April 23, 2003

nerd, indeed. geek, in fact.

This morning I installed Linux Redhat 9 on a second bootable partition on my computer. If you came up to me two weeks ago during Geek Prom and told me that I would be installing Linux in the near future I would have stared at you dumbly. I would have probably also socked you in the jaw because I had had a few too many “Pocket Protectors” and “Greatest American Hero” mixed drinks. Linux? Are you nuts? I’ve got enough going on already, why the hell would I put to myself the challenge of learning a completely new operating system?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Because I thirst for challenge, because I can save a lot of money if I figure out how to run my own server, because every day I find this kind of stuff more and more interesting, and dammit, because I’ve got geek blood flowing strong through these veins!

Geek. A carnival performer who performs strange acts such as biting the heads off live chickens. The lovely Zosia uses the term “nerd”, and has incorporated animate objects such as Nerd Herd, Nerd House and “Like, that is so Nerd,” into everyday life.

To be a nerd in our little college world is quite a good thing. In fact, it could be the best thing. Nerd is used as noun, adjective or mineral.

Yes, yes, that is entirely correct. We use different terms but refer to similar concepts. I prefer “geek” because it has a more gutteral, more primal sound to it than “nerd”. “Nerd” is too refined, too polished. “Geek” starts low in the throat, toys with the nose and ends violently when the back of the tongue slaps the roof of the mouth. It’s more real, more physical. I’ve used “nerd” exclusively up until Geek Prom stumbled clumsily into my life, so I’m still caught in limbo between the two words.

Whether it’s a geek or nerd, it still isn’t a carnival performer. Not anymore, at least.

A nerd (or a geek) is anyone that pursues what interests them with a great amount of passion. There are book nerds and music nerds and computer nerds. Nerds often have hobbies and interests that are quite nerdy or downright quirky, but this isn’t necessarily so. How else could you end up with bands full of music nerds, who are actually majoring in music as undergrads, who play alternative rock music? “Nerd” does not refer to an area of inquiry but a manner of inquiry; a manner involving the greatest passion imaginable.

Sometimes there are nerds that soak up life itself with such a passion that you can’t help but feed off their energies. Pure nerds, those with the Passion for All, are the ones that give nerds everywhere a good name.

Ideally, a nerd doesn’t care what other people think is nerdy (other people who consider ‘nerd’ to be some kind of insult). This is one ultimate goal of nerdship, for a nerd to reach a point of complete disinterest towards those who’s opinions don’t matter. This is also a difficult task. Often times we find ourselves making allowances for our interests when speaking to non-nerds, and sometimes even refer to ourselves as nerds in a derogatory sense:

“I don’t really follow football. I’m more interested in ultimate frisbee and other nerdy sports like that.”

“Sorry, I spent last night reading a book. I’m a huge nerd.”

“Yeah, I like computers, but I’m a huge nerd.”

“I build/fix/install computers, but I’m a huge nerd.”

“I run Linux, but…”

‘I have a weblog, but…”

“I wear newspaper hats, but…”

“I collect [Altoids ads] [cigar boxes] [agates] [antique barrels] [Spam] [toasters] but…”

There is no reason to be ashamed of any of this stuff, and there is no reason you should feel a need to accomodate your audience if they don’t immediately understand your passion. Make it their problem. If it interests you, then dammit, it interests you. What this year has been for me is a reconciliation of all of my interests in nerdy things. I say, more computers without regret! More web design without shame! More emo and geek rock without excuses! Bring in the photography, the weblogging, the geocaching, the University newspaper, the Linux, the Opera 7, the Apache server, the hand-coded HTML!

You got a problem? You bring it. I’m too busy geekin’ out, here.

“Mr. Hammond? The phones are working.”
The Internet works. The printer works. The critical updates work. The multiple desktops work. The terminal window works.

Telnet works. Instant Messenger works. OpenOffice works. I have yet to encounter any serious wrinkle.
Of course, that will change once my computer starts getting infected with all those nasty Linux viruses floating around. Can’t trust the open-source movement to create a stable operating system, what with all this root access nonsense and all.

For all the wholesome goodness of being a computer nerd, it should be left as a hobby and used solely for bragging rights. Otherwise other people get involoved and only critism can follow…
P.S. try out surfacecombustion.com

hmm…does it count if i qualify myself in the related (mostly) but not entirely similar category of dork? more of an all-around willingness to avoid caring about acting in manners outside of societal norms – like dancing as maniacs to teague alexi and the sort.