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The OSI Model

The Open System Interconnection (OSI) model was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the early 1980s and is the standard theoretical view for how data makes its way across a network. It defines seven layers that abstract the flow of data from an application down through to the actual network cable itself, and then those seven layers reverse to show the path of data as it goes back from the cable to the application. Starting at the top, the seven layers are as follows:

  1. Application

  2. Presentation

  3. Session

  4. Transport

  5. Network

  6. Data

  7. Physical

Depending on the implementation, some of those seven layers blur together or don't exist at all, but a general understanding of the OSI layers can be helpful in troubleshooting network problems. Zillions of handy mnemonics exist out there, like "Angus Prefers Sausages To Nibbling Dried Pork," or "Please Do Not Throw Salami Pizza Away," or my personal favorite, "All People Should Treat North Dakota Properly." As it turns out, understanding the OSI layers can help your first date go a little more smoothly, too.

And so, let's begin with our Seven Aspects To A Successful First Date, or SATASFD. Think of it as a way to keep your date SATASFieD (satisfied).

Dating Aspect 7: The Application Is You

The highest level in OSI is the application itself. For the purposes of this extended metaphor, consider yourself an application, with your companion being another application. For your network session (the date) to go successfully, you must master all remaining layers of communication.

Dating Aspect 6: Presentation of Yourself

In the OSI model, at this level data is presented by the application and converted into a more standard format that can be understood by the lower layers. It's here that you have to think about presenting yourself. This strategy includes, among other things, presenting your appearance and presenting your profession—the latter of which, unless your date is similarly inclined, can be a daunting proposition.

For the former presentation, your appearance, make sure that you're dressed well, but not overdressed. Look good, but casual, and don't be afraid to ask your more trendy friends to take you shopping for appropriate clothing. (Don't have trendy friends? Go to a clothing store and beg the help of the most friendly person there.) Take a few minutes to get your hair looking decent, and do make sure that your breath is clean. Your cat named SCSI may not care that you still use the same toothbrush you had in high school, but your date will.

When presenting your profession, avoid using descriptions such as "I'm a computer nerd" or "I sit in a cubicle all day," unless you don't want to hear from your date again until his or her computer breaks. Instead, try to infuse some passion into your job description. If you're a server admin, say something like "I ensure that the multimillion-dollar computer systems that drive our business always run smoothly." If you're a coder, say "I work to develop computer systems vitally important to our way of business." And, if you work at a tech support call center, say "I handle endless calls from complete idiots all day, but every now and again I get a really funny one, which I record and post on the Internet... it's how I spread a little joy in the world."

If you don't present your job and interests as if they're important and interesting to you, they, and indeed you, won't be interesting to your date.

Dating Aspect 5: The Dating Session

The OSI session layer describes the communication session between applications. From a dating aspect, the session is the environment of the date itself. When your networked applications have discussions, it's best if the communication environment is as reliable and boring as possible. But if you're arranging a date, you should absolutely choose interesting surroundings. Don't go to a lame chain restaurant with flair-laden servers if a more trendy or comfortable local joint is available. And, if possible, go somewhere that has something to do or to watch, so that when your conversation inevitably falls flat for a few moments, you won't be stuck staring at each other over a freshly refilled Heinz ketchup bottle.

Good food is good, but good conversation is better.

Dating Aspect 4: Transport of Information

In OSI layer 4, communication and dataflow is maintained between applications. In SATASFD aspect 4 you must maintain a flow of communication between the two of you, and here you must be proactive to succeed. Even if your date is chattering away faster than one of those old refrigerator-sized dot-matrix printers, you must jump in and be part of the conversation lest the date become a read-only affair. Try not to ramble on too much yourself. Nerds have a decided tendency to shoot off on lengthy tangents about obscure topics, and they tend to be the only ones making the trip.

More likely, however, conversation will be intermittent, and you will need to send the occasional ping to your date in search of a response as the communication link threatens to break. Try to ask general, open-ended questions that will lead to discussion, rather than closed ones that lead to short answers like "yup" or "nope."

Do ask: "How big is your family?"

Don't ask: "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

Do ask: "Where did you grow up?"

Don't ask: "Are you from the area?"

Do ask: "What do you think about computer technology?"

Don't ask: "Do you think the enhanced throughput of PCI Express will enhance next-generation video card performance enough to make a substantial improvement in application visuals, or is AGP more than sufficient for current and upcoming applications that feature intensive graphics?"

Better yet, just skip the computer tech questions altogether.

Dating Aspect 3: Network

In OSI, this layer describes how data will be sent across the network, and here we're talking about how you'll be communicating with your date. Most of us choose to communicate using voice (please, no l33t text messaging during romantic scenarios), but your voice should be augmented by some mild body language, and it doesn't hurt to use the environment when you're explaining something. In Days of Thunder, an otherwise mostly forgettable movie, Tom Cruise's character explains drafting to Nicole Kidman's character using sugar packets for cars and the inside of her thigh as the race track. Try to come up with a way to use coffee stirrers and cream cups to explain binary mathematics to your date, while somehow making it sexy.


Don't try to make sexual innuendos involving the bit bucket.

Dating Aspect 2: Data

The data is the content of conversation, namely, what you share with your date. Be open about the things you discuss, but don't scare off your date. Past relationships are generally off-limits for conversation, unless your date specifically asks. Chances are that you won't have much to say on that topic anyway. And discussions about online relationships are strictly taboo. I can almost guarantee that your date won't want to hear about that hot elven ranger mentioned earlier, regardless of his or her prowess with a longbow.

Dating Aspect 1: Physical Contact

Finally, we come to the physical component of your date. We'll keep this PG-13 and say simply that you should make physical contact at some point during the date, but it should be an innocent touch. Holding hands is good, touching the face or neck is a bit much for a first date, and groping is generally out of the question. Most importantly, don't let the physical motions of your date lead you somewhere you don't want to be.

Nobody wants to wake up in a strange place the morning after a first date... unless of course that strange place has a really bitching broadband connection.

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