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The Geek Handbook: A Review

© 2000 Kathleen G. Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, July/August 2000, pp. 79-80, reprint information

Opening review | I am not a geek

This slim volume (113 pages) is packed with insight and practical suggestions. I am part geek, married to a pure geek, and mother of a nongeek. I recognize myself at times, my spouse is described on every page, and my daughters' strategies are apparent in The Geek Handbook: User Guide and Documentation for the Geek in Your Life. Mikki Halpin does a wonderful job capturing the essence of geek in a format familiar to those who read computer manuals. She cleverly addresses the fact that a geek may be either male or female by alternating between paragraphs the pronouns used to describe the geek. An owner is anyone who has a relationship with a geek, which could be a boss, parent, child, coworker, lover, or friend. This book provides geek owners with the necessary skills to help their geek grow and thrive. The Geek Handbook covers the basics of communicating with your geek, geek features, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Using this information, owners may help their geeks lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.

"Chapter One: Getting Started" provides a frame of reference, explaining 'your' geek isn't really yours since geeks are their own people. A fun geek diagnostic test uses the Y2K bug, Star Trek, and Scrabble to distinguish between geeks and nongeeks. Variations of the basic geek model (coworker, boss, spouse or lover, parent, child, and neighbor) are addressed, with features, known bugs, and tips for each geek type.

"Chapter Two: Basics" warns you of the dangers of comparing your relationship with your geek with the relationship between your geek and her machine. The advice is "Stop yourself right there. This way lies madness, or as your geek might put it, a nonproductive feedback loop." According to Halpin, the most important lesson of The Geek Handbook is to:

"make sure your geek understands that when your encourage him to spend time away from the computer, it is...in order to help your geek feel more productive and happy when he is back at the computer."

A humorous geek history helps owners recognize the continuum of geek culture, starting with 3000 BCE and ending with 1991 as the beginning of The Geek Age. Examples of conversations you hope will happen between you and your geek and how those conversations actually turn out is worth the price of the book. Encouraging your geek to perform more complicated tasks results in upgrading your geek (not a conversation, since your geek "may be lost when you expect intuitive responses.") Halpin shows how tailoring your side of the conversation so that your geek understands what is expected of her will get the results you want.

Keeping your geek in top condition is difficult because geeks are proud of their lack of physical health. "Chapter Three: Maintenance" addresses preventive care, geek dietary needs, the way geeks perceive time, geek physical fitness, and common geek bugs. The advice is sound for altering your geek's nutritional program, and presenting opportunities for a more efficient body. I particularly like the program to train your geek to eat an entire meal in a separate room without leaping up to check something on the computer. The description of geeks in a dormant state is very insightful. Haplin's advice for gently training your geek to monitor his own health and to take a few simple proactive steps to ensure longevity is valuable. After all, your geek is the only geek you have, and you want her around for a long time.

"Chapter Four: Living in a Geek World" discusses the proclivities of "a geek who has seen the predictive value of science fiction proven over and over again." There are several factors contributing to geek longevity, including reluctance to do basic upkeep on her current body, low nutrition geek lifestyle, and lack of sleep. Halpin's advice is to "discuss risk management with your geek and attempt to keep her as safe as possible." Geeks play a significant role in the new economy. This may be a source of stress and make your geek a target of "geeksploitation." Conversely, geek culture and values increasingly influence the world. Halpin speculates this will affect regulation, electronic copyright legislation and enforcement. For your geek, life is a matter of solving as many mysteries and puzzles as possible before death. Therefore, "geek values will push our culture to better itself and to rethink its goals and assumptions. Each day will provide new quests, upgrade opportunities, and problems to solve." This is the reason to love and honor all geeks for what they bring to our lives.

Mikki Halprin, The Geek Handbook: User Guide and Documentation for the Geek in Your Life. Pocket Books, 2000. $9.95. ISBN 0-671-03686-6

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Revised July 1, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/