I am a geek in a jock culture

Posted on January 31, 2008

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I am a geek.

I read science fiction and I watch anime. While I’m not remotely fluent, I can speak a few words of Klingon and Elvish, and I think it’s totally cool that some people take the time to make their own chain mail. I read Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, a number of Xanth novels, and both the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit.

I play Dungeons & Dragons and am a Dungeon Master. I’ve designed my own role-playing game using a ShadowRun-based system and have been role-playing since spring 1992. I would have played in junior high and high school, but everyone else was too cool for role-playing games.

I’m 35 and still love playing with LEGO, ie LEGO scale modeling. I buy my children Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine train track and bridge accessories so I can build bigger and taller interlocking bridges just to have them Godzilla-ed by my toddler son 30 seconds after he discovers them the next morning.

I’m an electrical engineer working in the aerospace industry, and I’ve worked in both tape storage and telecommunications. I have a Master’s degree in optics and communications and yet I do low-noise analog circuit design for a living. I chose electrical engineering as an undergrad because it’s close to one of my hobbies – quantum mechanics – but I can actually make a living as an electrical engineer.

In my better moments, I also try to be both a journalist and a speculative fiction author on the side. I have, at last count, four science fiction novels percolating around in my head and presently no opportunity to write them. Three of them are a trilogy, and I’ve already mapped out the basic plot of all three novels. And I have more short stories in my head, and on my hard drive, than I can count easily.

I’m a blogger and I run one of the better, if presently a bit dated and poorly maintained, Bubblegum Crisis anime fansites on the web. I also play sysadmin for both of my sites, my wife’s Tupperware site, and Scholars & Rogues.

And in my primary school days, I was routinely ignored, mocked, verbally and physically abused by my peers, and despised. I was smart, and I had the unmitigated gall to exercise my intellect. I set the curve on 6 of 8 college prep biology exams my sophomore year of high school – and the teacher, who himself despised smart kids, had the audacity to post my name – and score – each time. I attended a high school where, if you were smart, you were nothing. Popularity came from sports and/or student government. All else was crap, and not only did the students make you feel like shit if you weren’t an athlete, so did the teachers, the administrators, and the parents.

I only earned respect after six years of running track – and sucking at it bad enough that I only ever came in better than last twice, although one of those times resulted in a hairline fracture in my elbow. Having the guts to stick it out with the good athletes for six years when many of the “cool” kids dropped out because it was too hard earned me the respect of people whose respect I actually craved.

But it took six years of sports to get it. High grades wouldn’t have done it. Playing my trumpet in the orchestra, band, or marching band wouldn’t have done it. Only sports. And my school was not the only one like this.

The world needs more people just like me. But our schools, and our culture at large, can’t handle that fact. Even now, when being a geek is supposedly cool, it’s not. Because geeks are different. Geeks don’t mind not conforming. And our culture wants homogeneity, not non-conformists. Just look at all the Wal*Marts. The Home Depots. The McDonalds. The Toys-R-Us-es.

The Japanese have a saying – the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

I have a saying too – the squeaky wheel gets the grease gun.

I am proud of who I am, even though my own culture despises me. Even as my own culture cannot exist without me.

I am a geek.

Hear me squeak.

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