The Friday Rant: How to tell if you're a geek
When I was a boy in Nigeria the #1 goal of a football player was to get a ‘window’, what in England is known as a nutmeg. Spectators and players would cheer if you achieved it. WINDOW! Your opponent was humiliated (even his teammates winced), you got the glory, and you could gloat about it all the way home. That was when my inner geek was born, when I decided gloating is the point of competition. If I lose but have something to gloat about, as far as I’m concerned I won. Keep the trophy, I want bragging rights.
Some people think I became a geek because I work in computing. Au contraire Stavros, there are many people in computing who aren’t geeky at all. They shouldn’t be there, but then again Harold Shipman shouldn’t have been working in the NHS. Geekiness isn’t in a job, or clunky specs, or swotty behaviour. You’re not a geek because you live on coke and pizza and play World of Warcraft all day. Richard Ayoade, the geek in The IT Crowd, isn’t a geek, he’s a nerd. Nothing is more insulting to geeks than to be confused with their witless, nerdy cousins. You’re a true geek if you recognise the following traits in yourself:
You refuse to let tech support touch your laptop unless black smoke is pouring out of it.
You love technical jargon and TLA’s so you can RTFM and see if the FAQs explain stuff like why the DRM warning on the DVD player won’t go off and the bloody thing is FUBAR.
When asked by idiot call centre operatives if you have tried… the answer is “yes” before he or she can ask the asinine question on their Checklist for Morons.
Terms like ‘adjustable lock granularity’ and ‘the cardinality of a chosen solution’, are your porn. When sighted you do some excited googling in your underpants until your thirst is sated. You might even do some extra-curricular programming to prove you’ve got it licked (steady on boy!).
Your browser bookmarks include links to great stuff like the Standard Model of Particle Physics in case you get a sudden urge to remind yourself about quarks and leptons, or you forget how best to describe the limitations of E=MC2.
You have a bookmark folder with ‘how to’ links on what to do in the event of a zombie attack or extinction level event, when you might have to build a CB radio from a dead mobile phone, dried out wet wipes, hairgrips, and piano wire.
You shake your head sadly at people who ‘lose’ data and wonder how they crept into the gene pool.
You occasionally try to hack the companies you’ve worked at before, to make sure they’re maintaining your high standards on internet security.
If you recognise the above traits you might be a geek, but displaying geek traits isn’t enough to qualify. You might be a weirdo (or a Nerd, which is worse). To be a geek you must not only display geek traits you must have the right attitude to geek arguments.
Here are sample subjects for geek arguments:
If you paint a mirror surface on a cricket bat and take a swing at a beam of light does the light bouncing off the bat travel faster than the speed of light?
Since the sun is hot enough to melt rock is it entirely liquid, and if so why doesn’t it dribble away into space?
Will we one day be able to harness feelings and use them for energy while wearing e-motion-suits? He’s caught his willy in his zipper, quick stick a lightbulb in his mouth!
And on and on it goes. Stupid questions that exist for no purpose but to spark idiotic debate.
I had a geek argument come my way recently that I shall use to illustrate geek debating, which I shall freely admit is both silly and irritating to normal people.
A friend said 9.9 recurring is the same as 10. Oh no it’s not says geek Dele, switching to ultra-geek mode as he spots a chance to engage. The creative minds gathered didn’t see the opportunity in the statement. A test of your geekiness is: do you?
Before we get into it, here’s some background that might help you determine if you or someone you know is a geek.
Geeks are never impressed by what someone else says, read, or heard, unless that person is a fellow geek sharing argument ammunition. When someone says 9.9r = 10 they’re expecting the response ‘No way! How come?’ Geek standard response is: ‘says who?’ Don’t think we’re impressed if the answer is: ‘Pythagoras’. If geeks had exams we’d set questions like Einstein – Fool or Simply Incompetent? Discuss.
Here’s how geek minds view the world…
Physicists mathematicians, biologists, chemists, doctors, flat-earthers, and the rest, are all trying to tell us how smart they are. We don’t have time to listen to these idiots, we’re gluing silver foil to a cricket bat in the name of proper science!
Rule #1 Geeks don’t take right answers from the wrong minds.
Geeks can and will take the opposite viewpoint from one you heard them argue previously. In my time I have declared bicycles can corner faster than cars. You tell me they can’t. Go on, I dare you. This is how we learn the finer points of everything that interests us, by losing arguments slowly and painfully, point by pedantic point.
Rule #2 No position is too ludicrous for a geek to take in an argument.
To geeks, arguments are exercise. When a Tour de France cyclist launches an attack he’s seeing dots in front of his eyes. The question is, can his rivals take the pain he can? Stamina is not being fit, being fit is a by-product of a highly competitive nature. Stamina is a state of mind and geeks have stamina for arguments like you wouldn't believe.
Rule #3 Geeks like arguing much more than they like being right.
When you argue with a geek you’re flying solo. You are unlikely to have brought your books with you, so start arguing and stop relying on others to back up your nonsense. Here’s my argument: gravity is a myth; a vortex at the earth’s core sucks us down. That’s why in exhumations they have to dig at least an inch deeper for coffins than they bury them. It’s a fact. I read it in grave diggers weekly. Your turn.
Rule #4 When geeks argue there’s no reward for losers, so lie like Boris if you must.
Back to 9.9r = 10 then. I could have backed down straight away, after all programmers know that a terminating decimal has two possible representations. Yup. 5.36 is the same as 5.359 recurring. I know, it’s crazy huh? That’s just a silly thing we’re forced to accept, like Donald Trump Jr. has a job and Jacob Rees Mogg’s neck won’t rupture if he swallows a crisp without chewing.
Here’s the thing though. Geeks accept and reject facts on a whim, depending on if there’s an argument to be had over it and a chance to learn something.
So here’s what my geek mind locked on to with the 9.9r thing – the tiny detail that was missing from the statement (did you spot it?):
You can’t say 9.9r is THE SAME as 10 and avoid an argument. You can only say 9.9r REPRESENTS 10. If you say that then damn you, you’ve ruined a really good debate. Of course 9.9r can represent 10, it’s the rule we accept about terminating decimals having 2 forms of representation.
Rule #5 For the sake of a good argument geeks are the most pedantic humans ever.
Once I decide to argue I’m in trouble. I’m always skating on thin ice. I must build an opposing position, from the flimsiest evidence. So here, for the mathematicians, is my geek counter logic to 9.9r = 10.
Only in a theoretical sense is 5.36 the same as 5.359r. In computing it has to be forced to be the same by having upper bounds and rounding. You don’t have to force things that are true. Forget Newton’s equations, if you don’t believe in gravity, jump. We’ll talk about it when you land.
You have to resort to the fantasy of infinity to justify the sameness of such different values. I don’t accept infinity exists. Even if I did accept infinity existed (it doesn’t, it’s just theoretical nonsense though I could argue otherwise tomorrow), all that mathematicians are proving is that maths lacks the ability to recognise a really, really, really small difference. Ho hum. It’s probably why we haven’t yet got a colony on the moon.
Did you see what I did then? Yes, geeks use language to denigrate the opposing argument all the time. What, you have Pythagoras on your side? Come on, the man was as dim as a 10 watt bulb! Everyone knows he stole his theories from the ancient Egyptians. Here I would be avoiding the truth that there is nothing I can do to disprove Pythagoras’ theorem so I make it someone else’s theorem. Hopefully we can have an argument about that instead of one I would have lost.
Rules #6 Geeks build up bullshit arguments to obfuscate the truth.
Rule #7 Geeks use nonsense arguments to create new ones if they look like losing the one they’re in. In the end you can’t tell if a geek lost an argument because you won’t end up in the one you started with.
Back to my 9.9r nonsense...
I declare there is no eternity, no infinity, and no infinitesimally small difference between two different numbers such as would make them the same. They all end “ally” so I lump them together and classify them with fairies who magic”ally” live at the bottom of the garden.
I rest my case with a bald statement that is factually accurate (so it can’t be argued against), but totally irrelevant, by declaring that all mathematicians have achieved is the use of mathematics to prove how their stuff works. It may be honest but it doesn’t make them right.
Rule #8 When geeks get on a roll they don’t let up. The winning point is somewhere in there, they just haven’t found it yet.
Sadly, I hadn't found the winning point. When dealing in bullshit, winning facts are hard to uncover you know.
But then something occurs to me. Unless and until there is computer that can calculate a recurring number to infinity, maths can kiss my arse (keep the insulting language going). I grab my laptop and open Excel. Type 9.999999999999 in a cell. Excel shows 10 in the cell but 9.9999999999999 in the formula bar. It’s a score draw so far.
In the next cell I type in the formula:
=IF ([Name of Cell with 9.9999…] =10,"9.9r = 10","Not 10 as any fule kno!").
You know the result. Geeks 1 Mathematicians 0.
Rule #9 Geeks slam dunk with tools only they have mastered.
Someone suggests I should let my opponent counter with his own argument. Why would I do that? Not only might he realise he can say 9.9r REPRESENTS 10 and force at the least a draw, he might spot that THE SPREADSHEET IS SHOWING MY 9.9r as 10. My winning hand is in fact a dud!
My heart is beating as I move to close the lid on the laptop. Will he challenge me to prove I’m smarter than the teams of super smart developers who built Excel, or all the clever people who use it? I’m going to be a laughing stock and I brought it all on myself. Curses!
Then I see his lack of geekiness is his downfall. He doesn’t see how to twist my ‘proof’ against me. I can hardly believe my luck, he’s just repeating the same arguments I’ve already heard, understood, and won’t accept from a non-geek. Oh grabjous joy, an easy win, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Rule #10 There are no gracious victories and like footballers claiming it’s their throw when the ball goes out of play off them, we claim victory even if there are people who think we lost.
Do I seem like someone who doesn’t know that once you score a point in geek wars you force a 1 – 0 result? I’m never going to let a loser back in the game. He had his chance. I inadvertently gave it to him. He missed it, so tough. I shut the laptop lid before he spots the mistake and begin my waltz.
One-nil to the geeky boys goes the chant, and as he tries again to explain his point again I drown him and his supporters out with my song. I win, I gloat. WINDOW!