Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

electric pi


I Am Not A Geek. Honest

© 2000 Lawrence I. Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, July/August 2000, pp. 78-79, reprint information

Companion review | Opening review

Despite the claims of A Certain Individual (see the review by Kathleen G. Charters), I am not a geek. I have two degrees in the humanities, and none in the sciences. (The Certain Individual, by comparison, has four degrees in the sciences, including a Ph.D.) For fun, I read novels by Tom Clancey, John Grisham and Eiji Yoshikawa, not manuals on C++, CORBA and TCP/IP.

The Certain Individual, it should be noted, has been known to carry two cell phones, three pagers and a Palm V portable digital assistant -- at the same time. It has been suggested that this Certain Individual should wear a bandolier, only instead of several hundred rounds of ammo, the bandolier could carry the various "absolutely essential" electronic devices necessary to get through a routine work day. This Certain Individual has been known to remove an umbrella, a draft manual on minimum datasets for health care, a notebook hole punch, and tickets to Wolf Trap for Tchaikosky's "1812 Overture" (with cannon) from her purse -- in succession.

True, at one time or another I have written programs in FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL, APL, SNOBOL, Spitbol, Icon, and a few other languages. But, to be honest, hasn't everyone?

Then, while reading The Geek Handbook, I came across this passage:

If you want to talk to your geek, or spend some quiet off-line time with her, consider providing a low-intensity activity for her during these sessions. A jigsaw puzzle or some Legos can be very helpful. Remember to monitor your geek carefully for obsessiveness: if she begins building a robot with the Legos, take them away and substitute a more organic project. Sorting things or washing dishes both work well.

I felt a cold chill. This sounded vaguely familiar...

For as long as I can remember, I've had the habit of playing with things at the dinner table. My mother and grandmothers used to complain about this, my spouse complains about this, and my daughter tends to follow my example (and my spouse, very unfairly, complains, to me, about that, too). Occasionally, this has proven embarrassing, such as a quiet, romantic evening once upon a time at the Lumberjack Café in Troy, Idaho.

The Lumberjack Café had a rustic outer appearance, but featured a nine course meal at prices almost within the reach of college kids. The service was also pleasant, and a bit slow, offering ample opportunities for quiet conversation. The restaurant also had some really neat salt and pepper shakers, an unusual, heavy ceramic tray for holding packets of sugar, some table decorations held together with elastic bands, and some extra-long stainless steel dinnerware.

I have long been fascinated with ballistas, catapults and trebuchets. Using nothing more than a round salt shaker and a spoon, it is fairly easy to construct a trebuchet capable of hurling a packet of sugar the length of a restaurant (and it is, theoretically, possible that I may have done that once or twice). Ballistas and catapults, however, require more resources.

And so it happened that, over the next half hour or so, while we talked and ate a few preliminary dinner courses, something between a ballista and a catapult slowly took shape on the table. At a casual glance, it still seemed like a sugar tray, salt and pepper shakers, and dinnerware. But angles were measured, trajectories plotted, and plans were made.

Finally, when the waitress wasn't around, the elastic bands came off the table decoration and were quickly attached to the other pre-positioned elements. The ballista/catapult was cocked. The path to the next table, the projected target, was clear. The lever was released.

And a stainless steel fork (extra long) rocketed across the room, 30 feet beyond the target table. Finding a crack in a barely opened window, the fork zipped out of sight. The romantic glow in the eyes of my dinner guest flared up, but the message was not one of gentle love and understanding. I received a clear telepathic message: "I'm going to murder you after dinner. Now stop playing."

Taking a "restroom break," I casually strolled by the window, seeing if I could recover the fork. It was buried in a tree, about 20 feet off the ground. (Given the growth rate of this kind of tree, it could well be 100 feet off the ground today.)

I did, somehow, manage to live through the evening. Furthermore, while I admit this does look bad on my record, I am not a geek.

Honest. Though I do like Legos.

Return to electric pi

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