About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerdy and Geeky Gifts Guide Winter 2021 Edition

No matter your reason for celebrating this time of year--Decemberween, Emperor's Day, Hogswatch, Life Day--December is THE big month for gift giving. And while you're passing around cards and edible arrangements, make sure you do right by the nerds in your life! 

Sure, you could order up a Funko Pop figure (please don't), but you can do better. You're here because you want to show that you’ve dug deeper than the "Top 14 Geeky Gifts" list on Buzzfeed and the Dallas Morning Herald. You're here because you care!

Hold onto your hat because here it is: the long awaited, extra thoughtful, Nerdy and Geeky Gifts Guide for 2021, Winter Edition!

Items in this list range from super affordable to fairly expensive, so you should be able to find something appropriate for any nerd you know. I try to locate gifts suitable for nerds and geeks from all walks of life, adults and children, and I’ve sorted things (a little bit) to help you out. I do not own all of these items, but I won’t recommend something that I wouldn’t buy for my own friends.

Full disclosure: if you use one of my links I may get a reward, which helps pay for The Nerd Manual, but even if you don’t buy one of these items, I hope the guide gives you ideas for gifts that your nerd friends will love!

Ready? Let's go!


(Not So) Nerd Q&A: Why Do People Care If I'm Still a Virgin?

When you're in high school, and possibly later in life, you might be led to believe that everyone is obsessed with one topic--boys AND girls talk about it, parents (awkwardly) talk about it, TV shows devote episodes to it, entire movies use it as the central plot element.

Some of my classmates constantly ask me if I am still a virgin. I choose to not answer the question because I know what their reactions are going to be like, but since I don't follow the high school trend of talking about it all the time they see me like a weirdo. Why do they care if I'm still a virgin?

I realize this isn’t a particularly nerdy question, but I’m sure a lot of young people think about it, and I believe it would put a few minds at rest if they had a better perspective on what makes this nugget of knowledge everyone's obsession.

The truth is, the people asking you about this don’t care if you've had sex or not. What they care about is where they stand in comparison to everyone else, on an arbitrary scale of coolness and popularity.

What they’re really asking is an internal question: “is this girl/guy so much more attractive than I am that s/he has already had sex and I haven’t?”

It's a pretty silly question. In reality if you could tell just by looking, you’d see (depending on their age, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and whether you’re looking at CDC, NCHS, or NHSR data) that about 60% to 85% of the students in your high school have not had sex.

I know there will be at least one indignant reader out there thinking “but at my school all the kids had sex by the time they were 16!” Ahem…no. A lot of the kids said they had sex, very likely some did, most didn’t, and of course some lied about it. 

I know putting up with your classmates' questions is uncomfortable, but you’re doing the right thing to not answer. It’s none of their business.

(By the way, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having sex. I think people should wait until they’re out of high school, but I’m not judging anyone who isn’t a virgin. It’s none of my business either.)


Nerdy Hip Hop Assessment of 2020

 Hip hop artist Ekoh just dropped his new track "Real Bad" and it sums up 2020 from a nerdy perspective that name-checks Tony Stark, DOOM, Gwen Stacy, Wonder Woman, the Joker, time/multiverse travel, Silver Surfer, Michael Myers, Miles Morales, Sam Raimi, Zach Snyder, Black Adam, and a lot more.

So, put a finger up if you're picking up what Ekoh's putting down.


Nerd Toys: Vintage Microscope

Some people like vintage cars, others like vintage computers, I like vintage microscopes.

I just received my AO Spencer Series 4 microscope. It's in good shape, and I got it because I don't see Series 4 models around much. Now that I have it though, I question the wisdom of my choice because I need to clean and adjust a few things but I can't find a manual for it anywhere.

There's a great microscope support group over at Microbe Hunter, so if you're into microscopy of any sort, you should take a look and consider joining their forum.


Real Life Nerds: World Record Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower

u/codesherpa's tower
Check out Reddit user u/codesherpa, who not only built what may be the world record spaghetti tower constructed within the restrictions posed by Peter Skillman's tower challenge, but also went to great lengths to explain the structural engineering behind his tower, and why he believes that it's unlikely anyone will be able to build one much taller than 65 inches.

The tower challenge can be seen in Skillman's TED talk, but the rules are pretty simple:
in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one meter of tape, one meter of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. (codesherpa is working at a slight disadvantage because he's using yards instead of meters, so his materials are a bit restricted.)

Taking the challenge seriously, codesherpa went home and tested ten varieties of spaghetti to determine which is the sturdiest, and engineered a design that maximized the structural integrity of his limited resources. If you read through the comments, codesherpa also explains the other different designs he tried, and the difficulties of working with a cat.

What makes this such a nerdy reddit post isn't so much the spaghetti tower, although that's certainly an enjoyable part of it, but it's codesherpa's attention to detail, meticulous planning, application of engineering knowledge, and iterative testing to accomplish a completely frivolous task. It's a delight to read the initial post and the discussion between users in the comments, and I think the world is better for having people like codesherpa who are willing to share nerdy experiments like this.