BlackBerry evangelist.) Personally, I’m not above flagrant product pander-ing, so I’ve already ghostwritten her next ed note, about the joys
of playing Halo on an LC-6590U TV while drinking a 2001 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon.

What’s in a Name?
Yes, that alphabet soup of a maiden name is hard to spell. No, she isn’t exerting her feminist gestalt (no hyphen); she just hasn’t dropped the Burns, even though she has dropped the Burns (hint for the geeks: Frodo, inside Mount Doom).

The Rest Is Silence
Don’t fret or frown: Sherri will be back next issue, and I’ll be back in the server room, listening to the dueling banjos of high-speed fans, waiting for an e-mail to alert me that someone can’t print.

If I haven’t given you any insight on our editor, at least you both have something in common now: She wants me fired, too, but, alas, I run the e-mail server.

— Wes Besio, “the Geek”