Saturday, 12 May 2007

Enter the Geek

In a former life...

I imagine being slapped across the face with a semi-defrosted wet haddock feels very much like receiving the pronouncement from my housemate, "You are SO a geek!"

I felt I ought to be offended:

  1. because the work "geek" has always carried extremely negative connotations, which I've never felt applied to me;
  2. My housemate is intensely special (and very lovely). Alongside her animal incarnation of Tourette's syndrome with accompanying motor tics, and belief that she is a badger, I wouldn't be at all surprised if she was a geek as well, and the phrase "Mr Pot, may I introduce you to Mrs Kettle?" had some applicability in this situation.

I was still reeling from the initial pronouncement when she rapidly followed up with "My all time favourite geek moment of yours was when you spent two hours on the Internet trying to find the lifetime of a fluorescent tube." I somewhat bewilderedly protested my innocence - I would never waste two hours of my life in so futile and pointless a pursuit. I'm far too busy living in the real world to spend a good portion of my leisure time doing that. And anyway, as it slowly dawned on me, on the one occasion when I may have done something very similar, it was for work and not for fun, and it took an hour and forty minutes and not two hours.

Hmm... perhaps I am a geek. I'd better find out what one of those is, and what it would mean for my future.

My understanding of "geek" is approximated by this description, "The ranks of geekdom are swelled with gamers, ravers, science fictions fans, punks, perverts, programmers, nerds, subgenii, and trekkies. These are people who did not go to their high school proms, and many would be offended by the suggestion that they should have even wanted to"[1]. Now that's not me. Further, I certainly don't identify with the associations with the wild men of carnivals and biting heads off live chickens or snakes. I've never done that, regardless of the timespan or animal considered.

So what sort of geek could I be?

I have some agreement with the Wikipedia suggestion that "a geek is an individual who is fascinated by knowledge and imagination, usually electronic or virtual in nature"[2]. I like knowledge and imagination, but despite being nominally an IT consultant and spending a hundred minutes of my life searching for the average lifetime of a fluorescent tube, I'm not that interested in life's ones and zeros, and I don't have much passion for the electronic or virtual. My current pet project is trying to assemble a reasonably baroque violin for under £100. Is that geeky?

Further down the Wiki article comes the definition: "A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies — for example, using multivariate calculus to calculate the volume of a cake at a party." Hmmm. That might be me. I do often find myself wondering how many trees I would need to plant to consume the CO2 I produce by respiring. It's inherently more enjoyable than working out how many trees I need to plant to sink my CO2 emissions in taking a short hop down to Nimes next weekend, probably because it's a fairly pointless exercise given my penchant for travel and the convenience of flying. And I enjoy thinking up new random interview questions for future victims, for example, "What would be the average rise in global sea level if the population of the UK went for a swim off Blackpool beach?", possibly followed up with something more practical such as "What would this mean for Denmark?".

It looks worryingly like I may be a geek after all. The article gets more damning with this next description, "A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest." I spent seven years at university studying chemistry and ended up with a PhD after three years of trying not to explode water droplets with lasers and getting unfeasibly interested in cleverly-bent bits of glass.

Damn it. I'm a geek.



Rob said...

Technically you're a 'dweeb'

But Why? said...


After 27 long and arduous years of coming to terms with being a geek, I'm reconciled and almost happy with the concept. Must you throw my universe into confusion with accusations of dweebery? Curses on you!

But xx