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The Nerd Handbook
October 26, 2008 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Are you a nerd? Have you ever dated a nerd? Are you dating or married to a nerd right now and you don't understand the person you sleep next to every night? Don't worry, help is here.
posted by SpecialK (52 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dangit, I hit post too fast. I was going to add "System Operators are standing by."
posted by SpecialK at 5:58 PM on October 26, 2008


Huh. Apparently I'm not a nerd after all. Well that's 25 years of self identity that isn't going to be easy to replace. Are any other stereotypes accepting applications at the moment?
posted by adamt at 6:16 PM on October 26, 2008


It's funny because it's true. It's also annoying because he dubs things with silly names like The Cave. So I am conflicted.
posted by chunking express at 6:17 PM on October 26, 2008


Articles like this always bother me because they don't seem to take into consideration us misunderstood girl nerds.

And I read things like this and think, "What, doesn't everyone carry on an active IM conversation while checking the 401k while reading about WWII on Wikipedia?" No really, doesn't everyone?
posted by olinerd at 6:18 PM on October 26, 2008 [20 favorites]


And yeah, this really describes one particular type of nerdy person.
posted by chunking express at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2008


Those lulls in the conversation over dinner? That’s the nerd working on his project in his head.

This article has my number.

....

Yeah, more or less.
posted by DU at 6:21 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read the third sentence as “Those lulz in the conversation over dinner?”
posted by ijoshua at 6:25 PM on October 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Interesting enough article, but it has one fatal mistake that undercuts its entire argument.

Everyone knows nerds don't have girlfriends. Geeks have girlfriends, nerds do not.

End of story, kthnxbye.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:26 PM on October 26, 2008


Rands kicks ass in so many ways. But, to echo those above, it's a very specific type of nerd he's talking about. If it isn't you, or someone you know, he may as well be talking about martians. However, if you are his type of nerd, or know someone who is, his writing can be tremendously illuminating.
posted by Freen at 6:27 PM on October 26, 2008


Wow.

Just. Wow.

I am definitely sending this to the social companionship unit.
posted by jock@law at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2008


Oh for crying out loud. You can expect nerds to be human too. Some folks may have a harder time staying grounded in meatspace and, like, talking to people. But if you love them, you won't work around this, you will help us grow into being warm and present. Not dismiss it with a stereotype and let us design software in our heads while the world flutters by unnoticed. That's not understanding, that's enabling.
posted by freebird at 6:37 PM on October 26, 2008


While Rands pulls out an entire bookshelf worth of stereotypes and smugly pulls a Banksy on every last one with a rather broad spray can, he nailed enough of the stereotypes dead on to make it worth a chuckle... in other words, don't take it too seriously if you can't find at least ONE truth in among the roast.
posted by SpecialK at 6:38 PM on October 26, 2008


I'd consider sending this to my boyfriend, but I'd probably get my ass kicked. Oh well. I'll stick with back-channel reinforcement.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 6:42 PM on October 26, 2008


And I thought it was all down to whether or not you had glasses and a pocket protector?
posted by robotot at 6:43 PM on October 26, 2008


My husband and I just had this conversation:

him: 'those lulls in conversation during dinner. that's the nerd working on his project in his head' yeah, that's me!

me: i thought the lulls in conversation were when you farted.

him: farting is a project
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:48 PM on October 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


I think he missed something about the eating part. Before eating there is cooking. Cooking is an interesting activity as long as the knives are clean and sharp, the spices are all in the correct place and no one has moved the ramekins so setting up the mise en place is as efficient as possible.
posted by ryoshu at 6:53 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I belong to the tribe because we do these things. It's funny, because we get it and you don't. Because you're not in the tribe.
posted by phrontist at 6:54 PM on October 26, 2008


Are any other stereotypes accepting applications at the moment?

would you like to join the sex symbols? Pay's lousy, but great perks.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2008


Nerds live like this, but normal people live like that!
posted by No-sword at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Huh. Apparently I'm not a nerd after all. Well that's 25 years of self identity that isn't going to be easy to replace. Are any other stereotypes accepting applications at the moment?

You're a dork.
posted by milarepa at 7:06 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mike Nelson: Now haven't we talked about this 100 times - about you taking your bear simulations nerd stereotypes to the extreme?
Crow T. Robot: Yeah.
Mike Nelson: And what are you doing?
Crow T. Robot: Taking my bear simulations nerd stereotypes to the extreme?

It is actually extreme and involved enough that I feel I can make fun of it with a MST3K quote (courtesy of imdb) without feeling like I'm calling a kettle black.
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:14 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I spent my day working on Halloween stuff and sorting my capacitors. So you'd think I'd be hit dead on by this. Then we get to the monspaced type part and and it's the sound of the stylus getting knocked off the record (and isn't it funny that that sound effect is still commonly used to indicate a jarring discontinuity ten years after most people have spun a piece of vinyl?)

So does someone have a handy Venn diagram that unifies those parts of my psyche with the very large "I'm making this up as I go along" portion of my psyche?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:15 PM on October 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sad that it's hip and cool to claim to be a geek/nerd and affect the style, but not hip and cool to actually be one naturally.
posted by nightchrome at 7:22 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the ladies here said this article pretty much still works if the word "man" is substituted for "nerd".
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 7:26 PM on October 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Articles like this always bother me because they don't seem to take into consideration us misunderstood girl nerds.

And I read things like this and think, "What, doesn't everyone carry on an active IM conversation while checking the 401k while reading about WWII on Wikipedia?" No really, doesn't everyone?


It's because girl nerds are endearing to normal people. Guy nerds aren't endoring to females.

Plus they're usually picked up just as quickly as they come onto the market when they actually look. :P
posted by Talez at 7:28 PM on October 26, 2008


girl nerds are endearing to normal people. Guy nerds aren't endoring to females.

This is true. Mostly. Guy nerds are endearing to girl nerds. I got one!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:47 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is "nerd" parlance for "ugly?
posted by plexi at 8:06 PM on October 26, 2008


So what did this guy make jerkcity or what?
posted by rxrfrx at 8:08 PM on October 26, 2008


This article lost me as soon as he said that he was using the male pronoun only as a convenience. Not true. This article was about male nerds, for partners of male nerds. It's all well and good to write about male nerds, and have them as your focus, but don't pretend that you're writing about nerds of all genders when you're not.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 8:32 PM on October 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


@ Green Eyed Monster: Are you and your husband the long lost twins of me and mine? I could have sworn my husband and I had that same conversation just hours ago....
posted by arishaun at 8:50 PM on October 26, 2008


I like Rands, but he's no Spigot the Bear.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:12 PM on October 26, 2008


Guy nerds are endearing to girl nerds. I got one!

Same here, on both accounts.

I could've sworn this part was about my boyfriend though:

"Spent an hour at the post office trying to ship that package to your mom, and then I went down to that bistro — you know — the one next the flower shop, and it’s closed. Can you believe that?”

And your nerd says, “Cool”.

Cool? What’s cool? The business closing? The package? How is any of it cool? None of it’s cool.


I'm forever asking this, because he too says "cool" when I'm talking (and I could be giving bad news - just last week I mentioned that my mother had had a housing application rejected. His response? "Cool"), and it's infuriating.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:37 PM on October 26, 2008


"Guy nerds aren't endoring to females."

For pete's sake, can't you sexless nerds have just one conversation without mentioning something to do with Star Wars?
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:19 PM on October 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm with others in this thread - "nerd" is not an exclusive species, but a subset within individual species. I think "nerdism" might be symptomatic of overspecialization or excessive importance placed on minutae within specific topics.

"Dweebs," on the other hand, seem to be their own incurable species... bringing to mind "tools" and "nimrods"...
posted by Graygorey at 11:08 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]




jackiemcghee ...nerd

QED, pleb. Way to ruin a joke.
posted by Graygorey at 12:21 AM on October 27, 2008


cool, 100 LEDs for five bucks (thanks K.C.!)...wait. what were we talking about?
posted by sexyrobot at 1:40 AM on October 27, 2008


What I need are pots. Lots of pots. Linear and log. I already have boxes of LEDs. From when I made the saboted LED+capacitor+resistor tracer rounds for the compressed air spud cannon.

This article was spot on for me. Traveling across the US? How about letting him chill on the bed for a half-day before you drag him out to see the Golden Gate Bridge? When we went to see the golden gate bridge I required half a day chilling in bed, plus a couple hours playing with some code on one of the computers, plus a thermos of coffee. And I live 2 miles from the bridge.

When I did the "Try to become a social person" project, I learned that artificially inflating the priority of SO related stuff makes life easier, and gives you more time long term to work on your stuff. Instead of the pots, I'm going to get my hot wife a nice gift.

When will the medicinal people come up with a 420K Logarithmic Taper Pot? I'd love me some logarithmic taper pot.

How can I send this article to my wife without making it look like an aggressive thing?
posted by dirty lies at 4:01 AM on October 27, 2008


Clearly we need more descriptive terminology for the different subspecies of nerds because this is astonishingly accurate at describing one of them.
posted by Skorgu at 4:21 AM on October 27, 2008


I always thought the divide was that geeks are specialists whereas nerds are generalists.
posted by kerplunk at 6:05 AM on October 27, 2008


NERD VS GEEK

A geek is a subset of the set of nerds. Geeks focus on computers.

A policy wonk is a member of the same subset of nerds who focuses on government and politics.

An ivory tower academic is also a member of the subset of nerds who focuses on her/his area of expertise.

Ditto scientists & engineers.

Ditto poets, historians, tax lawyers, etc.

----------------------------------------------------

All subsets of nerds MOST LIKELY have the following characteristics:

-- ability to focus tightly on a set of information that is highly interesting to them.

-- passion for this information and for forming theories relating to it.

-- less but not no interest in mainstream activities and pleasures (reading trashy novels, watching sports, getting nails and hair done, going out clubbing, IMing, etc.) This does NOT preclude outside interests -- many nerds are also excellent at playing sports, playing guitar, etc. But in general they spend their free time in a relatively uncommon way.

-- less but not no interest in outside social activities and personal relationships, and skills at pleasing/manipulating/managing/engaging/chitchatting with other people. They are sometimes therefore perceived as or actually ARE socially inept to some degree.


---------------------------------------------------------

I am married to a geek and I adore him and respect his ability to focus on his area of study and research. I put up with dozens of Terry Pratchett novels and obscure SF paperbacks from the 1970s littered everywhere. I put up with his absentmindedness and inability to remember birthdays.

It truly is all part of his charm.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:35 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cool.
posted by gruchall at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am this sort of nerd. My only quibble is that frequently the project has nothing to do with computers. This brand of nerdery usually starts with computers, and is most often found in people who work with computers. But "the project" can be anything. Gardening, beer brewing, home repair, apiculture... um. Those just happen to spring to mind. For no reason. As examples.
posted by rusty at 8:36 AM on October 27, 2008


Excellent article, I saw a lot of myself in that, except my computer skills aren't quite to that level yet (i still use a mouse like a sucker).

Now, let me know when this thread derails into an Introvert vs. Extrovert fight, because I always love those.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:01 AM on October 27, 2008


Can one have an active social life and still be a nerd? If not, then I guess I don't qualify.
posted by lunit at 9:26 AM on October 27, 2008


Let's put labels on everyone.
posted by Zambrano at 10:11 AM on October 27, 2008


Plus they're usually picked up just as quickly as they come onto the market when they actually look. :P

I and my single state BEG to differ. >:-(
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on October 27, 2008


Great article, if a little disturbing. Has the writer been peaking in my windows?
posted by toastedbeagle at 12:30 PM on October 27, 2008


lunit, you can always have a "social life" project. Not as cool as beer brewing or apiculture, but you can use it to fill the time where the shops are closed.
posted by dirty lies at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2008


My husband-geek resembles a lot of this article. It's taken me years to begin to understand him. I really do think a lot of this article applies equally to men who aren't nerds/geeks, though. The Cave is a perfect example; I've never met a guy who doesn't need time alone to chill. It's also a common complaint among women that "he never listens to me," and they're not just talking about nerds. I rarely bother telling him about my day unless something earth-shattering happened, because I get the "cool" response. If I want to tell someone that the girl in the next cube over drives me nuts with her high-pitched voice, or that Alice has been flirting with Bob, I'll call a friend and gossip.
posted by desjardins at 3:43 PM on October 27, 2008


I really want to send this to my SO, but this paragraph makes me sad:
At some point, you, the nerd’s companion, were the project. You were showered with the fire hose of attention because you were the bright and shiny new development in your nerd’s life. There is also a chance that you’re lucky and you are currently your nerd’s project. Congrats. Don’t get too comfortable because he’ll move on, and, when that happens, you’ll be wondering what happened to all the attention. This handbook might help.
That's a pretty scary thing to send to one's fiancee.
posted by Laen at 4:19 PM on October 27, 2008


Rands is awesome. Although he takes himself and his writing seriously, he has a certain type of extremely dry humor that can be off-putting if you take him 100% seriously. Try to take him about 90% seriously; it goes much better that way.

This may not be the best Rands essay to start with if you're not the type of geek he's describing (or SO of a such a geek). Most of his writings are about managing geeks. I'm not a manager and don't have much interest in being one, but Rands actually makes the topic interesting.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:54 PM on October 27, 2008


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