What is a geek, nerd, and dork?


Okay, there is a lot of discussion in the inter-webs about the difference between a geek, a nerd, and a dork (and dweeb for completeness’ sake). I happen to think that the differences are based on the way our ear has been trained to hear them, and that’s due to the personal experience of the listener and regional differences. However, I came across this diagram some years back, and I now use it to clarify my use of the terms. I have a high enough opinion of my social skills to believe I fit into the geek category rather than the nerd, dork, or dweeb categories (and, of course, I’m an engineer who LOVES Venn diagrams).

The attitudes towards each of these labels has been changing over the years. With the undeniable success of some high profile geek/nerd/dork/dweebs the terms have been subject to the same sort of “reclaim the terminology” fervor that I’ve seen in the younger feminist movement (and other movements as well, I just have more multi-generational experience with the feminists). As I’ve watched the younger generations of geeks claim their culture with unreserved pride, I’ve taken to thinking of myself as an “elder geek” and will talk about this more in future posts.

For now, I want to clarify how I’ll be using these terms and where I identify in the whole universe of fandom.

So much for resolutions…

Okay, I’m bad at carrying out resolutions. Okay, maybe bad isn’t the right word for it, since I haven’t made ANY entries for 9 months. Okay, maybe that last sentence wasn’t strong enough because I haven’t made any entries since I resolved to make entries every day.

Okay, maybe I should just shut up and make some entries….

Hey, but I made a change to the blog’s format! And now it’s mobile friendly! (okay, I’m such a nerd/geek/dork/whatever). Ooh, that gives me an idea for a post…


New year’s resolutions 2013


I would say that most people who know me, know that I have a lot of … interests. When I’m asked about my hobbies, my short response is that my hobby is hobbies.

I come from a crafting family, I grew up with a broad interest in the sciences, I read a lot of  science fiction, and I watched a lot of (what would now be called) genre TV. In college I had a hard time deciding on a major and so graduated with two degrees and a huge overload of units. Since then I’ve filled my home and workshop (to Harriet’s distress) with a wide range of tools, collections, books, and supplies reflecting 56 years of quick study and short attention span.

I don’t necessarily think this is admirable, and I wouldn’t advocate this lifestyle. But I’ve come to realize that most folks I know are unaware of the crazy range of my interests. I don’t talk about them very much. Not because I’m embarrassed by them (although I do see Harriet cringe from time to time), but because I think most would be bored by them.

As a separate issue, in the last couple of years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my writing ability. I write a lot of technical material for my work: manuals, papers, and training materials. They are dense, factual, and tend to be written for others who already have a basic knowledge of my field. I find it time consuming, grueling, and just not fun. I would like to be a better writer, which includes being faster, clearer, more casual, and just..more. I would like to have fun writing.

In the last month it’s finally occurred to me that I can use this blog to deal with both issues at the same time (see how I avoided the overused two birds with one stone metaphor) (oh wait – did I just forfeit my clever moment by pointing it out?). I can just write about whatever project I’m working on, whatever conference I happen to attend, or whatever happens to catch my eye. I’m not trying to capture eyeballs, pontificate to an audience, polish my resume, or create a portfolio. I just need to practice my writing.

So, here’s my new year’s resolution for 2013. I’m going to write in this blog more often. My goal is an entry a day, but I don’t think I’ll be able to sustain that. I’ll start out with good intentions, and probably keep up the entries for a few weeks, but I know me and how my interests wax and wane. I’ll start dropping a day now again and feeling guilty. Then it all becomes an obligation and a burden. So I’ll leave the resolution as a vague “write in the blog more often”.

There, the first entry has been made.

P.S. I meant to make a list of hobbies, avocations, and interests I’ve had over the years. Here’s what I can think of right now: improv, wood-turning, collecting comic books, costuming (cosplay), cheese-making, role playing games (D&D), collecting art, beekeeping, molecular gastronomy (modernist cuisine), knitting, watchmaking/clock repair, collecting slide rules, science fiction, knife-making, robotics, embroidery, video games, board games, live action role playing (LARP), drawing comics, collecting bookmarks,  constructed languages (conlang), armoring, game development, health and fitness, kinetic art, metalworking, puppetry and puppet making, tatting, gardening, and geek culture (which I will use to cover a wide range of genre franchises – Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy, Firefly, Fringe, Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, Harry Potter, superhero movies, Steampunk, and a bunch of others that are even more obscure). I’m sure there are others, but I’m falling into my embarrassed place, so I’ll let them come up in my future posts. As you cans see, there won’t be a lack of topics for future posts.

We’re going to Bolivia!

After much hesitation and uncertainty, we finally bought our tickets to La Paz, Bolivia. We’re leaving Nov 2 and returning Nov 20, in time for our annual Thanksgiving party. Once we got our Rough Guide and could see photos and itineraries, we really started to get excited.

Bolivia is landlocked and spans both Andean highlands and Amazon lowlands. It’s geography is varied, it contains the ruins of Inca cities, it has the largest percentage of indigenous population, and proudly displays bright colors. The food looks interesting, bowlers are worn by women, and they make chocolate (as in grow the stuff!); what’s not to love?

We’re also trying something new this time; we’re travelling with just a tablet. Since WiFi is common enough (or so we’ve been led to believe), we’ll have a Nexus 7 (Android) tablet with Bluetooth keyboard and attachments that will connect to our cameras’ SD cards. We plan on our usual updates to the blog, and we’ll be posting on Facebook as well as Twitter. I’ll be testing our email list, so let me know if you want to be on that list and don’t get the test email.

That’s it for now. Harriet will be taking over the blog duties so there will be less equipment talk and more amusing observations on our travel.


Nica Dos


Scruntched into one of the old U.S. yellow school busses that ply the roads of Nicaragua, we make our way from Granada through lush green countryside and small pueblos to Rivas. A recent college grad from Minneapolis offers to share a taxi to the ferry at San Jorge. We let Ben do the negotiating and probably overpay a dollar or two, but we make it to the ferry in time.

We disembark on Election Day Eve at Moyogalpa, the island’s largest city which is about the size of La Cumbre Plaza. Honestly. The place we thought we would stay is not taking guests because… something to do with the election. We wander toward our second choice which is also staffed and also not taking guests. There’s a newish two-story building at the end of the street that is obviously not a typical residence. Xavier, like everyone here, doesn’t try to sell us on anything — at all. We’re the only guests so we have our pick of rooms and choose the large one off the private veranda on the second floor with a view of the volcano. $20.

Click on the photo of the main street at rush hour to see more from Moyogalpa.


Like Riding a Bicycle

We slathered on sunscreen and set out on mountain bikes for the tiny hamlet of San Marcos. We had walked south on a paved road in blazing heat the previous day, so a leisurely ride west on the same road, creating our own wind, seemed like an easy way to explore more of the island, get close to the active volcano and enjoy a little exercise.

We puffed a bit up the short hill from the ferry landing to the church and then cruised effortlessly for about five minutes until the pavement ended; then the road had a slight incline; then the potholes that were at first easy to negotiate turned into trenches filled with small boulders or disappeared altogether into long  stretches of deep, black sand, and we had to compete with several small herds of cattle for the less arduous path; and then just as we felt confident tearing over the rocks and dodging grazing horses, sleeping dogs and yellow caution signs, the road began a steep ascent.

Hours later, when we returned thoroughly jostled but free of road rash, Alan (with cold Diet Coke in hand) turned to me and said, “That was fun.” I agreed.


Arriba! Arriba!

The Volcan Maderas Index

Altitude in feet of the Maderas volcano

Number of your blogging buddies who thought they were
taking a morning hike on the easiest trail

Number of your blogging buddies who were
sorely (pun and very heavy emphasis intended) mistaken

Hours in the air Alan and Harriet spent flying from LAX to Nicaragua

Hours spent on Volcan Maderas trek

Degrees of average incline on the mountain

Hours climbing up wet, clay-slicked rocks and mud
before deciding to head back through the very aptly named rainforest

Number of injuries incurred

Number of people we most appreciate today:
our guide,
Alan’s trainer (Mikki) and Harriet’s coach (Tim)
the guy who maintains the stadium stairs at SB City College,
the orthopod who prescribed Napraxen

Minutes it will take to clean our shoes and
pound the mud out of our pants

Minutes it will take our clothes to dry on the line

Rank in difficulty when compared with any of our other
hikes/treks/climbs, anywhere in the world, any time, any duration, any altitude, any weather, and while in any physical condition:

(Click on the photo below to see more from our trek.)


Hotel El Encanto

Yup, just like the one on Santa Barbara. Okay, so maybe the room colors lean more toward the primaries than the subdued, but all of them come with a hammock; they are immaculate; the food is some of the best we’ve had in Nicaragua; there’s a view to the water, and depending on which way you choose to snooze in the hammock, a view of Volcan Maderas or Volcan Conception; the garden is much more spectacular than its Santa Barbarian counterpart and it’s filled with hundreds of butterflies, hummingbirds and birds. An added bonus: three very, very sweet dogs.

Carlos, the owner, like everyone with whom we’ve had any interaction, is a sweet, mellow, friendly guy. A native of El Salvador, he lived in Bellingham, Washington for seven years before coming to Nicaragua. Eventually he moved to Isla Ometepe and opened the El Encanto here in Santa Cruz three years ago.

Santa Cruz is not so much a pueblo as it is a dozen hotels, hostels and fincas (farms) spread out over a couple of miles along two unpaved roads. There are lots of horses and pigs grazing alongside –and occasionally in — the road and corn, rice and beans grow easily in the rich, black, volcanic soil. We’ll need to take a 25 minute bus ride to the nearest town with a bank so we have enough cash to pay our tab at the El Encanto and move on to our next destination. The bus ride will be easy; leaving this little gem will not.

Click on the photo above to see more photos from the El Encanto, Santa Cruz and life on Isla Ometepe.